The Olympus XZ-1 is the latest advanced creative compact, featuring an enviable specification and packed with high end features. Could this be the best pocketable enthusiast compact yet made?
Olympus XZ-1 review: Image Quality
Olympus XZ-1 review: Tone and Exposure
Some of the images from the XZ-1 are slightly on the light side, but not enough to cause concern, though it’s a good idea to keep an eye on highlight detail in high contrast situations. Images display good contrast, which combined with the excellent sharpness gives them lots of impact.
Olympus XZ-1 review: RAW/JPEG
JPEG files do not look radically different to ORF format Raw files converted in the supplied Olympus Viewer 2. At higher ISOs the presence of noise breaks up much of the fine detail, while edge sharpening tries to undo some of the damage done by the former.
Olympus XZ-1 review: Colour and White Balance
XZ-1 images are punchy and saturated, even in the Normal picture mode, while the Vivid mode is only marginally more lurid. White balance performs impeccably outdoors but can struggle to filter the warmth out of tungsten lit scenes, while mixed lighting can flummox it completely, though to be fair these issues are no more pronounced here than on most other cameras.
Olympus XZ-1 review: ISO Sensitivity and Image Noise
At IS0 100 to ISO 400 there is little visible image noise even when viewed at 100%. At ISO 800 it starts to become visible but is still fairly unobtrusive. At ISO 1600 however the noise control seems to fall off a cliff, taking the colour fidelity with it. They’re still acceptable, but muddy shadows, chroma noise and the traces of a red cast take the sheen off the results. Beyond ISO 1600 these issues become much more pronounced and ISO 6400 is pretty poor ¬- not so much for the noise as the almost total lack of colour.
Olympus XZ-1 review: Sharpness and Detail
Images from the XZ-1 look impressively sharp and detailed. This is partly due to some clever and effective sharpening of the JPEGS, but also to the high quality of the lens, which is demonstrated by the edge to edge sharpness of the unprocessed raw files. At the higher ISOs sharpness is diminished slightly by the presence of noise but because the XZ-1 doesn’t ever go overboard with detail-killing noise reduction processing fairly fine text is still quite readable even at ISO 1600.
Olympus XZ-1 review: Movie Mode
While still images from the XZ-1 are extremely impressive the movie clips let the side down a bit. They’re soft and lacking in detail, as though over-compressed – not really what you’d expect from HD. This could be an attempt to keep file sizes down to compensate for the space-hungry MPEG format that the camera uses. Although the focus locks on to the subject most of the time it does tend to drift now and again, but on the plus side the stabilisation works well to compensate for camera shake.