Olympus SH-21 review

A compact camera with a 12.5x wide zoom lens and a 16MP backlit CMOS sensor

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  • 12.5x zoom
  • Small and light
  • Easy to use
  • 1080p video
  • Decent at high ISO


  • Shiny screen
  • Soft at max telephoto
  • Noise when turns on

Occupying the middle ground in the Olympus range of travel compact cameras, the SH-21 aims to be pocket-friendly, without compromising on features.

A 16-megapixel backlit CMOS sensor promises superior performance at high ISO sensitivities, especially when compared to cameras using older CCD technology. This should be useful for taking images in a wide range of lighting conditions, especially when a camera support isn't appropriate.

Up to ISO 3200 is available for shooting hand-held in low light, or for forcing higher shutter speeds to freeze action.

Olympus SH 21 review

The Olympus SH-21's 12.5x zoom range may seem a little modest when compared to the leviathan 24x zoom offerings in the Olympus travel camera range. Still, this reduced range keeps the camera to a svelte 30.6mm thick.

The range covered by the zoom is equivalent to a 24-300mm lens on a 35mm camera, which should be plenty useful for everything from landscapes and architecture to wildlife you may see on your travels.

Dual image stabilisation takes care of taming the effects of camera movement, which can be quite an issue on small cameras sporting telephoto optics such as this.

Olympus SH 21 review

A mechanical sensor-shift system steadies images when taking stills, and an electronic stabiliser takes over when shooting video. This is because the mechanical system makes a fair amount of noise, which may be disturbing on video recordings.

As is the case with other current compact cameras from Olympus, iESP metering, advanced face detection and shadow adjustment technology have been included to aid accurate exposures in tricky lighting conditions.

A 3-inch LCD screen provides a clear image for composing and reviewing images, due to its 460,000 dot resolution.

Olympus SH 21 review

Full HD video footage can be recorded with the Olympus SH-21 and output via the camera's HDMI interface on a compatible high definition television or monitor. Those with 3D TV equipment can also take and view three-dimensional images via the HDMI connection. Unfortunately to take advantage of this, you'll have to stump up for a separate HDMI cable.

To aid in-camera creativity, without getting too technical, 10 'Magic' picture modes are included, which recreate a range of popular effects.

Options from the common Pin Hole camera mode to the more exotic Punk mode, which creates a high-contrast pink and black image, are included for instant creative satisfaction.

Priced at £189.99 in the UK, the Olympus SH-21 is in the same price bracket as the Olympus SZ-14, which was announced at the same time, and Canon IXUS 125 HS, Olympus SP-620UZ and Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX9V, to name a few.

Tech Specs

Product TypeCompact Camera
Battery Size SupportedProprietary Battery Size
Green CompliantYes
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Effective Camera Resolution16 Megapixel
Wide AngleYes
HD Movie ModeYes
Memory Card SupportedEye-Fi Card, Secure Digital (SD) Card, Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Card, Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC)
Image StabilizationOptical, Digital
Optical Zoom12.5x
Digital Zoom4x
Brand NameOlympus
FeaturesSelf-timer, Pet Detection, Face Detection, Continuous Shooting Mode
Screen Size7.6 cm (3")
Video FormatsMPEG-4
Viewfinder TypeNo
Weight (Approximate)184 g
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityRoHS, WEEE
Image Sensor Size1/2.3" (6.16 mm x 4.62 mm)
Maximum Image Resolution4608 x 3456
Display Screen TypeLCD
Height59.4 mm
Width105.4 mm
Depth30.6 mm
Focal Length4.20 mm to 52.50 mm
Image FormatsJPEG
External FlashNo
Focus ModesAuto, Manual
ManufacturerOlympus Corporation
Product ModelSH-21
Product NameSH-21 Compact Camera
Exposure Control

Program Automatic

Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberV107010GE000
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.olympus.co.uk
Marketing Information

Rich colours, low picture noise, excellent contrast - the SH-21 is all about tremendous picture quality. The ultra-slim design ensures it never looks out of place at more sophisticated occasions and when you want to be sure to capture a one-off event like a wedding, it's good to know your camera has a 16-Megapixel Backlit CMOS sensor with the high sensitivity to perform in dim-lit interiors. For wide-angle shots, you can call on a high-grade super-wide 24-300mm lens and there's a 12.5x optical zoom for razor-sharp close-ups.

Package Contents
  • SH-21 Compact Camera
  • LI-50B Lithium-Ion Battery
  • F-2AC AC Adapter
  • CB-USB6 USB Cable
  • CB-AVC3 Audio/Video Cable
  • Hand Strap
  • Instruction Manual
  • World Wide Warranty Card
  • Software Media
Limited Warranty2 Year