on 28 February 2014
This is a very good pocketable "enthusiast" camera. At launch it felt overpriced (about £300), but at current prices (about £175) it's a much more attractive proposition.
Its stand out feature versus competitors is its max aperture range, f1.8 - f2.7. This makes it comparitively good indoors and in low light allowing lower ISO for less image noise. It also allows faster shutter speeds in good light (to freeze fast action or reduce blur due to camera shake), and improved ability for "subject separation" by blurring backgrounds when desired.
It has a built-in 3-stop neutral density filter that you can manually enable/disable. This is useful eg. for portraits in very bright conditions, where you want to have the aperture wide open for background blur, but you don't want over-exposure from hitting the shutter speed limit. Also, you can use it to get slower shutter speeds than normal eg. to get those "milky" fountain/waterfall/stream effects.
Sensor size is smaller than some competitors (1/2.3"), which usually translates to more image noise in a given situation, than cameras with larger sensors. However, this is offset by the faster max apertures, which allow lower ISO (less noise) than other cameras, for a given shutter speed. 12 megapixels is more than most people actually need, and is sensible for a sensor this size. 16MP or more would probably just reduce image signal-to-noise ratio for no particular benefit.
I have been very pleased by the camera's image quality, auto-exposure, and colour rendition. There are "better" enthusiast compacts in those respects, but they tend to be significantly more expensive, or not so "pocketable"... and the XZ-10 image quality is a very definite step up from "regular" (cheap) pocket cameras. AF seems quick and accurate. Full-auto works well and is very convenient, and the auto white balance seems better than most cameras I've used.
I haven't tested this properly, but it seems to take advantage of memory cards that have super-fast write speeds - very long bursts are possible before slowdown, or many short bursts in rapid succession.
I consider camera touch screens to be largely useless gimmicks that waste battery power. But touch-to-focus IS handy in full-auto mode, when you can't half-press the shutter to lock focus then recompose. If the camera chooses the wrong subject in a busy scene, tapping the correct subject is very quick and useful. (On the other hand, touch to both focus AND shoot... is just asking for a blurry image due to camera shake, it's likely to be more than the image stabilisation can handle. Best avoided). Touch screen is also useful for scrolling a zoomed-in image, when you are reviewing your photos.
You can completely disable touch functions in the setup menus, but there is also an onscreen touch icon to cycle through "disabled", "focus-only" and "focus-and-shoot". "Disabled" is handy to prevent most accidental photos (easily done when attemping "selfies"!), while still allowing you to quickly re-enable when needed.
The XZ-10 has a bad habit of raising the flash in full-auto or Scene modes, whether it's needed or not. And mostly it is not needed, because the camera avoids firing the flash until it REALLY has to (when shutter speeds would be VERY low, or ISO would be VERY high). Actually, even then it's likely to choose "night" scene mode and still not use the flash! I'd prefer it if it never raised the flash until I explicitly tell it to.
Since I use full-auto a lot with this camera, and only switch to the semi-manual modes when facing a difficult situation, or I want a specific effect... I actually copied the full-auto mode to the Custom setup slot... with flash disabled. This lets me shoot full-auto, with flash disabled by default. Not perfect, but it helps.
I usually only use flash for fill-in when a subject is backlit. Because with built-in flash on most cameras it's usually a struggle to stop them turning faces horrid ghostly white. Having said that, the XZ-10 flash (auto mode) actually works very well, automatically controlling its power to keep faces looking natural. I was surprised and impressed by this.
Semi-manual and full manual (PASM) controls are largely what you'd expect from this type of enthusiast camera. The control ring around the lens is now de rigeur for this type of camera, and it works well.
Note that if you shoot JPG's the camera has a "super fine" JPG quality setting. But this is hidden away in the setup menus (the image quality choices are customisable - you have to change one of them to "SF", then select that image quality). This gives you a better starting point for editing than regular "fine" JPGs (less compression artifacts), files are larger (about 8MB instead of about 5MB), but are still half the size of the XZ-10's RAW files.
