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They keep gettin’ longer and longer: compact maxi zoom digicams, that is.
No-one else has touched Canon with its 35x zoom in the SX30 IS model but this one maxes out Olympus’ lineup with a 24x optical zoom.
That means you can zoom from a 35 SLR equivalent of 25mm wide out to a 600mm tele, framed on a 7.6cm LCD screen. The aperture at the wide end is f3.0 but the tele end is a tiddly f6.9 —more than two f stops smaller. Bear this in mind if you’re caught between a dim interior and a shrinking ISO setting at 600mm.
The maximum image size is 4608×3456, thanks to a 16 megapixel backlit CMOS sensor. From this you can expect a 39x29cm print.
For the first time, as far as I know, this is also the first Olympus camera with a Full HD capture feature of 1920×1080 pixels.
And there’s more movie magic in the SZ-30MR: as you shoot the video you can also fire off full size still photos. The really neat thing about this feature is, every time you shoot a still, a tiny thumbnail of it appears at the bottom of the screen.
Better still: you can zoom — and record sound — as you shoot the movie, unlike the SZ-10.
Even more than this: select an icon on the top mode dial and, while you shoot a still, the camera records a video pre- and post- the moment of still capture. The length of video is selectable between three and seven seconds. Size? 640×480 or 640×360 pixels.
There are other features shared with the SZ-10: you can use eight Magic Filters in stills or movies: Pop Art, Pin Hole, Punk, Fish-Eye lens, Soft Focus, Drawing, Watercolor and Sparkle lights.
As well, scene modes can help when you’re shooting off beat subjects such as fireworks, beach/snow, night scenes — even starlight scenes! Plus there’s a pet mode where the camera fires off a shot as the dog or cat turns its head camera-wards. Cute huh!
Plus there’s 3D capture, saved in the MPO format. The stereo pair can be shot either in auto or manual mode. View these on a 3D compatible TV.
In sweep panoramic mode the camera captures a series of connected shot as you pan or tilt across the vista. Then these shots are stitched into a single panorama.
If you use an Eye-Fi SD card the camera will ‘talk’ to computer or Internet connection.
The stabiliser uses a mechanical shift of the sensor plus digital stabilisation.
Unique to the SZ-30MR is a burst mode selectable anywhere between 1.7 and 15 fps (70 shots total). At 3 fps the image size is full res; the 15 fps rate gives you a run of 2560×1920 pixel images.
(insert Olympus SZ-30MR ISO 80 to Olympus SZ-30MR ISO 3200)
Quality holds up to ISO 3200, with only the latter showing signs of stress noise-wise.
Not the quickest kid on the block, the SZ-30MR took a little more than two seconds to get to the first shot; follow-ons were also about two seconds between takes.
A clean performance: no distortion at either end of the zoom.
Quality: I had a lot of fun with the longish zoom. Most shots are about average in quality but you will find atmospheric haze interferes with tele shots.
Why you’d buy it: the 15 fps rate appeals; you need Full HD video with simultaneous stills capture.
Why you wouldn’t: you expect more data from 16 megapixels!
Image Sensor: 16 million effective pixels.
Sensor Size: 11mm CMOS.
Metering: Digital ESP, spot.
Lens: f3.0-6.9/4.5-108mm (25-600mm as 35 SLR equivalent.
Shutter Speeds: 4 secs to 1/1700 sec.
Memory: SD, SDHC, SDXC.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4608×3456 to 640×480. Movies: 1920×1080, 1280×720, 640×480, 320×240.
File Formats: JPEG, Motion JPEG.
ISO Sensitivity: 100 to 3200.
Viewfinder: 7.6cm LCD screen (460,000 pixels).
Interface: USB 2.0, AV, HDMI, DC.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery.
Dimensions: 106x69x40 WHDmm.
Weight: Approx. 226 g (no battery).
Price: Get a price on the Olympus SZ30 at Amazon or the Olympus SZ-30MR at B&H Photo (note: purchasing through these links helps dPS to keep growing – thanks!).