Expert Review of Olympus XZ-1 Point & Shoot Digital Camera Black
The Olympus XZ 1 is a metal-clad compact camera with a relatively large 1/1.63” sensor featuring 10MP of resolution and the ability to shoot RAW. Olympus is a late-comer to this market segment but with a 28mm to 112mm equivalent f/1.8 to f/2.5 image stabilized zoom lens, face detection, a 3 inch 610K dot resolution screen, ISO up to 3200 (6400 at reduced resolution), and the ability to shoot 720p HD video, it has entered the fray fully armed. At 4.35 x 2.55 x 1.67" and weighing just less than 10 ounces, it is small and light. And if you already own the VF-2 finder for one of its bigger siblings from the Olympus line of m4/3 cameras, there is a spot for it on the top of this camera as well. Olympus is trying to target - and moreover enthuse - two distinct groups of photographer. First, there's the beginner wanting to take better pictures than their current auto-everything model will allow. Second, we have the photography enthusiast looking for a smaller back up to complement their existing digital SLR.. Professional features include a full manual exposure mode, raw image capture, wireless TTL flash control and compatibility with a wide range of accessories including external flashguns and macro LED lights, a detachable electronic viewfinder and external microphone set. The Olympus XZ-1 also offers half a dozen Art Filters, eighteen scene modes and one-touch HD movie recording.
Design and Build Quality
Further adding to the impression that this is a serious proposition is the Olympus XZ-1's rugged-feeling build, which suggests a compacted DSLR or, more closely still, a smaller and slimmer Digital Pen; a feeling augmented by the XZ-1's 275g weight and proportions of 110.6mm x 64.8mm x 42.3mm. From the front it's traditionally square-like and boxy and, in its black incarnation, even a bit plain looking (a natty white lacquered version is alternatively available). But as this is not your average point-and-shoot that requires stylish curves to sell it, we actually like its no-nonsense appearance. That said, although the XZ-1 is more portable than a Micro Four-Thirds model, it's still one for transporting in the pocket of a jacket rather than jeans. . And again like the Canon, there's the ability to adjust aspect ratios, from 4:3 to 3:2, 16.9 or even 6:6.As an additional stand-out feature, the XZ-1 'borrows' the time-saving idea of a lens ring, for making adjustments on the quick, from rival Canon's Powershot S95. Thus, the likes of ISO speed can be scrolled through and swapped with a quick twist. Like the Canon Powershot S95 or the S100, the GX1 doesn’t come across as an enthusiast-class camera at the first glance. It’s only when you notice the hot shoe for external flash and the shooting options that you realize it packs some serious meat. The body is all black with the metal front, and the overall excellent build. This can easily be felt as soon as you hold the camera. The front of the camera sports a highly respectable i.Zuiko lens, which is the first for a digital camera by Olympus. It’s super-bright with a large aperture of F1.8 at the widest end, which is 28 mm. At 4x zoom the focal length extends to 112 mm and the largest aperture you get is an impressive F2.5. The benefits of large aperture are good control over depth of field and fast shutter speeds in low light.
Focus and Face Detection
Focus performance is compacting camera. Face detection seems to work quite well, the 11 point AF system is also quite decent for single focus work. Continuous autofocus (tracking) is not something I'd rely upon. Close focus switches too soon to macro, necessitating some extra button pressing compared to other compacts. Low light performance is helped by the AF assist lamp (which can be turned off), but low light performance definitely is poorer than bright light performance, even with the lamp.
Lens and Image Stabilization
The super-bright F1.8-2.5 lens does more than let you keep the ISO settings down in low light. It also allows a surprising degree of control over depth-of-field. It's sometimes hard to work out how much or little depth-of-field a lens will produce, thanks to differing sensor sizes, but the key factors are the physical size of the aperture and the angle-of-view. In this instance, at the long end of its zoom, the XZ-1 has an aperture with a diameter of 9.6mm at 112mm equivalent, which compares favorably to the 9.8mm maximum aperture at the 83mm equivalent of a typical APS-C 18-55 F3.5-5.6 kit lens. It means the XZ-1 should give at least as blurred a background and do so at something much closer to the traditional portrait focal length. Furthermore it means the XZ-1 should give greater control over depth-of-field than a Micro Four Thirds kit lens, since they tend to offer 7.5mm at 84mm equivalent. All-in-all, it means the XZ-1 offers similar control over depth-of-field and a more flexible focal length range than most DSLRs or mirror less cameras with their kit lenses, making it a competitive alternative unless you plan to buy additional lenses.
