AF’s Weblog

February 14, 2012

Olympus LS-20M Review

Somewhere between the pocket cam and pocket recorder market segments, Olympus has introduced a hybrid called LS-20M. The concept is simple: offer a full-HD pocket cam capable of recording good-quality audio, making the LS-20M the first real competitor of the Zoom Q3 HD, which is currently the only product in this market segment…

The battle between the two, promises a lot: while Zoom is the leading manufacturer of pocket recorders with the H2, Olympus is the leader of dictation systems. Moreover, Olympus is also one of the leading manufacturers in the cameras/lenses market, so it might become a serious challenger for Zoom, and even for the top dogs in the pocket cam market like Kodak, Cisco, Sanyo and Sony.

In The Box

Olympus LS-20M

Olympus included almost everything you can expect inside the box. Besides the device, you’ll find a battery, a 2GB SD card and a dual-function USB cable. The cable will be useful to transfer all data recorded on the LS-20M to your computer, and also to load the battery either via the USB port of your computer or an external PSU. The package also includes the user’s manual in six different languages. And that’s it! No transport bag for the device, no wrist-strap, no HDMI cable — and, since we are complaining, the 8″ USB cable is really short…

The design is quite nice: the device is a bit thicker and longer than a smartphone but less bulky than a Zoom Q3HD (it has a finer design). It has many controls and connections on its small housing made out of different mat and glossy plastic materials in metal finish. The main colors are black and anthracite. On the top of the device, the two mics are placed on both sides of the camera under chrome-like baskets. Everything looks very serious, even if it would be more reassuring to get a silicone or padded leather case to prevent any damages in case of a fall.

Front and Side Views

Olympus LS-20M

Now it’s time to have a closer look at the device. Starting with the left side that provides a power on/off+hold switch, a connector for an optional remote control, a mic in and a headphones out on stereo minijacks. The mic input can be switched to line input and fed with phantom power, which is a decisive advantage over the Q3HD that only has a line input (making the connection of external mics impossible). With the LS-20M, you can use a shotgun mic, a lavalier mic or a good old SM58. This feature will attract users who want to use external mics — just notice that using the mic input mutes the internal mics, so don’t expect to be able to mix both signals…

Olympus LS-20M

On the right side, a switch allows you to toggle between audio/video modes while a small slot allows you to access the SD card. The bottom side of the device includes a miniUSB and a HDMI connector hidden behind a blind plate. Everything looks pretty good, and this also applies to the rear side, which provides an access to the battery, a tiny 2/3″ speaker (it’s not a ghetto blaster but it’s convenient for raw monitoring in quiet environments), and a thread insert allowing you to mount the LS-20M on a camera stand… instead of a microphone stand, which would be more convenient in most cases.

Olympus LS-20M

Between the two mics on the top side of the device, you’ll find a LED indicating signal overloads and (surprise!) the lens of the camera. The surprising position of the camera changes the handling of the device quite radically. To shoot what is happening in front of you, you have to hold the LS-20M horizontally —not in parallel to your body like with most pocket cams— and aim at the scene you want to capture like you would do with a remote control. At first glance this seems more intuitive.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

The LS-20M provides good quality video and high quality audio recording. With numerous useful options, especially in the video department, the LS-20M is a dangerous competitor for the Zoom Q3HD. The awkward position of the camera is certainly its main disadvantage in many situations: except in some rare occasions (shooting above a crowd or recording people who are seated while you’re standing), the camera position is not very practical and makes things more difficult for the user. Now you have all the information you need to choose between these two rivals or you might even consider a third solution: an Apple iStuff plus a microphone kit. It’s up to you…

 Advantages:
  • Nice overall look
  • Seems rather rugged
  • Compact size (it even fits inside your hip pocket)
  • Picture quality on the same level as the best pocket cams on the market, but with a much higher sound quality
  • No need to switch to macro mode for close-ups
  • Video pickup angle wider than most other pocket cams
  • High-quality sound with detailed high frequencies
  • Many audio and video settings and functions
  • All-in-one concept: cam, field recorder, webcam, multimedia jukebox
Drawbacks:
  • Position of the camera — more disturbing than advantageous
  • Few accessories: no protection bag, no wrist-strap, etc.
  • The small buttons are not backlit and their silk screen is hardly readable
  • Many buttons, many menus for a somewhat old-fashioned design
  • Renaming files and folders is impossible
  • High-frequencies a bit too sharp, slight lack of low-end

