Olympus SZ-10 Review

August 17, 2011 | Zoltan Arva-Toth |


As the most affordable offering in Olympus' new line up of pocket-sized travelzoom cameras, the Olympus SZ-10 mates a whopping 18x zoom lens to a decidedly compact camera body. Its small yet effective hand-grip, faster-than-average lens and mechanical image stabilisation allow you to take blur-free hand-held shots of pretty much everything that cares to stand still for a moment, from landscapes to insects, people to wildlife and so on.

Considering its tiny, pixel-packed sensor and an ultra-zoom lens that naturally comes with its own set of compromises, the Olympus SZ-10 produces surprisingly usable images, particularly at base ISO. As is the case with most small-sensor digital cameras, image quality deteriorates quickly as you move up the sensitivity ladder, with ISO 400 already being characterised by heavy smearing of detail. At ISO 800 and 1600 you also lose quite a bit of saturation. That being said, we would not write off the SZ-10's high-ISO output as completely unusable - it's actually good enough for small prints and Web use. Just don't expect to see 14 megapixels' worth of detail at those settings, and you're unlikely to be disappointed. True low-light shooting is a different story - cameras like the Olympus SZ-10 are simply not meant for that kind of photography.

In terms of usability, the Olympus SZ-10 is very much an entry-level camera. You have no control over shutter speed or aperture, and even oft-used functions like ISO settings and exposure compensation are buried in the menu. This is unlikely to bother those who would simply like an affordable and small point-and-shoot camera with a large zoom ratio, but it's probably enough to put experienced users off buying the Olympus SZ-10. For a camera that is so obviously geared towards users who want as much automation as possible, it seems a bit inconsequential to have a flash that has to be raised manually - but otherwise it's a beginner-friendly package with a well-working Intelligent Auto mode, a host of fun “Magic Filters” and scene modes. Video capture is again quite basic - yes, it's HD but the fact that you can only use the optical zoom if you disable audio recording is a big disappointment on a camera whose main claim to fame is its 18x zoom lens.

In summary, the affordable, tiny Olympus SZ-10 represents a good value for anyone who wants a mostly automated digicam with a big zoom, for use outdoors in bright light - but those who want more control over the photo taking process should look elsewhere (and probably dig deeper in their pockets).

4 stars

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