The Olympus XZ-10 is the manufacturer's first enthusiast compact, and it promises some impressive imaging results. Find out how it does in the What Digital Camera Olympus XZ-10 review
The Olympus XZ-10 is the manufacturer’s first foray in to the world of the enthusiast compact. It features all of the major hallmarks expected from such a camera, and as a result looks – on paper at least – like an appealing model.
Olympus XZ-10 Review – Features
At the heart of the XZ-10 sits a 12MP back-illuminated sensor that facilitates said Raw capture. One issue with the sensor is that its 1/2.3in physical dimensions are smaller than a lot of competing enthusiast compacts that sport much larger units. As a result, this may create issues with noise when shooting at the higher end of the camera’s 100-6400 ISO range.
Still, there’s plenty to get excited about elsewhere. The aforementioned wideangle zoom lens sees a reasonably wide 26mm start and culminates at 130mm in 35mm equivalent terms, while it’s accompanied by an excellent f/1.8-2.7 maximum aperture range. The lens is also supported by sensor shift image stabilisation.
The XZ-10 also features Olympus’s ‘super resolution’ technology, which purports to take the focal range from a 5x optical zoom to a 10x zoom, although this implements interpolation of image data and as such isn’t far removed from digital zooms of yore.
The Olympus XZ-10′s 3in LCD, meanwhile, not only boasts a 920k-dot resolution, but also touch functionality for the benefit of selective focus and image review. Although not unique to the XZ-10 in this compact category, a touchscreen is still of benefit to the enthusiast photographer on such a model.
Among its other features is a 5fps burst mode, built-in ND filter and a two-frame multi-exposure option. As well as the full range of manual shooting modes, the model also sports what it labels a ‘Live Guide’ shooting mode to help novices, while an i-Auto intelligent shooting mode also features.
Full HD video recording at 30fps is complemented by the 240fps and 120fps slow-motion capture options at reduced resolutions, and Olympus has also included a handful of its Art Filters for instant creative effects, such as Pinhole and Grainy Film.
Olympus XZ-10 Review – Design
The Olympus XZ-10 generally handles well and benefits from some good design. One example of this is that while the XZ-10′s mode dial is a little on the small side, it features a pleasingly milled edge which makes it easy to operate when shooting with the camera. The mode dial is also largely unobstructed which makes it easier to grip and turn with just the forefinger and thumb.
The zoom collar around the shutter release button is also just as easy to operate, thanks to its decent protrusion from the top plate,
Another of the pleasing features of the camera’s design is the presence of a control ring around the camera’s lens. This ring can be assigned to any of the camera’s main shooting settings, such as shutter or aperture control, and as such really aids the user experience.
The ring itself gives enough resistance to allow for aperture or shutter, say, to be changed quickly and effortlessly, and when it’s moved at a faster pace it allows for the extremes of the range to be reached quickly.
One slight criticism is that it would be nice to have a larger grip and thumb rest to allow for a more comfortable hold of the camera while shooting, although it must be said that this is hardly a deal-breaker when it comes to the design of the camera.
Olympus XZ-10 Review – Performance
The Olympus XZ-10 offers a generally high level of performance, with certain areas in which it excels.
AF performance is a particular highlight, with the XZ-10 performing brilliantly when it comes to focusing on subjects at either end of the zoom. When operating the camera in good light the speed at which it acquires focus is difficult to fault.
Naturally there’s a slight slowdown in poorer light, where the AF assist lamp often needs to be deployed first, but even here it does a sterling job when you consider the performance of some of the cameras it’s up against in this field.
Another particularly pleasing element of the camera’s performance is the model’s touchscreen. Those using the touchscreen to focus and expose will note that the AF performance is just as good here, operating at a similar speed. The focusing system is accompanied by a defined box which shows the area of focus and also delivers an almost instantaneous exposure.
It’s not all good news with the LCD screen however, as there are certain issues when it come to the reproduction of images. The display adjusts swiftly as the scene changes in brightness, although this can lead to a relatively dark feed when the scene contains brighter areas, such as skies.
This in turn can make it difficult to see clearly in brighter conditions, an issue compounded by a glare and an odd blue cast (which is a pity as the display itself is detailed and clear). Some may prefer to adjust the screen’s brightness via the menu because of this, and there are options to manual adjust other levels if needs be.
