Olympus SZ-14 Review

January 22, 2013 | Gavin Stoker | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Olympus SZ-14 is a pocketable 14-megapixel travel-zoom camera offering a 24x optical zoom with a focal range of 25-600mm, TruePic III+ processing engine, sensor-shift image stabilisation, “Advanced Face Detection” and “Shadow Adjustment” technologies, a range of Magic Filters, in-camera panorama stitching, 3D photo shooting, 720p HD videos with “Multi-motion Movie IS” and Eye-Fi memory card compatiblity. The Olympus SZ-14 is officially priced at £199 / €229 in the UK and Europe respectively.

Ease of Use

Following on from last Spring’s SZ-20 and SZ-30 models, which boasted 12.5x and 24x optical zooms respectively, the SZ-14 is Olympus’ new ‘Super Zoom’ on the block, the latest addition to what the company is calling its ‘traveller’ series. Unlike the SZ-30 it doesn’t feature a GPS antenna to appeal to those looking for the ultimate holiday/vacation camera perhaps, but it does match its 24x optical reach plus also retails for a very affordable £199. Until recently 14 effective megapixels from a 14.5 MP 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor and such a lens reach for the price of a standard 5x point and shoot, as Olympus’ SZ-14 offers, would have been unthinkable. And yet it costs the same as the 12.5x SZ-20 did last year, even if that camera did add two million more pixels.

The design of the 24x SZ-14 hasn’t changed dramatically from last Easter’s SZ-20 either – the SZ-14 still resembles a bridge camera that has been miniaturized – though there have been little stylistic refinements giving rise to an even more streamlined appearance. The stereo microphones on the front plate now sit so close to the lens barrel they’re almost hidden, for example. The camera will also squeeze into the pocket of your jeans, at a push, so it’s portable too. With dimensions of 106.5x68.7x39.5mm, it weighs a manageable 216g with rechargeable lithium ion battery and choice of SD card inserted. We had the silvery grey SZ-14 in for review, which looks the part and goes some way to disguising a camera that feels a little plastic-y to the touch despite the purportedly metal build in the main. Black and red are the alternative body colours available in the UK.

Aside from the impressively broad dual image stabilized focal range on offer which drags the faraway closer or alternatively squeezes expansive landscapes into frame, and boasts the equivalent of a wide 25-600mm in 35mm film terms, on the SZ-14 Olympus again flags up its USP of Magic Filters. Here these digital effects number 11 in total and include the recently added fragmented filter which lends shots a tiled, collage-type effect; most are accessible when shooting video too, not just stills. The extra gimmicks on the SZ-14, as we found on the SZ-20, include an increasingly ubiquitous auto stitch panorama option, plus 3D image creation mode (stereoscopic results saved as an MPO file viewable only on a 3D TV). Also offered up here are AF tracking, automatic face detection and even pet detection, plus Olympus’ Shadow Adjustment Technology to help ensure (when activated) exposures straight out of the camera requiring little adjustment even in trickier lighting scenarios.

We also get Olympus’ new(ish) multi-motion movie IS functionality, aimed at reducing blur if the videographer is walking as they’re recording, so potentially jogging the camera. For the SZ-14’s budget friendly price we don’t get Full HD 1080p video however, rather the lesser but still useful 720p. HDMI output is lurking under a plastic side flap too for hooking the camera up to a flat panel TV, though – typically – the required cable isn’t provided. Fortunately the optical zoom can be used when recording video and without the sound cutting out when it’s in motion either. There is a low mechanical buzz recorded, but it’s negligible enough to be unobtrusive.

Here, helping to avoid the bane of red eye, flash is of the pop up variety, with a manual lever squirreled away to the side of the lens barrel with which to raise it. The flash bulb sits astride the lens rather than alongside it, which further lends the camera that appearance of a slimmed down bridge model. Pictures and video are unsurprisingly composed and reviewed via the three-inch backplate LCD in the absence of optical or electronic viewfinder. Unusually for a model in this price bracket, the Olympus SZ-14’s screen boasts a better than average resolution of 460k dots.

So, to re-cap, the Olympus SZ-14 is offering us an affordable 24x optical zoom camera that will squeeze into a trouser pocket, with operation being largely of the point and shoot variety, but with a few little extras like those Magic Filters – applied automatically at the point of capture once selected – to stop boredom setting in over time. While that much is true, is the camera actually any good?

