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Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review

We review the new Olympus SZ-30MR - it has a whopping 24x optical zoom lens, and fits in your pocket!

| Olympus SZ-30MR in Compact Cameras

Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Olympus SZ30MR

The Olympus SZ30MR is the world's smallest digital camera with a 24x optical zoom lens, and the first ever "Pocket Zoom" digital camera with an optical zoom lens longer than 18x optical zoom. It wasn't long ago that 16x optical zoom in this size camera was considered a LOT of zoom.

Normally 24x optical zoom is reserved for "Bridge" style / Ultra Zoom cameras, such as the Olympus SP-610UZ or Olympus SP-800UZ. UZ stands for Ultra Zoom, and SZ stands for Super Zoom, with Olympus originally one of the pioneers of the Ultra Zoom category with the Olympus C-760 / C-750 which had a 10x optical zoom, which at the time was considered a huge amount of zoom, now 8 years later, and we have a 24x optical zoom in a much smaller camera! How does it perform? And can the built in image stabilisation cope with so much zoom?

Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Olympus SZ30MR

Olympus SZ-30MR Features

The MR stands for Multi Recording, not only does the camera feature a huge 24x optical zoom lens, 3D photo shooting, it also features full HD video and the ability to record two videos simultaneously - the full view as well as another cropped area. The cropped area can be set in advance, set to track a subject, or the camera can simply be set to record two videos, both different resolutions, or one video with a magic filter applied. A backlit CMOS sensor enables high speed shooting at a claimed 7fps at full resolution, with a further high speed shooting mode available at 5 megapixels.

Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Olympus SZ30MR

Key Features

  • 16mp Backlit CMOS sensor
  • 24x optical zoom lens (25-600mm equivalent)
  • 3inch screen 460k dots
  • 9fps shooting (16mp)
  • 1080p Full HD Movie
  • ISO80 - 3200
  • Multi-recording function
  • Smart Panorama
  • 3D Photo shooting
  • Image stabilisation (CMOS shift)
  • 3cm super macro mode

Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Olympus SZ30MR

Olympus SZ-30MR Handling

With a stylish, almost retro look, the chrome and black finish looks quite good, although personally I think the grey version looks better, with a more professional look. The build quality is good with an all plastic construction.

The buttons are well labelled, and work well and the mode dial is a good size and position for use with your thumb. The buttons are a little on the small side, but are well spaced so that you don't accidentally press the wrong button.

The grip could be improved, with the addition of some rubber to the front hand grip. The back features a small raised grip for your thumb - this is a slightly grippier plastic texture, and the back plastic has a matt finish, but it's still not as good as having dedicated rubber grips. Because of this the camera has a slippery texture, with a very smooth finish, but due to the camera having a large protruding grip it is quite easy to hold on to tightly.

Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Olympus SZ30MR

Menus: The camera has mostly menu based controls, but thankfully the camera responds quickly, and the scroll wheel works well. The majority of controls you want to access are in the quick menu, and the camera provides built in help and a built in camera manual should you ever get stuck.

Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Olympus SZ30MR

Size comparisons:

Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Olympus SZ30MR

Size comparison with a "typical" size pocket zoom with a 10x optical zoom lens, the Sony Cybershot HX7v.

Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Olympus SZ30MR

Size comparison with a bridge camera with 30x optical zoom lens, the Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR.

Battery life: Battery life is surprisingly good for such a compact 925mAh battery, with the camera providing over 340 shots on a full charge.

Speed: We tested the Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR, and tested the camera with the Sony Cybershot HX7v, and Olympus SZ30MR, both 16mp backlit CMOS sensor cameras, taking 6 shots and using the average to ensure consistent results.

Fujifilm HS20EXR Sony HX7v
Olympus SZ30MR
Shutter Response* <0.05 <0.05 <0.05
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.20 0.20 0.20
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.20** 0.25 0.30
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 2.9
Shot to Shot (without flash) 1.0 1.1s 1.5
Shot to Shot with Flash 2.0 3s 1.6
Continuous Shooting
(full resolution)
8fps (8), 11fps (16, 8mp) 10fps (10)
5fps (5), 20fps (70, 5mp)
Continuous Shooting (with flash) N/A N/A N/A
Continuous Shooting (RAW) 3fps (8 shots), 5fps (Medium) N/A N/A

The Fujifilm FinePix HS20 has a good number of options for continuous shooting: No. of frames: 4, 8, 16, 32. 8fps at full resolution (max 8 shots), 11fps at medium resolution (8mp), max 16 frames / or 32 frames at S (Small, 4mp). *when pre-focused. **after first focus.

