The black version of the Olympus SZ-14 supplied for review has a matt crinkled finish applied to the high quality plastics used in its construction.
A metal front plate follows the contour of the body, enhancing the quality feel, but at the same time this surface feels quite slippery, which may affect your ability to keep a firm grip of the camera.
For a camera housing a 24x zoom lens, the Olympus SZ-14 is remarkably thin and light, tipping the scales at only 216g with the battery and memory card inserted.
Battery charging is performed with the supplied USB cable, which can be plugged into any powered USB socket or charger, which should limit the amount of bulky accessories that have to be taken out when travelling.
Unfortunately, Olympus decided to use a non-standard USB cable for charging and image transfer, so care will need to be taken not to lose it. A standard micro USB connection, as found on most mobile phones, would have been a better option for many.
Controls are laid out within easy reach of finger and thumb, and a rotating dial aids quick progress through the camera's well laid-out menu system.
The extensive range of automatic scene programs and 'Magic' creative effects will suit inexperienced photographers perfectly.
Manual control is limited to exposure compensation in Program mode, which may leave more experienced photographers wanting.
A dedicated video recording button, placed next to the thumb rest, is slightly recessed to prevent accidentally filling memory cards with unwanted footage.
Support for Eye-Fi wireless SD cards is also included, which will enable images to be transferred straight to a compatible printer or computer.
The dual image stabilisation system works well in both still image and video modes, keeping the image on the 3-inch LCD screen suitably steady, which aids composition.
Although not the highest resolution screen available, the 420,000 dot screen fitted to the Olympus SZ-14 provides a clear, crisp view when composing, even in bright light. When images are played back on the screen, they often look soft or even out of focus until you zoom in to view them at 100%.
In use the Olympus SZ-14 feels very responsive, starting up and focusing quickly, even at the telephoto end of the zoom range.
A variety of sounds are played back with every press of a button, which can make this camera sound like a very compact arcade game. Even with the sounds turned off, the camera still plays a loud tone when switched on, which can be quite disturbing when shooting in quiet places, such as museums or churches.