Wed, 06 Jul 2011 Olympus SZ-20 review
Beating pricier rivals for resolution if not zoom, the Olympus is let down by soft telephoto performance and cheap build
- Manufacturer: Olympus
- Pros: High resolution; broad zoom range; reasonably budget priced; striking retro/futurist design; 3D photo mode; fun Magic Effects
- Cons: Fiddly scroll wheel on backplate instead of shooting mode dial; variable white balance; corner softening at extreme wide angle; soft shots at max zoom
- Min specs: 12.5x optical zoom, 24-300mm equivalent; max photo resolution 16Mp; max video resolution 1920x1080 pixels; 3in LCD, 460k dots; ISO 80 to 3200; battery life: 300 shots per charge; SD/SDHC/SDXC card; 102x64x30mm; 186g with battery and card
- Price: £199
- Star rating:
The Olympus SZ-20, the ‘SZ’ indicates ‘super zoom’, is similar to the Casio, with the same 12.5x optical zoom range and 16-megapixel resolution. The Olympus’ build feels cheap, despite its appealing glossy retro-futurist design, but it offers something approaching a proper handgrip, which its rivals largely fail to do.
Photos and video are composed via a 3in, 4:3 LCD, with 460k-dot resolution. While sharp it’s not quite sharp enough to definitively check focus. The Olympus features a pop-up flash, located directly above the lens, that’s manually raised via an adjacent lever on the top plate. The SZ-20’s battery is another that’s charged in-camera and there’s no separate mains charger provided, just a compatible plug.
The SZ-20 boasts a 3D stills mode. This works by taking two separate images from slightly different angles, the shutter firing for the second time automatically when the user recomposes the shot, as directed by an overlaid image onscreen. From this an MPO file is generated for viewing on a 3D TV, with a low-resolution 2D JPEG provided for reference.
The Olympus further offers Full HD video plus a Smart Panorama shooting option. The camera automatically generates an elongated image as the user sweeps the camera through an arc, though the result looks distinctly low resolution.
There are some fun pop art and ‘punk’ digital effects, or Magic Filters as they’re called here; the drawing and watercolour options are less effective. These are selected via an onscreen toolbar rather than physical mode wheel. It’s tricky to navigate because Olympus has provided a fiddly scroll wheel for doing so; it’s easy to slip onto an unwanted setting, which is annoying.