Review Summary: Offering a lens that’s both faster and sharper overall than its rivals, the Olympus XZ-1 comes out swinging and lands quite a few punches. High ISO performance isn’t quite what we hoped for, but we’d be happy to stick with lower ISOs for access to the XZ-1’s fine glass.
Olympus XZ-1 Overview
by Mike Pasini, Shawn Barnett, Stephanie Boozer, and Zig Weidelich
Review Posted: 04/18/2011
With the market’s increased focus on low light photography, it seems quite proper that Olympus has jumped into the fray, introducing the XZ-1, a high-end pocket camera with a fast f/1.8 lens and HD video recording. Designed to compete with the likes of the Panasonic LX5, Canon S95 and G12, Nikon P7000, and Samsung TL500, the Olympus XZ-1 is a first for the company; though it harks back to the larger C-2040, Olympus’s first digital camera with an f/1.8 lens, dating back to 2001.
Olympus is quick to point out that the XZ-1 is the first pocket camera to have a Zuiko-branded optic built in. Officially dubbed Olympus i.Zuiko Digital, the new lens ranges from 6-24mm, or 28-112mm equivalent, with a widest aperture range of f/1.8, changing to f/2.5 when zoomed. The smallest available aperture is f/8, with 1/3 stop increments available in-between the largest and smallest apertures. Though early literature dating back to photokina 2010 referred to the lens as “fixed,” what they mean is that it’s not removable; it most certainly does zoom.
Its optics aren’t the only story with the Olympus XZ-1, however: it also has a 3-inch OLED display with 610,000 dots. Olympus says the OLED “reproduces colors and shades more accurately with deeper black tones,” while using less power than an LCD. OLED should also offer a wider viewing angle than most LCDs.
The Olympus XZ-1’s 10-megapixel CCD sensor is designed for low light, with a larger 1/1.63″ size, and its TruePic V image processor is said to keep colors real while processing out sensor noise. The XZ-1 can also capture 720p HD video at 30 frames per second maximum. Video mode is quickly accessible via the Record button on the back of the camera.
Though the Olympus XZ-1 has iAuto, Art filters, and 18 Scene modes, it also sports Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual modes, as well as a Custom setting on the Mode dial; just what the enthusiast photographer is looking for. The Neutral Density filter can also be turned on and off at will to slow shutter speeds and tolerate brighter light.
Its built-in hot shoe allows the Olympus XZ-1 to use the company’s entire line of FL-series flashes, and the accessory port supports much of the PEN lineup of hot-shoe-mounted accessories, but not the just-announced PENPAL Bluetooth accessory that allows wireless transfer of files to select smartphones.
ISO ranges from 100 to 6,400, and the Olympus XZ-1 includes Dual Image Stabilization (both sensor-shift and Auto ISO).
Art filters and Live Guide modes first introduced in the PEN series are also included in the Olympus XZ-1, and the new camera comes in two colors, black or white. Pricing is set at US$499.99.