Olympus Stylus SZ-15 Review

January 24, 2014 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Olympus Stylus SZ-15 is a large zoom digital compact camera boasting a 24x optical zoom starting from a 24mm wide-angle focal length, 16 megapixel sensor, TRUEPIC processor and Eye-Fi memory card compatibility. Drawing on designs from past digital cameras, the SZ-15 has an air of retro to it. In this in-depth review, we'll find out if it is bang up to date or should be consigned to history. Available in red, silver or black, the Olympus Stylus SZ-15 costs around £140.

Ease of Use

It could be argued that Olympus made popular this current trend of retro styled cameras that we're being bombarded with today. The digital PEN sparked a craze in cameras that were reminiscent of past designs or, indeed, modern day releases of a previous model. The Stylus SZ-15 seems to come a couple of steps closer to modern day photography, the design being similar to their earlier digital compact cameras such as the C-730 Ultra Zoom or even the C-8080 Wide Zoom which were both produced around 10 years ago. The camera sits quite tall. To one side is a small grip which is adequate enough for one handed shooting. The shutter release button sits on the edge of the grip. A small zoom switch loops around the shutter release which operates the 24x optical zoom.

A small power button is sunk into the top plate to try and avoid pressing it by accident and missing an important shot. Following the line of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15, the flash sits over the lens but is hidden inside a raised area that resembles a pentaprism chamber on a DSLR. It only holds the flash though and the mechanical switch to activate the flash is on the shoulder opposite to the shutter release.

Fujifilm FinePix HS10 Fujifilm FinePix HS10
Front Rear

On the back, the 3-inch LCD screen takes up the majority of space with the framing of the screen taking up even more space. The camera is quite small as it is and as a result the buttons used to operate the camera are squished to the side. Olympus have reduced the amount of buttons on the Stylus SZ-15 to one above and one below the navigation pad with a dedicated video button in the top right corner. A small area has been reserved to rest your thumb, which is a sore point for us because we'd have preferred to have the buttons set a little further away from each other. The problem being that we occasionally caught the wrong button while operating the camera and would find ourselves going into the playback instead of bringing up information.

Interestingly, the buttons seem to be sparse in their offerings. Buttons on cameras can have two, sometimes three different roles to play, but the Olympus isn't anywhere near as cluttered in that respect. The navigation pad will transport you through the menu systems and when you're not in the menus, pressing up will change the amount of information you have available on screen. Press right and you will bring up flash functions (albeit when the flash has been popped up) and pressing down accesses the self-timer. Now here's the head scratcher: The self-timer button is one of those buttons that has three roles. It moves down through menus, activates the self-timer and in playback will delete pictures. The left navigation button has no other operations to it. We're unsure why the self-timer couldn't be placed on the left button instead.

The outer casing is plastic which isn't unheard of for a camera at this price point, but we have seen metal bodies for around the same price.

Fujifilm FinePix HS10 Fujifilm FinePix HS10
Front Pop-up Flash

There are two menus on the Olympus Stylus SZ-15. One of them is a quick access menu for the most used features of the camera such as ISO, white-balance, resolution or exposure compensation. This menu is on the screen when you switch the camera on and is situated down the right side. Pressing left on the navigation pad will activate menu. The self-timer is available in this menu and pressing down (before entering the menu) will give you direct access to the timer. We're unsure why the self-timer over all other important features has been given direct access.

The options in the menu will pop out of the side when highlighted and they use a black ribbon which graduates to grey. The highlighter is yellowy green to differentiate from the white lettering.

The Main menu can be accessed two ways; by scrolling to the bottom of the quick menu on screen or by pressing the dedicated Menu button at the bottom of the camera. It uses the same colour coding but takes over the entire screen. There are a number of tabs to the left of the screen  which you can access for faster navigation by simply pressing left. The menu is split into four sections which cover shooting, video, playback and set-up. The latter goes more in-depth than the previous three. Each section is designated an icon so that you know which one is which because some have multiple pages.

Fujifilm FinePix HS10 Fujifilm FinePix HS10
Top Side

Recently we've had to revise what the standard start up time should be as more and more digital cameras are producing faster times. We settled on around 2sec from the previous 2.5sec (this could be revised). It's an approximation, so it's not a downside that the Olympus can turn on, power the lens out, focus and take a picture in 2.1sec. The Olympus uses a dedicated image processor called Truepic. It's designed to improve start up times and it certainly has. However, it's not the fastest available and with some cameras coming in with speeds of under 2sec, being over 2sec is a major step.

