We were surprised at the lack of distortion at both ends of the Olympus SP-590UZ's massive zoom spectrum, even without the technical wizardry of the Nikon Coolpix P90's distortion-correction function (it's possible that this function is there but switched on at all times).
We were delighted to find images retained a lot of detail. The Olympus SP-590UZ's lens offers definite advantages, although it isn't up there with the very best.
Using the extreme telephoto, you'll probably need a tripod to get the shot you want, but Olympus has a dual image-stabilisation system which helps. This backs up the CCD shift with a digital system that ups the ISO and the shutter speed to avoid smears and blurriness. Despite this, we didn't see any extra noise with the Olympus SP-590UZ.
However, there was some noise when we upped the ISO setting in poor lighting. The Olympus SP-590UZ's noise levels were average for the megazoom models we tested.
What did surprise us was the compact proportions of the Olympus SP-590UZ. The result was that all the buttons are jammed together to the right of the screen and are rather small. Pressing the wrong one is all too easy.
There's an AEL button to lock exposure, but no manual focus button or adjustment wheel. Selecting manual focus requires visiting a secondary menu and then tapping left and right on the pad, which is a pain. Clearly the Olympus SP-590UZ is a camera for those who prefer autofocus.
The other point to note is that Olympus bucks the SD camera card trend and persists with using xD Picture Card store - you can also use microSD via an adaptor that comes as part of the Olympus SP-590UZ package.
A mixed bag. We liked the extreme aspirations of the Olympus SP-590Z but felt it didn’t fully realise that 24x zoom’s potential. Against that is the solid dual-stabilisation setup and the lack of noise in good light.