We've provided this printable version of our review for your convenience. Please remember that your shopping clicks support this site. If you think this camera is a good choice for you, please consider returning to the link below to check prices and make a purchase via our shopping links.

Also note that this is just one of the pages from this review. Full reviews have several pages with complete analysis of the many test shots we take with each camera. Feel free to download and print them out to see how the camera will perform for you.

Full Review at: http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/olympus-sz15/olympus-sz15A.HTM


Olympus Stylus SZ-15 Preview

by Mike Tomkins
Posted 01/07/2013

Are you a fan of tighly-cropped shots that focus the viewer's attention on your subject? If so, a long-zoom camera can be a great tool, and Olympus' 2013 lineup includes two closely-related models you'll want to consider. There's one key difference between the pair, though, and it completely defines their character, so you'll want to choose carefully.

The Olympus Stylus SZ-15 is based around a 1/2.3-inch, 16.0 megapixel CCD image sensor with a 1.34µm pixel pitch. That differs from the SZ-16, which uses a CMOS sensor of approximately the same resolution, size, and pixel pitch. Once upon a time, CMOS sensors were the less desirable, but that time has now passed. CCD sensors typically offer significantly lesser speed, leading them to lag on burst-shooting performance, have less responsive autofocus, lower video frame rates, and more. The advent of backside-illuminated CMOS sensors has also left CCD-based cameras dacing a significant deficit in terms of noise and sensitivity.

That's borne out by the figures. The Olympus SZ-15 has an ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 1,600 equivalents, and its TruePic VI image processor handles only 1.5 frames per second, where the SZ-16 reaches up to an ISO 6,400 maximum, and has double the burst performance. The same's true even if you reduce the resolution to three megapixels; with the SZ-16 you can shoot as many as 28 images at 30 frames per second, but the SZ-15 manages only 20 frames at 15 fps.

We already mentioned that the Olympus SZ-15 is a long-zoom camera, but how much reach does it have? There's a generous 24x optical zoom, which covers everything from 25 to 600mm-equivalents. The maximum aperture is rather dim, but no different to other similar cameras. At wide angle it starts at f/3.0, and by the telephoto position it falls to f/6.9. The lens design includes 11 elements in 10 groups, of which three are extra-low dispersion elements, and three are double-sided aspheric elements. At wide angle, the lens will focus down to 10cm normally, and when locked to ~79mm-equivalent, it'll focus to just 3cm in macro mode. Both face detection and tracking functions are included, and although the Olympus SZ-15's lens isn't stabilized, the sensor is mounted on a movable platter that allows it to provide true mechanical stabilization.

On the rear panel, there's a three-inch LCD monitor with a resolution of approximately 460,000 dots. Exposure modes include Intelligent Auto (albeit only for still imaging) and Program, but Manual or Priority capture isn't possible. Available shutter speeds range from 1/4 to 1/2,000 second, and can be raised as high as two seconds in night mode. (That's only half as long as the SZ-16 manages, again likely due to noise issues.) At ISO 800 equivalent, a built-in flash has a working range of 6.9 meters at wide angle, and 3.0 meters at telephoto.

The Olympus SZ-15 also has some special modes aimed at providing better ease of use, and some extra creative possibilities. There's a selection of 11 Magic Filter effects functions, a Beauty mode that yields more attractive portraits and can simulate details like blush makeup, and a Smart Panorama tool that captures a full 360-degree scene with a simple sweep of your camera. Features of the SZ-16 that relied on its burst performance are absent in the CCD-based camera, though. There are no HDR Backlight Adjustment or Hand-held Starlight modes on offer here.

As well as stills, the Olympus SZ15 also shoots 720p (1,280 x 720 pixel) high definition movies, at a rate of 30 frames per second, a significantly lower resolution than the 1080p mode offered on the CMOS version of the camera. These are stored in Motion JPEG-compressed .AVI format> Also, unlike its sibling, the SZ-15 can't shoot high-speed videos.

Images and movies are stored on Secure Digital cards, including SDHC and SDXC types, as well as Wi-Fi capable cards such as those from Eye-Fi and Toshiba's FlashAir line. There's also ~38MB of built-in memory. High-speed UHS-I cards aren't supported, however. Connectivity includes both USB 2.0 High Speed data, and a high-def HDMI output. The latter requires an optional cable, and supports the HDMI CEC standard for controlling your camera via your TV's remote. Power comes from an LI-50B proprietary lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack. Battery life had not been stated at press time.

Olympus will sell the Stylus SZ-15 in the US market from March 2012, priced at around US$200. That's only $30 less than the swifter, more feature-rich CMOS version, so unless you have a reason to favor a CCD camera -- some do prefer CCD rendering over that from CMOS chips -- then we'd recommend paying just slightly more for a much more capable body. Three body-color options will be available: silver, black, or red.