Fujifilm FinePix HS10 Fujifilm FinePix HS10
Front Rear

From the front the SZ-14 boasts an appearance more sophisticated than the £199 price tag initially suggests, with the retracting and extending lens obviously dominating proceedings. Despite the broader than average zoom range it’s not a brick of the camera, though a larger handgrip than we would usually find on a pocket camera, plus that positioning of the pop up flash above the lens, does add a little chunkiness. Looking to gain physical support towards the telephoto end of the zoom we managed to curl two (and a half) fingers around the curved grip, though it would certainly benefit from some rubber padding as its surface is smooth and a little slippery to the touch. At the base of the grip is where the battery and SD card is stored. As with most recent compacts, compatibility with Eye-Fi media cards is additionally offered. There’s no separate mains charger provided; instead the Olympus' lithium battery is charged in camera, an adapter plug and USB lead provided for the purpose. Alternatively if you’re in transit but you happen to have a laptop handy, the SZ-14 can be charged from a USB socket. Moving back to the faceplate for a moment, the only other feature is a small porthole for the self-timer/AF assist lamp. This is situated top left of the lens when viewing the camera front on.

The top of the camera is a similarly spartan and equally shiny affair; a lozenge shaped on/off button and raised shutter release button encircled by zoom lever set into a plastic top strip. No beginner is going to be confused as to how to turn the camera on and take a picture. As long as the time and the date have been preset a press of the power button and the camera readies itself for the first photo or video in just over two seconds, lens extending a couple of centimeters from its housing to arrive at maximum wideangle setting followed by the screen bursting into life accompanied by a musical flourish. A half squeeze of the shutter button and the Olympus is refreshingly quick to determine focus and exposure, a green AF point highlighted on screen with an accompanying bleep within the time it takes the user to blink. With the SZ-14 incorporating a TruePic III+ processor, there is a wait of around four seconds while a maximum resolution, Fine compression level image is committed to memory however, the screen briefly blacking out before freezing to display the captured picture. Flick the zoom lever with the forefinger meanwhile and the SZ-14’s optical zoom glides through the entire focal range in three seconds, the zoom barrel extended a good five centimeters at its full extremity without looking ridiculous or overly vulnerable. Try the same when recording video however and the zooms progress slows, taking 6-7 seconds to make the same journey from extreme wide angle to maximum telephoto.

At the back of the Olympus the rear fixed LCD screen takes up three quarters of available space, with five buttons plus control pad/scroll wheel arranged in a strip to the right of it. The uppermost control is the red record button for shooting video – a thumb press of which will nigh instantly commence filming no matter what alternative stills mode is selected on screen at the time. This control is sensibly slightly inset to prevent accidental activation. Immediately below is a dedicated playback button, and beneath this again a separate menu button, a press of which brings up a choice of no fewer than seven folders, with stills functionality spread across two, one given over purely to video, a separate playback folder and then set up options spread across three. When the user tabs down to the last item in each folder the camera automatically jumps to those options presented in the folder immediately below, so in this way navigation feels intuitive and straightforward enough. Should any user feel muddled or confused there is a separate searchable camera help mode, here denoted by a quizzical ‘?’ at the very bottom of the camera back.

Fujifilm FinePix HS10 Fujifilm FinePix HS10
Side Top

Typically for one of Olympus’ snapshot cameras these days, what’s missing is any obvious shooting mode button or standard dial with readily-accessible options marked upon it. Instead that functionality is accessed with a press of the ‘OK’ button at the centre of the control pad/scroll wheel, which has ‘info’ marked above it. Not obvious at all then.

This summons up a toolbar that appears at the right hand side of the screen, with a more expansive array of options being presented in Program mode as opposed to the default setting of the scene and subject recognising iAuto (intelligent Auto). Aside from these two shooting modes, at the very top of the screen, the other options presented by tabbing or scrolling left or right are 16 portrait, landscape and pet covering scene modes, Magic Filter modes, automatic stitching panorama mode (all the photographer has to do is sweep the camera through an arc), and once again Olympus’ rudimentary 3D mode which takes two shots from different angles and combines them to produce a single MPO file viewable on the requisite 3D TV. A 2D JPEG is also produced alongside as a reference tool, viewable on the camera’s LCD as normal.

As with previous and recently reviewed Olympus snapshots, after taking the first image in 3D mode a ghostly outline remains on the screen whilst the user lines up the second shot; keeping things as simple as possible the camera then automatically fires its shutter when it deems the two images sufficiently in sync.

Alternatively, here the Magic Filters are 11 in number, most of which will work with video as well as stills, apart from the newest in the tile effect fragmented plus self explanatory ‘sparkle’. Otherwise, provided here are the colour boosting ‘pop art’, corner darkening pin hole camera, perspective warping fisheye, ‘drawing’ which deconstructs an image so only scratchy black outlines on white background remain, plus soft focus, ‘punk’ (lending subjects a heavy photocopied-style outline against a pink/purple background), reflection, tilt and shift lens ape-ing miniature and watercolour.

