April 25, 2011
- Easy to use menu system
- Manual & automatic modes
- Unique control ring
- RAW shooting
- No hand grip
- Sub-par video quality
- Some images are underexposed
- Unfriendly manual focus controls
The Olympus XZ-1 is a 10-megapixel digital camera that features automatic and manual controls, RAW shooting, a hot shoe and a 3-inch OLED display. While targeted at more experienced photographers that don't want to spend a lot of money for good image quality, this camera does a decent job but still falls a little short due to a few disappointments.
The Olympus XZ-1 is not small enough to fit into a pocket easily, but it isn't large enough to not be portable by any means. It measures 4.3 x 2.5 x 1.6-inches (whd) and weighs 9.7-ounces. It comes in three color choices: black, silver and white. There is no raised hand grip, which makes one-handed shooting a little uncomfortable because it feels like it can be easily dropped. The body does feel well-built and sturdy, which is always a plus.
The backside of the camera features a 3-inch OLED display with minimal buttons, including a four-way navigation pad/scroll wheel, menu, info and playback buttons as well as a dedicated button for recording video. There's also a toggle at the upper left corner on the back for popping up the flash. The top of the camera is where the power button, zoom toggle and mode-selector dial is located. There is also a hot shoe on the top for mounting accessories. There is no optical viewfinder, so using the backside display is a must for framing shots.
Some of the accessories for the hot shoe include macro lighting, external flashes, a stereo microphone and the Olympus PEN's eye-level EVF viewfinder. This allows more experienced photographers to go above the standard set of features while not intimidating the lesser experienced user.
Olympus includes a unique control ring around the lens of the XZ-1 digital camera that provides quick and easy access to some of the camera's more advanced features, like aperture and shutter priority mode. While using the control ring, you can turn it to adjust the manual mode that you're in. It's a really nice feature that makes using the camera a little more easier, but oddly enough, you can't use the control ring to manually zoom the lens, which would've seemed like an obvious feature. Instead you have to use the scroll wheel on the back in conjunction to a rectangle box on the display, which can be quite difficult to use at times.
Some of the specifications of the Olympus XZ-1 include a 10-megapixel resolution, 4x optical zoom, an aperture range of f/1.8-2.5, a focal length of 6-24mm and JPEG/RAW shooting modes. ISO levels range from 3200 to 100 and a shutter speed has a maximum of 0.0005 and minimum of 5. The types of memory cards supported include SD, SDHC and SDXC cards. Videos can be recorded at 1280 x 720-pixels at 30 frames per second. This is 720p HD quality and videos are saved in AVI format. HD video can be exported to an HDTV via an HDMI-mini output built-into the Olympus XZ-1.
There are many scene modes to help bring out your creativity and to help you get the best shot possible. There are in-camera editing tools to allow you to do basic things like adjust the brightness, contrast, fix red-eye and do some cropping and resizing. These in-camera edits are saved as an additional image, which preserves your original image. Olympus' iAuto mode lets users change the focus settings to give certain effects and to tweak things like aperture and shutter settings. Every setting has an explanation of what they do and what setting is best for what shooting condition, which is great for novice users looking to learn while shooting.
In subjective image tests, the Olympus XZ-1 produced images that earned a rating of "good". It was held back by some underexposure and some issues with color accuracy. However we found the images to be very sharp regardless and didn't show any visible lens distortion. Shooting decent images was possible in low-light conditions while using the "low light" setting on the mode dial, but they did show noticeable noise.
Video quality was, unfortunately, not this camera's strong suit at all and earned a rating of "below average". This was due to dull colors in bright light conditions and poor audio quality. Low-light conditions resulting in sepia-colored video that was very dark.
The CIPA rating for battery life is 320 shots, which is on par with most other similar cameras.