Ease of Learning: 3.5 / 5
Ease of Use: 4 / 5
Enjoyment: 3 / 5
Design: 3 / 5
Value for Money: 2.5 / 5
2012 has not been a kind year to Olympus worldwide. The beleaguered company has had a lot of financial trouble and has struggled to stay afloat. Luckily it seems the tides might have started to turn for the company. At first one would think that those struggles would be due to bad/low quality products. Having spent some time with two of Olympus’ cameras, it seems that the trouble is mostly due to bad management, rather than products not being up to standard.
Time spent with the TG-810 was very pleasant. With the SZ-30MR, I was hoping to make it 2 out of 2. It did not quite pan out as I had hoped. It turns out that the SZ-30MR is a bit of a mixed bag of results.
On the outside:
The SZ-30MR is a very good looking camera. Being a super-zoom camera, it has a protruding lens and grip, looking like a mini DSLR. The particular one I got was finished in a brushed metal look, that, although being plastic, didn’t come across as feeling cheap.
On the top you’ll find the mode dial as well as the zoom dial. You also have the power button. Everything is nicely placed and feels of good quality.
The back houses the LCD screen, as well as the usual navigation and menu buttons. There’s nothing out of place or extraordinary here and all the buttons work logically and as they should.
The worst part of the back is the LCD screen. This being a more high-end model than the TG-810, I thought that this screen would be much better. Unfortunately this was not the case. The screen is of a lower resolution and wasn’t all that clear to see, especially in bright daylight. It was a bit of a disappointment.
Being used to working with much larger DSLRs, this camera felt just a tad too small to be comfortable in my hands.
Overall the camera feels solid and of high quality.
On the inside:
As with the TG-810, the Olympus menu system is solid. It’s not extremely fancy or frilly, but it’s good in its functionality and its working. It’s logical and the layout is easy to get around. Overall it’s not an unpleasant experience working with the menu system and getting your way around all the settings.
The spec-sheet reads the way you’d expect it too for a camera in this class. The camera outputs 16MP photos and shoots video at full 1080p HD and has a very extreme 24x zoom lens.
The photos are generally sharp, and are good for smaller printing, with the exception of the long end of the lens. At pixel-level the lack of detail is more apparent. It is nowhere near DSLR levels, but decent enough for most everyday photography needs.
The camera also has a bunch of photo filters, found under the MAGIC dial. Unfortunately they are all super gimmicky, look very kitsch and nasty and magically ruin photos. I’d steer away from that specific dial.
The video records to MP4 format with a H.264 codec, which is pretty standard nowadays. The quality is also good, especially at the wide end of the lens. The video seems to be let down by poor stabilisation and a below average lens. The extreme zoom seems to introduce just too many negatives to the video footage.
As can be seen the SZ-30MR is a mixed bag of results, being able to produce some stunning photo and video results, and at the same time being able to create some shocking lens flares, bad contrast and poor telephoto focus.
At the long end of the zoom range, its difficult to control the results, with focus being erratic and high contrast areas badly taxing the lens. In video mode, the lens also struggles to properly stabilise footage. That is the problem with many super-zoom cameras and it seems the same fate has befallen the SZ-30MR.
In the right circumstances, photos are sharp, colour reproduction good and focus perfect.
This isn’t an overall bad camera, but you’d need to get used to the camera and especially on the long end of the zoom, you’d need patience to get it right.
Here’s a sample gallery of photos taken with the SZ-30MR: