Olympus SZ-30MR Review

 
Camera Reviews / Olympus Cameras / Olympus Point & Shoot i Express Review
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Olympus SZ-30MR
Resolution: 16.00 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.3"
Lens: 24.00x zoom
(25-600mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
ISO: 80-3200
Shutter: 4-1/1700
Max Aperture: 3.0
Dimensions: 4.2 x 2.7 x 1.6 in.
(106 x 69 x 40 mm)
Weight: 8.0 oz (228 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $400
Availability: 04/2011
Manufacturer: Olympus
Full specs: Olympus SZ-30MR specifications
16.00
Megapixels
24.00x zoom
1/2.3"
size sensor
image of Olympus SZ-30MR
Front side of Olympus SZ-30MR digital camera Back side of Olympus SZ-30MR digital camera Top side of Olympus SZ-30MR digital camera Left side of Olympus SZ-30MR digital camera Right side of Olympus SZ-30MR digital camera

SZ-30MR Summary

Remarkably slim and light for a 24x long zoom digital camera, the Olympus SZ-30MR is a handsome digital camera with a good grip. We liked the easy Panorama mode and a few of the scene modes, but were mystified by a few other modes; most disappointing, though, was the overaggressive noise suppression that made in-focus faces blurry and foliage look more like clouds than leaves.

Pros

Excellent grip; Handsome, portable design; 24x zoom in a small package; Panorama mode.

Cons

Detail blurred by strong noise suppression; Bright colors bloom in bright light; Few manual controls; Too many trips to the menu.

Price and availability

The Olympus SZ-30MR started shipping in April 2011, priced at about US$400.

Imaging Resource rating

3.5 out of 5.0

Olympus SZ-30MR User Report

by Mike Pasini, Stephanie Boozer, Shawn Barnett, and Zig Weidelich
Review Posted: 09/20/2011

Easily one of the most attractive pocket cameras I've ever beheld (hey, it's that attractive), the Olympus SZ-30MR has a few surprises under its skin, too.

I was more than a little dismayed to see the chrome trim, though. The reason black is the new black in camera design is because it isn't reflective. Chrome is, by nature, reflective. If your scene includes any glass (like a car window or a shop window), you're likely to see the Olympus SZ-30MR reflected back at you.

But out in the field, I didn't run into this as much as I feared.

I ran into a few other things, as the review reveals, but the other surprise worth mentioning here is that it looks like the megapixel wars have been renewed.

Look and Feel. What made me fall in love with this design? There are a few obvious aspects to the Olympus SZ-30MR that appeal to me: the big lens, the discreet popup flash above it, the large grip, an eyelet you can thread, a scroll wheel. Mouse over the image of the camera at right to see what it looks like closed. But even taken together, they don't explain it.

Take a look, though, at the Olympus SZ-30MR from the top. There you go. The two-tone styling gives you the impression it's a slimmer camera than it really is. And that's reinforced by its very light weight. You hardly know you have it in your hand.

And speaking of your hand, notice how the chrome cover warps around the Olympus SZ-30MR's grip? It's just how you feel when you grab the camera, as if you curled your hand around to tuck in next to the lens. It makes you want to turn it on and take some photos, right now.

Another feature of the grip is how easy it makes carrying the Olympus SZ-30MR. Like other megazoom digicams, the Olympus SZ-30MR is a little large for a pocket (unless it's a coat or cargo pants pocket) if just right for a purse. So you tend to carry it. The hook provided by the ample grip lets you hang it right off your index finger. Very nice.

We used the included wrist strap, but it formed too big a loop to secure the camera to our wrist. So we tied a knot about two inches from the eyelet that snugged it right up.

It's an exceptionally well-designed camera body. And the designer should really dust off a shelf (or two) for a few industrial design awards (hey, Swiss Miss, are you listening?).

Pretty is as pretty does, so let's take a quick tour.

On the front of the Olympus SZ-30MR, the autofocus illuminator is tucked right next to the grip, which will not obscure it because the finger most likely to cover it will be occupied with the Shutter button (and the Zoom lever surrounding it) on the top panel.

The big lens pops out very quickly. Almost no waiting. On the left side of the Olympus SZ-30MR's lens ring is a large switch to release the popup flash. It doesn't pop up a lot, so you won't snag it on anything, but it's nice to get a little elevation on flash shots.

