on 19 January 2012
I am simply wowed by this compact camera.
I was originally looking to buy my first DSLR, but having handled them decided that the massive increase in bulk and the necessity of carrying additional lenses was too big a price to pay for improved image quality. So I searched long and hard for the best possible compact camera, and I believe I've finally found it!
Jpegs for me are stunning, out of this world. They simply can't be compared to any other compact I've used before (of late Panasonic TZs). I'm generally shooting at 100 ISO, outside. But in the darkest of British January days it's more than adequate, occasionally 200, and I'm not sure I'll ever need to go above 400, even indoors. This, the brightest of lenses copes where other compacts would find it necessary to go way above this. So, superb jpegs. Will I eventually shoot raw? Maybe, if a shot dictates this, but it won't be the norm for me at this stage.
I was a little worried the camera might be too big, but not at all. Size is perfect. Yes the S100 is smaller but unless size is your main priority, forget even comparing the two. The XZ-1 ranks supreme, and the lens alone leaves other compacts in its wake. It's just fractionally bigger than my TZ20 but it's still very neat and compact. It still slips into a shirt or coat pocket easily and I love the fact that it can.
The macro (down to 1cm) produces fantastic results.
The removable lens cap is no problem at all for me. It's exactly the same as it would for anyone using a DSLR or compact system camera with interchangeable lenses - the lens cap is simply removed and popped into your pocket. If that's not acceptable, Olympus provide you with a tie so that it remains attached to the camera. I actually quite like it as it is!
Operation is delightfully straightforward. Select aperture or shutter priority on the mode dial and then use the wonderful rotating lens dial to set the required stop. Yes you can use iAuto, but this camera will soon have you switching to a mode in which you'll have more input - it's really not that difficult and it will do wonders for your creativity!
Art filters are great fun and can inspire you to create some impressive effects.
There's no dedicated ae/af button but a half press of the button locks focus, so you can then recompose - personally this is enough for me.
I haven't found battery life a problem at all, and find 300 images or more on one charge perfectly adequate.
So impressed am I with this wonderful camera, that now I know it's going to be a long-term partnership, I'm thinking of purchasing the VF2 viewfinder. Expensive but likely to make the camera as complete as I would like, and the reviews for it look favourable. The ability to add such a great viewfinder is yet another of the XZ-1's advantages over any of its rivals (It's far superior to the Panasonic.).
We all want a DSLR in a compact form but that's not going to happen anytime soon. Major compromises still remain. But given all the limitations of a compact, the XZ-1 comes so close to being the very best of compromises.
So if, like me, you've agonised for far too long on which camera to buy and found yourself going round and round in circles, do yourself a favour - buy the XZ-1. It's sublime. It's a joy to use. It's an incredible performer. It will grow with you. You will grow with it. It's fun. It will provide you with stunningly sharp images combined with heart-warming Olympus colours that are to die for. It will inspire your work and take your photography to exciting new levels. You will love it.
on 31 March 2011
If you are on the market, like me, for a small camera that you can carry around with you all the time, that would also produce high quality images if not all than most of the time, and unwilling to spend £1500 on Leica X1 you know your choices are very limited.
So far there were only tree cameras that I narrowed down - Canon PowerShot G12, Panasonic Lumix LX5, and Nikon Coolpix P7000 but none of them appealed to me, for different reason.
Canon and Nikon are too large and look errr, odd and bulky, and Panasonic produces strange, sometimes unnatural colours.
I was awaiting for the forthcoming Fujifilm FinePix X100 Digital Camera, but it looks like it will be difficult to get for a while due to low production after the quake and very high demand, so no price reductions quite for some time, and £900 is still a lot for a regular person who just wants to make good pictures of his kids and some views from the trips.
Olympus XZ-1 comes as a very good and reasonable choice. It has larger image sensor and very wide and bright lens that lets lots of light through. As a result all images are of a very high quality, both on screen and in print. It is easy to operate, especially if you shoot in automatic settings like me. Good speed and decent battery life. Very light to carry around. Have only been using it for a few days but very positive results so far. Will update this review once (if) I hit some major drawback.
Some people note that it has not-so-good video recording, but I am not using as as I have a dedicated, and very good Sanyo camera for that (which does poor still images, which only proves the point that every product can only excel at one thing).
PS. I've updated the firmware straight away as it seems there were some focus problems with earlier models.
PPS. There is a new contender for this camera coming - Fujifilm X10, but at £500 it will be quite a bit more expensive.
on 13 April 2011
If you are in the slightest interested in this camera, do not hesitate: buy it! I have had Olympus cameras since 1977, and only film SLR or DSLR. I made a mistake, I forgot to stay forever young, and age and illness made the manipulation of lenses decidedly frustrating. Then Olympus produced this XZ-1 and all my problems were solved, without any loss in the enjoyment I get from using a camera. Sometimes it feels like the camera is using me, encouraging me to try different shots, different scene modes, different art-filter modes; that is a wonderful feeling and I hope you get to feel it.
