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Olympus XZ-1 Digital Camera Review

olympus20110407a.jpgDigital Camera Review by: Simon Vrantsis

In recent years, Olympus seems to have gone down the path of an unhealthy reliance on their waterproof ‘tough’ range of cameras. But now, a pronounced shift to a more balanced approach to their compact camera range has become apparent, pioneered by the classically beautiful XZ-1, Olympus’ entry into the advanced compact market.


Image and Lens Quality


The XZ-1 is fitted with a 10-megapixel CCD sensor that produces a high level of sensitivity and an ISO performance that isn’t normally seen from an average compact camera. Paired with a gorgeous Zuiko lens, that delivers a focal range of 28-112mm, or 4x zoom, and is consistently bright throughout with an aperture range of 1.8-2.5, you get a combination that produces great images every time and in a variety of shooting conditions. A touch more noise can be found at higher ISO’s than that in results from the XZ-1’s direct competitors but it must be said that an ISO level above 800 is rarely required due to the speed and brightness of its lens. Olympus has delivered a high level of detail retention at higher ISO’s, however, when compared with that seen from Canon, Panasonic and Samsung. Returning back to the lens, itself, sharpness is quite amazing across the frame, even at its widest aperture, which is some feat considering the maximum aperture delivered is currently unmatched.


olympus20110407b.jpgAppearance and Functionality


Design wise, the XZ-1 shows major signs of its Olympus heritage looking like a baby brother the PEN E-2 and the recently released E-PL2, though it doesn’t have the retro grip of its older siblings resulting in handling that many may feel is a tad slippery. There’s no doubt the XZ-1 is an attractive camera, however, being available in a matte black or glossy white finish. Canon’s S95 can be thanked for a key design elements, that being the XZ-1’s ring control system fitted around the lens. The ring controls the primary camera setting when in mode such as aperture and shutter speed priority. In full manual mode, the second control dial on the back of the camera comes into play for adjustments to shutter speed. Olympus has included a pop-up flash that protrudes from the top-left of the camera. This will force users to grip the camera in a more DSLR centric way but should be a small way of teaching the more amateur photographer how to produce added stability while shooting, and also prepare them for possible upgraded in future. One confusing design decision must be not including any type of direct access to ISO and White Balance settings. This is a true pity because apart from this and a minor issue with the sensitivity of the secondary control dial, Olympus has produced a lovely and very useable package.





olympus20110407c.jpgOlympus has feature a 610k resolution OLED display that produces superb brightness and contrast levels. The performance of the display mimics that of the default images produced by the XZ-1 with great vibrancy and a punchy feel. The display also delivers a wider viewing angle and better energy consumption than that of standard LCD screens. Featuring the same hotshoe and AP-1 accessory port found in Olympus’ PEN range, the ability to use the outstanding but optional VF-2 viewfinder is one that will please many, especially those looking at the XZ-1 as a pocketable companion to a DSLR. Other accessories such as an external microphone and a macro lighting system are also available for use with this accessory port. Strangely though, Olympus has introduced a new accessory port, the AP-2, to it much anticipated E-PL2, which may prove to alienate users happy to remain loyal to the Olympus brand.

The XZ-1 delivers consistently accurate exposure metering and great colour rendition making it very easy to get good images again and again. Olympus just seems to want its users to tap into their creative side when using the XZ-1. Whether it’s the ability to control and trigger flashes wirelessly, which is a great addition to a camera in this class, or the many art filters, getting artistic results is just plain easy with the camera. Some of the filters seem to be for more playful fun, but the HDR mimicking Dramatic Tones filter makes the not-so-easy process extremely simply, and the Soft Focus filter produces visually pleasing portrait, even of people who hate their photo being taken.




What Olympus has produced with the XZ-1 is a camera worth very strong consideration. Not just to be weighed up against its direct competitors (S95, G12, LX5, EX-1, P7000) but as an alternative to its own mirror-less PEN range. For those hoping to tap into their creative side, the lack of an auto focus lock button is a minor blemish in an otherwise great package. The Zuiko lens is stunning and sets a new standard in lens brightness that followers need to live up to. The XZ-1 produces many of the qualities found in the PEN range and maintaining a pocketable form.

