The Olympus SZ-30MR is a super zoom compact, but it’s not just the 24x lens’s range – offering the equivalent of 25-600mm on a DSLR – that makes this camera stand out from the pack.

For the first time on one of its snappers, Olympus has stuffed a “Multi-Recording” mode inside. Basically, this is a dual engine setup that allows you to shoot two things simultaneously: full HD video and full 16MP stills; two movies, one zoomed in and one wide angle; or one normal shot and one Magic Filter shot (more on these later). It’s a nice enough idea, but one most people will rarely find themselves using.

We like 'em big

That 24x optical zoom, on the other hand, will be useful to anyone who values versatility in their camera. You can shoot a wide angle landscape or indoor shot, and a few moments later be scarily nestling up to a far-off subject. There aren’t many compacts that come close to matching the SZ-30MR’s zoom skills – you’ll need to upsize to a bridge camera to get zoomier.

This big reach comes at a price, though: despite being a compact, this is a fair bit chunkier than rivals like the Fujifilm F550 EXR and Nikon S9100, so much so that while you can slip those in your pockets pretty easily, the Olympus will cause an unsightly (and uncomfy) bulge in your Levis. If you’re rocking a pair of MC Hammer parachute pants, on the other hand, you might be alright.

Also, if you want truly sharp telephoto shots you’ll also have to take them outdoors in good light, because at full zoom the narrower aperture and greater effect of camera shake can lead to some blurriness.

Tough competition

Photo quality is generally good, although having tested the SZ-30MR alongside the previously mentioned Nikon S9100 and Fujifilm F550 EXR, we feel these superzooms serve up slightly superior shots, with less grainy noise at higher ISO settings.

Review continues after the break…

The Olympus’s Magic Filters inject a bit of wacky fun by automatically editing shots as you take them, adding a vignette for a Lomo-style vintage look, transforming the shot into high-contrast black and white, or even (as the Punk setting does) black and pink, making that portrait of granny look like a Sex Pistols album cover. 

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Olympus SZ-30 MR review

The huge zoom impresses, but elsewhere the SZ-30 lags behind its rivals