Of all the things I had planned on doing in my life, reading an 84-page camera manual from cover-to-cover wasn’t one of them.
But, when I opened up my new Olympus SZ-10 digital camera from the friendly folks at Staples and realized there were a bevy of bells and whistles I would never know how to operate without browsing the user-guide, I relented. Let me tell you: Boring tech-lingo has never been so worth it. This is one rad camera.
Although I’m far from the techy-type—in fact, I’m one of the remaining few who is more than happy with a phone that is “smart” enough only to make phone calls and text—the SZ-10 made me want to convert. There is a picture-taking mode for every situation you could conjure: sunsets, fireworks, beach and snow, cuisine, etc. Although there isn’t a setting specifically made for capturing cute kids, there is one for your fur-covered bundles of joy. The “Pet Mode” automatically snaps a photo when it recognizes your dog or cat’s face. (I used it on our always-on-the-go puppy Jake and ended up with more than a few fantastic shots.)
Fortunately, if you’re a mom who doesn’t have the time to plunge into a Tolstoy-esque manual, you can still click and shoot and end up with some pretty great photos or videos thanks to a mode called “Intelligent Auto.” It’s billed as the setting that “thinks for you,” but it could just as easily be called the setting for busy moms. The camera automatically adjusts to a scene to ensure the best photo possible. Having more than a mild case of baby brain these days, this is the mode that I have been using the most.
If you have the benefit of having kids who are older and electronic-savvy (and what kids aren’t these days?), a few minutes playing around with the camera would probably teach them all they need to know so they can pass it on to you. Our pint-sized nieces and nephews found the “Magic Art Filters” like Punk, Fish Eye, Watercolors and Sparkle especially fun.
Another bonus for moms is the SZ-10’s ability to take pictures of fast-moving kids without turning them into blurred-out blobs. I put the setting to the test by waving my hand rapidly in front of the camera. The picture was clear every time. Although my bouncing baby boy hasn’t arrived yet, I’m convinced the SZ-10 will have no problem capturing his sweet face—no matter how much bouncing he does. Quick kids: 0. Camera: 1.
Upping the cool-quotient of the SZ-10 even further is the 18x optical-zoom that offers immediate Superman-vision, as well as the instant-editing options. If you’re anything like me, hooking up my camera to a computer to edit pictures isn’t at the top of my daily to-do list, and with this camera, it doesn’t have to be. I was able to crop, brighten and fix red-eye instantly—even on photos that were years old.
Still, those aren’t my favorite editing features. The “Beauty Fix” option won that award. The click of a button clears up skin blemishes and adds “sparkle” or “drama” to your eyes. I was impressed with the “before” and “after” photos, and am thrilled to know that I won’t have to fear the camera after the baby arrives just because of a bad outbreak or a lack of shut-eye. If you ask me, any camera that can fix my face on demand deserves to be on the Best of the Great Inventions list.
While the SZ-10 won me over with all of its fancy-schmancy features, I can’t say that it had me at hello. The camera is billed as “pocket size,” so I was expecting just that. However, it’s definitely too bulky to fit into my jeans and has found a home in my purse instead. Too, I wish the color options weren’t limited to black and silver. Sure, they’re sophisticated hues, but in a sea of pink, blue and purple cameras on the market, the SZ-10 looks much less fun than the others—even if it isn’t.
Finally, and most importantly, I found the plethora of settings intimidating at first. It took me a while to work up the courage to even try the camera out, and once I did, learning how to navigate the menu was a bit of a challenge. But, to the camera’s credit, there are only a few main buttons to maneuver, and the quality of the photographs makes the mildly-intensive learning process worth mastering.
When all is said and done, the SZ-10 is a solid addition to families with new additions. If you're looking for a camera to add to your registry (or maybe even starting your holiday wish list a little early this year), head on over to your local Staples and check it out for yourself. Whether you’re a tech-savvy mom who wants to customize every shot or a mom who just wants to point, click and capture those picture-perfect moments, er, perfectly, I think you'll find the SZ-10 can do exactly what you need—and want—it to do.
To buy: staples.com
P.S. One last piece of advice: If you decide to tackle the manual, skim the obvious parts about how swallowing the battery could be injurious to your health and spend more time on the fun stuff, like “white balance,” “exposure compensation” and “aperature value.”