Smoothing wrinkles and blemishes in portraits is an ever-popular feature. People just love to look their best, ideally better than real life :-D This camera's "ePortrait" works well for this, without making faces/skin look unpleasantly like plastic. It can also be applied in-camera to a photo after it has been taken, if there is a recognisable face in it. (This creates a new, processed copy in addition to the original photo)
The camera works with wired and wireless remote shutter releases, plugged into the USB port - as long as they are compatible with the Olympus RM-UC1 shutter release. I have personally tested this. However wireless devices are not ideal, since the receiver typically sits in a flash hotshoe - and the XZ-10 doesn't have one. You'd have to leave the reciever dangling from the USB port, or find something else to clip it to eg. tripod.
Batteries can be charged in-camera, by plugging the camera into a computer USB port. The camera comes with a mains-to-USB power supply, which simply provides USB power to the camera (it can't charge a battery independantly of the camera). This is inconvenient, since the door over the USB port is the usual horrid rubbery flap. It also risks damage to the cable and camera by constantly plugging the cable in and out (and it's a proprietary USB cable!).
I'd recommend using a third-party external battery charger - and you'll want one of these anyway, if you have a spare battery that you want to leave charging at home while you are out with the camera.
Movies have been pleasing so far. The XZ-10 creates MOV files, in the same place on your card as the still photos, and with the same naming convention (Much better than the dreadful MTS AVCHD files that are created by some other cameras... with meaningless, unpredictable file names hidden away in a blu-ray file structure - those are just awful to work with).
120fps high speed video at 720HD is nice, for slow-motion footage of fast action at a decent size.
I haven't done this yet, but when reviewing your photos, you can add brief audio comments to them. I plan to make use of this feature, I used to do that a lot with one of my old cameras - but not many modern cameras seem to offer this any more.
Some may lament the lack of WiFi, GPS, Flash hotshoe, EVF, etc. But personally I have no use for those things in a camera of this type, and I am glad that they are not adding unnecessary extra cost or battery drain. I could easily do without the touchscreen as well, but oh well such is the fashion.
Well, EVF can be useful in bright sunlight, but I can usually arrange my hands to create a sunshade if needed. GPS also has its uses, but I carry a small GPS logger on my belt and use its data to tag my photos instead. This way, I get to choose the GPS quality, accuracy, functionality etc, and I only have to pay for it once, no matter how many cameras I have, or how often I replace them. It also doesn't use any power from my camera's battery.
The manual could be better, no surprises there. It seems very rare for any camera to have a really good manual :-/
There is no manual focus available. Perhaps Olympus has faith in their AF accuracy, combined with touchscreen selection of focus area? Whatever, it's a surprising ommission, given many (most?) direct competitors have some form of manual focus. I don't find this a problem, but perhaps others will be dismayed by this.
This camera has lots of features and is great for anyone wanting to take their photography beyond point and shoot whilst retaining much of the convenience of a compact camera.
I would advise a good read through of the full camera manual (not the shorter paper one which comes in the box) whilst taking some trial photos. This will let you get thoroughly familiar with the camera's controls and what it can do. Some of the settings can be set via more than one route, (so it's not as instinctive to use than many of the simpler compact cameras) another good reason for reading the manual and taking time to get thoroughly familiar with the controls.
There are some quirky features such as the ability to touch the screen to take a photo. This is best done with the stylus given with the camera as it will prevent the screen from getting too grubby with fingermarks. However, the stylus is small, so photographers wanting to use this feature regularly may want to attach the stylus to the camera strap. You can also use this facility to select a different part of the photo to be in focus, than the camera's settings. However, I lost this feature whilst fiddling with the controls and I haven't been able to restore it yet, despite reading the manual!
Another feature is the ART settings - an in-camera way of changing the photo to e.g. monochrome or sepia. Useful for those printing directly from the camera, but probably superfluous for anyone used to using any post-photography processing via e.g. photoshop.