The chrome obscures the two tiny holes at the top of the lens housing for the stereo microphones.

The top panel hosts the usual suspects. Behind the Shutter button/Zoom lever combo is a large but sunken Power button. Along the back edge of the Olympus SZ-30MR (and hanging over enough to be accessible by thumb) is the Mode dial.

On the left side is a speaker, and that's it.

On the right side is the connector cover for the HDMI micro connector and the Multi-connector (AV/USB/Power).

On the bottom of the Olympus SZ-30MR is the tripod socket (black plastic for some reason) and the battery/card compartment. The battery has identical rounded sides, which makes it easy to insert it incorrectly. Beware. And shame on Olympus. On the other hand, you'll never need to take it out because you charge the battery in the camera.

The back of the camera has a set of controls on the right side of the large 3.0-inch LCD.

Controls. Following the recent trend, the controls on the Olympus SZ-30MR are minimized to a precious few. That makes them obvious, which is a good thing.

On the top panel, the Shutter button/Zoom lever combo, which nods down at a slight but appreciated angle, is my preferred arrangement.

Behind it, the Power button didn't give me any trouble turning the Olympus SZ-30MR on or off despite being slightly recessed. The Mode dial next to it has a very smooth action and sharp detents. Nicely done.

At the top of control column is the dedicated Movie shutter button. I don't like pushing the camera forward to start a movie so I'm not fond of this position. I'd prefer just to click the Mode dial to Movie and press the Shutter button but that, as you have noticed, is two steps, not one, like the Movie shutter button. It is, however, the same move you make to take a still and more likely to start your movie without a stutter.

The Olympus SZ-30MR's Playback button is under that with the Menu button under it. The scroll wheel with only an Info function on the Up arrow and Erase function on the Down arrow follows that. An OK button in the center of the scroll wheel brings up the shooting menu on the right side of the LCD.

There's also a small Help button below the scroll wheel.

Lens. The Olympus SZ-30MR's 24x optical zoom lens starts at a generously wide 25mm equivalent and stretches to a 600mm telephoto that you can't really hold steady. Add 4x digital zoom for a total reach of 96x.

Maximum aperture ranges from f/3.0 at wide angle to f/6.9 at telephoto. Focus at wide angle in Normal and Macro mode is as close as 3.9 inches (10cm). In Super Macro mode it's 1.18 inch (3cm). At telephoto you can get as close at 15.7 inches (40cm).

The SZ-30MR also features dual image stabilization. The sensor-shift image stabilizer can be disabled from the Main menu system.

Modes. There are 35 shooting modes available on the SZ-30MR. Olympus counts sensor-shift image stabilization among them, if you're scoring at home.

PROGRAM. Program mode has the advantage of yielding the most control of the camera to you. You can adjust exposure with EV, change the white balance and a number of other things you can't do in more controlled options.

INTELLIGENT AUTO. iAuto can optimize the camera settings for a selection of scenes that Olympus doesn't detail. One we're sure of is Macro, fortunately. That alone makes it worth trying. If it can't recognize the scene, it will fall back to what it would have set in Program mode.

SCENE. The 16 Scene modes include Portrait, Beauty (softens the skin), Landscape, Hand-Held Starlight Night Scene, Night+Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Self Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Documents, Beach & Snow, Pet Mode - Cat, and Pet Mode - Dog.

Program

 

Scene (Landscape)

 

Fish Eye (Magic Filters)

 

Multi-Framing

 

MAGIC FILTERS. The eight Magic Filters are Pop Art, Pinhole, Fisheye, Drawing, Soft Focus, Punk, Sparkle, and Watercolor. The following table shows what they look like:

Pop Art

 

Pinhole

 

Fisheye

 

Drawing

Soft Focus

 

Punk

 

Sparkle

 

Watercolor

MULTI-RECORDING. Multi-Recording captures more than one image for each press of the Shutter button, often at the expense of image size (which at 16-megapixel for full size shouldn't be the usual concern).

The Multi-Framing option captures two images at different angles simultaneously. One is wide angle and the other is a crop.

Frame One

 

Frame Two

The Multi-File option captures two images with different image sizes simultaneously.

The Magic and Original option also takes two simultaneous images but applies the active Magic Filter to one while leaving the other alone.

