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Olympus SZ-20 review

We look under the hood of Olympus's latest super-zoom

Our Verdict

For

  • Good image results
  • Palette of Magic Filters
  • Full HD Movie Capture
  • Smart Panorama mode
  • Easy-to-use

Against

  • Poor battery life
  • Lacks a number of impressive assets other Olympus cameras benefit from
  • 3D mode difficult to line up
  • High-continuous shooting mode less impressive than advertised
  • Chunky design means it is too big for your pocket

Pitched at the entry-level end of Olympus' Traveller class of cameras, the new SZ-20 enters the point-and-shoot arena with a 12.5 x super wide-angle zoom and rather extensive feature package, set to persuade existing compact users to upgrade.

As well as touting an impressive focal range that spans from an equivalent reach of 24 to 300mm, the SZ-20, which on sale exclusively via Jessops, crams in reams of attractive features under its chunky, metal chassis.

One of the most bragged about assets is the hand-held Starlight Mode, designed to allow users to capture blur-free images in low-light without a tripod, supported by the vital inclusion of Dual Image Stabilisation.

Aimed at impressing sports and action fans, Olympus has included technology to provide shooters with an array of high-speed continuous shooting modes allegedly achieving 7fps full resolution and 15fps at 5MP.

For landscape fanatics the device includes the brand's Smart Panorama feature, which not only stitches the scene in camera but is recorded using a sweeping motion rather than the more tricky alignment method some rival models employ.

SZ 20 rear

Travel shooters and those shooting 'on-location' have the option to use Eye-Fi memory cards – as the SZ-20 incorporates compatible technology allowing photographers to automatically and wirelessly upload images to a website or PC from any location in the world that has a Wi-Fi connection.

Creative shooters haven't been overlooked either as the compact presents: a Beauty Mode that identifies and resolves imperfections, 3D photo shooting, and eight Magic Filters for injecting something different into stills, seven of which can also be used in movie mode – which is presented in the form of 1080p Full HD capture with sound.

Other key features of the SZ-20 include a 16 Megapixel backlit CMOS sensor, a 3" 460,000 dot colour LCD – all of which aren't particularly unusual for this calibre of shooter, but certainly meet the expected grade for the SZ-20's price tag.

Charging is performed in the flexible form of a USB-cable or mains adapter.

What we did notice lacking on this newcomer is some of the attractive attributes inherited by those in Olympus's 'Tough' category of cameras, more shocking perhaps when we consider the fact that the SZ-20 belongs to a family of cameras known as the 'Travellers'. For example unlike many of the Tough units, the SZ-20 lacks a GPS function and Electronic Compass, which would have no doubt been incredibly useful for the intrepid explorer.

Less surprising perhaps is that the superior rigidity and durability that gives the Tough units their name has been overlooked here, as has the extensive and impressive internal memory adopted by some of the higher-end 'Tough' models.

SZ 20 3 4

Also neglected is the adoption of a manual or semi-manual shooting modes as witnessed on the Olympus XZ-1 model held in the 'Creator' class of compacts. However as the SZ-20 is aimed at novices rather than amateur photographers the developers can be forgiven, furthermore at a price tag of £200 perhaps we can't expect everything, but instead hope that one day the brand will blend all these attractive assets into one all-encompassing model.

Tech Specs

Product TypeCompact Camera
Battery Size SupportedProprietary Battery Size
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Effective Camera Resolution16 Megapixel
USBYes
HDMIYes
Wide AngleNo
PictBridgeYes
Product FamilySZ
HD Movie ModeYes
Memory Card SupportedSecure Digital (SD) Card, Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Card, Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC)
Image StabilizationDigital, Optical
ColourBlack
Optical Zoom12.5x
Digital Zoom4x
Brand NameOlympus
FeaturesFace Detection, Continuous Shooting Mode
Screen Size7.6 cm (3")
Video FormatsMPEG-4
Viewfinder TypeNo
Weight (Approximate)186 g
Image Sensor Size1/2.3" (6.16 mm x 4.62 mm)
Maximum Image Resolution4608 x 3456
Display Screen TypeLCD
Height64 mm
Width102.4 mm
Depth30.4 mm
Product SeriesSZ
Focal Length4.20 mm to 52.50 mm
Image FormatsJPEG
Focus ModesAuto
ManufacturerOlympus Corporation
Product ModelSZ-20
Product NameSZ-20 Compact Camera
Exposure Control

Program AE

Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberN4305992
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.olympus.co.uk
Marketing Information

Enhanced performance beyond the still image. Like every SZ Series compact, the SZ-20 is packed with Olympus technology that's seriously state-of-the-art, like the backlit CMOS sensor for low-noise shots in poor light and an impressive 12.5x super wide optical zoom. With 1080p Full HD Movie recording and 16 Megapixels, it's the must-have model for anyone who wants to live and shoot 24/7 - in perfect, pixel-rich quality, no compromises required. What's more the SZ-20 features a whole raft of innovations - from Smart Panorama, 3D still photo shooting, Eye-Fi card compatibility for automatic wireless uploading of images to a website or PC to a choice of eight Magic Filters, seven of which work with both Full HD movies and stills. For a camera in this category, that's yet another unique feature.

Package Contents
  • SZ-20 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
  • CD-ROM
Limited Warranty2 Year