The Olympus SZ-20 is a compact camera offering 16Mp resolution and a 12.5x optical zoom.

The Olympus SZ-20 shares several characteristics with the Casio Exilim EX-H30 camera we looked at recently. The price is almost identical and both offer a 16Mp resolution coupled with With the 'SZ' prefix indicating 'super zoom', and priced nigh identically to the Casio, with the same 12.5x optical zoom range equivalent to 24mm to 300mm in 35m terms and 16Mp resolution, the Olympus's build feels more obviously plasticky despite its appealingly glossy retro futurist design. It also offers something approaching a proper handgrip - something its rivals largely fail to do.

Another 'extra' here is 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 re-composes the shot, as directed by an overlaid image onscreen. From this an MPO file is generated for viewing on a 3D compatible TV, with a low-resolution 2D JPEG provided for reference.

As with other cameras we looked at in our recent group test, the Olympus further boasts Full HD video via a red record button, 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 again looks distinctly low resolution.

Photo Advisor

Photos and video are composed via a 3in, 4:3 aspect ratio LCD, with 460k-dot resolution. It's sharp but still not quite sharp enough to definitively check focus. Like the Canon SX220 HS and Nikon S9100, the Olympus features a popup flash, here located directly above the lens. As with the Nikon it has to be manually raised via an adjacent lever on the top plate. Like its rival, the SZ-20's battery must also be charged in camera as there's no separate mains charger provided, just a compatible plug.

Olympus further matches the S9100 in offering a range of digital effects, or Magic Filters. The choice here is funkier and more fun via pop art and 'punk' options, while less effective are drawing and watercolour options. These are all selected via an on-screen toolbar rather than physical mode wheel. It's tricky to navigate because Olympus has provided a distinctly fiddly scroll wheel for doing so and it's too easy to slip onto an unwanted setting.

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.

Olympus SZ-20: Specs

  • 12.5x optical zoom, 24-300mm equivalent
  • max photo resolution 16Mp
  • max video resolution 1920x1080 pixels
  • 3in LCD, 460k dots
  • ISO 80 to 3200
  • battery life: 300 shots per charge
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC card
  • 102x64x30mm
  • 186g with battery and card
  • 12.5x optical zoom, 24-300mm equivalent
  • max photo resolution 16Mp
  • max video resolution 1920x1080 pixels
  • 3in LCD, 460k dots
  • ISO 80 to 3200
  • battery life: 300 shots per charge
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC card
  • 102x64x30mm
  • 186g with battery and card

OUR VERDICT

The Olympus SZ-20 isn’t a bad camera by a long chalk, but apart from a noise-free performance at upper ISO settings and fun effects achievable with the Magic Filters, it’s distinctly average. The price seemingly reflects that and if the 12.5x reach here isn’t enough, look to the 24x Olympus SZ-30.

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