Review – Olympus XZ-1 camera – Capable Fun in your Pocket
9 December 2011
Excerpt: One look at a listing of cameras in the marketplace these days shows that the competition within the point-and-shoot camera market is as intense as any consumer battle you can find. There are so many models to choose from – by the time you settle on a model, new ones have already been released. From cameras that cost as little as $30 to advanced models costing 30 times that much, selection isn’t a problem.
Summary: Enjoyable to shoot and relatively fast, the Olympus XZ-1 only stumbles when it comes to photo quality, which is very good, but not uniformly excellent as one would expect from this class of camera.
Pros: The Olympus XZ-1 is nicely designed with a solid user interface and very good performance for its cohort.
Cons: The XZ-1's image quality is good, but even shooting raw it's not quite up to the level of its better competitors.
Excerpt: However, Olympus only recently joined the fun. Yes, the company did produce some point-and-shoot style models with “fast” apertures back in the early 2000s — the chunky 4-megapixel Olympus C-4040, with its f/1.8 lens was one of our favorites at the time.
Pros: Elegant, portable camera body would fit right in at your next high-society party. Fast overall speed — you’ll never miss a shot of your friends acting like idiots. Image quality in good light rivals a digital SLR. Fun Art filters put Instagram to shame.
Cons: Vaunted f/1.8 lens not as effective in low light as we expected. Images are noisy at ISO 1600 and above. Anti-noise processing in JPEGs at high ISOs smoothes out detail. Clumsy lens cap configuration will drive you batty. Confusing menu system. Tiny camera buttons are made for pixies.
Summary: The Olympus XZ-1 is an excellent compact camera with an advanced feature set and mostly efficient controls to access them. Just about every feature is covered and expansion options are unmatched. The ultra-bright lens is the headline specification, giving it access to lower-ISO than most its peers under the same conditions. Image quality is very good with no discernable noise until ISO 400.
Pros: Ultra-Bright F/1.8 lens, lets use lower ISO, Excellent lens sharpness, Uniform lens brightness, Extremely low distortion, Low image noise, Very good automatic white-balance, Conservative metering, Reliable autofocus, Above average shot-to-shot speed, Optional tiltable EVF, Built-in ND filter, Great build quality
Cons: Colors not entirely natural, Custom white-balance not perfect, Slow autofocus, Noticeable shutter-lag, Video recording lag, Impossible to setup framing for video, Not exposure-priority, Incorrect histogram, Poorly used rear control-dial
Excerpt: Olympus' stab at a serious compact. What is it? The Olympus XZ-1 is their top-end compact camera, one targeted at serious shooters desiring something small and compact. It's not quite in the shirt-pocket league of the Canon S95 or Panasonic LX-5, but it does fit some of my big men's shirt pockets and is certainly a jacket-pocket camera.
Summary: The XZ-1 combines simple direct controls with an excellent lens to create probably the best photographers' compact currently available. The output JPEGs are great and the balance of lens range, brightness and compactness make it a really appealing package, whether as an only camera or as a more pocketable backup for DSLR owners.
Pros: Fastest (brightest) zoom lens of any current compact, Really useful 28-112mm lens range, Lens impressively sharp with generally good corner sharpness at wide apertures, Reliable exposure metering and great color response make it easy to get good images, Good high ISO capability for a small-sensor camera (and rarely needed thanks to the bright lens), AF illuminator helps in low light, Simple control system still gives high level of manual control, Low light mode makes ...
Cons: Lack of AEL/AFL button rules out focus and recompose technique, No ability to adjust noise reduction level, No option to customize any buttons (though controls are generally very good), No direct access to ISO or White Balance, Auto ISO can use long exposure times in low light, Lens a little prone to flare in bright light, Video not up to the standard of the stills (and in the inefficient, though convenient, M-JPEG format)
Summary: The Olympus XZ-1 is positively fun to use. It's one of those cameras that makes you want to go out and take photos. A lot of that has to do with its size, which is compact, yet despite its small dimensions it also contains relatively easy to use manual controls. It's reminiscent of the Canon PowerShot S95, and it definitely gives it good competition when it comes to ease of use and image quality.
Conclusion: When it comes to usability, its a real horse race. If you already own one of the competitive cameras mentioned I don’t think that a move to the XZ-1 would gain you much. But if you’re in the market for a pocket camera capable of producing decent image quality then you owe it to yourself to visit a dealer and look at the Olympus XZ-1 alongside the Canon S95, Panasonic LX5 and Samsung EX-1. It’s a very worthy entry in a tough market segment.