Fast switch on time, fast focusing, shutter response, shot to shot is very good, particularly with flash, continuous shooting is good at 5fps at full resolution (although we were unable to match the 7fps that the camera should be able to provide), with a faster shooting mode available with reduced resolution.

Olympus SZ-30MR Performance

Click to view full full size sample photos taken in a variety of lighting and situations.

Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Portrait Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Portrait Beauty Mode
Portrait Beauty Mode

There is some red eye, but the camera has good flash performance, illuminating the subject and background well.

ISO Performance

Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: ISO80 Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: ISO100 Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: ISO200 Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: ISO400
ISO80 ISO100 ISO200 ISO400
Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: ISO800 Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: ISO1600 Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: ISO3200  
ISO800 ISO1600 ISO3200  

ISO80-100 results are good. ISO200 noise starts to creep in with noticeable red/green/blue dots / splodges of colour in the dark blacks. At ISO400 noise reduction is increased, and these red/green/blue dots seem to be blurred out of the shot more. ISO800 shows more noise again. ISO1600 shots show more noise, and less detail, with ISO3200 showing the most noise, and the least detail. Colour is good right upto ISO1600.

Lens Performance

Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Wide Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Wide Shadow Adjustment
Wide SAT
Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Mid zoom Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Full zoom
Mid zoom Full telephoto zoom

Shadow Adjustment Technology (SAT) is designed to boost detail in shadows, and is effective as doing this, however it can give images an artificially low contrast, which tends to make photos less apealing to view. Purple fringing is quite low in these wide angle shots, however detail is sharper in the centre, and at the edges the images are a little soft.


Panoramic - 360 or 180 degrees shooting is available where you simply pan the camera, and it stitches the photo together in camera.

Another mode can record a video before and after taking a photo. This can be set to 7, 5, or 3 seconds before and 3 or 0 seconds after taking the photo.

Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Loggerheads Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Into Sun Poppy
Loggerheads Shooting into the Sun

Additional photo modes:

Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Watercolour Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Popart Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Pinhole Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Drawing
Watercolour Popart Pinhole Drawing

Some of the magic filters are shown above, additionally there is Punk, Soft Focus, Sparkle and Fisheye. These can be applied to photos and videos when recording.

WB Performance

Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: AWB Tungsten Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Tungsten preset
AWB (Auto White Balance) - Tungsten Light Tungsten Preset
Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: AWB Fluorescent Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Fluorescent Lighting Preset
AWB - Fluorescent Light Fluorescent Preset

Detail is good in these studio shots taken under tungsten lighting. Good AWB performance under tungsten light, with warm results, and using the preset setting gives a more natural look. Good AWB performance under fluorescent, with no real need to use the preset.

Macro Performance

Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Super Macro Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review: Super Macro
Baby Strawberry (about the size of 5 pence) Super macro mode

Normal focus and macro focus modes focus as close as 10cm, switching on the super macro mode zooms the camera's lens to the optimum focal length and this allows some impressive macro focus where the subject is just 3cm away from the front of the lens.


Multi-Recording - 720p Multi Recording (Centre) 720p

With such a large zoom, there is some noticeable camera shake at full optical zoom. The videos above were shot with the camera mounted on a tripod. The multi recording mode, as it can be set to record a crop from the frame, will amplify any camera shake as it is even more zoomed in, and records at 720p. Using the option to record the same video at two different sizes lets you record one at Full HD, and another video at another smaller resolution.

Value for Money

The pocket zoom market is extremely competitive at the moment, with offerings from nearly all other manufacturers, the Olympus SZ30MR stands out, with the most optical zoom by a long way, and also the only digital camera I know of to record two videos simultaneously. Alternative pocket zooms with 18x optical zoom: Nikon Coolpix S9100, £245, Samsung WB700, £180, Olympus SZ-10, £149, 16x optical zoom: Panasonic Lumix TZ20, £275, TZ18, £229 Sony Cybershot HX9v, £299, 15x optical zoom: Fujifilm FinePix F550, £229, 14x optical zoom: Canon Powershot SX230HS, £265, and SX220HS, £225.

For the same amount of zoom or more, alternative ultra zooms / bridge style cameras available include the: 24x optical zoom Panasonic Lumix TZ45 / TZ100, 30x optical zoom Fujifilm Finepix HS20EXR, Kodak Easyshare Max Z990, 35x optical zoom Canon Powershot SX30 IS, 36x optical zoom Nikon Coolpix P500.

Olympus SZ-30MR Verdict

An amazing amount of zoom in such a compact camera, it really is pocketable! Whether you can use the full zoom to full effect will depend on a number of things, such as good light, a steady hand, and subject being shot. A tripod will become essential if your light becomes less than ideal. Video modes are interesting - and could be useful in the right situation, but again a tripod is recommended if you want to use the full zoom. The screen, controls, and ease of use are all good. Battery life is good for a compact. It would be nice if the camera had some rubberised grips. High speed continuous shooting is very helpful as it lets you take a series of shots for when you couldn't bring a tripod and aren't sure if the long zoom shots are going to work. The camera's macro performance is impressive with bright saturated colours. The camera is capable of producing some great shots, with vivid colours, and good detail, however you do need to be careful to make sure the camera is steady when using the zoom.
Olympus SZ-30MR Super Zoom Review:
The Olympus SZ-30MR breaks new ground with a massive 24x optical zoom and multi-recording Full HD video in a camera that fits in your pocket!

Olympus SZ-30MR Pros

24x optical zoom, in a camera that fits in your pocket!
Full HD video multi-recording
High speed shooting
Macro performance
Responsive menus
Built in help / camera manual

Olympus SZ-30MR Cons

Tripod may be needed for full zoom
Images are quite soft in corners
A rubber grip at the front and back would help
Shadow adjustment technology can give images a strange look - would prefer a true HDR mode


Olympus SZ-30MR Specification

Price £249
Lens 24x optical zoom lens, 25-600mm equivalent in 35mm terms, f/3.0-6.9
Resolution 16 megapixel
Sensor size 1/2.3 inch
Sensor type Backlit CMOS
Max. Image size 4608 x 3456
Aspect ratio 4:3, 16:9
Monitor 3.0in TFT LCD monitor, 460000 pixels
Shutter speed 1/4 - 1/1700 s / < 4 s (Night scene)
Focusing system TTL iESP auto focus with contrast detection, AF illuminator
Focusing modes iESP, Face Detection AF, Spot, AF Tracking
Focus distance 0.1m - ∞ (wide) / 0.4m - ∞ (tele)
File types JPEG, MP4 videos
ISO sensitivity ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
Metering modes ESP light metering, Spot metering
Exposure compensation +/- 2 EV / 1/3 steps
Continuous Sequential shooting mode (high speed) 15 fps / 70 frames (in 5MP mode), 7.0 fps / 5 frames (Full Image Size), Sequential shooting mode 1.7 fps / 18 frames (Full Image Size).
Image stabilisation Mechanical image stabilisation
Movie mode Digital Image Stabilisation, MPEG-4, 1080P Recording time: 29min. 720P Recording time: 29min. VGA Recording time: no limit Note: maximum file size 4GB. Stereo microphone.
Media type SD / SDHC / SDXC, Eye-Fi card compatible.
Interface DC input, Combined A/V & USB output, USB 2.0 High Speed, HDMI™ - Type D
Power LI-50B Lithium-Ion Battery
Box Contents Olympus SZ-30MR Camera, LI-50B Lithium-Ion Battery, F-2AC AC Adapter, CB-USB6 USB Cable, CB-AVC3 Audio/Video cable, Handstrap, Instruction Manual, World Wide Warranty Card, [ib] Image Management Software
Size 106.3 x 68.7 x 39.5 mm
Weight 226g

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Photographs taken using the Olympus SZ-30MR

