Olympus SH25MR: Broken Promises

 
Olympus SH25MR

Olympus SH25MR

At first glance the Olympus SH25MR seems to be interesting, but does it deliver on what it claims? Chandni Gajria tests this compact to find out.

Initially when the camera was given to me, I was excited. It had been ages since I used a compact and the opportunity to test this little camera was a great change from using my DSLR. Moreover, since it is built for the traveller, my expectations of the camera were that it would be feature filled and fun to use.

The first few days went by and I saw myself enjoying the camera quite a bit. But over time, I slowly started discovering what was missing.

Features
The first thing that caught my eye was the fact that the camera incorporates a 16MP CMOS sensor. The camera has a 12.5x zoom (24–300mm equivalent), which is actually much lesser than similarly priced cameras.

A dedicated video button records Full HD video at 30fps and in MOV/H.264 format The camera is GPS enabled, which works just fine.

The camera’s name, SH25MR, refers to the Multi Recording mode which the company is hyping quite a bit. In this mode, you can record two photos or videos simultaneously with three different settings— Frame (for different angles), Size (for different resolution), and Magic. The last option allows you to save both—the original image as well as one with a Magic Filter applied— something that other compacts do not offer.

The Magic Filter mode has about 12 unique filters of which I enjoyed shooting with, is enjoyable to shoot with the Pop Art and Pinhole filters. A major disappointment however was the absence of a Grainy Film filter, similar to the one found in the Olympus XZ-1 and PEN cameras.

In terms of manual control, you can adjust White Balance, exposure compensation, and ISO only in the Program mode. I was disappointed to see that the camera does not allow you to use Spot metering.

The SH25MR shoots at 10fps and in the burst mode, you have the option of shooting low resolution sequential shots at up to 60fps The ISO range of the camera goes up to 6400. However beyond 1600, the pictures can look quite noisy in low light conditions and at night.

Handling
The metallic body of the compact isn’t exactly sleek but fits comfortably in your hands. Moreover, the front handgrip keeps the camera from slipping.

The design is minimal and all navigational buttons are placed on the right side of the camera. This ergonomics makes the camera easy to operate even with one hand. That said, the four way controller can be very annoying to work with, especially when you want to zoom into a picture and navigate to check for sharpness.

The SH25MR also brings a 3-inch 460k dot high resolution LCD touchscreen. While the LCD is good, it is certainly not the best in its class. The touchscreen’s responsiveness is not perfect, but workable.However the touch functionality is limited only to locking focus, shutter release and adjusting colours via the Live Guide.

Performance
The camera takes about 4–5 seconds to startup, which is frustrating. By this time, you have already missed out on shots for which you took the camera out. The AF performance is pretty good.

One may assume that this 16MP camera would produce good quality photo. I kept appreciate the images while shooting, but after transferring them, I realised that they looked good only because of the bright and vibrant nature of the LCD.

When inspected closely at 100%, you will notice that the finer details in the picture have been softened and in some cases, even look smudged. Fringing occurs in most day time pictures and in places with many light sources.

Video performance and quality in comparison, surpasses the image quality and is quite good. The battery life of the compact is manageable, but like with other compact cameras, the GPS drains the battery to a large degree.

Conclusion
Even with decent features the SH25MR’s overall image quality fails to impress. And for a compact priced at Rs 21,990 which does not exactly come into an affordable range, you can easily get a camera with 20x zoom or one that offers full manual control. While the camera is certainly fun to use, I suggest you give this a miss as you are bound to find better options in this price range.

The effect of flaring is exaggerated in the Pinhole filter, especially as there are too many light sources. Exposure: 1/30 sec at f/3 (ISO 500). Photograph/Chandni Gajria

The effect of flaring is exaggerated in the Pinhole filter, especially as there are too many light sources. Exposure: 1/30 sec at f/3 (ISO 500). Photograph/Chandni Gajria

Final Ratings
Features
Panorama and Magic filter modes, Full HD video, no manual mode, 12.5x zoom
23/30

Performance
Poor image quality, slow startup time, decent AF, good video quality
20/35

Build Quality
Solid metallic finish and to an extent, pocketable
13/15

Ergonomics
Easy to handle, touchscreen not great
13/15

Warranty & Support
Two years warranty, limited service centres
2/5

OVERALL: 71%

Value For Money: 2/5

Who should buy it? I would not recommend the camera. Although if you are someone who wants a feature filled compact, this is a decent choice.

Why? Poor image quality is enough a reason to not purchase the SH25MR. However, if you must, it will be only for the good video performance.

Tags: Chandni Gajria, Compact camera review, october 2012, olympus compact camera, olympus SH25MR review