The SH-25MR looks fairly unassuming from the outside, a simple and uncluttered exterior that houses lots of interesting features inside. Everything feels very sleek and refined on this camera, from the buttons that lie flat with the panels to the satisfying click made by the mode dial. In short, it feels well made.
A small, slightly textured hand grip sits at the front, while a hump at the top indicates that there is a GPS module here. The pop-up flash is located at the top left-hand side, while a very nice and bright 3-inch, 460,000-dot touchscreen sits at the back.
Olympus has implemented this touchscreen in a particularly nice way. Rather than being overwhelmed by all of the shooting options available through both physical controls and touch ones, the screen simply responds to things like touch autofocus and shutter controls. There's also the Live Guide, which is available in certain modes, that helps you adjust colour, saturation and so on using a slider. To change other settings, you still need to head into the menus and use the physical buttons, which is a refreshing change from the muddled touch implementation from other vendors.
There's a 12.5x optical zoom, which isn't class beating, but is still very acceptable for a travel camera. Its maximum aperture range is f/3.0-5.9 from the wide to telephoto ends respectively. With digital zoom turned on, you can get as close as 50x — but, as with most digital zooms, you really don't want to be taking any important shots at this extent.
There are plenty of controls available on the mode dial of this camera to satisfy just about every sort of point-and-shoot photographer. No manual mode, though, unfortunately.
Olympus has outfitted this camera with a 16-megapixel, backside-illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor. BSI sensors are designed to deliver less noise in low-light situations, but the trade-off is that images taken in ample light often look "crunchy" or slightly over-processed, plus images can be over-exposed in these situations.
There are more shooting controls on the SH-25MR that would make most compact cameras blush. From the top mode dial, you will find intelligent automatic mode, program control, scene modes, beauty mode, magic filters, panorama, photo with video clip and multi recording. The multi-recording (MR) mode takes two photos or videos simultaneously with different views; Frame snaps from different angles, Size changes the resolution; and Magic takes a regular image, as well as one with an artistic filter applied.
This is the Frame MR mode, which snaps two different photos from different angles. One photo is taken at full resolution, while the other image is snapped at 2560x1920.
Olympus has got some of the best artistic filters on the market. The SH-25MR gets 12 of these fun effects: pop art, pin hole, fish eye, drawing, soft focus, punk, sparkle, watercolour, reflection, miniature, fragmented and dramatic. All work great and add a layer of fun if all you want to do is point and shoot.
An example of just some of the filters available on the SH-25MR.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The SH-25MR has a number of continuous shooting modes. In Sequential 1 mode, the camera keeps pushing out shots until its buffer is full, and then it will stop to process them (approximately 3 frames per second, slowing down once 12 shots have been taken). In Sequential 2, the camera can take 10 full-resolution shots in a sequence before stopping to process them (approximately 8 frames per second). High Speed 1 and 2 modes make the camera faster, but reduce the resolution to 3 megapixels.
The battery charges in-camera, through the USB cable and adapter configuration (provided in the box).
Colours are mostly accurate, though overall they are not as punchy as those found on other cameras of this type, like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ25. Overall image quality is fine for general purpose shots, but there are a couple of caveats to bear in mind.
The lens is sharp enough at the centre of the frame, but it does tend to drop off fairly rapidly towards the edges. As the lens is particularly wide (24mm), it does show quite a lot of distortion at this extreme. Photos taken at the full extent of the optical zoom look over-processed, as the camera amps up the ISO sensitivity in order to achieve a steady, shake-free shot. While the camera doesn't tend to greatly over- or under-expose, there is a softening of detail, particularly on high-contrast areas, and some chromatic aberration.
An example of what happens when zoomed in to 12.5x optical zoom on the camera (100 per cent crop inset).
Fancy taking full-resolution still images while shooting 1080p video? That's something that this camera can do, and it does it well. There's no break in recording if you also decide to snap a still image using the shutter button, and the still images are exactly the same resolution as output by the sensor when taking regular stills.
Video quality is very good for a camera of this class, and, so far, is the best seen from this generation of Olympus compacts. The image is mostly crisp and clear, and the full extent of the optical zoom is enabled when filming. The stereo microphone delivers good sound, and there's a wind-cut option (though not enabled in the video below).
Exposure: 1/320, f/3, ISO 80
Exposure: 1/40, f/4, ISO 800
Exposure: 1/200, f/5.1, ISO 80
Exposure: 1/30, f/3, ISO 800
While it doesn't offer the longest zoom out of all the travel cameras, the SH-25MR brings a great touchscreen and enough shooting options to satisfy most users. It's a shame that the image quality isn't good enough for significant enlargements — otherwise, this would be an excellent all-round camera.