To read the full detailed article with video demos please see:  Olympus LS-20M Review

September 27, 2008

Olympus LS-10 Linear PCM review

Olympus LS-10: The Test
When Olympus, famous for their clout in the photography world, takes on the audio market, we get the LS-10, a portable digital recorder determined to stake its claim in new territory …

LS-10

Many manufacturers specialized in audio have recently released portable digital recorders, among them renowned experts like Marantz or Nagra, but also more accessible brands like M-Audio, Edirol and Zoom. There’s something for everyone and especially for all budgets. Olympus has therefore ventured into a field already populated by brands well known to audio lovers. Despite this, Olympus hopes to take advantage of its photography experience and expertise in order to find its niche in the audio world.

At first glance, the LS-10 has very interesting specs, judge for yourself – two electret microphones, a large backlit display, 2GB built-in flash memory, an SD SDHC card reader, encoding on the fly in MP3 or WMA , recording in 96 kHz wav … Add to that a nice but serious look, and construction that breathes quality, and you get a very attractive recorder … Right off the bat you’ll get the feeling of solidity and robustness: Olympus’s know-how seems undeniable here. This is clearly a notch above what some brands like Edirol or Zoom have to offer: you won’t be afraid to take the LS-10 along with you wherever you go. It’s weight, slightly more than some of its competitors, (165 grams including batteries) probably contributes to this feeling of ruggedness.

But let’s see if the little guy delivers the goods…

 

he LS-10 lets you record in three different formats: linear PCM (WAV files without loss of audio information, but relatively space consuming), MP3 (compressed format) and WMA (also a compressed format made by Microsoft). The first format allows a sampling rate of 96 kHz 24-bit, which would be suitable for ‘def’ recordings but would be totally overkill as a ‘notepad’. Mp3 format (128 Kbps to 320 Kbps) will save a lot of space, and WMA (from 64 Kbps to 160 Kbps) will be even lighter. With an integrated memory of 2 GB, the LS-01 will let you save up to 3h10mins in WAV 44.1 kHz/16 bits 17h45mins in Mp3s 256 kb/s or 69h35mins WMA 64 kb/s! That’s quite a bit of recording time, especially if you add a SD HC card (up to 8 GB) which will multiply the above times by 5!

As for autonomy, the LS-10 claims 16h recording 44.1 kHz WAV/16bits and 35h playback. Knowing that the device takes 2 AA batteries, it will be easy to take along a couple of spare batteries in your pocket … This small recorder, therefore, lets you make long recordings without having to empty the memory onto the computer or change the batteries, a good point!

In terms of inputs and outputs, there’s a mini headphone jack, a mini-jack mic input (with ‘plug-in power’ and an impedance of 2 Ohms) and a mini line input jack. It would have been nice to have one or two XLR inputs (like on the Zoom H4) to broaden the scope of the LS-10, but only MiniDisc type microphones can be used, unfortunately. Here are some examples of compatible microphones: ME30W, ME51S, ME-15, ME-52W, ME-12.

Olympus has made a nice entry into the professional audio recorder arena. One will greatly appreciate its quality of construction, its overall sound quality, its autonomy, and generous integrated memory. Of course, in certain situations, the LS-10 will be showing it limitations, for example, recording an instrument with very low frequencies. But we forgive this quite easily in view of its compactness and its numerous strengths.

Quality of construction
Sound quality
Autonomy
2GB + integrated SD card reader HC
Windscreens supplied
Integrated reverb
Looping feature
Big backlit screen
Cubase 4 LE included

No adapter for mic stands
Bass Frequency less pronounced
Volume Knob not easily adjustable
Unable to rename Files
No XLR Connections

Read the full  Olympus LS-10 Linear PCM review on Audiofanzine.

 

 

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