Olympus XZ-1 Review

February 7, 2011 | Zoltan Arva-Toth |


The Olympus XZ-1 - the first Olympus digital camera to sport an f/1.8 lens since the C-5050Z of 2002 - is a small but very serious photographic tool. The camera ticks all the boxes that any experienced photographer is looking for - “sensible” pixel count, a very fast lens, raw file support, a reliable multi-point AF system and a well implemented manual exposure mode complete with an optional live histogram. Add in a gorgeous OLED screen, an effective image stabilisation system and an image processor that's fast enough to avoid any major freeze-ups even when shooting RAW+JPEG simultaneously, and you have a very capable yet easily portable camera that you can take pretty much anywhere. And we haven't even mentioned that it's probably the closest thing to a system camera, accepting accessories ranging from an external viewfinder through hotshoe-mounted and wirelessly controlled flashguns to macro LED lights and more. At the same time, it also offers an easy-to-use iAuto mode complete with a live guide for complete beginners.

The XZ-1 also fares well in the image quality department, owing to that fast and sharp i.Zuiko lens and a well calibrated image processor that turns out JPEGs with very pleasing colours and good overall tonality. A high-ISO king it is not, but with an f/1.8-2.5 lens and image stabilisation on board, it does not really have to be anyway. Video, on the other hand, is more of a mixed bag. It's good to be able to use the optical zoom while filming and apply Art Filters to the footage in-camera, but in a product of this calibre you would expect user selectable frame rates and full manual control over video exposure.

If there's ever going to be an Olympus XZ-2, I would like to see only minor improvements to the design, including a dedicated ISO button and perhaps more internal storage with the ability to save images simultaneously to the on-board memory and the memory card for instant backup.

In summary the Olympus XZ-1 is a very attractive and well thought-out - if a bit expensive - digital compact camera that appeals to a wide range of users and presents a real threat to the likes of the Canon Powershot S95, Panasonic Lumix LX5 and Samsung EX1.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 3.5