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Olympus STYLUS SZ-15


Best cheap digital camera



Pros

24x optical zoom lens

Compact metal body

Magic filters are unique to Olympus

Fast high-speed shooting modes

Decent image quality

In-camera panoramic stitching


Cons

Video recording is limited to 720p HD

Lots of noise at ISO 800 and 1600

No rubber grip on front of camera



Olympus STYLUS SZ-15 review

 

For those who just want to point and shoot there is an iAuto mode, a Beauty mode that 'Brings your subjects to life to create dynamic portrait images', Super Macro mode, a panorama mode and a variety of different scene modes.

 

Switching the camera to Magic mode offers access to 11 different art filter effects, including the standard Dramatic Tone, Miniature, Pop Art and Toy Camera effects.

 

The effects of these art filters can be viewed on the Olympus SZ-15's rear 3-inch 460k dot TFT LCD screen, which we found to be fairly poor in terms of colour rendition and contrast range.

 

Build quality and handling

 

The plastic body of the Olympus Stylus SZ-15 is styled almost like a miniature DSLR, with a hump above the lens that houses the small pop-up flash, and quite a large handgrip for a camera of this size. In the hand the Olympus SZ-15 feels well built, if a little plasticky. It also has the minimum range of controls, which, given the limited features than you can change on this camera, is no bad thing.

 

To house the 24x zoom lens, the Olympus SZ-15 is larger than most other cameras at this price, such as the much smaller zoomed Canon IXUS 140/ELPH 130 and Nikon Coolpix S5200. However, it's also about the only camera is this corner of the market that offers a lens with such a long focal length - unless you look at an entry-level bridge camera, which will be even larger still.

 

The on-screen controls are straightforward to use, and the main menu has a nice clear design and layout, and a limited range of settings to change, such as being able to switch from evaluative to centre weighted metering. Usefully there is a single line of text at the bottom of the menu screen that explains what the currently selected setting does.

 

We found that CCD bleed, which creates purple streaks gravitating out from strong highlight areas, is sometimes visible on-screen when composing images in bright conditions. Fortunately, it doesn't affect the images taken, but it is something that isn't often seen in a digital camera these days, since the majority now use CMOS rather than CCD sensors.

 

Overall the Stylus SZ-15 is straightforward and simple to use. Those people after a straightforward camera with a high magnification zoom wont be overwhelmed with settings or complicated button arrangements.

 

Performance

 

There's only a choice of centre weighted or ESP (evaluative) metering, but most Olympus SZ-15 owners will be satisfied with the latter. Generally, we found that this produces good exposures, though it has a slight tendency to over-compensate in darker scenes, producing images that are far too bright with burnt out highlight details.

 

Lost highlights are also due to the fact that the sensor seems to have a fairly restricted dynamic range. Using the exposure compensation feature, we were able to reduce exposures by between 0.3 and 0.7EV to darken the images, recover some highlights and make the over exposure more balanced

 

Effective pixels 16 Megapixels
Filter array Primary colour filter (RGB)
Full resolution Full resolution
Lens Optical zoom 24x (WIDE)
Focal length 4.5 - 108.0mm
Focal length (equiv. 35mm) 25 - 600mm
Super Resolution Zoom 2x / 48x combined with optical zoom
Monitor Resolution 460000 dots
Monitor size 7.6cm / 3.0'' (3:2)
Brightness adjustment +/- 2 levels
Standard mode 0.1m - ∞ (wide) / 0.4m - ∞ (tele)
Shutter speed 1/4 - 1/2000s / < 15s (Manual Mode)
Exposure compensation +/- 2EV / 1/3 steps
Number of scene modes 17

 

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