Green sea turtle.UntitledUntitledA Lighter ShadeUntitledLooking UpA Drop Of WaterBlue Chalk

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MarioV Avatar
I picked one up just before your review Smile
Your review is spot on.
Loving the camera so far. It has great potential.
jamsa Avatar
jamsa 19 17 United Kingdom
I have had this little camera for less than a week and although i have an Olympus E-3 and three lenses, this ones is small and easy to transport for any time. I would however say that in bright sunlight I am finding images washed out, and too much over exposure. There are two meter modes spot and ESP, both had the same problem. Yesterday i shot a red poppy with the E-3 and the SZ-30MR ..the MR made it look pale and maybe a tad orange. If i wanted the true colour then Id have to use the E-3.
So I am still working through the options and trialling it so might post up in a week or two with more opinions.
Still like the superzoom , resolution and full HD option though and enough to keep the camera.
The zoom motor is a noisy thing on video though and as said here a tripod a must for the longer zoom.
Joe_A Avatar
I had the Olympus SZ-30MR and tested it for several hours. Even I had 1 months time to test the camera was so bad over all I returned it the next day.
It had the worst image quality I have seen in over 10 digital camera years.
I put all my findings in one place if somebody cares to read about:
MarioV Avatar
Joe, I saw your review page a while ago and its certainly not a conclusive test. And comparing 12x 5MP with 24x 16MP is questionable. I'm not sure if this is the right forum to discuss that though.
rhol2 Avatar
rhol2 12 369 1 United Kingdom
The review seems fair enough, but I am intrigued by the emphasis, in many recent reviews on various sites, on "slipping a camera into a pocket".. I'm wondering if we need some definition of a " standard pocket size" to enable comparisons! In general it seems that manufacturers are competing to bring out the tiniest possible cameras,at the cost in some cases, of ease of handling. I noticed Kirk Tuck refused to test the Olympus xz1 because he found it too small and fiddly. Good for him, I say. Admittedly my hands are on the large size which might bias my view.
johnriley1uk Avatar
There are lots of compact cameras a good deal smaller than the Olympus XZ1, which is actually a pretty good option.

I think if we need to carry a bag to hold a camera it might as well be a small DSLR (Pentax K-r?) but a compact should offer something different. The ability to slip it into a handbag or jacket pocket would be a useful feature.

I always carry a small compact, but when it needs a camera bag then, as said above, it might as well be a DSLR.
ashamliwala Avatar
Sounds like a good step in the right direction and maybe the other manufactures will have a compact soon with all the bits ironed out. All I can say is give it some time and a proper/fair test.
Am looking for a long zoom compact so will be looking out for one. articulated screen would have been a nice touch. But one could go on for ever. Is there a camera that meets all the needs?
Any one tried the new Leica V30 Lux - very pricey but sounds great.
eric64 Avatar
For me a pocketable camera fits into my shirts pocket.
Measure or try it.
MarioV Avatar
Its still pocketable. Maybe not a shirt pocket or tight jeans, but many pants have big enough pockets and also jacket pockets. Same cannot be said for a bridge camera or DSLR.
Rees Avatar
Rees 15 14 Wales
Looks like a well specked camera, which I would be interested in, if only it had a view finder. I find I cannot cope with a screen for composition in brilliant sun-light.
jamsa Avatar
I have emailed Olympus re my concerns and have sent them some examples of images i have taken with an e-3 and the 30-MR.
Having taken some more images in various option I find that when i press the shutter release button half way the image looks great as the camer displays the "anticipated" result, when you press to take the image the exposure is not the same it changes on the screen by a good stop or two and thats the image you get!!
MarioV Avatar
You could be right there, jamsa. I think a firmware update should be warranted for that issue you mention that the focus and exposure should be locked as per the half shutter focus image on the lcd display. Also, I think it should focus a bit faster in low light.

Other than that though, its a great camera. I'm having no problem with 24x photos and also stable 24x handheld videos with minimal shake.
jamsa Avatar
MarioV, quiet agree I saw a lot of "wobble" with early videos posted on youtube by other users of the camera..either they were using a slow memory card or were very unstable with hadn held videography.
I wonder though if firmware updates are possible with the 30-MR?

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