Olympus SZ-30MR: The Everyday Zoom



Olympus SZ-30MR

Olympus SZ-30MR

Touted as a multitasker, the Olympus SZ-30MR offers some fun-filled features. Supriya Joshi tests it to see what it is like.

How many superzoom cameras do you know of, which you can fit into your jeans pocket? Until a few months ago, there was no camera in the market that had more than 20x zoom, and was slim enough to look like any other compact camera. This is why it is easy to assume that the Olympus SZ-30MR is just another camera. But then, it packs in a 24x zoom, which makes it one of a kind. Apart from its compact size, the camera also offers some unique features. How effective are they? Here is what I found.

The SZ-30MR is built around a 16MP CMOS sensor and features a 24x optical zoom lens with 1080p Full HD video recording capabilities with stereo sound. However, the most interesting feature of the camera is the Multi Record (MR) mode.
What makes the MR mode unique is the fact that one can use it to capture two videos, two photographs or even a photograph and video simultaneously. When capturing photographs on the MR mode, the camera makes two images at different focal lengths. This is not too exciting as you can achieve the same effect by simply cropping the photo after you shoot. However, the MR mode is great fun while shooting video because it gives you two completely different kinds of footage simultaneously, almost like a two-camera setup.
The ‘Magic’ filters on the camera were quite enjoyable, and one can choose between effects like Pop Art, Pinhole, Fisheye, Soft Focus, Punk, Sparkle, Drawing and Watercolour! However, it is unfortunate the company has omitted the Grainy Film look that is there in their PEN cameras. Also, considering that this is an expensive superzoom camera, I was disappointed to see that there is no Manual mode. This is an omission that automatically deters a serious hobbyist from considering this camera.

We were all quite surprised to see the 24x zoom lens fit snugly into the camera body. There is a handgrip on the right of the camera, but since it is not rubberised, there are chances of the camera slipping because of the smooth finish.
The SZ-30MR’s zooming mechanism is quite refined. One can switch from wide to telephoto really quickly, or can make fine adjustments to the framing and zoom in small, assured steps. However, the mode dial on top of the camera is difficult to maintain, because it automatically switches between modes, with the slightest of touch.
The lack of a dedicated ISO and Exposure Compensation button made it quite a nuisance to shoot. The absence of these buttons is felt even more because there is a button that does not seem to make much sense, called ‘Help’. This button only provides a sketchy description of some of the menu options.
Finally, I found it extremely frustrating that the menu of the camera is not able to remember the function that was accessed last. If you wish to overexpose the image slightly, you need to get into the menu and navigate towards the Exposure Compensation function. Once you shoot, if you want to change this setting again, you need to get into the menu and press the button a number of times again, to access the same function!

The sensor-shift stabilisation works extremely well, even while shooting at the telephoto end. Even the autofocus performance is quite capable, and works quite well even at full zoom.
Unfortunately, the image quality of the camera is quite average. At high ISO settings, the noise reduction is very aggressive and reduces the amount of detail recorded. ISO 800 is the highest setting one can use for critical use. There is also some amount of purple fringing and blown out highlights in contrasty light. We were pleasantly surprised to see the flash performance. The flash does not overpower the ambient light, and the amount of illumination was just right.

The SZ-30MR has a lot going for it, considering its design expertise that has managed to pack in a 24x zoom lens in a small body. However, it offers no manual control and the ergonomic and quality problems make us wonder whether the price tag is worth it.
We would recommend this only for those who want a massive zoom range in a tiny package. If you are okay with a slightly bulkier camera and want a more advanced product, the less expensive Nikon COOLPIX P500 may actually be a better choice.

Final Ratings
24x optical zoom, Full HD video, fun-filled Multi Record mode
26 /30

Good flash performance, aggressive noisereduction leads to softness

Build Quality
Lightweight, compact

Too many menu options, no dedicated ISO or Exposure Compensation button

Warranty & Support
Two years warranty

Value For Money: 2/5 stars

Tags: Supriya Joshi, Nikon COOLPIX P500, October 2011, Olympus SZ-30MR, 24x zoom, Camera review