Olympus Stylus SZ-15 Review
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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.
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.
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.
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.
|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.