Olympus SZ-31MR review
Not the best for image quality, but it’s packed with impressive features, including simultaneous photo and video capture
Review Date: 13 May 2012
Price when reviewed: £242
Reviewed By: Ben Pitt
Olympus has packed an incredible amount into this little camera. Top billing goes to the 24x zoom, which puts it in competition with bulky SLR-styled ultra-zoom cameras. Videos are recorded at up to 1080p and 60fps, which is twice the frame rate of most cameras. Better still, its 3in touchscreen has a crystal-clear 920,000-dot resolution, which makes it easy to move the autofocus point. The lack of GPS is disappointing, though.
There's no manual exposure control either, but we'd gladly trade these for the assortment of clever shooting modes. HDR captures a shot at different exposure settings and combines them for a wider range of highlights and shadows. Panorama mode captures a panorama shot simply by rotating the camera. These are all welcome, but they're not so unusual. The feature we're most impressed by is the ability to capture 1080p 30fps videos and 16-megapixel photos at the same time. The photos and videos were interspersed when played back on the camera, but once we’d transferred them to a computer the only evidence on the video was the faint click of the shutter button being pressed.
Sadly, the zoom and focus motors were audible too. A bigger problem was the clicks that appeared as the camera adjusted its exposure in response to changing light conditions, but these clicks didn’t occur that often and this is ultimately an outstanding video mode. It excelled for detail levels, audio clarity and autofocus speed, ably helped here by the touchscreen.
There are few labelled buttons, but it has a wheel for quick menu navigation and setting adjustment. Selecting P (for Program) on the dial reveals onscreen icons for the eight most important settings. These are reasonably quick to navigate, especially now that pressing the right button on the pad goes to the control you used last, which is a welcome improvement over previous Olympus compacts. Its shot-to-shot performance of 1.8 seconds (rising to 3.2 seconds when low light demanded ISO speeds of 800 or higher) could be better. Continuous shooting is more impressive, giving up to 8.7fps for 12 frames. Dropping the resolution to five megapixels delivers 60fps shooting for 75 frames.
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