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And on they come! Compact maxi zoom digicams.
This one has an 18x optical zoom, equating to a 28-504mm lens as 35 SLR equivalent, As I’ve said before, try to fit out a DSLR with an 18x zoom and you hit a brick wall!
The SZ-10 is nicely configured and slips easily into any pocket, thanks to its 38mm slimness. It’s only when the power button is tapped that the lens emerges, nearly doubling the body depth.
The maximum aperture is only f3.1, shrinking to f4.4 when the tele is fully extended, so you may need to dial in a slightly higher than normal ISO setting for out and about photography. Or lug a tripod with you to use a lower ISO and benefit from less noise in the image.
The CCD captures 14 megapixels of picture data and creates a maximum image size of 4288×3216 pixels, or 36x27cm as a print. Olympus continues to disappoint in the movie department with a maximum video res of 1280×720 pixels — not Full HD — but then many people are quite happy with this maximum figure, as their videos often go no further than a YouTube posting.
The 7.6cm LCD screen swallows most of the camera’s rear surface, leaving room only for a four way ‘wheel controller’, the movie record button and an extra couple of buttons. A nice touch is a textured pad at the top corner to rest your thumb while shooting.
The big news is a collection of New Magic Filters to glamourise your stills or movie work. These include Pop Art, Pin Hole, Punk, Fish-Eye lens, Soft Focus, Drawing (which converts the image into a sketch outline), Watercolor and a new one — Sparkle lights.
What makes this feature differ from Olympus highly-trumpeted Art Filters, installed in some other models, is that you get an on screen preview of the effect on the intended subject before you press the shutter.
In addition is a collection of scene modes which are really shooting enablers and can be selected to optimise the camera when shooting sports, low light indoors, portraits etc. There’s even a face recognition mode for pets!
And then there’s 3D! Using the MPO format, the camera can be set up to shoot auto, leaving the camera to shoot the left and right image pair… or in manual, where you actually trigger the second image. 3D viewing is on a compatible TV.
Allied with this feature is panoramic mode, with the camera taking the necessary segments as you pan across or up/down the scene. Following on Sony’s lead, the SZ-10 stitches the separate images into a whole panorama… but the implementation is very elegant, with a tiny on-screen pointer helping you line up the series. Brilliant!
The SZ-10 talks to Eye-Fi SD cards, adding Wi-Fi capability so you can auto upload images to your computer — or direct to the Internet — as you take them.
The camera uses a dual stabiliser arrangement: a mechanical shift of the sensor plus digital stabilisation. I’m not so sure of the latter as I believe it employs magnification of the sensor image to steady the picture.
The auto focus can be set up to track and keep the picture sharp in movie mode, so I could quite happily move around and capture steady video.
A welcome feature is a canceling option to ensure sound is not recorded while shooting.
One odd item: you must cancel the sound recording option if you want to use the optical zoom while shooting video. Thought I’d mention it!
And no, sorry, you can’t shoot stills while recording video.
Quality and noise levels hold up to ISO 800, with only ISO 1600 showing signs of deterioration.
In spite of the longish zoom the camera was ready for its first shot just two seconds after startup, then it took about a second ’tween shots.
In terms of distortion, the SZ-10’s zoom performed very well with little sign of any distortion at either end of the zoom.
Again, I found the buttons on the SZ-10’s rear surface very hard to read, except in bright light: small and dullish.
Quality: about average. OK for casual snapshooters.
Why you’d buy it: the 18x zoom is mighty appealing in such a small camera.
Why you wouldn’t: you want to zoom and record sound.
Image Sensor: 14 million effective pixels.
Sensor Size: 11mm CCD.
Metering: Digital ESP, spot.
Lens: f3.1-4.4/5.0-90mm (28-504mm as 35 SLR equivalent).
Shutter Speeds: 4 secs to 1/2000 sec.
Memory: SD, SDHC, SDXC plus 59MB internal memory.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4288×3216 to 640×480. Movies: 1280×720, 640×480, 320×240.
File Formats: JPEG, Motion JPEG.
ISO Sensitivity: 100 to 1600.
Viewfinder: 7.6cm LCD screen (460,000 pixels).
Interface: USB 2.0, AV, HDMI, DC.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery.
Dimensions: 105.9×67.3×37.9 WHDmm.
Weight: Approx. 215 g (inc battery and card).
Price: Get a price on the Olympus SZ-10 at Amazon (currently discounted by 21%).