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The Complete Olympus XZ-1 Review

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The Olympus XZ-1 review is now complete, but is it the camera for you? We tested the raw files, autofocus, image quality, high ISOs, ergonomics, use with a flash, etc. Read on for our conclusions.

Complete Postings

Initial Rave

Day 1- Getting a feel for the camera

Day 2- A test of the raw files while photographing Emu Eggs

Day 3- A high ISO test at a concert

Day 4- Photographing the NYC Pillow Fight

Ergonomics

There is a lot to love about the Olympus XZ-1. The ring around the dial and the back dial both play very well together, as does the button placement on the camera. The slightly textured front of the camera helps with gripping it and it is a delight to hold for a long period of time. Thankfully, Olympus bundles the camera with a velvet strap, which only encourages the user to have it live around their neck or in their hand.

The LCD screen is also beautiful, but shows a totally different image than what I see on my computer monitor.

Though it’s not a ergonomic problem, the XZ-1 doesn’t want to work very well with the Eye-Fi Pro cards. This is sad because those are my favorite SD cards.

Additionally, I wish that the pop-up flash did not come up with such a vengeance. It can be quite loud at times.

Autofocus

The Olympus XZ-1 focuses fairly smart based on the user’s composition and does so very quickly. The camera doesn’t tend to hunt for a focusing spot at all: Olympus should be prided on this as a while ago they were criticized for terribly slow autofocusing in their Micro Four Thirds cameras that use the same contrast detection focusing. Granted this isn’t a Micro Four Thirds camera but it is their most powerful point and shoot. Like the EPL-2 that we reviewed, it is fast and accurate.

Oddly enough, I feel that the XZ-1 focuses better in low light than the EPL-2. If you’re looking for faster focus, this is the camera to get.

Image Quality

The image quality of the XZ-1 is very good for a point and shoot. Of any point and shoot’s raw files that I’ve tested, this one’s is perhaps the most versatile, had the best color depth, and the best dynamic range. Part of this may have to do with the low MP 10MP sensor combined with the very good Zukio lens.

As a former Olympus photographer, I still miss the days when I used my Olympus E-510 DSLR and I wish that Micro Four Thirds and cameras like the XZ-1 could shoot photos like it could. The raw files were just so nice. Of course, I’m asking for too much at this point in the game.

High ISOs

For a point and shoot camera, you really can’t expect to have anything better than the Olympus XZ-1. The higher ISO settings shouldn’t be used often unless you absolutely need to. They are indeed very grainy. Alternatively, I’d suggest using the camera’s art filters, which perform very similarly to that of the EPL-2′s.

To be quite honest, the Art Filters do things to the images that I can’t even mimic in Lightroom 3. That leads me to ponder how exactly the processor is doing it all. Either way, the art filters are still very good and can take the place of using the High ISO settings if needed.

Conclusions

The Olympus XZ-1 is a camera that I may just spring for. It’s got wireless flash control, a fast lens, great ergonomics, a nice feel to the camera overall, and it can accept loads of accessories. So who is it for:

- Professionals that want a point and shoot with loads of versatility

- Enthusiasts that want a better point and shoot. In fact, I’d say this one is the best on the market right now.

- Hobbyists that want to go out traveling and want a powerful camera that is also highly portable.

- Concert goers that can’t use DSLRs.

- Professionals that don’t want to carry their DSLRs into certain situations (like me.)

- Micro Four Thirds users that want an even smaller option.

What are your thoughts on our review? Let us know in the comments below.

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