Travel zoom digital cameras are a bridge between point-and-shoots and mega-zoom cameras. They are small enough to easily fit into the pocket and offer a raft of features that allow users to capture great shots. These include a telephoto lens, fully manual controls, plenty of scene presets and filters, and HD video recording. Olympus has chosen a different path with its latest travel zoom camera, the SZ-14. Let’s find out what it has to offer and how it compares with its counterparts on various fronts.
A basic point-and-shoot with a telephoto lens
Design and Features
This 14 megapixel shooter is one of the most elegant looking travel zoom cameras in the market. It’s available in three colours, all sober – silver, red and black. The front of the camera’s shell is reinforced by an aluminium plate with brushed finish. The telescopic lens housing is black with chrome trimming around the rims.
The rear of the camera is a large black plastic panel, which is dominated by a 3-inch LCD monitor. To its right is the control panel that comprises a dedicated video recording button right at the top followed by buttons for playback and menu, a 5-way D-pad with a jog dial and a help button. A rubber grip for the thumb is placed at the top right corner. Lift the plastic flap on the right side and you’ll find an HDMI (type D) and a USB port. The battery and the SD card reside in a common compartment that can be accessed by unlocking and opening a plastic flap on the base.
24x optical zoom - 25-600 mm
Starting with the key features, the lens is quite wide at 25 mm. This favours capturing full body portraits and large groups without moving too much away. It also helps capturing wide landscapes and panoramas without taking too many shots. The lens extends up to 600 mm, which translates to a good 24x optical zoom. The largest apertures at wide and telephoto ends are F3.0 and F6.9 respectively. While an aperture of F3.0 is fairly decent for a budget travel zoom, F6.9 will result in underexposure in low light, leaving you with no option but to boost the ISO or use a tripod.
Closely observe the top and the control panel – found something missing? Most travel zoom cameras have a mode dial that lets you select Auto, PASM, scene presets and effect filters. The mode dial is missing here. Which brings us to the user interface – it’s typical of all Olympus digital cameras. The shooting parameters are displayed in a stack to the right and the parameters that can be tweaked depend on the shooting mode you select. The most advanced shooting mode available is Program in which you can set the white balance, ISO (80 to 1600), burst mode, AF mode (Face, Spot and AF tracking), among a few more parameters. You don’t get manual and semi-manual modes, which makes the SZ-14 a basic point-and-shoot camera but with a telephoto lens. The other shooting modes include the following:
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