The build quality is astounding, not far from what I expect to see on cameras costing twice the price or more, and the image quality is equally astounding.
If you have never used an advanced camera before, keep it simple, use only the automatic settings, and you will be very proud of yourself. Then bring in the more advanced functions as and when you feel you would like to add a dimension to your photography, and you will learn how to produce work which will transform you from "snapper" to "amateur photographer". If you are an experienced photographer, looking for an ever-ready compact to keep in a jacket pocket,(although I keep mine in my shirt pocket with the strap around my neck), even just a second camera, not only will the XZ-1 do what you want and better than you probably expected, it will amuse you.
A local marina was running an event for classic vessels, and they all look so beautiful in coarse grain effect black and white, thanks to the Grainy Film filter, while it was fun to accentuate the age difference between the classics and the newer vessels around the marina using the Pop Art Filter to make the colours, in particular the hulls and their reflections in the blue sea, literally "pop" out at the viewer. Anyone with this camera and just enough experience to use two of its special effects could have had as much fun as me, and produced equal or better results. Seriously!
A few tips: don't worry about significantly losing image quality of you need to turn the "digital zoom" on, since the camera is set up to create "RAW" picture files which allow for a lot of manipulation before image quality goes to the dogs; the memory card should be a class 6, size 16 or 32 giga-bytes; do not forget to attach the lens cap to the strap, using the provided loop, otherwise if you do not remove it before turning the camera on it will be removed by the lens, and you need it handy, not lost somewhere...
And visit the Amazon Community Photography discussions if you need more advice!
The following is my review of the XZ-1 which i've had for a good few days and have been using and enjoying!
It is the best digital compact I've ever used, and bar some niggles is worth every penny, I'll cut to the bottom line;
*** if you're looking for a compact carry anywhere stylish compact camera which produces brilliant photographs and is well built, cool looking and has a superb lens with auto as well as manual controls - nothing beats this! It beats the Canon S95 and the Lumix LX5!***
If you want to read my thoughts, read on...
The first thing that I notice is that it's larger than my previous digital compact (a Fuji F200EXR) looks better, feels better, more intuitive to use and is much quicker at everything!
I'm glad there's a normal lens cap, but a shame no filter thread to screw on a UV filter to protect the lovely lens.
It feels like a proper camera, so much so that I keep instinctively putting it to my eye expecting a Viewfinder!
I eventually slotted on my Contax G Finder (21mm finder but is more than adequate to compose the 28mm iZuiko with) and it now feels more natural.
I'm spoilt - my main camera is a Contax G and my main compact is a Contax Tvs III - both solid titanium and built like tanks - the XZ 1 isn't up to that standard. it is much better built than the Fuji F200EXR but I expected it to be - it's far more expensive for starters and it IS well built with a nice expensive look and feel.
The wobbly lens annoys me, so much so that i'm scared that if I merely bump it against anything it'll screw up - is it really fragile?
I wanted a digi compact as my Fuji died, for basic snaps, for the odd crafted photograph, and slip in the pocket carry round camera.
I don't use my Contax TVS this way as I never waste film on snaps - so digital is the sensible option.
taking photos with the XZ-1 is very nice, it's very quick to turn on, to focus (than the Fuji) and to set up.
it took me 2 minutes to set it up, and I didn't bother with the manual.
Piss easy to set up - everything is intuitive and ergonomically laid out - I set ISO 100, A priority, WB Shade, 1 centre focus point and centre weighted metering. File type and off I went! Menus are very well laid out and I can now switch it on and shoot without bothering with them unless I really need to, as the camera has saved my settings on A priority.
I didn't have any problems with it not having a dedicated ISO button - I only ever shoot in iso 100 anyway, and 200 or 400 if I want extra speed - but I doubtt I'll need 200 or 400 often.
The lens ring is brilliant - in Aperture priority its a simple matter of turning it!
Natural colour setting is great, punchy vibrant colours. The photo's come out well exposed and sharp - ok, there isn;t a huge amount of latitude, I think the F200EXR Fuji edges the Oly in terms of latitude as I have had a few washed out skies, in conditions where the Fuji managed some detail in the sky.
Pictures are sharp, well exposed, but 100% zoomed shows excessive noise reduction - but I don't care! Ok, I'm never going to get the quality my Contaxes give me, but I expected as much, and the camera ticks every box I purchased it for.
The shutter sound is pleasing, zooming is quick, Macro and super macro are also pretty good. Art filters are fun - I haven't used them properly as yet, but I've plenty of time for that.
Locking exposure is quick and easy and accurate - it works like Focus lock does and both lock simultaneously.
