Olympus SZ-20 review

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

Olympus SZ-20
It's a touch chubbier than the average point-and-shoot

TechRadar Verdict


  • +

    Good image results

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    Palette of Magic Filters

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    Full HD Movie Capture

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    Smart Panorama mode

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  • -

    Poor battery life

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    Lacks a number of impressive assets other Olympus cameras benefit from

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    3D mode difficult to line up

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    High-continuous shooting mode less impressive than advertised

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    Chunky design means it is too big for your pocket

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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.