Olympus SZ-20 [mac] review
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.
The Olympus also has some issues with auto white balance performance shifting from shot to shot. We had to be patient too because two out of three images taken at longer focal lengths came out blurred due to camera shake. The SZ-20 isn’t a bad camera but, apart from a noise-free performance at upper ISOs and fun effects achievable with the Magic Filters, it’s distinctly average. The price reflects that and if the 12.5x reach here isn’t enough, look to the 24x Olympus SZ-30.