Fujifilm FinePix HS10 Fujifilm FinePix HS10
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

As on last year’s Olympus SZ-20 and the more recently reviewed SP-620UZ, all of the above shooting options are tabbed through and selected via use of the Olympus’s backplate control pad come scroll wheel, sitting in the bottom right hand corner of the backplate. Though they’re supposed to speed up operation, we’re not big fans of scroll wheels, and here trying to be exacting in the selections you make quickly becomes tedious and frustrating as the scroll wheel is so slippery and over-sensitive it’s all too easy to alight on a setting you didn’t actually want. The result is that there is a lot of back and forth involved to get where you want, which seems to defeat the purpose of having a scroll wheel in the first place. Yes, you can press a thumb down on the edges of the pad to gingerly tab through settings instead, but it’s still easy for the thumb to slip and the user end up scrolling past required options. For us, this ultra slippery control is the biggest black mark with regards to this camera.

Returning to the other options presented on the on-screen toolbar apart from the shooting modes, and selected via the same scroll wheel when in Program mode are flash options – only ‘active’ once the flash has been manually raised – plus self-timer (two second, 10 seconds or off), macro focus, exposure compensation (+/- 3EV), white balance, ISO and drive mode options, plus we also get ‘menu’ re-presented at the very bottom though it has its own dedicated button. Here light sensitivity settings range from ISO80 to a so-so top manually selectable setting of ISO1600. On a positive note it’s good that these aren’t alternatively buried within dense menu screens, but shame that they’re more awkward to precisely select than needs be.

The bottom of the Olympus SZ-14 features an off-centrally positioned screw thread for attaching a tripod, and catch operated cover protecting the joint battery and card compartment, located at the base of the grip as we’ve mentioned. Battery life is good for XXX shots from a full charge.

Once again for an Olympus compact with a fixed optic the SZ-14 comes across as user friendly at one turn, frustratingly obstructive at the next. Lose the scroll wheel and having a shooting mode button summoning up a virtual dial or better still an actual dial and handling would be much improved.

Image quality is what counts though and on that score can the SZ-14 still snatch glory? Read on to find out…

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.


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.




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)


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 (100% Crop)


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)


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 (100% Crop)

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Olympus SZ-14 camera, which were all taken using the 14 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 21 second movie is 34.9Mb in size.

Product Images

Olympus SZ-14

Front of the Camera

Olympus SZ-14

Front of the Camera / Pop-up Flash

Olympus SZ-14

Isometric View

Olympus SZ-14

Isometric View

Olympus SZ-14

Rear of the Camera

Olympus SZ-14

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Olympus SZ-14

Top of the Camera

Olympus SZ-14

Bottom of the Camera

Olympus SZ-14

Side of the Camera


Olympus SZ-14

Side of the Camera

Olympus SZ-14
Memory Card Slot
Olympus SZ-14
Battery Compartment


The 14 megapixel, £199 Olympus SZ-14 comes up trumps for anyone wanting a very affordable big zoom camera that at the same time is compact enough to slip into a trouser or jacket pocket in its dormant state. The negatives are that image quality, whilst perfectly acceptable and in many respects better than expected, is nevertheless at snapshot level, plus rather more seriously there’s that horribly irksome slippery scroll wheel at the camera back instead of a firmer shooting mode dial or button.

Like its SZ series ‘traveller’ camera predecessors, the SZ-14 does not come without some considerable degree of compensation however. ‘Sweeteners’ include its fun and for the most part effective Magic Filters, stereoscopic 3D shooting for anyone owning a compatible TV or monitor, and automatic panorama generation.

Like last year’s SZ-30 model with also supported a big focal range, the largest draw here however remains the fact that in terms of lenses the SZ-14 fields a veritable whopper at 24x, and for a price that is identical to that usually charged models with a comparatively miserly 5x optical zoom reach. While for value the Olympus SZ-14 cannot be faulted the scroll wheel implementation for us removes a large part of its allure, which is a real shame. If you can live with this, or don’t change shooting settings very often if ever, then in most other respects this affordable Olympus travel zoom is a real winner for everyday casual snapping.

