Olympus SZ-12 Overview
The Olympus SZ-12 (also known in Europe as the SZ-14) is based around a 1/2.3"-type CCD image sensor with an effective resolution of 14 megapixels, coupled to a 24x optical zoom lens, with output handled by a TruePic III+-branded image processor. Maximum image dimensions are 4,288 x 3,216 pixels. The SZ12's lens offers actual focal lengths ranging from 4.5 to 108.0mm, which would equate to the same range as a 35mm camera with everything from a generous 25mm wide angle to a whopping 600mm telephoto. Maximum aperture varies from f/3.0 to a rather dim f/6.9 across the zoom range. For a zoom lens with this much reach, it's absolutely vital to have some form of mechanical image stabilization with which to prevent blur from camera shake, and Olympus doesn't disappoint, including a sensor shift system. There's no optical or electronic viewfinder, though, with all interaction taking place at arm's length courtesy of a 3.0" LCD display with 460,000 dots of resolution. (This translates to a roughly 153,600 pixel array, with each pixel comprising separate red, green, and blue-colored dots.)
The SZ-12 uses an iESP Auto contrast detection autofocusing by default, with the ability to switch to spot AF if desired. An AF assist illuminator is included, helping the camera to focus on nearby objects in difficult lighting conditions. Both AF tracking and face detection functions are also included. Sensitivity ranges from a minimum of ISO 80 to a maximum of ISO 1,600 equivalent. Exposures are metered with Digital ESP metering by default, and a spot metering mode is also available. 2.0EV of exposure compensation is available, in 1/3EV steps. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,700 to four seconds. Six white balance settings are provided, including automatic, four presets, and one-touch manual.
As well as Intelligent Auto and Program modes, the Olympus SZ-12 offers a selection of 16 scene modes--Portrait, Beauty, Landscape, Night Scene, Night + Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self Portrait, Sunset, Fire Works, Cuisine, Documents, Beach & Snow, Pet (Cat), and Pet (Dog)--that provide a modicum of control over the look of images. There are also a variety of Magic Art Filter functions applicable both to still image and movie recording. These include the latest additions for 2012 models -- Reflection and Miniature -- in addition to the existing Pop Art, Pin Hole, Fish-Eye, Soft Focus, Drawing, Watercolor, Sparkle, and Punk filters seen in earlier models. A 3D Photo mode captures two images from slightly differing angles, and combines the result into an MPO-format image suitable for viewing on 3D-capable displays.
The Olympus SZ12 stores images in JPEG format, and is also able to record movies at high-definition 720p (1,280 x 720 pixel) resolution or below, using MPEG-4 compression. At full resolution, the SZ12 is capable of burst shooting at a relatively sedate 0.89 frames per second (1.1 seconds per frame), and is limited to 18 sequential frames at this speed. Images and movie are stored on Secure Digital cards, including the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types, or in 59MB of built-in memory. Support is included for Eye-Fi's wireless-capable SD card products. Connectivity options include both USB 2.0 High Speed data, composite standard definition video output, and Type-D Mini HDMI high definition video output. The HDMI connection includes HDMI-CEC (Consumer Electronic Control) support, allowing certain playback functions to be controlled directly from an attached display's remote control unit. Power comes courtesy of a proprietary LI-50B lithium ion rechargeable battery, rated to CIPA testing standards as good for 220 shots on a charge.
The Olympus SZ-12 will ship in the USA from March 2012, with pricing of about $200, about $50 cheaper than last year's SZ-11 model. In Europe, the equivalent SZ-14 model should be available from mid-January 2012, priced at approximately €230. In both markets, body colors will include black, silver, and red.