There are three continuous shooting modes with two of them acting as burst modes. The continuous mode is very slow. It plods along at roughly half a frame per second (fps). Download time is pretty quick though. The camera had recovered and was ready to shoot again by the 13th second. The burst modes reduce the resolution to 3 megapixels in Hi1 and Hi2. Most likely this is to keep the fast frame rate up and prevent stuffing up the buffer too fast. The camera took 19 photographs in Hi1 which is roughly just under 2fps. It's more of a continuous shooting mode, like the standard continuous mode. It's just faster. Hi2 is a burst mode and it truly is shooting 20 frames a second. It then takes a further seven seconds to download.

Fujifilm FinePix HS10 Fujifilm FinePix HS10
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

You can review the photographs that you take by pressing the playback button on the back of the camera. This can be done regardless of whether the Olympus Stylus SZ-15 is switched on or off. Images appear full size on the screen and you can zoom in or review thumbnails by operating the zoom switch. Pressing the Info button scrolls through various options of viewing the pictures with differing amounts of image information. Pressing the menu button takes you into the same Main menu as when you're shooting, but it defaults to the Playback section. There's only one page of options for the Playback, but there are sub sections within. Edit, for example, opens up a list of editing options such as crop, rotate, resize, Beauty Fix, Shadow Adjust and Red-eye Fix.

In the box, you'll receive the Olympus Stylus SZ-15, wrist strap, lithium ion battery with charger, USB cable and mains adapter. There's also a Basic Guide to get you shooting while the full manual is on the enclosed CD. The CD also holds Olympus Viewer 3, a basic editing and filing program.

Image Quality

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 7Mb.


Noise performance on the Olympus Stylus SZ-15 is very good for a camera at this price point. The range is fairly short starting at ISO 100 and climbing to ISO 1600. Low ISO settings show minimal interference from the camera with bright colours, sharp edges and lots of detail. There is a little coloured noise in the darker areas and that's a real shame. It can only be seen in the darker areas, though. It gets slightly worse as the camera climbs through the settings.

Image sharpness keeps its integrity until around ISO 800 where it drops off, but only by a little. Meanwhile at ISO 400, noise is really starting to cause trouble for the processor as it pushes up the noise reduction system to compensate. We were going to comment on how the camera could have maybe been afforded an ISO 3200 setting, given it's performance on the other settings. However, we then clicked on the ISO 1600 picture and it's as though the noise reduction system was turned off. Colour noise is devastating the image while edge sharpness has all but disintegrated. This is obviously the reason that Olympus capped the ISO settings at ISO 1600.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso200.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso800.jpg

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


Focal Range

The Olympus Stylus SZ-15 has a 24x optical zoom range which gives a 35mm equivalent range of 24-600mm. The zoom is a fast operator and at wide-angle you will get barrel distortion.



focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg


The images from the Olympus Stylus SZ-15 are already sharpened by the processor as part of the recording to memory card process. However, we found that the camera benefits from a small boost in an editing suite such as Adobe Photoshop.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg

File Quality

File sizes range from 6.9Mb to 7.9Mb with the average around 7.5Mb, but knock the compression down to Normal in the Main menu and you can get images of around 4Mb. That's not a bad idea if you need more space on the card as long as the images aren't high detail as there's a lot of information missing from the pictures.

Fine (7.38Mb) (100% Crop)

Normal (4.08Mb) (100% Crop)

quality_high.jpg quality_normal.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

We did find instances of chromatic aberrations on the images from the Olympus Stylus SZ-15. It shows as purple lines running the edge of high contrast edges. The intensity and thickness of the lines varied  throughout the test dependant on how bright it was and how dark the contrasting edge was.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic3.jpg chromatic4.jpg


The Olympus Stylus SZ-15 has a close focusing capability of 3cm. Interestingly, we didn't get as much barrel distortion as what we thought we'd get, but it was still there. There also seems to be a larger sweet spot than is typically seen on a digital compact camera.


Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


Wide-angle shots show vignetting regardless of whether the flash is turned on or off. This is an indication of a smart flash system that works with the other systems on the camera to get a balanced exposure. It compliments the available light instead of over powering it. Unfortunately, no-one has worked out how to get it to over power vignettes without bleaching the main subject. Vignetting does disappear by the time you get to full zoom.

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

Should you get red-eye on your portraits, the flash has a red-eye reduction option on the flash menu which only activates once the flash has been popped up. If you require something a little stronger, once you've taken the picture, go to the Playback menu and select Edit. From there, you can choose a red-eye removal. We didn't suffer from red-eye on our test images, though.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg

Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg


In the event that you're shooting at night, the Olympus Stylus SZ-15 does have a Night scene mode. We tested it against the standard Program mode and discovered that because we don't get to control the ISO in Night scene, the camera chose a higher setting. Given the good noise performance that we've already seen, we're not overly concerned by this. The Night mode does benefit longer shutter speeds that aren't available in Program and so gave a more balanced exposure.

Night Program

Night Program (100% Crop)

night_program.jpg night_program_crop.jpg

Night Scene

Night Scene (100% Crop)

night_scene.jpg night_scene_crop.jpg

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Olympus Stylus SZ-15 camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 35 second movie is 138Mb in size.

Product Images

Olympus SZ-15

Front of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15

Olympus SZ-15

Front of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15 / Turned On

Olympus SZ-15

Side of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15

Olympus SZ-15

Side of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15

Olympus SZ-15

Side of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15

Olympus SZ-15

Side of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15 / Pop-up Flash

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Rear of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15

Olympus SZ-15

Rear of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15 / Turned On

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Rear of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15 / OK Menu


Olympus SZ-15

Rear of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15 / Art Filters Menu

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Rear of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15 / Scene Mode Menu
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Rear of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15 / Olympus Stylus SZ-15 Menu
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Rear of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15 / Movie Menu
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Rear of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15 / Settings Menu
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Rear of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15 / Playback Menu
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Top of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15
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Bottom of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15
Olympus SZ-15
Side of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15
Olympus SZ-15
Side of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15
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Front of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15
Olympus SZ-15
Memory Card Slot
Olympus SZ-15
Battery Compartment


Olympus have been pushing the Micro FourThirds system so much that they've fallen off the radar a little with the compact cameras. It's a shame because they've always been pretty good and the Stylus SZ-15 is testament to that. It has its flaws, such as the incredibly slow download of pictures to the memory card. In the camera's defence, Truepic processors have never been the fastest.

The Olympus Stylus SZ-15 is a very pleasant camera to use though. It's fast at starting up and the AF system is speedy. We like the nostalgic design to the body and this design helps get that bit of a larger zoom in the thin body.

The plastic body feels solid enough and although the battery door is exceptionally bendy, it at least has a locking switch on it. Image quality is pretty good with realistic colours, sharp edges and – surprisingly for a small sensor – good noise performance. That is until you get to the top end. But stay lower than ISO 800 and you'll be perfectly happy with the end result. The dynamic range isn't that hot. We got a lot of burn out on the sky while exposing for the ground. It's especially an issue in colder months when the sky is generally white. So in the UK that's most of the time.

For the £140 price tag, you get a decent zoom lens, good image quality, a fast start up time and focusing system. The menus are easy to navigate and clear to understand. With those key benefits, the Olympus Stylus SZ-15 certainly a camera that can be used to take away on holiday. The long zoom lens will help on trips out to get a better shot of details in monuments or wildlife that is human shy. The light weight and reasonably small size may not sit well in a pocket all day, but can fit easily into a small rucksack or bum bag. The best part is that if it gets damaged, it's not at a price that will make you wince. If you're looking for a new holiday camera that's easy to use and has some useful features, then take a look at the Olympus Stylus SZ-15.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 3.5
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 4
Value for money 4

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15.

Canon Powershot SX280 HS

The Canon PowerShot SX280 HS is a new travel-zoom camera for 2013, offering a 20x zoom lens and a 12 megapixel back-illuminated image sensor. Other key features of the Canon SX280 include built-in GPS and wi-fi connectivity, a 3 inch LCD screen, full 1080p HD movies with stereo sound, fast 14fps burst shooting, and a full range of manual and automated exposure modes. Read our in-depth Canon PowerShot SX280 HS in-depth review now...

Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR

The FinePix F900EXR is the range-topping camera from Fujifilm, sporting a 20x lens with a versatile focal range of 25-500mm. The 16 megapixel F900 EXR also features fast phase-detection autofocusing, wireless image transfer, GPS support, full 1080p movies, a high-contrast 3 inch LCD screen and 8fps continuous shooting. Read our in-depth Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR review now...

Nikon Coolpix S9500

The Nikon Coolpix S9500 is an affordable, full-featured travel-zoom compact camera. Featuring a 22x zoom lens with a focal range of 25-550mm, the slimline Coolpix S9500 has a 18 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor, high-resolution 3-inch OLED screen and boasts GPS tracking and wi-fi connectivity. Read our detailed Nikon Coolpix S9500 review now...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ35

The Lumix DMC-TZ35 is Panasonic's new entry-level travel-zoom compact camera for 2013. The TZ35 (also known as the ZS25) packs a 16 megapixel MOS sensor, 20x wide-angle zoom lens, 3 inch LCD screen, 1080i HD movies, 10fps burst shooting and full manual controls into its pocketable body. Available in silver or black for £299 / $299, read our Panasonic DMC-TZ35 / ZS25 review to find out if it's the right travel camera for you...

Pentax Optio VS20

The Pentax VS20 is an innovative travel-zoom compact camera featuring a 20x image-stabilized zoom lens, 16 megapixel sensor, 3-inch LCD screen, 720p HD movies and not one but two shutter release buttons. Retailing for around £200 / $250, read our Pentax VS20 review to find out if it can take on its many travelzoom rivals...

Samsung WB850F

The Samsung WB850 is a new travel-zoom camera with a mouth-watering specification. The WB850 offers a wide-angle 21x zoom lens, 16.2 megapixels, Full 1080p video recording, 3 inch AMOLED screen, built-in wi-fi and GPS, plus full manual controls. Read our detailed Samsung WB850 review to find out if it's a contender for the travel zoom crown.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V is a new travel-zoom compact camera that seemingly offers all of the latest must-have features. A 16x 24-384mm Sony G lens, built-in GPS tracking, full 1080p high-definition video with stereo sound, a 16 megapixel CMOS sensor, high-resolution 3-inch screen, manual shooting mode, 10fps continuous shooting, 3D photos, and SD memory card support are all present and correct. Read our in-depth Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V review to find out if all this adds up to a great camera...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15 from around the web.

techradar.com »

Beneath its serious design, the Olympus Stylus SZ-15 has many of the key features that will appeal to those wanting a travel compact camera on a budget. The £179.99 / US$199.99 (around AU$300) full price tag for the Olympus SZ-15 gets you a 16 million pixel 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor and 24x optical zoom, which is the equivalent of a 25-600mm lens on a 35mm/full frame camera.
Read the full review »

expertreviews.co.uk »

The 24x zoom in the Olympus SZ-15 is the biggest available from a pocket-sized camera – not bad considering the sub-£150 price. It's a little chunky at 30mm from the front of the lens to the LCD screen, but this gives room for a proper handgrip that allows comfortable one-handed operation.
Read the full review »


Image Sensor

  • Effective pixels

    16 Megapixels

  • Filter array

    Primary colour filter (RGB)

  • Full resolution

    16.5 Megapixels

  • Type

    1/2.3'' CCD sensor


  • Optical zoom

    24x (WIDE)

  • Focal length

    4.5 - 108.0mm

  • Focal length (equiv. 35mm)

    25 - 600mm

  • Maximum aperture

    3.0 - 6.9

  • Structure

    11 lenses / 10 groups

  • Aspherical glass elements


  • ED glass elements


Digital Zoom

  • Enlargement factor

    4x / 96x combined with optical zoom

  • Super Resolution Zoom



  • Resolution

    460000 dots

  • Monitor size

    7.6cm / 3.0''

  • Monitor type


  • Frame assistance


  • Brightness adjustment

    +/- 2 levels

  • Protection panel


Focusing System

  • Method

    TTL iESP auto focus with contrast detection

  • Modes

    • iESP
    • Face Detection AF
    • Spot
    • AF Tracking
  • Standard mode

    0.2m - ∞ (wide) / 0.4m - ∞ (tele)

