Olympus XZ-1 digital camera (preview)

Olympus rolls out a rival to Canon's PowerShot S95

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Olympus XZ-1
  • Olympus XZ-1
  • Olympus XZ-1
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    4.50 / 5 (of 1 Review)


  • Should deliver impressive performance in dim lighting, control ring, RAW shooting


  • Fairly hefty price tag

Bottom Line

The Olympus XZ-1 is one of the more interesting digital cameras to have been unveiled at this year's Consumer Electronics Show.

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The fixed-lens Olympus XZ-1 is a high-end compact digital camera that offers full manual controls and impressive hardware. Olympus unveiled the camera at CES in Las Vegas.

The compact, pocketable XZ-1 is a high-performance point-and-shoot that's geared to go toe-to-toe with Canon's PowerShot S95. The 10-megapixel CCD-sensored XZ-1 has a fast, bright F1.8 aperture at the wide-angle end of its 4x optical zoom (28mm to 112mm) that's an F-stop wider than any other pocket camera on the market. It also boasts an equally impressive F2.5 aperture at full telephoto -- that's a wider aperture than most compact cameras have at their wide-angle end.

The XZ-1 is the first Olympus fixed-lens camera to offer a Zuiko lens, which is bolstered by dual optical/digital image stabilisation. Olympus is touting the camera's low-light capabilities, thanks to its wide aperture, autofocus-assist lamp, and ISO adjustments that reach up to 3200. The camera also boasts a 3-inch OLED screen.

Olympus's new flagship point-and-shoot also employs a similar control ring around the lens as the Canon PowerShot S90 and S95, which allows fast access to aperture, shutter, and ISO settings. Other key features include full manual controls, RAW shooting, an extensive range of Olympus's digital art filters (such as the tilt-shift-lens simulating Diorama Mode, Dramatic Tone, Pop Art, and Soft Focus), 720p high-definition video at 30fps, and the same in-camera Live Guide tutorials that are found in Olympus's PEN series of interchangeable-lens cameras.

The XZ-1 also serves up a hot shoe on top of the camera that can be used with Olympus's attachable electronic viewfinder for the PEN series, an external microphone, and the company's new Macro Arm Light extension.

The Olympus XZ-1 is priced at US$500 and will be released in Australia in late February.

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Read more on these topics: CES 2011, digital cameras, photography, Olympus

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Fast lens; Gorgeous pics; low-light
• • •

Everyone is saying how Canon S100 is the best in its class. Sure it is, if class means no bigger than a bar of soap - you can't beat the elegance, bells & whistles and Canon's renowned IQ. Nothing similar size beats it period [Samsung, Nikon P310, etc]. Wait, isn't this is a review for XZ-1, read on...

But for me, I don't mind carrying a larger bar of soap, at least one that can fit in my coat jacket or my larger pant pockets. Anything bigger is a no-go because lugging around a camera bag is no fun especially when I just need a quick-shooter for everyday occasions. For those serious photo-ops, that's what my thousand dollar DSLR set-up is for. So there is a size limit at which point it becomes diminishing return for whatever benefits M34 systems have and XZ-1 is at that limit, thank god.

So why didn't I buy the S100, similarly priced (for me) as the XZ-1? I can list them 1X1
1) Battery life: S100 rated @ 220. XZ-1 @320. A serious camera should have enough juice to last you for the day. Changing out batteries can be a lot of hassle especially if there are no outlets around.
2) XZ-1 has the better & faster lens. F1.8 vs F2.0. In fact, XZ-1 lens is the brightest and best in its class .
3) Low-light (flash-less) photography. Yes S100 excels but XZ-1 with its faster lens acquires the pictures just a bit faster.
4) While S100 shoots @2.3fps vs XZ-1 2fps under jpeg, XZ-1 shoots 2 fps in RAW mode vs 0.8 fps for S100. RAW is the standard for pro's and pictures comes out sharper under RAW for XZ-1 than S100.
5) Built quality. While S100 is generally well-built, it looks a bit fragile. The XZ-1 looks like it is a better built. If I'm spending $$$, I want a camera that will last many years. Also, there are issues with the S100 lens because it is so small and complicated, there maybe consistency issues such as lens error I kept hearing about. Maybe they have resolved the issue, but just something to keep in mind.

I want a camera that easily takes action photos without having to wait for shutter lag/AF lag/SD card writing/flash-recharge lag. Because sometimes you only have a split second to get that priceless shot. Given that both S100 and XZ-1 uses similar sized sensors, having that brighter lens, longer battery and generally better image quality (under ISO 800) can mean the difference in getting that difficult shot time after time.

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