PANORAMA. Like the latest version of Sony's iSweep (in fact, it's a dead ringer for it), Olympus's Panorama mode is smart. You simply sweep the camera across the scene, guided by a box that sweeps across a progress bar as you do. When you reach the end of the bar, the camera composes the image, which you can then play back in a full-height scroll in Playback mode. Image size is 4,656 x 720.

A full sweep is nice to have, of course, but often you just want a wide but partial sweep. It's the scene not the mode that should determine the angle of coverage. And in the SZ-30MR's case, we were able to capture narrower panoramas without gray or black bands at the unused end, as happens on the Sonys.

You can also manually align the next image, in which case a ghosted section of the last image will help you align the next shot. Three frames are taken in Manual panorama mode.

A PC panorama mode lets you take up to 10 frames. The name comes from the necessity to stitch this kind of panorama on your computer. The camera won't do it.

3D. In 3D mode, which records an MPO image (Download 1.9MB Sample MPO) as well as a JPEG, the manual option prompts you for two images, showing an alignment guide on the second. The auto option, takes the second images automatically but only after you align it using the ghosted guide. You can't see the 3D effect on the SZ-30MR LCD.

MOVIE. The Mode dial has a Still+Movie option that will record a movie clip before and after the Shutter release. The clip durations can be set using a submenu of options (7/3, for example, records seven seconds before and three after).

Full HD video. 1920x1080 at 30fps with stereo audio. Click image to download 20MB .MP4 file.

The Movie shutter button accesses the usual video capture mode. Options are set in the Main Menu's Movie tab. When you press the Movie shutter button on the back panel, that's what the camera will use.

The options include Image Size (1080p, 720p, 360p, 180p, VGA, QVGA), Image Quality (Fine, Normal -- Fine only available for 1080p), IS Movie Mode (On, Off), and Microphone (On, Off). There is no wind filter setting.

Olympus doesn't specify, but we found the 1080p option at least records at 30 frames per second and captures AAC audio at 48,000 Hz, in MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 format.

Autofocus has a little trouble keeping up with the optical zoom, as you can see in our sample clip.

Menu System. There are two menu systems on the SZ-30MR. The Main Menu, accessed from the Menu button, is a series of tabs that cover everything. There are two tabs (or screens) for Still recording, one for Movies, one for Playback, and three for Setup.

The other menu system, accessed from the OK button, brings up the shooting menu on the right side of the LCD. What appears depends on the shooting mode set by the Mode dial.

Record

 

Movie

 

Playback

 

Setup

 

But whatever it is, I found it awkward to both get to and change. It wasn't intuitive or easily learned. It seemed as if I had to activate the scroll wheel first of all and only then to actually move to the option I wanted. And I was always scrolling left when I wanted to go down or vice versa. So it was easier to use the scroll wheel's arrow mode instead.

Worse still, some important commands like EV are only on this menu and down a few clicks. I would have liked to have that one on an arrow key.

Storage & Battery. The compact LI-50B lithium-ion battery that powers the SZ-30MR is a 3.7 volt, 925 mAh unit that is charged in the camera using Olympus's proprietary connector with a USB cable that plugs into a small AC block. The battery itself is symmetrical, so it is easy to insert it the wrong way. Look for the contacts before dropping it in.

Olympus didn't rate the battery using CIPA standards but my own experience wasn't encouraging. I did have to recharge the battery after each shoot, something I don't usually have to do. Still, I was never caught in the field with a dead battery.

The Olympus SZ-30MR includes 59MB of usable internal memory that will record, according to the manual, seven full-size, fine compression images or 24 seconds of 1,920 x 1,080 video with sound. A 4GB SDHC card, on the other hand, will hold 488 of the same size images or 28 minutes and 14 seconds of video.

You'll have to buy an SD card, preferably a fast one to keep up with the 1,080p video recording. I used an old Eye-Fi card with the SZ-30MR. It worked without an issue.

Shooting with the Olympus SZ-30MR

Zoom Range. 25mm to 600mm to 4x digital zoom.

The SZ-30MR was a delightful companion on a hike up Twin Peaks. It was also fun to shoot with around town. But we did have a couple of issues right away.

Those didn't include a lack of GPS function. We don't miss GPS when we don't have it, concerned as we are about not revealing some locations publicly. It's one of those things we prefer to choose to do rather than remember to disable. Unfortunately, it's more one of those things you have to remember to disable.

