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Olympus tunes up its top compacts with the SZ-31MR iHS, TG-820 iHS

New sensors and image processors make these two top-of-the-line models look very interesting.


Completely overshadowed by the announcement of its OM-D E-M5 interchangeable-lens camera, Olympus also updated a couple of its high-end point-and-shoots, the 24x SZ-30MR and Tough TG-810.

The SZ-31MR iHS retains its predecessor's compact design and 24x f3-6.9 25-600mm lens (35mm equivalent), but improves its LCD, image processors, and sensor.

The new model gets a 3.0-inch 920K-dot touch-screen LCD, an improved 16-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor that Olympus claims improves image detail and noise in low-light shots, and dual TruePic V processors that'll let you capture HD movies and full-resolution photos simultaneously.

The new iHS designation refers to the combo of the backlit CMOS sensor and dual image processors. Olympus says together they'll "dramatically improve low-light performance, speed up camera response time, enhance scene and subject recognition, and double zoom magnification without sacrificing image quality."

The SZ-31MR iHS ships in April for $399.99.

Olympus also gave the iHS treatment to its top Tough camera. The TG-820 iHS remains just as rugged as its predecessor, with a metal body and shock-absorbing system that can survive drops of up to 6.6 feet, temperatures down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, dives in water down to 33 feet, and up to 220 pounds of crushing weight. Updates include a new image processor and a 12-megapixel BSI sensor as well as a ultrahigh-res 3-inch LCD.

Its new sensor/processor combo allows it to shoot at up to 5 frames per second at full resolution and take HDR shots for backlit subjects, which is really nice to have on a rugged camera. Unfortunately, the new version no longer has built-in GPS, something that's also nice to have on a rugged camera. The TG-820 is, however, $100 cheaper than its predecessor at $299.99

Look for it in March.