All in all, expensive, but a very good camera which can be used creatively and quickly, its well built, looks super cool, makes great photos and has a very fast versatile lens.
All it needs is a built in VF and it'd be hard to beat!!
I have realised RAW is the way to go - time consuming and a pain in the arse post processing in it (using Olympus Viewer) but the quality is better, there more control and most of all - there's more latitude with RAw and sharpness and less noise reduction as on Olympus XZ-1 in cam Jpegs.
Distant objects such as trees in a landscape look fuzzy with incam Jpegs, shooting in raw gives more detail!
So in cam Jpegs are pretty good for snaps but could do with less noise reduction for more controlled and composed photographs though for Portraits - SUPERB! Fill flash works a treat - It's just distant objects (such as distant trees in a landscape image) which suffer from excessive noise reduction - the lens has massive amounts of resolving power - as Macro photo's are extremely detailed!
I took it to South Wales and the Brecon Beacons this weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed using it!
I left it at ISO 100,The following I can tweak in RAW but I left it in Natural Colour, but chopped and changed WB from shadow to Auto. Nice and warm using shade WB setting.
I found the spot metering superb! Enabled me to grab some really good exposures, especially in doors - nice effects such as light from windows and lamps in a church.
The metering tends to be spot - of course you have got to shift the camera and lock exposure/focus to set it, but even so, the matrix evaluative metering is very good and almost foolproof.
The handling is brilliant - again, I was very impressed with the speed and silence with which you can switch it on and off!
The shutter has a wonderful cluck cluck sound and the camera really is a joy to use!
Macro and s.Macro are super detailed and sharp!
Exposures were very good, latitude - for a digi was pretty good too!
It's quick, accurate focus, I used it solely on Aperture priority mode and used it just like my Contax G - turning the ring depending upon which aperture I require - of course, I was thinking in 35mm terms, so most of the time I doubt it made any difference between f8 and f4 - but I'm a creature of habit!
It's a million miles better than my Fuji F200EXR - in every single way (though in terms of latitude, I think the Fuji has a slight edge - but then again, the Fuji has the edge at ISO 400 - and at ISO 100 ((my comfort zone)) the Oly blows the Fuji away!)
It NEEDS a VF. It really does - the ergonomics, handling and feel are very advanced/ very old skool too, I kept on wanting to put it to my eye (I soon removed the G finder as I couldnt be asked slotting it in and out when putting the cam into my pocket)
It also needs a dedicated WB button and could do with a dedicated ISO button and could do with a switch so one can shift from macro to normal.
Also it could do with another switch so one can shift from spor to matrix metering -
An exposure Lock button (rather than a focus/exposure combined) button would be nice - these buttons I have mentioned are essential for a compact which will be used by advanced photographers, they save time and effort and are an aid to quick sure shooting.
Apart from that, near as perfect a digital camera I've ever used!
Blows the Fuji away, and also blew away (in terms of handling and feel) my (now sold) Lumix GH1
If Olympus managed a decent (Ricoh GR1v sized) VF in thisit'd be very hard to beat!
With a version 2 Olympus could add on the dedicated buttons I mentioned and add a noise reduction feature so that jpegs aren;t processed too much (which is as mentioned always when you're photographing distant landscapes)
Adding a VF2 would be an option, but the big thing sticking out at the top beats the object of this camera and adds bulk - BUT for those wanting a VF I suppose it's the only option! :(
Unless Oly can design a smaller sleeker product to fit flush against the top surface.
****UPDATE AUGUST 15th 2011****
Well after a few months using this camera I can happily and gladly say that it is EXCELLENT!
I've worked out how to get THE BEST from it now, and the results are STAGGERING!! In general use (seeing as you're hardly going to print HUGE), providing you shoot RAW the results are comparable to any Digital Camera out there, DSLR or X100 anything.
Start up is very QUICK! From pressing the on button the lens SILENTLY extends and everything is ready - with your settings being stored.
The dynamic range is excellent - well controlled in RAW, the "Pin Hole' Art Filter is brilliant - I've included more examples of this.
The colour is outstanding, sharpness, everything!
It's a doddle to use and its SUPERIOR to any other digital compact out there - I've used the LX5 and S95 and seriously, this kills them!
The same short comings apply,in camera Jpegs are too processed - portraits and snaps are fine, but well crafted landscapes etc and for more control RAW is essential.
Wish there was dedicated button for ISO and White Balance and shifting from Macro to Normal.
All in all, well worth the money, and a creative choice for the creative photographer.
***UPDATE December 2011.***
Took it to the Hindu Kush mountains, and used it creatively to take portraits and some landscapes and candids - Brilliant! Excellent exposure latitude, sharp lens, beautiful colour (BETTER than a Fuji X100 colour or Sony) contrasty images, quick to turn on/off focus and shoot - check out the images;