The camera’s speed in operation is generally respectable. Images are recorded swiftly to the memory card, and it’s possible to rattle off four or five simultaneous Raw and JPEG frames – which is perfectly respectable for such a camera – before the buffer slows things down.
Olympus XZ-10 Review – Image Quality
The generally level quality of images produced by the XZ-10 is good, albeit with a few areas where it’s let down.
The Olympus XZ-10′s auto white balance produces consistent results, although it does tend towards the warmer end of the scale in certain situations. This isn’t such a big issue in a compact such as the XZ-10 as the presence of Raw capture means that you can adjust the white balance after the shot.
The camera’s metering system is somewhat oversensitive, erring towards underexposure in scenes where there is a proliferation of brighter areas.
Although the camera features a respectable megapixel count, the fact that the sensor is smaller than some of its competitors means that it struggles to resolve quite the same level of detail as some other enthusiast compacts.
The smaller sensor size is also an issue when it comes to the camera’s performance at higher ISO settings. As soon as you reach the four-figure settings the XZ-10 begins to struggle controlling noise and retaining detail. That being said, performance up to that level is good.
Olympus XZ-10 Review – Verdict
There’s a lot to like about the XZ-10, although it must be noted that the enthusiast compact market is one of the most competitive in the world of digital photography.
The XZ-10 certainly benefits from some intelligent design, with its mode dial - an often overlooked element of a camera’s user experience - impressive in particular. Throw in an excellent and responsive touchscreen and a superb autofocusing system and it would appear you’re on to a winner.
However, there are reservations. The model’s smaller sensor creates issues with noise at higher ISO settings and with detail capture, while the LCD screen itself suffers from a slight colour cast.
So, although there’s still a lot to recommend the XZ-10, it’s likely bettered in a competitive market.
Sample Image Gallery
These are just a few sample images captures with the Olympus XZ-10. For more, head on over to the Olympus XZ-10 review sample image gallery.
The Olympus XZ-10 arrives on the scene at the same time as the Olympus XZ-2 is made available in white. Designed to be smaller and lighter, this high-end compact boasts many of the features from its flagship cousin, with the key advantage that it’s around 40% smaller.
The Olympus XZ-10 adopts the same powerful TruePic VI image processor from the Olympus OM-D and it’s built around a 12MP backlit 1/2.3” CMOS sensor. In front of this there’s a 5x optical zoom lens, which provides a 26-130mm focal length in 35mm terms and has a maximum aperture of f/1.8 at the widest setting, closing to f/2.7 at full telephoto.
With a maximum sensitivity of ISO 6400, the Olympus XZ-10 has been created so that you can setup the camera incredibly quickly without fuss. Just like the Olympus XZ-2, it has a customisable control ring around the lens for adjusting key parameters manually. Alternatively, if the user would prefer to use the Fn button on the back of the camera, this can be assigned to control either ISO or metering modes.
As well as offering all the manual settings you need from the corner of the top plate, you can take control of other settings using the touch-sensitive LCD screen. This measures 3in in size and has a 920k-dot resolution. First impressions of the touch screen on an early Olympus XZ-10 sample were highly impressive and it makes for a more intuitive way of quickly selecting where you’d like to position the AF point in the frame.
For those who’d like to get a bit more creative with the shots they take, there are 11 art filters available, which can be applied to movies as well as stills. Some of the filters available include cross process, gentle sepia, grainy film and dramatic tone.
Other interesting features to note include HDR backlight adjustment, full HD video (1080p) and a multi-motion movie stabilisation function that’s intended to reduce the amount of blur when recording videos on the move. And, if you’d like to experiment with different aspect ratios, the XZ-10 also offers 16:9, 3:2, 4:3 and 1:1 options.
Given the opportunity to handle the Olympus XZ-10 prior to its official launch, it has a fairly solid feel in the hand and slots into an average size pocket with ease. The mode dial on the corner of the top plate is a simple and well-received addition. It saves the hassle of having to search through menus if you’re the type of photographer that likes to take manual control of your camera. The customisable control ring also works very well, notching into place with a small rotation. If you’re a photographer that regularly shoots in aperture priority mode, you’ll enjoy using the control ring to change your settings.
Produced in black, white or a more unusual brown colour, the Olympus XZ-10 will be available from late March and is expected to cost £349.