Olympus's new SZ-30MR boasts world-first Multi-Record imaging technology, as well as an impressive specification. The question is, however, how does it shape up on the WDC testing bench?
Olympus SZ-30MR review – Features
The new SZ-30MR is pitched as a multi-purpose compact well suited to a host of shooting situations, and as such is the perfect travel companion. The specification to back up such a claim is certainly strong – the model features a 16MP, 1/2.3in backlit CMOS sensor that also supports HD video capture at full 1080p resolution. Olympus’s Dual Engine TruePic III+ supports the aforementioned sensor and offers three eye-catching features -a Multi Recording mode which gives the camera its ‘MR’ label, as well as continuous shooting speed of up to 15fps in reduced resolution and 3D image capture, albeit of the lesser stereoscopic variety. The Multi Recording mode allows the photographer to shoot with different framing, different file sizes or with and without Magic Filters simultaneously, as well as supporting both stills and movie capture at the same time.
Another feature that will no doubt appeal to the travel photographer is the large focal range of the SZ-30MR. The model’s 24x optical zoom features a wide-angle of some 25mm, extending to 600mm in equivalent terms and featuring dual image stabilisation. Outside of these core features, the SZ-30MR offers a feature set suited to those looking to pick up and shoot. Alongside the Multi Recording shooting mode is an Intelligent Auto mode as well as a host of scene modes, whilst shutter and aperture priority are missing.
Design and Performance
Olympus SZ-30MR review – Design
As far as looks go, it’s safe to say that the SZ-30MR will be an acquired taste. It features an angular and slightly bulky body, and while the we tested the dark grey and chrome trim model which is particularly unsightly, although there is a more subtle version available. Outside of the looks and the angular body, the SZ30-MR feels generally well put together. The handgrip on the right side of the body is suitably solid, as is the mode dial on the top plate, although the control wheel on the rear of the camera is a touch loose and easy to jog.
Olympus SZ-30MR review – Performance
The SZ-30MR is generally a good performer. The models headline Multi Recording mode is more than just a gimmick and could genuinely be of use the casual photographer, whilst several other features, including the models ‘super macro’ mode, are not without merit. Although white balance was generally reliable, the same cannot be said for exposure and metering, with the two combining to return variable results. The model’s LCD screen, despite being 3in and 461k-dot, also struggled in bright light and offers a poor representation of final image quality.
Image Quality and Verdict
Olympus SZ-30MR review – Image Quality
On first look, images produced with the SZ-30MR appear generally good, if not a little flat. However, on closer inspection several flaws are revealed. Highlights have a tendency to blow out, whilst over sharpening is also present, combined with a softening towards the edges of the frame. The SZ-30MR controls noise well, although this is to the detriment of fine detail, which is lost higher up the ISO range in the noise reduction process.
Olympus SZ-30MR review – Verdict
There’s nodenying the fact that the Olympus SZ-30MR brings a lot to the table. The new MR technology is a world-first and will prove genuinely useful for a host of photographers, as will a lot of the other simplified functionality on offer. However, the camera is not without its flaws – the design of the camera is an acquired taste, with the chrome finish on the model we tested bordering on the offensive. The LCD screen struggles to give an accurate depiction of true image quality, whilst image quality in general is fairly disappointing. On the whole, the SZ-30MR, whilst being a good camera, is quite far off of being a great camera.