Having a far-reaching optical zoom in a compact camera means the world to some photographers. They won't be disappointed with the offering on the Olympus SZ-14. Don't be confused about the model name, though; there's very much a 24x optical zoom packed inside.
Design and features
Like several of the other zoomy compact cameras that are on the market, the SZ-14 is geared towards those who simply like to point and shoot. As such, the configuration is pretty basic and easy for beginners to use. It's a superzoom, but it misses out on some important features that would make it ideal for travel purposes — for example, it misses out on a GPS.
The camera fits comfortably in the hand, thanks to the protruding grip at the front, as well as a small textured plastic thumb rest at the rear. Exterior casings are all plastic, which ensure that it doesn't outstay its 216g welcome. However, it doesn't feel as finished or polished as some of the other Olympus compacts.
The lens has a maximum aperture range of f/3.0-6.9 from the wide-end to the telephoto end, respectively. Sitting over the lens is a small, pop-up flash that is activated by flicking the switch around the lens barrel. The SZ-14 sports an HDMI and a proprietary USB connection port. It's powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and uses any variant of the SD card format.
Around the back is a 3-inch LCD screen, as well as a range of control buttons. There's an instant-on record button to immediately start shooting HD video (only 720p), as well as a rotating control dial that can be used to navigate through menus and change controls on the fly. There's no mode dial here, which means that you need to adjust any particular shooting settings through the camera's on-screen interface. Like other Olympus compacts around this price range, you only get automatic controls. Fortunately, the iAuto mode is pretty good, and there's also program mode to adjust a few components like white balance and ISO, as well as a 3D photo mode, panorama and scene modes.
The camera comes with nine of the Olympus magic filters, which are creative effects applied to images in-camera. They are: pop art, pin hole, fish eye, drawing, soft focus, punk, watercolour, reflection, miniature and fragmented.
The reflection magic filter is one of the most fun options.
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Start-up to first shot
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
- 220.127.116.11Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ25
- 18.104.22.168Olympus SZ-14
- 2.220.3Olympuz SH-25MR
- 22.214.171.124Canon PowerShot SX260 HS
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Continuous shooting speed (in fps)
- 4Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ25
- 3Olympus SH-25MR
- 2.5Canon PowerShot SX260 HS
- 0.8Olympus SZ-14
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Olympus rates the battery for approximately 220 shots. The SZ-14 has a regular continuous shooting mode (measured above), which takes shots at the full 14-megapixel resolution, as well as two high-speed modes. High Speed 1 reduces the resolution to 5 megapixels and ups the frame rate to 5.3fps, while High Speed 2 reduces the resolution to 2 megapixels and can shoot 10fps.
The SZ-14 is not going to set the world alight with its image quality, but it's perfectly serviceable for snapshots and photos for sharing to the web. Image quality does start to deteriorate at ISO 200 and above, with visible over-processing. The SZ-14 has a maximum sensitivity rating of 1600, but at this stage there's a lot of smearing present that recovering much detail, even with noise-removal software, is tricky.