Olympus's SZ series is quickly growing a reputation for combining a large focal range with a compact and pocketable body. How does the latest addition shape up?
Olympus SZ-20 Review
Olympus’s SZ series is quickly growing a reputation as producing good quality superzooms in impressively compact bodies, and the SZ-20 is no different, sporting a slim and compact body yeah a burgeoning specification.
Olympus SZ-20 review – Features
The model features a 12.5x optical zoom, covering a focal range of 24-300mm in equivalent terms, a lens which is also supported by dual image stabilisation for steady shooting. A 16MP 1/2.3in backlit CMOS sensor takes care of the capture side of things which facilitates 1080p full HD video capture and Olympus’s manual single-lens 3D imaging capability as well as continuous shooting up to 9fps, albeit in reduced resolution mode. These nuts and bolts of the camera are held together with Olympus’s TruePic III+ image processor that, Olympus claims, aids colour reproduction and keeps image noise to a minimum. Meanwhile, an impressive 3in, 460k-dot LCD fills the rear of the camera with controls kept to a minimum and most camera control operated though the model’s LCD screen and control wheel.
Olympus SZ-20 review – Design
With regards to design, the SZ-20 owes a lot to its big brother, the SZ-30MR. The body has a retro and angular feel to it, although it’s smaller than the 30MR and, as a result, sits a lot easier in the hand when shooting. Controls are kept to a minimum of the camera’s body. The majority of the camera’s shooting functionality is accessed via a combination of a control wheel and OK button on the rear of the camera. The only other buttons on the rear are menu, dedicated record, playback and a final button allowing access to the camera’s on-board help functionality. This sparse layout is pleasing in comparison to some of the busier compacts on the market, although the overall feel of the camera is a touch plasticky.
Olympus SZ-20 review sample image gallery
Olympus SZ-20 review – Performance and Image Quality
In use, the SZ-20 is pleasing and reliable. One element of the capture process that performs well in a variety of conditions is white balance, more often than not managing a good colour temperature. The SZ-20’s metering also performs well, although images shot in harsh lighting conditions do lack a bit of punch and can appear murky with shadows and highlights also muted. Even though the SZ-20 has to cram a 12.5x optical zoom in to a compact body, the lens itself performs relatively well and keeps fringing to a minimum, although softening is an issue that increases towards the corner of the frame.
ISO noise is noticeable once you start heading higher up through range, with ISO 800 a realistic limit if you’re looking to enlarge your prints. The model’s sensor also appears to be a bit overcrowded as harsh compression is evident when inspecting images.
On the whole, the Olympus SZ-20 is a very good compact camera which represents decent value for money. On the disappointing side of things, the SZ-20 is a bit of a let-down with regards to image quality. Although in general images are good, the SZ-20 struggles in difficult lighting conditions and images shot at higher ISO settings suffer from noise issues. The build quality of the SZ-20 is also disappointing but, these two things apart, the camera is generally well specified and would be a respectable purchase.