Olympus SZ-14 Review

4.0
January 22, 2013 | Gavin Stoker |

Image Quality


All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 16 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 6Mb.

The following comments have always got to be taken in the context of this being a £199 camera, and in that respect generally the Olympus SZ-14’s image quality is not bad at all, like any snapshot excelling when there is plenty of natural light around – but not strong direct sunlight.

As we always note, travel zoom cameras are all about the quality of the performance at maximum wideangle and extreme telephoto. So we’re intrigued to discover whether the SZ-14 maintains edge-to-edge sharpness and avoid obvious barrel distortion as regards the former, and steers clear of repeated soft shots when shooting handheld as regards the latter.

Under bright spring sunshine we surprised ourselves by managing to achieve reasonably sharp (by which we mean still a little soft) results when shooting handheld at maximum telephoto setting here. Yes, they would benefit from adjustment to contrast in Photoshop – but that is easily fixed.

At the other 28mm end of the zoom – wide without really over-stretching itself – though there is a very gentle curvature at the edges we were also able to achieve some impressively naturalistic results. So here is a zoom camera that really does suggest itself as an affordable, capable option for those who do want a very broad range of framing options literally at their fingertip.

If this isn’t enough for you there are the varied Magic Filter digital effects to fall back on, which are fun and can be effective when used in moderation, as hopefully a smattering of our sample images demonstrate.

Happily too, any would-be concerns about a small-ish sensor over-loaded with a high-ish pixel count are largely unfounded. Though detail softens slightly at the higher sensitivity settings of ISO800 and upwards, we’d be happy keeping the results of images at the very highest setting of ISO1600. Yes that’s modest by comparison to some, but still acceptable for what is a low priced point and shoot camera when all said and done.

So, in summary, we have a better than expected performance fromthe ‘all in one’ Olympus SZ-14 camera that will be within the range of most people’s budgets, and can especially see it appealing to families, not just students on a gap year.

Noise

The Olympus SZ-14 has six sensitivity settings ranging from ISO 64 to ISO 1600. The 100% crops below show what the quality is like at each setting.

ISO 64 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

Focal Range

The Olympus SZ-14's 24x lens has an extremely versatile focal range, as demonstrated by the examples below.

25mm

600mm

Sharpening

Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little bit soft at the default sharpening setting, and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

For a superzoom, the Olympus SZ-14 produced very little chromatic aberrations. Evidently there is some clever processing going on in the background to eliminate all kinds of purple fringing - and it’s largely successful.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

Macro

The Olympus SZ-14 has a supermacro mode that lets you focus as close as 1cm from the front lens element. This allows you to fill the frame with an object that is significantly smaller than a CompactFlash memory card. The following example demonstrates how close you can get to the subject. We have included a 100% crop to show you what the quality is like.

Macro

Macro (100% Crop)

Flash

The Olympus SZ-14 has a pop-up flash that has to be raised manually, using a switch. The available flash settings are Auto, Fill-In, Redeye Reduction and Off. The following photos of a white ceiling were taken at a subject distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (25mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (25mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off - Telephoto (600mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (600mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some flash portraits. The flash caused a little bit of red-eye, but engaging the red-eye reduction function essentially solved this problem.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
   

Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)

Night

The Olympus SZ-14 is not very well suited to night photography, as you cannot use truly slow shutter speeds. The photo below was taken in the Night Scene mode at a shutter speed of 4 seconds, sensitivity setting of ISO 250 and aperture of f/3.7, all chosen by the camera. The 100% crop demonstrates the quality you can expect.

Night

Night (100% Crop)

Entry Tags

hd video, hd, 3 inch LCD, compact, wide-angle, 720p, 14 megapixel, olympus, travel-zoom, travel, travel zoom, 25mm, 24x zoom, sz14, sz 14, sz-14, Olympus SZ-14 Review

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