High-end compact cameras seem to have carved out a niche for themselves in the last two years or so. We have seen Canon’s G12, Nikon’s P 7000 and Panasonic’s LX-5.
Not to be outdone, Olympus has chipped in with the XZ-1. The XZ-1 was officially announced at the CES show in Las Vegas and its attractive appearance did turn a few heads at the show.
Design And Build QualityThe XZ-1 comes in matte black or glossy white and looks good. The front is metal but the back plate is made of polycarbonate; the XZ-1 nevertheless appears sturdy. The quality of finish is impressive. At 110.6 x 64 x 42.3mm, the camera is small enough to fit a shirt pocket. Body weight at 275 gms (without battery or card) makes it ideal to carry around when traveling. Size wise, the XZ-1 is slightly larger than Canon’s S95 and Panasonic’s Lumix LX-5. The camera is designed by Olympus in Japan and made in China.
Most manufacturers have now realized that for best results, it is not wise to pack the sensor with pixels. Accordingly, the XZ-1 features a 1/1.63 inch Type (7.89 x 5.81mm) CCD with 10MP. The sensor on the Olympus, interestingly, is larger than the one on the Canon G-12 and is supported by a new True Pic V processor.
The Zuiko lens (a first for an Olympus compact) has an equivalent range of 28-112 mm with a maximum aperture of f/1.8-f2.5.The lens is certainly the USP of the camera.
11 area AF or 255 points in magnified view are the autofocus options. The OLED screen is 3-inches in size and comprises of 610,000 dots. Olympus provide three metering options viz 324 zone ESP, Center weighted and Spot. Exposure modes include the normal P, A, S and M plus 18 Scene modes, 6 Art Filters and a low light mode. Scene modes include several interesting options like Sunset, Multi exposures, Cuisine, Documents, Underwater macro, and Panorama, with full explanation on the OLED screen.
Shutter speeds range from 60 seconds – 1/2000 sec and ISO speeds can be set from ISO 100-6400. An input collar around the lens mount can be rotated to adjust a variety of settings like aperture, shutter speeds, ISO etc. The usual White Balance options are available and include custom pre-sets. Exposure compensation (± 2EV) and White Balance Bracketing (3 exposures) are other features. The built-in flash synchronizes up to 1/160 sec and offers slow sync, second curtain sync and fill-in flash options. It can also synchronize remotely with compatible flashguns.
Other features include RAW + JPEG file formats, depth of field preview and a drive speed of 2 fps for 23 JPEGs or 8 RAW images. Olympus CCD shift image stabilization is also included.
There is no dioptre control and an optical viewfinder (VF-2) is optional. The XZ-1 accepts SD, SDHC and SDXC cards.
On the features front, we liked the 18 Scene mode options, as well as the Intelligent Auto option. The dedicated movie record button is also a big plus point. So is the built-in internal neutral density filter and the internal memory of 55 MB. On the negative side, the external viewfinder is an optional extra; there is no AEL/AFL button and no multi-aspect ratio mode (apart from 4:3). Also, please note that Olympus does not provide a written instruction manual with this camera.
The design of the XZ-1 does not allow for a hand grip; we are not sure we missed one. The rotational ring around the lens helps to adjust settings and is a definite plus point. The XZ-1’s super macro mode is also very impressive and ideal for close ups. The XZ-1’s autofocus system is fairly brisk for a contrast detection system and the 11 AF points are selectable normally. Charging the camera through the USB port is also very convenient. Finally, the f/1.8 aperture is a first amongst compact cameras and can be very useful to create a shallow depth of field or shoot in low light.
The lens is the trump card of the XZ-1. It produced good resolution with only slight magenta fringing in shots taken against strong sources of light. Some flare was also visible. Corner darkening was well controlled. Barrel distortion was visible at wide-angle settings.
The autofocus performance of the XZ-1 was good but not amongst the best we have seen. Shots taken were also exposed correctly.
White Balance performance was good with only a slight cast visible in shots taken in the shade or with incandescent light. Noise control was admirable and even at ISO 6400, print quality was acceptable.
Video quality of the XZ-1 was good but not outstanding.
Overall, an above average performance. This is easily the best Olympus compact in the market.
Value For Money
At Rs.25,999, the XZ-1 has been priced fairly in the Indian market. Its competitors, the Panasonic LX-5 and the Canon G12 cost more.
+ Fast f/1.8 lens
+ Good Noise Control
+ Wireless Flash Control
+ Dedicated Movie Button
+ Front Input Dial
– AF could have been faster
– External viewfinder is optional extra
– Video quality is average
Design and Build Quality 17/20
Key Features 18/20
Noise Control 4/5
Extra Features 3.5/5
Value for Money 8/10
Grand Total 81/100
Olympus has got almost everything right with the XZ-1. Give it a good look. A quality compact, this one. H. S. Billimoria