Screen and Menus
The OLED screen gives photographers a clearer, sharper, more contrasted image – and its resolution of 610,000 pixels doesn’t hurt either. The functions are simple to master, with a dedicated power butter and shutter, a top dial for adjusting your manual settings as well as selecting iAuto, auto-scene options, and built-art filters. On the camera’s back panel, you have your dedicated video recording button, playback function, and turning dial for determining shutter and aperture manually, as well as a host of other settings. This dial also serves as your navigator for scrolling through photos
The Olympus XZ-1 is powered by a proprietary lithium-ion battery, which can be charged in-camera via USB. You need to connect the USB cable either to a computer running Windows 7, Vista or XP; or to the supplied USB-AC adapter, which must, in turn, be plugged into a mains socket using a mains cable. So unless you want to charge the battery via a Windows computer, you will need two cables, an adapter, and the camera itself. Olympus does offer a conventional external charger as well, but only as an optional accessory.
Program mode and semi-manual modes are for more adventurous users who want to experiment with parameters, such as ISO, white balance, metering modes, ND filter and macro mode. There’s also a super-macro mode, which allows shooting subjects from as close as a centimeter. The manual mode offers control over the aperture and shutter speed as well. The Scene and Art Filter modes have functions that anyone will enjoy. Besides the regular bunch of presets, which includes kids, pets, beach, night scene, portrait, landscape and so on, you get multi-exposure and panorama mode. With multi-exposure, you shoot one frame and then you can overlay it with the second shot. Panorama mode isn’t as simple as Sony’s Sweep Panorama, but it’s somewhat similar. While shooting the successive frames (to the left or right), you have to pan the camera in accordance with a crosshair that assists alignment. You can shoot up to three successive frames and the panorama is stitched by the camera. The Art Filter mode has a collection of filters that yield effects, such as Pop Art, Soft Focus, Grainy Film (black and white), Pin Hole, Diorama (similar to toy effect) and Dramatic Tone. When used well with appropriate scenes and subjects, you can get very creative shots.The video recording function will be a slight disappointment for those who want full HD videos. The XZ-1 supports recording only up to 720p. Coming to the dial around the lens, it lets you select the ISO in Program mode, shutter speed in Shutter Priority mode and aperture in Manual and Aperture Priority modes. It also lets you select scenes and art filters.
A notable feature of the XZ-1 is that it allows a fine control over the ISO. Instead of one stop, which is usually the case in most cameras, here you get 1/3 stop. So instead of jumping from ISO 100 to 200, you can set the values to 125 and 160. The range starts from ISO 100 and goes way up to 6400.The noise is very much under control at up to ISO 400. From there on, it starts getting worse with graininess. The results at ISO 800 are also acceptable, if you reduce the image size. The same goes with ISO 1600 and 3200, but at 100 percent zoom, you’ll notice a watercolor effect occurring.The Olympus XZ-1 features a 1/1.63-inch sensor, which is slightly large than the sensors used in most other digital cameras. It’s even larger than the sensor in the PowerShot S100, which measures 1/1.7-inch.
The XZ-1 is very convenient to use and to carry because of its petite size. You will love the size of the camera because it is hand sized allowing you to take pictures with greater control. This makes it easy to carry around with you no matter where you may want to take some pictures. This is not to say that it is a miniature camera, so small that you would lose it because of its size. The capabilities of the Olympus XZ-1 are designed for every level of photographer across the board.
The movie quality is not fantastic when compared to the high quality still shots.