Olympus SZ-30MR Review

4.0
August 9, 2011 | Zoltan Arva-Toth |

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.

As the Olympus SZ-30MR mates a tiny and pixel-packed (though at least backside illuminated) CMOS sensor to a 24x zoom lens, our image quality expectations weren't exactly high. The actual results turned out better than expected - yes, there's heavy smearing of detail - particularly high-frequency, low-contrast detail like grass and fur - even at base ISO, which only gets worse as you move higher up the sensitivity ladder, but the images remain surprisingly suitable for printing at normal sizes up to at least ISO 800 (ISO 1600 if "normal" means 4x6 inches or 10x15 centimetres to you). Reduced to screen resolution, even ISO 3200 looks usable, although with severe loss of saturation. Up close at 100% magnification, the images look quite bad as low as ISO 400 though, so in absolute terms the image quality is hardly above average - but we think few Olympus prospective SZ-30MR buyers are looking to make poster-sized prints on a regular basis (if you are, you might want to look elsewhere or at least make a few test prints using our sample images before committing to a purchase).

Close-up performance was excellent, the image stabiliser worked as advertised and chromatic aberrations, while present, usually weren't excessive. Lens performance, on the other hand, was uneven - not that you'd expect otherwise from a superzoom. At some zoom settings we saw good sharpness from edge to edge, while at others, there was considerable softening toward the borders. Red-eye was a problem with the built-in flash and it was only partially cured by the red-eye reduction function. The night exposure came out OK but not great, and we have found the shutter speed limitations too... well, limiting for serious night photography. The 'Magic Filters' were fun though, and it's great that you can save an "untouched" original alongside each filtered shot thanks to the Multi-Record function, if you wish.

Noise

The Olympus SZ-30MR has 7 sensitivity settings ranging from ISO 80 to ISO 3200. You don’t actually see much noise in the images, but that’s primarily because of the strong noise reduction applied, which robs you of progressively more detail as you move up the sensitivity ladder. That said, the images remain surprisingly useable for small prints right up to ISO 1600, while ISO 3200 is suitable for onscreen viewing only.

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

 
 

Focal Range

The lens has an extremely versatile focal range, as demonstrated by the examples below.

28mm

616mm

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)

   

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

File Quality

The Olympus SZ-30MR does not save images in raw format. The available JPEG settings are Normal and Fine.

14M Fine (100% Crop) 14M Normal (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

You’d fully expect a 24x zoom lens to suffer from some chromatic aberrations, and indeed you can spot some purple fringing in our sample images. It’s not too bad though - the examples below demonstrate what you can expect in the worst case.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Macro

The Olympus SZ-30MR has an excellent super-macro mode that allows you to focus on a subject just 3cm from the front lens element. The quality is superb and there is only moderate barrel distortion present. Note however, that focusing speeds can be glacial with the super-macro mode enabled, particularly in low light. The following example shows how close you can get to your subject, in this case a weather-beaten Compact Flash card.

Macro Shot

100% Crop

Flash

The camera has a pop-up flash that has to be raised manually. The angle of coverage is good, with only limited light fall-off seen in the corners of the frame.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (28mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (28mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off - Telephoto (616mm)

Flash On - Telephoto 616mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some flash portraits. As you can see the flash produced a very pronounced red-eye effect which the built-in red-eye reduction function was able to reduce but not fully eliminate.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
   

Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)

Night

The Olympus SZ-30MR is far from being an ideal choice for night photography, as the slowest shutter speed is only 1/4th of a second in P mode and 4 seconds in the Night Scene mode. The following image was taken in the latter, with the camera choosing a shutter speed of 3.2 seconds and aperture of f/3.2 at ISO 160. We have included a 100% crop for you to see what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Image Stabilisation

The Olympus SZ-30MR comes with sensor-shift image stabilisation on board, which helps you capture sharp shots while hand-holding the camera. It can't do miracles but it works, as demonstrated by the following crops. Both come from images taken at 1/40th of a second at ISO 100 and a 35mm equivalent focal length of 116mm.

On (100% Crop)

Off (100% Crop)

Magic Filters

The Olympus SZ-30MR has 8 so-called 'magic filters' including Drawing, Fisheye, Pinhole, Pop Art, Punk, Soft Focus, Sparkle and Watercolour. These filters can be applied to still images as well as videos, and you can even take two pictures, one with a filter applied and one without, simultaneously thanks to the Multi-Record function.

Drawing

Fisheye

   

Pinhole

Pop Art

   

Punk

Soft Focus

   

Sparkle

Watercolour

Multi Record

The main highlight of the Olympus SZ-30MR - apart from its fully retractable 24x zoom lens - is its Multi Record function. Basically, this feature allows you take two photos, two videos or a photo and a video to be taken simultaneously. As described in the Ease of Use section, there are many variations on offer. Multi-Framing allows you to take two pictures or two videos with different framing. Multi-File saves the same photo or video in two sizes, giving you the option to use the smaller file as a quick upload to Web sites like Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Picasa etc., and save the larger file for more serious applications. Finally, it's also possible to capture one photo or video with a Magic Filter applied, and another one with standard settings. The example below shows you the effect of Multi-Framing on a still photo.

Wideangle

Telephoto

Entry Tags

hd video, hd, 3 inch LCD, compact, 1080p, wide-angle, 16 megapixel, olympus, travel-zoom, travel, travel zoom, 25mm, 24x zoom, sz-30 mr, sz30mr, sz 30mr, sz-30mr, Olympus SZ-30MR Review, sz 30 mr

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