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Amid all the clamour of Olympus’ and Panasonic’s support for the Micro Four Thirds format, it’s easy to forget that not everyone wants, needs or can fathom the intricacies of a DSLR or its kin.
Canon has done very well with its G series fixed lens, compact digicams. So it seems natural that Olympus should also want to engage with that market sector.
At an early preview I must admit I was tickled by the Olympus XZ-1, its specs and operating style.
The Zuiko lens is a fast f1.8 4x zoom that drops only to f2.5 as the zoom moves from a 35 SLR equivalent of 28mm to 112mm. It’s also the first Zuiko lens on a compact camera.
The 10 megapixel CCD can capture a maximum image size of 3648×2736 pixels, sufficient to make a 31x23cm print. Movies come in at second best with a resolution of 1280×720 pixels, operable via the dedicated red button at the rear. I found the stabiliser to be very effective, greatly helping to make smooth handheld shooting, even with the zoom in play.
The 7.6cm OLED screen occupies a large portion of the camera’s rear surface and has a resolution of 614,000 pixels.
On first sight, the camera appeals, with an all-black exterior, recessed lens and modest external control array. In one sense you can operate the camera manually, via the rear control dial and front-of-camera control ring that encircles the lens.
It’s a nice feeling to select aperture or shutter priority and roll through lens apertures or shutter speeds by twirling the lens barrel, while the LCD screen throws up a clear display; you can also make manual tweaks to exposure and focus with the same lens ring. Sure takes me back…
Revealing its familial ties, it is reassuring to know you can hook into PEN system accessories, which connect to the accessory shoe on top of the camera. Recently released are some mouth-watering additions: three converter lenses; a macro arm light that uses LEDS attached to two bendable arms; mic adaptor; a communication unit and a new underwater housing. Download the descriptive PDF here.
If you want to take the easy route you can rely on the iAUto setting or choose from 18 pre-programmed scene modes (night scene, indoor, multi exposure and more). The built in Live Guide offers photo tips for the less confident.
Then there’s Olympus’ highly-lauded Art Filters (Pop Art, Soft Focus, Grainy, Pin Hole, Diorama, Dramatic Tone). Many of you will scoff at these but don’t be too skeptical until you actually try them yourself. There’s also a real, inbuilt Neutral Density filter that I figured reduced the exposure by nearly three f stops.
Continuous shooting is available in three speeds, depending on the image size (slowest at 2fps: 3648×2736; 15fps fastest: 1280×960).
From ISO 100 to 800 (above) I would say that the settings would be OK for general photography.
At ISO 1600 noise is evident and a colour cast begins to creep in.
ISO 3200 and ISO 6400? Forget it, the settings are a catastrophe! Noise is objectionable and a blue colour cast has set in. Forget it!
Despite this lens claiming a regal blood line the wide end of the zoom did posses an amount of barrel distortion; the tele end showed no problems.
The XZ0-1 took two seconds to be ready for its first shot, then follow-ons came in at about a second a pop.
Quality: I find it hard to say that image quality is exceptionable. About average.
Why you’d buy it: exciting range of accessories to expand your picture making opportunities; fast lens.
Why you wouldn’t: you want Full HD video.
Image Sensor: 10 million effective pixels.
Sensor Size: 16mm CCD.
Metering: 324-zone multi-pattern, Digital ESP, centre-weighted, spot.
Lens: f1.8-2.5/6.0-24mm (28-112mm as 35 SLR equivalent.
Shutter Speeds: 60 sec to 1/2000 sec plus Bulb (up to 8 mins).
Memory: SD, SDHC, SDXC plus 55MB internal memory.
Image Sizes (pixels): 3648×2736 to 480×480. Movies: 1280×720, 640×480 at 30 fps.
File Formats: RAW, JPEG, RAW+JPEG, Motion JPEG.
ISO Sensitivity: 100 to 6400.
Viewfinder: 7.6cm OLED screen (614,000 pixels).
Interface: USB 2.0, AV, HDMI, multi connector.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery.
Dimensions: 111x65x42 WHDmm.
Weight: Approx. 275 g (inc battery and card).
Price: Get a price on the Olympus XZ-1 at Amazon where it is currently 14% off.