But if you're taking a trip and actually want to record GPS information with your images, that's another story (for another camera).

No, the problems we had with the SZ-30MR were more basic. Like where's Monochrome mode, we wondered as we approached our dead wood shot? No such thing. There are Magic Filters, but none of them are Monochrome. You can do this on the computer, of course, but sometimes it's fun to shoot black and white or sepia. More fun, I think, than shooting Pink or Pop Art.

It took us a while to find the 16:9 aspect ratio, too. But that's only because it's at the end of the list of Image Size options on a separate screen. It's there, fortunately. Missing, though, is 3:2. So it's either the default 4:3 or 16:9.

I had an unusually difficult time evaluating exposure in the sunlight on the LCD. I could see the image without a problem but almost everything I took looked overexposed. Even when I changed EV to -0.3 (which usually does the trick) I didn't see much difference. So I underexposed quite a bit more on some shots (as the gallery shows) to get the look I wanted.

Dynamic Range. The subject is the poppies, not the rocks, but it took -1.7 EV to salvage them. The full resolution image shows the blooming problem of light colors into dark.

When I got home and evaluated the images on the monitor I saw that I wasn't quite as overexposed generally as I thought. But the troublesome images that caused me to underexpose intentionally were indeed problems and the underexposure warranted. Even the larger doses of it.

So while I wasn't quite comfortable evaluating exposure on the LCD, I was able to do it by enabling the live histogram.

Macro. We captured a number of nice handheld macro shots.

One annoyance there's no cure for is the focus mechanism's constant grinding when you half-press the Shutter button. I half-press the Shutter button all the time to evaluate focus on the LCD before capturing the image. So the grinding noise was a constant issue.

The biggest problem, however, seemed to be a firmware issue. Whenever I changed shooting modes with a menu active (which I do a lot), the camera would freeze. It froze in Movie mode as well, for no apparent reason. And switching directions in smart Panorama caused it to freeze, too. The only way to restore operation was to drop the battery out to force the camera off.

Problems aside, I enjoyed shooting with the SZ-30MR.

Detail. With a 16-megapixel sensor you expect strong detail in good light. While this image is not bad, others are soft depending on the subject.

It was quick to fire up, fast to compose and the images were gratifying. I particularly liked the feel of the camera, although I'm no fan of the menu system and its scroll wheel navigation. But I could mostly ignore that, shoot in Program mode or iAuto and enjoy my outing.

So what about all the fancy modes?

Multi-Frame was lost on me. It isn't that hard to zoom in to take a differently framed composition and it is annoying to try to compose for two crops. Maybe it's useful at sporting events, and might help people who too often frame too loosely, but it struck me as a waste of time.

Much the same feeling about 3D, which we're getting more of these days even if we aren't seeing it. It's an extra effort to process and view 3D. And extra effort is not in the cards for most of us. We want it snappy.

Like 3D, the SZ-30MR's smart Panorama mode seems licensed from Sony (or look for the lawsuit). Sony was the first out of the gate with a sweep panorama but it's not the best implementation we've used. The SZ-30MR did crop a shortened panorama properly, which helps a good deal, but it still can be frustrating for a new user.

Skin renders too soft with the SZ-30MR, and this is at ISO 80.

And don't even ask me about Magic Filters. What wasn't garish wasn't well executed. I was particularly disappointed in Drawing, which could have been a lot of fun but never delivered a usable result.

People pictures are a little more disappointing which also weighs on our impression of the Olympus SZ-30MR. Detail in faces, particularly in shadow, is terribly overprocessed, often resulting in flat images devoid of blemish or texture. Grass is also oddly rendered, with mushy texture.

The photo at right is taken at ISO 80, shown here at 100 percent. Focus is on the subject's face, but nothing in the frame truly appears focused at all (click on the image for a link to the full-size file).

If I was unimpressed by the fancy modes, I really did enjoy basic automatic shooting with the SZ-30MR. It's easy to bring along, and fun to use, but unfortunately isn't the best camera for fine detail, despite the high resolution number.

 

Olympus SZ-30MR Lens Quality


Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Soft at upper right
Tele: Sharp at center
Tele: Stronger blurring, upper left corner

Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Olympus SZ-30MR's zoom shows a small amount of blurring in the corners of the frame compared to what we see at center. While blurring is slight, it does extend fairly far in toward center. At telephoto, performance is a little worse, particularly along the left side of the frame, and blurring extends far in toward center. The camera sharpens images aggressively, which leads to visible luminance noise and rough edges even at base ISO, especially at telephoto.


