We had the glossily metallic champagne/silver version of the SZ-20 in for review that, while it looks reasonably stylish when sat on your desk, immediately feels slightly creaky and plastic-y when you pick it up – an inevitable trade off for the lower price.
Photos and video are composed via a large-ish 4:3 aspect ratio LCD screen, here boasting an impressive 460k dot resolution which is adequate for the task but still makes it hard to convincingly check critical focus.
Like the Canon SX220 HS and Nikon S9100, the Olympus features a pop up flash, here located directly above the lens. As with the Nikon it also has to be manually raised and there's an adjacent lever for raising it provided on the top plate. This is a tad inconvenient but at least it doesn't annoyingly pop up upon power up as on the Canon.
Like the S9100, the Olympus' rechargeable lithium ion cell is charged in camera, with just a mains adapter and relevant USB lead provided out of the box. The camera can be alternatively recharged from your laptop if power fails when you're not near mains power (and are forward thinking enough to have both the required lead and laptop with you at the time). For those looking to go wireless, compatibility with Eye-Fi media cards is offered; otherwise it's regular SD, SDHC or SDXC as the optional storage media of choice.
Though we wouldn't claim this is an option for photo enthusiasts - look to the Olympus XZ-1 for that - advanced face detection, pet detection, beauty mode and eight Magic Filters are on hand for a bit of image manipulating fun. The latter includes pop art, pin hole, drawing, fisheye, soft focus and new additions to the Olympus on-board effects range in 'sparkle' (twinkly reflections to shiny objects) and watercolour. Results are hit and miss and some work better than others, but at least they help raise the boredom threshold.
The above are among the shooting mode selections presented at the top of a toolbar located on the right side of the screen, in the absence of any dedicated mode button or wheel on the backplate. Also included on the same toolbar are flash, self timer, macro focus, exposure compensation, white balance, ISO and drive mode options. The Olympus user tabs down these options using the command pad-come-scroll wheel provided, which we found made for fiddly operation. Although you can move up and down this list pressing the upper or bottom edge of the pad, it's very easy for the thumb to slip and for you to start scrolling instead, which means the camera inevitably ends up on an option not of your choosing. Frankly, this alone is enough to knock a mark off this cameras score.
Incidentally the other selectable shooting modes include Program Auto, subject recognising iAuto for point and shoot simplicity, scene modes, plus the aforementioned panorama and 3D shooting mode. A varied list of options that will prevent boredom setting in, as long as you can successfully navigate that scroll wheel and make an accurate selection.