Olympus SZ-11 Overview
If you're a travel photographer looking for a camera with a versatile zoom range, or a sports fan wanting a powerful zoom lens to help you get close to the action, Olympus had you in mind when it designed the Olympus SZ-11 digital camera. With a whopping 20x optical zoom on offer, the SZ-11 not only has a relatively compact body, but also provides a focal length range that--for an interchangeable-lens model--would require several bulky, expensive lenses to cover.
At the heart of the Olympus SZ-11 sits a 14 megapixel CCD image sensor, mounted on a sensor shift mechanism that allows the camera to provide true mechanical image stabilization--a must for reducing the effects of camera shake at longer focal lengths, or in low ambient light. That's very good news indeed, because with focal lengths reaching out to the equivalent of a 500mm telephoto on a 35mm camera, the Olympus SZ-11 has a lot of reach indeed, and even the steadiest hand would otherwise struggle to handhold shots at less than 1/500th second. At the other end of the zoom range, the Olympus SZ-11 offers a generous 25mm wide angle, useful for shooting indoors when you can't simply take a few more steps back from your subject to fit everything within the frame.
The Olympus SZ-11 doesn't include an optical or electronic viewfinder, so you'll be framing your images at arm's length. Thankfully, with a reasonably high resolution of around 153,000 pixels (comprised of 460,000 red, green, and blue dots), the three-inch LCD screen on the rear panel of the SZ-11 is reasonably well specified, and should provide a sharp image with which to judge focus and facial expressions. Like most fixed-lens digital cameras, the Olympus SZ-11 relies on a contrast detection autofocus system, and as is the norm these days, this includes a face detection feature that can automatically located human subjects, then ensure that the dominant subject is correctly focused. At the 500mm telephoto position, the SZ-11 can focus to as close as just twenty inches.
A variety of shooting modes are available, including a selection of scene modes such as underwater, each of which sets the camera up appropriately for a specific shooting condition. For photographers who want to do no more than frame their scene and press the shutter button, there's an iAuto mode in which the camera will do all the thinking. There's also a panorama mode which automatically captures and stitches together images as you pan across your scene, and a selection of "magic filter" effects including two new additions: miniature (simulates shallow depth-of-field), and reflection (which adds a mirrored effect to the bottom of your image, as if shot over a lake). There's also a 3D mode which captures two sequential images as you pan the camera, then combines them into a single, standard Multi Picture-format image for viewing on 3D displays.
As well as still images, the Olympus SZ-11 can capture high definition video clips, with a maximum resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels, commonly known as 720p. Movies are recorded using H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC compression, a format that's friendly in terms of storage space, but which can require a reasonably recent computer for smooth viewing, and will certainly demand a fairly powerful machine if you're planning to do significant movie editing.
The Olympus SZ-11 stores its images and movies on Secure Digital cards, including the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types. It's also compatible with Eye-Fi's wireless-capable SD cards, for cable-free upload directly from the camera. Power comes courtesy of a proprietary battery pack which, usefully, can be charged via the camera's USB connection--great if you already have other devices that use a USB charger, or will be bringing a notebook computer from which you can charge the camera directly.
In the US market, Olympus has set pricing for its SZ-11 digital camera at around US$280. At press time, the company had yet to disclose when the model would begin shipping.