Olympus SZ-20 Review

May 19, 2011 | Gavin Stoker |

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.

Travel zoom cameras are all about the quality of the performance at maximum wideangle and extreme telephoto; does the camera maintain edge-to-edge sharpness and avoid obvious barrel distortion as regards the former, and steer clear of repeated soft shots when shooting handheld as regards the latter?

At maximum (300mm equivalent) optical zoom range on the Olympus SZ-20 we noticeably struggled to achieve a sharp image shooting handheld, even in broad daylight, which although not unheard of on a travel zoom was also far from ideal and partly defeats the purpose.

The solution was to take two or three shots of the same subject to achieve one sharp enough to justify keeping; fine with relatively static objects and if you've both the time and patience.

At the other 24mm end of the zoom, some corner softening was also noticeable, if only on very close inspection. To nitpick further the familiar Olympus bugbear of the results from auto white balance shifting shot-to-shot even when shooting the same subject rears its head.

On a more positive note, the Magic Filters are readily to hand to achieve added visual pep when required. The likes of pop art prove useful in accenting a particular colour scheme or you're faced with an otherwise dull day. That said the watercolour and drawing Magic Filters were less impressive, so it's worth some initial experimentation.

Happily too, any concerns about a sensor over-loaded with a high pixel count can be largely dismissed. Though detail softens slightly at ISO 800 and upwards, we'd be happy keeping the results of images shot up to ISO 1600.

So, in summary, a better than expected low light performance makes up in part from hit and miss results when attempting shots at the SZ-20's extreme telephoto setting.


There are 7 ISO settings available on the Olympus SZ-20. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

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 Olympus SZ-20's 12.5x lens offers a 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 soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. Unfortunately you can't change the in-camera sharpening level.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Chromatic Aberrations

The Olympus SZ-20 handled chromatic aberrations well during the review, with limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)


The Olympus SZ-20 offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 1cm away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


The flash settings on the Olympus SZ-20 are Auto, Red-eye reduction, Fill-in, Off. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Off - Wide Angle (24mm)

Fill-in - Wide Angle (24mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Off - Telephoto (300mm)

Fill-in - Telephoto (300mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. Both the Flash On and the Auto/Red-eye Reduction settings caused a tiny amount of red-eye.


Fill-in (100% Crop)

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Olympus SZ-20's maximum shutter speed is 4 seconds in the Night scene mode, which is not great news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 4 seconds at ISO 160.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)