Wide: Slight pincushion distortion; hardly noticeable
Tele: Moderate pincushion distortion, noticeable

Geometric Distortion: The Olympus SZ-30MR shows a small amount of pincushion distortion at wide-angle (~0.1%), and a higher, more moderate level of pincushion at telephoto (~0.4%). The camera's processor no doubt works hard to control distortion here, though some skates by at telephoto.


Wide: High and bright
Tele: Fairly low

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is high in terms of pixel count, and pixels are quite bright. Telephoto, however, shows less noticeable distortion, with faint red and blue pixels suggested.


Macro
Macro with Flash
 
Super Macro

Macro: The Olympus SZ-30MR's normal Macro mode captures a slightly soft overall image, though with fairly strong detail. However, blurring in the left corners and along the left side of the frame is strong (a common limitation among consumer digital cameras in macro mode). Minimum coverage area is 1.32 x 0.99 inches (34 x 25mm), which is quite good. Though exposure is slightly dim, the camera's flash performs better than average up close. In Super Macro mode, exposure is a little better with ambient light, and overall performance is actually a little better than standard mode, with less blurring and better-defined detail. Minimum coverage in Super Macro mode is 1.03 x 0.78 inches (26 x 20mm).


 

Olympus SZ-30MR Viewfinder Accuracy


Wide: LCD Monitor
Tele: LCD Monitor

Viewfinder Accuracy: The Olympus SZ-30MR's LCD monitor showed about 98% coverage at wide-angle and closer to 99% coverage telephoto, with a slight vertical shift in both cases. Still, performance here is not too bad given the amount of distortion correction that is likely taking place.


 

Olympus SZ-30MR Image Quality


Color: Overall color looks very good, especially in terms of hue accuracy. Oranges are pushed toward yellow, and yellow slightly toward green, but results are actually better than average in that regard. (We often see cyan strongly pushed toward blue, but the SZ-30MR holds steady here.) White and gray are shifted toward green, indicating slightly inaccurate auto white balance (the Olympus SZ-30MR does not support manual or custom white balance). In terms of saturation, bright reds are pushed quite a bit, but bright yellows and blues are almost spot on. Dark skin tones do show a significant nudge toward orange, and light skin tones are also a bit warm. Still, good results overall.


Auto WB:
Warm and reddish
Incandescent WB:
Good, though a hint warm

Incandescent: Incandescent white balance handled our incandescent lighting much better than the Auto setting, which came out too warm and reddish. In both cases, ISO had to be boosted to 200 to get reasonably bright results. Manual white balance is not supported.


Horizontal: 1,800 lines
Vertical: 1,800 lines

Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,800 lines per picture height in both directions, which is less than you'd expect from a 16-megapixel sensor. Extinction of the pattern occurred at around 2,450 lines per picture height.


Wide: Inconclusive
Tele: Bright
Auto Flash

Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) showed slightly dim intensity at the Olympus-rated wide angle distance of 15.2 feet, though the camera raised ISO to 400. The white wall and ceiling may have thrown metering off at this distance, so results are somewhat inconclusive. The telephoto test came out bright at 13.1 feet, but with a significant ISO increase to 1,600.

Auto flash produced quite dim results in our indoor portrait scene, retaining a lot of the ambient light by using a slower shutter speed of 1/40 second, and raising ISO to 800. Any strong movement of the subject could be problematic at this shutter speed, but the camera's image stabilization should help avoid blur due to camera movement. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.


80
100
200
400
 
800
1,600
3,200

ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is fairly good though somewhat soft at ISO 80 and 100, and there's a significant jump in softness at ISO 200 that only increases with each step of increased sensitivity. Chroma (color) noise isn't too much of an issue, but luminance noise grain intensifies and noise suppression efforts also obscure fine detail. See Printed section below for more on how this affects prints.


Print Quality: At ISO 80, there's obvious evidence of noise suppression at work in low-contrast areas, particularly reds. As such, 16x20-inch prints are usable, but soft in some areas.

ISO 100 shots are a little softer at 16x20, but still usable.

