The Olympus SH-21 compact digital camera is all about style and performance, with the manufacturer packing as many features as possible into a relatively slim casing, while still managing to make the camera look cool in a crowd.
Available in three striking colours – metallic gold, black and red – the SH-21 presents an image of silky smoothness throughout and that extends – less fortunately – to the grip on the front of the camera. The controls, on the other hand, are more sensibly constructed with a sturdy little mode dial on the top next to a large shutter (surrounded by the zoom ring) and smaller power button.
Touch screen functions
The back is dominated by a bright 3.0in 460,000-pixel touch-sensitive LCD screen. To the right of the screen is a neat column of buttons for video record, playback, menu and help interspersed with a further selection dial. The touch-screen comes into its own when used for instant variation of colour saturation, brightness, focus tracking and as a touch shutter (although it is so sensitive that you have to avoid accidentally firing off a shot). Touch controls are also available for zooming in on captured stills or flicking through the recorded images. As soon as you switch to the menu, though, you have to rely on the wheel to scroll through the options, which could lose you valuable time.
As this is a so-called ultra-zoom compact, you have the advantage of a 12.5x super-wide optical zoom (24-300mm equivalent) and Olympus has done much to counteract camera shake with dual image stabilisation when taking stills and Multi-Motion Movie IS when shooting Full HD (1080p) videos. However, the stereo sound quality is generally tinny and very vulnerable to wind noise. The good news is that start-up time is extremely fast and you’re aided by the 16MP backlit CMOS sensor to produce crisp, bright, authentic images with ISO settings as high as 800 producing low noise pictures in dim conditions.
There’s also a fistful of shooting modes to choose from, including some more specialist options such as Handheld Starlight for night shooting without a tripod, Beauty to enhance your people shots and HDR Backlight Adjustment for when taking portraits against light source. Panorama shots are achieved by simply panning the camera rather than stitching and ten creative Magic Filters have been included ranging from Punk and Drawing to Fish-Eye and (our favourite!) Reflection. You can have fun taking pictures in 3D, play HD movie clips back via the HDMI port and fire off some high-speed continuous shots at 5fps.
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- Stacks of shooting and creative modes with good quality images
- Touch screen can be over-sensitive and sound quality poor
If you want a reasonably priced ultra-zoom compact that's crammed full of varied shooting modes and creative effects, the SH-21 will fit the bill handsomely.