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 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.
16mp Backlit CMOS sensor
24x optical zoom lens (25-600mm equivalent)
3inch screen 460k dots
9fps shooting (16mp)
1080p Full HD Movie
ISO80 - 3200
3D Photo shooting
Image stabilisation (CMOS shift)
3cm super macro mode
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.
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.
Size comparison with a "typical" size pocket zoom with a 10x optical zoom lens, the Sony Cybershot HX7v.
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.
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo
Shot to Shot (without flash)
Shot to Shot with Flash
8fps (8), 11fps (16, 8mp)
5fps (5), 20fps (70, 5mp)
Continuous Shooting (with flash)
Continuous Shooting (RAW)
3fps (8 shots), 5fps (Medium)
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.
There is some red eye, but the camera has good flash performance, illuminating the subject and background well.
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.
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.
Shooting into the Sun
Additional photo modes:
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.
AWB (Auto White Balance) - Tungsten Light
AWB - Fluorescent Light
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.
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.
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.
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
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