Olympus XZ-1 review: Olympus XZ-1

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

At 2.1 frames per second, shooting action would be somewhat of a challenge. While the AF tracking seems to work, it turns off the target display while shooting so you can't tell where it's focusing. There are two higher-speed burst modes, but they only work in Program mode and they drop resolution to 5 megapixels. Single-shot autofocus works well, however, and the camera feels quite responsive when shooting. Plus, the OLED display remains mostly visible in direct sunlight. It's not good for judging exposure or color decisions, though; like most, it seems to be optimized for punchy playback instead of accuracy, with cool, saturated colors and higher contrast than the images.

Canon PowerShot G12 Canon PowerShot S95 Nikon Coolpix P7000 Olympus XZ-1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 Samsung TL500
Sensor (effective resolution) 10-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD
1/1.7-inch 1/1.7-inch 1/1.7-inch 1/1.63-inch 1/1.63-inch 1/1.7-inch
Sensitivity range ISO 80 - ISO 3200 ISO 80 - ISO 3200 ISO 100 - ISO 3200/6400 (expanded) ISO 100 - ISO 6400 ISO 80 - ISO 3200 ISO 80 - ISO 3200
Lens 28-140mm

Closest focus (inches) 0.4 2 0.8 0.4 0.4 2
Continuous shooting 1.1fps
frames n/a
frames n/a
23 JPEG/8 raw
3 JPEG/n/a raw
Viewfinder Optical None Optical Optional EVF Optional OVF or EVF Optical
Autofocus n/a
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
11 area
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Metering n/a n/a 256-segment matrix 324 area n/a
Shutter 15-1/4,000 sec 15-1/1,600 sec 60-1/4,000 sec 60-1/2,000 sec; bulb to 16 min 60-1/4,000 sec 16-1/5,000 sec
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hot shoe Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
LCD 2.8-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
3-inch articulated AMOLED
920,000 dots
Image stabilization Optical Optical Optical Sensor shift Optical Optical
Video (best quality) 720/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
H.264 QuickTime MOV
720/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV
720/30p Motion JPEG AVI
720/30p AVCHD Lite
30fps VGA H.264 MP4
Manual iris and shutter in video No No No No Yes No
Optical zoom while recording No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mic input No No Yes Yes No No
Battery life (CIPA rating) 390 shots 220 shots 350 shots 320 shots 400 shots 350 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 4.4x3x2 3.9x2.3x1.2 4.5x3.1x1.8 4.4x2.6x1.7 4.3x2.6x1.7 4.5x2.5x1.2
Weight (ounces) 14.2 6.8 12.6 9.3 9.2 13.1
Mfr. price $499.99 $399.99 $499.95 $499.99 $449.99 $449.99
Availability October 2010 August 2010 September 2010 January 2011 August 2010 July 2010

The camera has a straightforward and functional but attractive design that makes it comfortable to hold and shoot. Like most of its competitors, it's not very compact, but still small enough to fit in a jacket pocket or to throw in a bag. The highlight is the control ring on the lens, a la the Canon PowerShot S95, which you use to change shutter speed, aperture, scene--whatever the most important adjustment is in the context of your shooting mode. It has a nice feel, with decisive clicks for each stop.

On top, the XZ-1 has a hot shoe and the same accessory port for an add-on EVF as the PEN ILC models. The controls and mode dial are on the small side but probably would be OK unless you have very large hands. The mode dial has the usual PASM, auto, and scene modes, as well as an Art Filter mode with six of Olympus' typical options. It doesn't let you layer or select options for the filters the way you can with the PEN models. There's a Custom setting--easy to save but hard to edit--that allows you to save a single set of adjustments.

The XZ-1 operates much the same way the rest of Olympus' cameras do, with a separate, easier interface in Auto and the standard quick menu for most commonly accessed shooting settings.

I generally have no complaints about the design save the horrible, old-fashioned lens cap that flies off when you extend the lens. If point-and-shoots can muster up built-in electronic lens covers, why can't their more expensive siblings?

All the essential features are here, plus some nice extras like a built-in neutral density filter, a connector for an EVF, USB charging, and, of course, the wide-aperture lens with the biggest zoom range for its size.

Overall, I like the Olympus XZ-1; it has a lot to recommend it compared with the competition (see our roundup of compact cameras for advanced shooters). I just wish its photos were a little cleaner.

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