4 stars

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

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Olympus SZ-14 from around the web.

ephotozine.com »

The Olympus SZ-14 was released in January 2012 alongside the SZ-11 to expand the Olympus SZ range of cameras and combines a 24x optical zoom lens in a compact body. It is available in red, black and silver for £194.00.
Read the full review »

reviews.cnet.co.uk »

The SZ-14 represents great value for money for a camera with so long a zoom. Image quality is good, colours are bright and the build quality and menus are excellent. The panorama mode is a little fiddly, but otherwise it's a good job well done.
Read the full review »

digitalversus.com »

Back last year, the 24x (25-600 mm) zoom lens in the SZ-30 MR stood out in a market in which even high-end superzooms maxed out at 18x. One year down the line it's still a record-holder, and now Olympus is rolling out this lens into the mid-range SZ-14.
Read the full review »

digital-photography-school.com »

This review camera dropped out of the box - in bright red! Talk about making a statement! I’m not sure how you all feel about CICs - cameras in colours. It’s not that important to me, except for the benefit of making the control IDs more visible.
Read the full review »


Image Sensor

  • Effective pixels

    14 Megapixels

  • Filter array

    Primary colour filter (RGB)

  • Full resolution

    14.5 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


  • 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

    0.1m - ∞ (wide) / 0.4m - ∞ (tele)

  • Macro mode

    0.1m - ∞ (wide) / 0.4m - ∞ (tele)

  • Super Macro Mode

    Closest focusing distance: 3cm

  • AF illuminator


Light Metering

  • Modes

    • ESP light metering
    • Spot metering
  • Histogram in shooting mode


Exposure System

  • Modes

    • i-Auto
    • Programme automatic
    • Scene Modes
    • Magic Filter
    • Panorama
    • Movie
    • 3D Photos
  • Shutter speed

    1/4 - 1/1700s / < 4s (Night scene)

  • Exposure compensation

    +/- 2EV / 1/3 steps

  • Enhancement function

    Mechanical Image Stabiliser

  • Advanced Face Detection Technology

  • Shadow Adjustment Technology

  • Pet Detection

Scene Modes

  • Number of scene modes


  • Modes

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


  • Auto

    AUTO / High AUTO

  • Manual

    ISO 80, 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)

    0.1 - 7.3m (ISO 1000)

  • Working range (tele)

    0.5 - 3.2m (ISO 1000)

Sequence Shooting

  • Sequential shooting mode (high speed)

    10fps / 43 frames (in 3MP mode)

  • 7.6fps / 42 frames (in 5MP mode)

  • Sequential shooting mode

    0.89fps / 18 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
    • Photo Surfing
  • Index

    4x3 / 6x5 frames

  • Zoom

    1.1 - 10x

  • Auto rotation


  • Image protect mode


  • Histogram in playback mode


Still Image Recording

  • DCF


  • RAW


  • EXIF


  • PIM


  • DPS


  • DPOF


Movie Recording System

  • Recording format


  • Image Stabilisation Mode

    Digital Image Stabilisation

  • HD Movie quality

    720P Recording time: 29min.

  • Movie quality

    VGA Recording time: Up to card capacity

  • Note: maximum file size 4GB

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

  • Magic Filter

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

Sound Recording System

  • Voice playback


  • Sound recording

    Yes , format: AAC

  • Image footage


  • Speaker



  • Removable Media

    SD / SDHC / SDXC (UHS speed class not supported)

  • Eye-Fi Card compatible


  • Internal memory


Image Size

  • 14M

    4288 x 3216

  • 8M

    3264 x 2448

  • 5M

    2560 x 1920

  • 3M

    2048 x 1536

  • 2M

    1600 x 1200

  • 1M

    1280 x 960

  • VGA

    640 x 480

  • 16:9

    4288 x 2416

  • 1920 x 1080


  • Menu languages in camera


Other Features

  • 3D Photo Shooting Mode


  • Perfect Shot Preview


  • Self timer

    2 / 12s Pet auto shutter

  • Menu guide


  • In-camera Manual


  • Panorama function

    In-Camera Panorama

  • Photo Surfing


  • Date imprint


Power Supply

  • Battery

    LI-50B Lithium-Ion Battery

  • Internal Charging



  • DC input


  • Combined A/V & USB output


  • USB 2.0 High Speed


  • HDMI™

    Yes Micro connector (Type D) *

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


  • Dimensions (W x H x D)

    106.5 x 68.7 x 39.5mm

  • Weight

    216g (including battery and memory card)


  • Material


Magic Filter

  • Types

    • Pop Art
    • Pin Hole
    • Fisheye
    • Drawing
    • Soft Focus
    • Punk
    • Sparkle
    • Water color
    • Reflection
    • Miniature
    • Fragmented

View Movie

  • Modes

    • Frame by frame
    • Fast forward
    • Reverse playback

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