Olympus SZ-14 review
Performance, Image Quality, Value and Verdict
Olympus SZ-14 review - Performance and Image Quality
The SZ-14's image quality is very good overall, you get decent colour capture; natural-looking and not too vibrant while the iESP, (backed up by spot) metering system does a good job of keeping things well exposed or providing a little more control if needed respectively. The auto white balance is okay for most subjects with only mixed lighting causing some orange-looking colour casts but nothing dramatic so performance here is pretty good overall. In terms of captured detail, it's very good overall with a couple of caveats... There's a loss of detail in both deeper shadows and highlights, the image corners can be a little soft too and purple fringing is (occasionally) evident on very high contrast elements such as tree braches against a bright sky.
Image noise is well controlled, almost absent from images at sensitivities below ISO 400 although at ISO 200 a tiny amount of noise can be discerned in expanses of shadow or colour such as a blue sky. At ISO 400 noise reduces sharpness a tad, as image processing starts to play its part, ISO 800 and 1600 there's a significant increase in the levels of noise. ISO 800 images retain some sharpness but at ISO 1600, well, it's not good and so you'll only want to use those images at small size or perhaps online. When using the camera's automated scene modes, Landscape gave great blues and greens; Portrait mode produces pleasant-looking skin tones though disappointingly, red-eye was a problem on some portraits with flash.
Olympus SZ-14 review - Value For Money
The Olympus SZ-14 is currently priced (as reviewed) at £199.99, but you'll be able to find it for less shopping around. However, the market for ultra-zoom cameras has increasing competition across just about all segments and budgets, from Pentax's Optio VS20 at the same price to Leica's eye wateringly expensive V-Lux 3 at just under £700.
Given all that, the SZ-14 boasts enough tricks and kit, produces nice enough results and is eminently pocketable, even with such a mammoth lens, to make it well worth the money.
Olympus SZ-14 review - Verdict
The Olympus SZ-14 has few demerits the worst being the lack of a grippy surface (present on other SZs), the 720P HD movies could be improved when looking across the competition and high sensitivity image noise is irksome at best and makes them almost unusable at worst. Nevertheless, the SZ-14 produces decent image quality (at low ISOs) has a good set of snapping features and at under £200 makes it a awful lot of camera for the money.