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Olympus XZ-1 Review

Highs

  • Quality feel, comfortable size and weight
  • Lens capabilities are impressive
  • Does well in low light
  • Fast, responsive shutter
  • Custom save option

Rating

Our Score 8.5
User Score 0

Lows

  • Interface might throw off even some experienced digital photographers
  • No view finder
The Olympus XZ-1 is a solid investment for those looking to move beyond point-and-shoots and will keep users of various skill levels interested while delivering impressive results.

Olympus XZ-1 Performance and use

We benchmarked the XZ-1’s image quality to that of a Canon Rebel XS at various ISO levels and shooting scenarios. We found that the compact wide-angle cam was able to keep up with the Canon fairly well, the only caveat being that the XZ-1 experienced noise at lower ISOs. We were impressed with its ability to shoot in low light, however, and found it held its own against the DSLR – which we can thank its 10-megapixel CCD sensor for. That has as much to do with its 1/1.63-inch sensor size, a significantly larger sensor than you would typically find in such a compact device, and a huge asset to improving the camera’s performance in poorly lit settings.

That said, we were impressed with its manual settings overall. And it’s fast – incredibly fast. It’s got a shutter speed of 60 – 1/2000, so capturing movement failed to be an issue. Of course, Olympus has outfitted this beauty with unforeseen specs from any of its current cams: It’s the first handheld to feature a Zuiko-branded optic lens, which has the widest aperture range of f/1.8 – zoomed to full capacity, that’s f/2.5; the smallest available option is f/8. This means you get zoomed in photos that don’t make it look like you’re operating some grainy spy cam connected to your lapel – the photos are quality.

So while the above makes the case for photo-gadget friends to give the XZ-1 a try, what about less than technical types? The XZ-1 has you covered. When reviewed the E-PL2, we determined that beginners would enjoy the camera’s auto features and built-in aspects, but might feel like they were missing out on all the bell and whistles it had to offer. The XZ-1 arguably produces crisper photos while also giving shooters more the experiment with. You’ve got the scene selectors, variety of art filters, and iAuto settings to easily set and snap away with, but the program selector will also let you dip a toe into the world of manual by determining white balance and ISO settings. And the custom mode lets you save any of your preferred settings for later use.

Olympus XZ-1 sample photo

The only issue we find with the camera is that its interface is far more similar to its PEN series than its other lineups. Jumping from your standard pocket cam to a compact DSLR is scary as is, and there could be a steeper learning curve for those who have never gotten their hands on a Micro-Four Thirds like the E-PL1 or 2 before.

There have also been suggestions that the latest OLED screens are transmitting colors in slightly deeper hues than are natural. We did minutely notice this when viewing photos on directly on the display, but once uploaded, color and hue seemed vibrant and natural.

Conclusion

When you’re ready to move past the temporary pocket digicams but not quite ready to lug around a big-bodied DSLR, it’s difficult to justify the purchase of an “in-between” camera. But in this case, it’s an easy decision. Once you’ve outgrown pocket cams that either fall apart or are outdated in a year, it’s time to invest in a machine that you can discreetly use and won’t need annual replacing. The XZ-1 is such an investment, and yes, at nearly $500 it’s a solid one – but it will keep users of various skill levels interested all while delivering impressive quality photos.

Highs:

  • Quality feel, comfortable size and weight
  • Lens capabilities are impressive
  • Does well in low light
  • Fast, responsive shutter
  • Custom save option

Lows:

  • Interface might throw off even some experienced digital photographers
  • No view finder

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