  • Super Macro Mode

    Closest focusing distance: 3cm

  • AF illuminator


Light Metering

  • Modes

    • ESP light metering
    • Spot metering

Exposure System

  • Modes

    • i-Auto
    • Programme automatic
    • Beauty
    • Super Macro
    • Scene Modes
    • Magic Filter
    • Panorama
    • Movie
  • Shutter speed

    1/4 - 1/2000s / < 2s (Night scene)

  • Exposure compensation

    +/- 2EV / 1/3 steps

  • Enhancement function

    Mechanical Image Stabiliser (Sensor shift)


    Advanced Face Detection Technology

Scene Modes

  • Number of scene modes


  • Modes

    • Portrait
    • Landscape
    • Night Scene
    • Night Scene with portrait
    • Sports
    • Indoor
    • Candle
    • Self-portrait
    • Sunset
    • Fireworks
    • Cuisine
    • Documents
    • Beach and Snow
    • Pet

Magic Filter

  • Types

    • Pop Art
    • Pin Hole
    • Fisheye
    • Soft Focus
    • Punk
    • Sparkle
    • Water colour
    • Reflection
    • Miniature
    • Fragmented
    • Dramatic


  • Auto

    AUTO / High AUTO

  • Manual

    ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600

White Balance

  • AUTO WB system


  • Preset values

    • Overcast
    • Sunlight
    • Tungsten
    • Flourescent 1
  • One-touch white balance

    1 custom settings can be registered

Internal Flash

  • Modes

    • AUTO
    • Red-eye reduction
    • Fill-in
    • Off
  • Working range (wide)

    0.2 - 6.9m (ISO 800)

  • Working range (tele)

    0.4 - 3.0m (ISO 800)

Sequence Shooting

  • Sequential shooting mode (high speed)

    15fps / 20 frames (in 3MP mode)


    1.5fps / 200 frames (in 3MP mode)

  • Sequential shooting mode

    0.45fps / 200 frames (Full Image Size)

Image Processing

  • Noise reduction


  • Pixel mapping


  • Engine

    TruePic III+

  • Shading compensation


  • Distortion compensation


Image Editing

  • Resize


  • Trimming


  • Correction of saturation


  • Beauty Fix


  • Red-eye reduction


  • Shadow Adjustment


View Images

  • Modes

    • Single
    • Index
    • Zoom
    • Slide show
    • Event
  • Index

    5 x 4 frames

  • Zoom

    1.1 - 10x

  • Auto rotation


  • Image protect mode


View Movie

  • Modes

    • Frame by frame
    • Fast forward
    • Reverse playback

Still Image Recording

  • DCF


  • RAW


  • EXIF


  • PIM


  • DPS


  • DPOF


Movie Recording System

  • Recording format

    AVI Motion JPEG®

  • Image Stabilisation Mode

    Digital Image Stabilisation

  • HD Movie quality

    720P / 30fps Recording time: Up to card capacity

  • Movie quality

    VGA Recording time: Up to card capacity


    Note: maximum file size 2GB


    When shooting 720P movies use SDHC/SDXC class 6 or higher.

  • Magic Filter

    • Pop Art
    • Pin Hole
    • Fisheye
    • Soft Focus
    • Punk
    • Water colour
    • Reflection
    • Miniature

Sound Recording System

  • Voice playback


  • Sound recording

    Yes , format: WAV

  • Image footage


  • Speaker



  • Removable Media

    SD / SDHC / SDXC

  • Eye-Fi Card compatible


  • Internal memory


Image Size

  • 16M


  • 8M

    3264 x 2448

  • 3M

    2048 x 1536

  • VGA

    640 x 480

  • Aspect ratio

    4:3 / 3:2 / 16:9 / 1:1


  • Menu languages in camera


Other Features

  • Self timer

    2 / 12s

  • Menu guide


  • Panorama function

    Image marker (Software)

  • Date imprint


  • SNS upload


Power Supply

  • Battery

    LI-50B Lithium-Ion Battery

  • Internal Charging



  • DC input


  • Combined A/V & USB output


  • USB 2.0 High Speed


  • HDMI™

    Yes Mini connector (type C) *


    * "HDMI", the HDMI logo and "High-Definition Multimedia Interface" are trademarks or registered trademarks of HDMI Licensing LLC.


  • Dimensions (W x H x D)

    107.3 x 68.8 x 39.8mm

  • Weight

    220g (including battery and memory card)


  • Material


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