For $299.99 is the Olympus LS-20M worth the money or is it just an expensive pocket size camera?
Pocket sized video cameras definitely took a hit this year when Cisco announced that Flip was no more. Flip’s are what became the symbol of this pocket size camera craze and helped bring people into the digital video recording world. One thing that Flip as well as many other pocket size camera manufacturers have avoided is evolving the pocket size camera into a prosumer product. So I’m very happy that a few companies like Olympus and Samson are taking a shot at it.
The Olympus LS-20M is a product that if you take it out on the street, people will ask you what the heck is it? I love the look. It’s high tech, yet is actually very simple to use. You can very easily switch between recording in audio or video/audio mode with the switch of a button. The controls are clear on how to raise or lower the volume as well as rewind/fastforward through a clip. You can insert headphones/earbuds or use the built in speaker so that you can listen to the clips. You can also insert your own microphone if you want to capture even more crisp audio.
That’s definitely the point of the LS-20M, not just to record video that looks good, but to also have the audio to back it up. The biggest problem with the microphones on this camera is that it didn’t come with external windscreens nor does it seem like there would be a standard windscreen that you can buy at your local store. The microphones are very sensitive and if there’s wind, your audio will be drowned out. So as long as you shoot indoors, your audio will be fine. The microphones do have a good bass to them. I’d still recommend having an alternative way to record your audio if you’re shooting in a room that has echo or if your sound producing object will be far away from the camera.
720p test (has several segments with background wind interference starting around 0:16):
480p test (The camera was about 3-5 feet away from me and I was in a room that is typically filled with echo):
One of the things that Olympus has promoted a lot about this LS-20M is that it’s good for recording music. I wanted to see if it was so I went to a Later Days concert at Citywalk which you can watch the results below. I did also bring a Flip Ultra HD 3 8GB to compare the audio differences. You should be able to notice the difference between the two and yes I personally prefer listening to the LS-20M audio.
Later Days Concert – Part 1 (LS-20M):
Later Days Concert – Part 2 (LS-20M/Flip Ultra HD 3 8GB):
Later Days Concert – Part 3 (Flip Ultra HD 3 8GB):
Is the difference all that grand between the LS-20M footage and this Flip Ultra HD 3 8GB? Not really. That’s part of the problem with the LS-20M. If you already own a recently released pocket size camera, to me the LS-20M doesn’t entirely have a feature that screams I must buy this now. Even though it is a very good video and audio camera, the LS-20M has plenty of flaws. The biggest of which is the location of the camera. In its design form it makes sense why they put the camera where they did. In practical use though it doesn’t make sense. It’s far less easy to get the shot that you wanted to than if you had a camera lens and video screen that lined up with your vision. The camera lens placement shouldn’t be much of a problem if you use this camera on a tripod and don’t plan on changing your angle – but who buys a camera for only one purpose. If I’m going to do that the camera should be cheap but the LS-20M isn’t.
The LS-20M is a good try by Olympus. The battery life is around 30 minutes shooting in 1080p with both of the screens turned on (you can turn them off when recording). The on camera buttons and in menu options are easy to navigate. The LS-20M can even act as your standard definition webcamera, which is something that few if any pocket size cameras have done in the past. The high definition video and audio are also good. But the LS-20M just isn’t practical. I’d wait to see if in the next iteration if they fix these few but major issues. Again prosumer level pocket sized cameras is such a great idea. Hopefully soon more companies jump into this market.