Olympus SZ-16 Review
|Full model name:||Olympus Stylus SZ-16|
|Dimensions:||4.2 x 2.7 x 1.6 in.
(108 x 70 x 40 mm)
|Weight:||8.0 oz (227 g)|
|Full specs:||Olympus SZ-16 specifications|
Olympus Stylus SZ-16 iHS Preview
by Mike Tomkins
Do you love to get close to the action photographically-speaking, but prefer to keep your distance physically? If so, a long-zoom camera is just the ticket for you, 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-16 is based around a 1/2.3-inch, 16.0 megapixel CMOS image sensor with a 1.34µm pixel pitch. That differs from the SZ-15, which uses a CCD sensor of approximately the same resolution, size, and pixel pitch. Once upon a time, CCD sensors were the more desirable, but that time has now passed. CMOS sensors typically offer significantly greater speed, allowing things like faster burst-shooting performance, more responsive autofocus, higher video frame rates for slow-motion playback, and more. The advent of backside-illuminated CMOS sensors has also gifted them with a significant advantage in terms of noise and sensitivity.
That's borne out by the figures. The Olympus SZ-16 has an ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 6,400 equivalents, and its TruePic VI image processor handles a one-second burst of three images, where the SZ-15 is limited to an ISO 1,600 maximum, and has just half the burst performance. Drop the burst speed to 1.5 fps, and the SZ-16 can capture 200 frames in a row. Reduce the resolution to three megapixels, and you can shoot as many as 28 images at 30 frames per second.
We already mentioned that the Olympus SZ-16 iHS' 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-16 iHS' 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 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 four seconds in night mode. At ISO 3,200 equivalent, a built-in flash has a working range of 13.2 meters at wide angle, and 5.7 meters at telephoto.
The Olympus SZ-16 also has some special modes aimed at providing better ease of use, and some extra creative possibilities. The HDR Backlight Adjustment mode combines multiple, sequential shots to create a single image with greater dynamic range than is possible in a single exposure. Hand-held Starlight mode is similar, but raises sensitivity to get a shorter, hand-holdable shutter speed, and then averages the exposures to reduce noise levels. The Intelligent Auto mode has been improved and now recognizes 34 different scene types. There's also 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.
As well as stills, the Olympus SZ16 also shoots 1080p (Full HD; 1,920 x 1,080 pixel) high definition movies, at a rate of 30 frames per second. These are stored in H.264-compressed .MOV format, and the SZ-16 iHS can also shoot high-speed videos. Two rates are available for these: 120 fps for VGA (640 x 480 pixels), and 240 fps for QVGA (320 x 240 pixels).
Images and movies are stored on Secure Digital cards, including SDHC, SDXC, and UHS-I cards, as well as Wi-Fi capable cards such as those from Eye-Fi and Toshiba's FlashAir line. There's also 43MB of built-in memory. 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-16 iHS in the US market from March 2012, priced at around US$230. Two body-color options will be available: silver, or white.
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