ISO 200 images are hazy and soft even after reduction to 13x19 inches, and continue to appear hazy at 11x14, but overall detail is better.

ISO 400 images are usable at 11x14 inches, but look better at 8x10.

ISO 800 shots are still good at 8x10.

ISO 1,600 images are usable at 5x7, but shadows are a bit smoky and brown. 4x6-inch images look better.

ISO 3,200 images also look good at 4x6.

The Olympus SZ30MR's image quality starts out a little soft due to noise suppression and decays rapidly as the ISO rises, more than usual, but it still produces a usable print of reasonable size at all ISO settings.


 

Olympus SZ-30MR Performance


Startup Time: The Olympus SZ-30MR takes about 1.9 seconds to power on and take a shot, which is good for a long-zoom model.


Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is good, at 0.42 second at wide angle and 0.45 second at full telephoto. Prefocused shutter lag is 0.074 second, not the fastest out there, but still pretty quick.


Cycle Time: Cycle time is also fair, capturing a frame every 1.61 seconds in single-shot mode. The Olympus SZ-30MR offers burst modes up to 7 frames per second for 5 images at full resolution, and 15 frames per second for 70 images at 5 megapixels.


Flash Recycle: The Olympus SZ-30MR's flash recycles in about 6.7 seconds after a full-power discharge, on the slow side of average.


Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was able to focus down to midway between the 1/8 and 1/4 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, and in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled.


USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the Olympus SZ-30MR's download speeds are very fast. We measured 9,653 KBytes/sec.


 

In the Box

The Olympus SZ-30MR box includes:

  • SZ-30MR digital camera
  • USB cable and charger (F-2AC)
  • Audio/Video cable
  • Lithium-ion battery (LI-50B)
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Instruction manual & Software CD
  • Shoulder strap
  • Warranty card

 

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Extra battery pack for extended outings
  • Large capacity SDHC memory card. These days, 4GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity, but if you plan to capture many movie clips, 8GB should be a minimum.
  • Camera case

 

Olympus SZ-30MR Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Excellent grip
  • Unique, attractive design
  • Relatively slim for the zoom range
  • 24x wide-angle zoom
  • Sensor-shift image stabilization
  • Full HD 1080p movies
  • Stereo audio recording
  • Optical zoom during movies
  • Very good Super Macro mode
  • Multi-Recording mode
  • Panorama mode
  • 3D mode
  • Very light and nimble
  • Fast startup for its class
  • Fun to shoot
  • Generally good color
  • Fast burst modes
  • Good full-autofocus shutter lag
  • HDMI port with CEC
  • Strong noise suppression mars low-contrast detail even at the lowest ISO setting
  • No control over noise reduction
  • Bright colors tend to bloom in bright light
  • Camera crashes when modes are changed in Menu mode and in Movie mode
  • Need to use menus to access important settings (like EV compensation)
  • Soft corners at telephoto
  • Moderate pincushion distortion at telephoto
  • Bright chromatic aberration at wide angle
  • Battery too easily inserted backwards
  • Multi-framing option seems odd
  • No monochrome mode
  • Auto white balance renders tungsten light very warm
  • No custom white balance
  • No manual or semi-automatic exposure modes
  • No RAW mode

 

It seems as if for everything we liked about the SZ-30MR there was something we didn't like. In use, it's a fun and capable machine. Image quality, unfortunately, is marred by overaggressive noise suppression, a side-effect of the very high-resolution sensor.

While we're glad to see useful if imperfect innovations like smart panorama in the SZ-30MR, one-shot wonders like Magic Filters and 3D don't really hurt.

Image quality was very mixed depending on the subject and the ISO setting, but the Olympus SZ-30MR can produce a usable image at each ISO setting in decent light. The disappointing aspect was skin, which looks overly smooth and artificial in most cases, removing depth from facial features and all skin texture. The Olympus SZ-30MR had a tendency to overexpose and highlights were often blown, but captures did resemble what attracted us to the scene. Strongly lit scenes showed more than usual blooming, though, of bright colors into dark.

So while there was a lot to like about the form factor, zoom range, personality, and even its speed, the Olympus SZ-30's image quality is too compromised even at the lowest ISOs to earn a Dave's Pick. People who seldom crop and only print 8x10 or smaller will not notice most of the problems we had with the Olympus SZ-30MR, however.

 

Olympus SZ-30MR

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