Hands on with the Olympus XZ-1 enthusiast camera

Olympus launches a promising competitor to the popular Canon PowerShot S95.

Sarah Tew/CNET
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LAS VEGAS--Though ILCs may be the more interesting enthusiast cameras, the more popular market seems to be the compact, fixed-lens models, most notably the Canon PowerShot S95. Olympus forges into that market with its XZ-1, a promising-looking model that's not quite as compact as the S95, but with an exceptionally fast f1.8 lens and a sleek design that rivals models like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 in size and operation. I had some time to play with a preproduction version of the camera--can't really make any judgments about photo quality or performance, unfortunately--and think it's got a nice combination of features and usability that make it a model to watch.

First, here's how the XZ-1 compares with the rest of the crowd (with the exception of the Samsung TL500--no room in the table):

Canon PowerShot G12Canon PowerShot S95 Nikon P7000 Olympus XZ-1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
Sensor (effective resolution)10-megapixel CCD10-megapixel CCD10-megapixel CCD10-megapixel CCD10-megapixel CCD
1/1.7-inch1/1.7-inch1/1.63-inch1/1.63-inch1/1.63-inch
Sensitivity rangeISO 80 - ISO 3200ISO 80 - ISO 3200ISO 100 - ISO 3,200ISO 100 - ISO 6,400ISO 80 - ISO 3200
Lens28-140mm

5x
28-105mm
f2-4.9
3.8x
28-200mm
f2.8-5.6
7.1x
28-112mm
f1.8-2.5
4x
24-90mm
f2-3.3
3.8x
Closest focus (inches)0.42.03.20.40.4
Continuous shooting1.1fps
frames n/a
1.9fps
frames n/a
1.3fps
44 JPEG/n/a raw
2fps
23 JPEG/8 raw
2.5fps
3 JPEG/n/a raw
ViewfinderOpticalOpticalOptional OVFOptional EVFOptional OVF or EVF
Autofocusn/a
Contrast AF
n/a
Contrast AF
9 area
Contrast AF
11 area
Contrast AF
23-area
Contrast AF
Meteringn/an/a256 segment324 arean/a
Shutter15-1/4,000 sec15-1/1,600 sec60-1/4,000 sec60-1/2,000 sec; bulb to 16 min60-1/4,000 sec
FlashYesYesYesYesYes
Hot shoeYesNoYesYesYes
LCD2.8-inch articulated
461,000 dots
3-inch fixed
461,000 dots
3-inch fixed
921,000 dots
3-inch fixed OLED
610,000 dots
3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
Image stabilizationOpticalOpticalOpticalSensor shiftOptical
Video (best quality)720/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
720/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
720/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV720/30p Motion JPEG AVI720/30p AVCHD Lite
Monaural
Manual iris and shutter in videoNoNon/atkYes
Optical zoom while recordingYesNon/atkYes
Mic inputNoNoYesYesNo
Battery life (CIPA rating)390 shots220 shots350 shots320 shots400 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches)4.4 x 3.0 x 2.03.9 x 2.3 x 1.24.5 x 3.1 x 1.84.4 x 2.6 x 1.74.3 x 2.6 x 1.7
Weight (ounces)14.5 (est)7 (est)12.7 (est)9.69.2
Mfr. Price$499.99 $399.99 $499.95$499.99$450
AvailabilitySeptember 2010 August 2010October 2010January 2011August 2010

The Canon-like control ring around the lens is just as comfortable to use, and the 3-inch OLED is bright and high contrast. The camera has the same accessory port for an add-on EVF as the PEN ILC models.

The only real issue I had was with the body material (though it's not clear to me if it was final); it felt a little too slippery. But otherwise, it's got a straightforward interface and a nice control layout. I'm not sure where I stand yet on the USB charging. I look forward to testing the final version when it's available later this month.

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