At a recommended retail price of $699, however, the XZ-1 is only a small step away from the price point of Olympus’ own mirror-less camera range and if size isn’t the deciding factor, the bigger sensor of the E-PL2 may sway some enthusiasts out there. As a step up from more traditional point and shoot cameras, or as a companion to a DSLR camera, the XZ-1 is a fantastic option. For those looking for their only camera and where size isn’t a consideration, it remains a very valid option to throw into a group test prior to purchasing.


Appearance rating 4.5 stars
Functionality rating 4.5 stars
Image quality
4.5 stars
Lens quality
5 stars
View finder / LCD screen 4.5 stars
Value for money 4 stars
RRP (AUD) $699
Effective Pixels 10 Mega-pixels
Sensor Type
Image Sizes 7 Sizes
Lenses 28mm to 112mm (35mm equivalent)
Resolution Settings [RAW] 3648 x 2736 pixels
[JPEG] 3648 x 2736 pixels - 640 x 480 pixels
Shooting Modes P(Program Auto), iAUTO, A(Aperture priority), S(Shutter priority), M(Manual shooting), C(Custom shooting), Low Light, Art Filter, SCN(Scene)
Face Detection Yes
Manual Focus Yes
Auto Focus Yes
Aperture Priority Yes
Shutter Speeds Auto:1/4,000 seconds - 30 seconds Manual: 1/4,000 seconds - 30 seconds (1/3EV step) Bulb (Limit time: 8 minutes)
Shutter Priority Yes, 60 - 1/2000 second
ISO Auto: ISO 100 - 800 / Manual ISO 100 - 6400, 1/3 EV steps, Movie ISO 200-1600, Low light ISO 100-3200
LCD Monitor Yes, 3.0 inch OLED
Viewfinder VF-2 (Optional)
Flash Yes, FL-36R, FL-20, FL-14, FL-50R(Can only be used with wireless. Cannot attach to body)
Hot Shoe Yes
White balance Yes, 6 settings (3000K - 7500K)
Lamp (3000K), Fluorescent 1 (4000K), Fluorescent 2 (4500K), Daylight (5300K), Cloudy (6000K), Shade (7500K) , Under Water Auto, One Touch WB
Self Timer 2-30 seconds (1seconds step)
Movie Options

Yes. MP4 (H.264), 30fps
1,280 x 720, 640 x 480, 320 x 240 (Default: 1,280 x 720)

With Audio or without Audio (user selectable, recording time: 25 minutes)

Video Out Yes, HDMI(HD/Stereo Sound), VIDEO-OUT(SD/Mono Sound), Mini HDMI type-D
Storage Type SD Memory Card (SDHC/SDXC compatible) ~64GB
Image / Audio Formats RAW (12-bit lossless compression), JPEG, RAW+JPEG, AVI Motion JPEG(30fps), Wave Format Base Stereo PCM/16bit, 44.1kHz
Connectivity USB 2.0 High Speed for storage through Multi-connector(MTP mode is available)
Power Source Yes (Multi terminal)
Battery Options Rechargeable battery: Li-50B (included)
Dimensions 120.5 mm (W) x 71 mm (H) x 34.5 mm (D)
Weight 275g (without batterY and memory card)




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About Olympus


In Greek mythology, Mt.Olympus is the home of the twelve supreme gods and goddesses. Olympus was named after this mountain to reflect its strong aspiration to create high quality, world famous products.

"Olympus" has been used as a trademark since the time of Takachiho Seisakusho, the predecessor of Olympus Corporation.

In Japanese mythology, it is said that eight million gods and goddesses live in Takamagahara, the peak of Mt.Takachiho. The name "Olympus" was selected as the trademark because Mt.Olympus, like Mt.Takachiho, was the home of gods and goddesses. This trademark is also imbued with the aspiration of Olympus to illuminate the world with its optical devices, just like Takamagahara brought light to the world.

Takachiho Seisakusho was renamed Takachiho Optical Co., Ltd. in 1942 when optical products became the mainstay of the company. In 1947, the name was changed again to Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. in an attempt to enhance its corporate image.

And in 2003, the company made a fresh start as Olympus Corporation, to show its willingness to establish a dynamic corporate brand by unifying the corporate name and the well-known brand.

In recent years, Olympus Corporation has focused on "Opto-Digital Technology" as its core competence, technological strengths that competitors cannot easily imitate, to maximize corporate value and to become one of the top optical instrument manufactures.

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