The camera can also shoot in RAW mode i.e. the most detail (jpegs are compressed so photo details are lost) as well as the usual jpegs. Useful if you want to make full use of your photos. Video is also at a higher resoltion. This means you may have to consider buying extra storage for all those photos. It's also easy to set the camera to shoot at a lower resolution if you don't mind the loss of quality and would like to eke out your storage, Don't skimp on the SD card you'll need to buy though, especially if you're going to shoot quite a bit of video.
It would have been nice to be able to attach a viewfinder to this camera as like most compacts it gets difficult to see the screen display in bright light. All those features and the lens needed to deliver them means the camera is in the weightier end of the compact category.
Image quality is good, but I haven't compared it with similar cameras in this price range or category.
Overall, I'm happy to continue exploring further to see what this camera can do.
on 10 October 2014
This is a little gem, it has been discontinued now so priced really low - grab it while you still can. I've had compacts and I've had mirrorless cams, so got plenty to compare with, and I have not seen another compact as good as this. I mean a truly pocketable one, reasonably thin and light and no lens cap to fiddle with like so many advanced compacts have. Grab it, turn it on and shoot. Full manual controls, settings galore, clean images at lower ISO and a lens that is sharp throughtout the zoom range (even in the corners) without the need to stop down: I have found f3.5 to be the optimal apeture. The sensor-based image stabilisation is helpful, although a bit less efficient than lens-shift IS. Complaints are minor: no manual focus for some reason, no Picture Mode bracketing as available in many other advanced Olympus cameras, and the battery life could be better. You might also find the 26mm wide angle view not wide enough, but it is wider than many enthusiast-oriented compacts still offer today, including the XZ-1 and 2.
on 4 April 2013
My XZ-10 arrived yesterday and since user-reports seem a little scarce I thought I'd share my opinion so far...
Even though I'd read the specs and compared them with those of my other cameras, I was still surprised by how small the XZ-10 looked when I unwrapped it.
Nervous about dropping it with my clumsy hands I put the wrist strap on straightaway and intend to keep it on. It's very impressive to see so much functionality and quality packed into such a small unit.
I'd pretty much read the instruction manual from cover-to-cover before the camera arrived, so it wasn't a problem getting set up. Charging the battery seems to take quite a long time; I'm pleased I have ordered a second battery and a separate charging unit, as it's frustrating having the camera tied up and unusable while the battery charges.
The camera controls are well laid out and pretty easy to figure out - there were a couple of things I had to look up in the manual, though. The display is lovely.
It's extremely easy to take photos with this camera! But here are some more useful thoughts: Some of the test shots I've taken have been in bright sunlight. In this situation it was almost impossible to see what was on the screen, so a bit of guesswork was required for compostion etc. I really missed having a viewfinder there, but I guess I'll get used to it. Many of my initial photos have a wonky horizon which I'm putting down to this.
I have found it a little too easy to rotate the "sub dial" on the back, which meant there was a tendency to dial in an over/under exposure compensation by accident. The the main control ring on the front is really useful - I'm trying to make my mind up if I want to swap the direction that it's currently working in. The option to touch the screen to focus (and fire the shutter) is really handy - I think I will definitely use that depending on the situation I'm working in. I had an hour playing with the Scenes and Art settings - they look a lot of fun, not sure if I'll ever use them!
It's very, very important to say first of all that it's early days for me with this camera. I'm not sure what I was really expecting, but I have to say that I have not been "blown away" by the results I've achieved so far. Yet. I'll come back to this review in a few weeks to update if necessary.
As the specs suggest, this is a camera for the enthusiast. Sure, it does the fun stuff like art filters etc, but IMHO this camera would be wasted on someone just after a fancy "point and shoot".
I've no regrets so far with my purchase. The XZ-10 seems to be a great camera with masses of potential, but I certainly need to work on getting the best out of it! It was the same when I got my first DSLR. At this stage my feelings are that I'll not be leaving my DSLR at home on any photographic outings just yet, but my phone is getting demoted to other duties, like the occasional call...