When it comes to high-end compact cameras, Olympus has a pretty good pedigree. Models like the XZ-1 and XZ-2 featured bright lenses and plenty of manual controls. Now the XZ-10 steps in, priced (and sized) less than the premium camera, but with a whole range of features.
Befitting a camera at the higher-end of the compact spectrum, the XZ-10 comes with full manual exposure controls on the mode dial at the top. This also gives access to a number of other photo options including automatic, art filters and scene modes. There is also a photo montage option, which has various different framing arrangements to choose from, allowing users to stitch photos together side-by-side or in a grid configuration.
Olympus has fitted this camera with a nice and fast 5x zoom f/1.8 lens, which closes down to just f/2.7 at the telephoto end. Like the earlier XZ cameras, this model features a rotating ring around the lens element. Twist it around, and depending on which mode you are in, adjust parameters such as aperture and shutter speed on the fly.
The rotating ring that surrounds the lens element.
The sensor is a 12-megapixel CMOS model at 1/2.3 inches, which is not as large as those found on other high-end compacts, like the Sony RX100 or Canon PowerShot S110. At the back, a 3-inch touchscreen with 920,000 dots is bright and easy to see in direct light. The touchscreen also means that features like touch to focus and shoot are available.
Video recording is provided at 1080/30p, 720/30p or 720p at 120fps for slow-motion capture in MOV format. The latter option is only capable of recording clips at a maximum of 20 seconds. For even more slow-motion capture, the XZ-10 reduces the resolution to 432x324 at 240fps, again only for a maximum of 20 seconds.
In the hand, the XZ-10 is comfortable to hold, though buttons and dials are on the smaller side. Overall, the camera is small enough to easily slide in a pocket without too much trouble. A pop-up flash completes the rest of the external specifications, and it can also be used as a trigger for wirelessly controlling other flash units from the camera.
Olympus has chosen to carry across the same user interface as found on its Pen series of interchangeable lens cameras. This means that the menus are graphics-heavy, with easy to understand options within. The XZ-10 doesn't have Wi-Fi capabilities built-in, though it is compatible with Flash Air cards that allow for wireless photo and video transfer to mobile devices. The camera can shoot JPEG and RAW files, the latter in the Olympus ORF format.
Like the Pen cameras, the XZ-10 comes with 11 art filters running the gamut from cross process and diorama, to gentle sepia and grainy film.
Examples of the art filters at work, including cross-process, black-and-white, pin hole and dramatic tone.
The XZ-10 comes with USB and micro-HDMI output, and takes SDXC cards (also UHS-I compatible).
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
In the highest continuous shooting mode, at a reduced resolution of 1920x1440, the XZ-10 can push out 15 JPEG frames per second up to a maximum of 53 shots in one burst. It then takes the camera approximately 8 seconds to process and be ready for shooting again.
In regular continuous shooting mode, the XZ-10 can capture 5 JPEG frames per second at full resolution for a maximum of 22 shots. It then takes the camera 15 seconds to clear this burst.
Olympus rates the battery at 240 shots.
Photos produced by the XZ-10 are generally good. Colours are true-to-life without being oversaturated, and the lens is quite sharp and able to resolve a decent amount of detail. There are some caveats though.
The XZ-10's lens displays quite a lot of chromatic aberration, especially when shooting at the wide end and at f/1.8. This is exhibited as purple fringing or colour shifts on areas of strong contrasts between light and dark.
Unfortunately, unlike other cameras with similar lens specs like the Canon PowerShot S110, these lens issues are noticeable even when inspecting images at reduced magnification, and would take a lot of work in post-processing to clean up. The chromatic aberration is most pronounced when shooting in low-light situations, which is a shame considering that this should be the real strength of this camera.
Even in a photo resized for web use at 600 pixels wide, you can still clearly see the chromatic aberration, which shows up as purple fringing. A 100 per cent crop is inset. It looks like the lights are purple — trust us, they're not.
That said, the XZ-10 does perform well in low-light, especially when it comes to the image stabilisation system and colour rendering from longer exposures. If you do want to use this camera predominantly in low-light at f/1.8, you can get very good results — it's just a matter of making sure to mitigate any instances where chromatic aberration might occur.
Automatic white balance under artificial and indoor lighting is a little warm, but not wildly inaccurate. At the wide-angle (26mm), there is a little barrel distortion, but it can be corrected in post. Images are relatively clean and noise-free up to ISO 400, when noise starts to creep in on images. At ISO 800, there are some very small colour shifts occurring, which continues as the sensitivity increases up to ISO 6400.
Video quality is reasonable, with smooth movement, however the video image exhibits the same problem as the still images — plenty of chromatic aberration. The slow motion mode (second video below) is lots of fun, with this particular clip shot at 120fps.
Exposure: 1/30, f/1.8, ISO 800
Exposure: 1/250, f/2.8, ISO 100
Exposure: 1/100, f/2, ISO 200
Exposure: 1/30, f/1.8, ISO 400
We're not quite sure what user group the XZ-10 is targeted towards. For starters, it has a bright f/1.8 lens, but it has been paired here with a reasonably small 1/2.3-inch sensor. Then there's the photo montage feature, which seems to be targeted towards entry-level users, but then the camera has RAW capture and full manual exposure controls.
In sum, the XZ-10 is a very nice pocket-sized camera with lots of advanced features, but it does have some image quality issues that could frustrate advanced photographers.