The Olympus SH-25 MR is the last of firm's 2012 superzoom compacts to make its way into our test lab. It has the same basic tech specs as the SH-21. In fact, with a 16-Megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, a 12.5x zoom lens and a Full HD video mode, it's practically a copy and paste job. However, the SH-25 MR has Olympus' Multi-Recording functions, as outlined in our review of the Olympus SZ-30 MR, as well as a built-in GPS. And, unlike the SH-21, this model doesn't have a TN screen.
The Olympus SH-25 MR is a very similar camera to the SH-21. The design is pretty much everything you'd expect from a compact camera, with standard dimensions, a small handle that doesn't give amazing grip and a pop-up flash. The bump at the top of the camera houses the GPS. Build quality is quite plastic and quite basic. It's no match for the top superzoom compacts of the moment.
The interface is simple enough for beginners to get the hang of quickly and is similar to other recent Olympus compacts. Plus, like in the SZ-31 MR and TG-1, you get straight back to the last setting you changed in the Quick menu—a small but nice touch. However, the iAuto mode activates the flash each time you switch the camera on or each time you switch to iAuto mode—even if you had manually switched the flash off first. That's not a problem in other modes, however, where your settings are maintained.
Screen resolution is the same as in the SH-21, but the key difference here is that the SH-25 MR doesn't have a TN-type LCD display. That means viewing angles have greatly improved. Still, the screen isn't perfect, as while the colour temperature is spot on (6540 K), colour fidelity could be better, and a weak gamma soon washes out light greys to white.
Touch-controls remain limited too. In shooting mode, they can only be used to choose a focusing zone or line up your second shot in MR mode. In playback mode the touchscreen can only be used to move around within an image. You'll need to switch back to the four-way arrow button when using the camera's menus.
The SH-25 MR starts up in two and a half seconds ... which can be a little frustrating, especially when the SH-21 takes a first photo less than two seconds after start-up. Once it's up and running—and being used in decent light—this camera focuses quickly. It takes photo after photo with two seconds' delay, which just about average.
The Olympus SH-25 MR is very similar to the SH-21, using the same internal electronics and lens.
It's therefore no surprise to see that both cameras give very similar performances in our ISO sensitivity tests. Smoothing kicks in at 400 ISO and wipes out finer detail at 800 ISO—something that's visible on 8" x 10" prints (20 x 27 cm). At 1600 ISO, the image is quite heavily degraded. However, the image processing system in the SH-25 MR has evolved, as the contour lines on the map in our test scene don't look as heavily accentuated—they look a bit more natural than with other cameras in the range.
The SH-25 MR has the same lens as the SZ-20 and the SH-21. Like the other versions of this lens that we've happened to test, quality could be more consistent at wide-angle settings, but sharpness is good in the middle of the frame. As you zoom, the image gets a bit less sharp but it looks decent over the whole frame at the longest focal length (maximum zoom).
The SH-25 MR films Full HD video in H.264 format. Image quality is pretty good. Even though the picture is quite dark in video mode, it's still sharp and detailed. The zoom remains active and the continuous autofocus function is relatively effective.
Sound is recorded with a nice stereo effect, but the mics could be better quality—voices sound a bit muffled.
Like the SZ-30 and SH-21, the SH-25 MR doesn't use the full width of the sensor in video mode, losing 8° from the horizontal field of view in wide-angle (which becomes equivalent to 32 mm). Plus, distortion still isn't corrected in video mode like it is in photos. Barrel distortion is therefore pretty strong in videos—ouch!