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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.
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on 25 May 2016
I have been using this camera for many years now and have not looked at buying another camera for myself since, I've taken it on many holidays and it has not failed me once.
It can take a few tries in manual to get the photo you want but I enjoy using the many camera features and settings this camera has in auto as well as manual mode.
The oled screen is very bright and clear, making your photo's look amazing on screen with very good viewing angles and in direct sun light.
I added a flipbac grip to the camera which make's the camera much easier to hold with one hand.
I tried a class 10 sd memory card and found write time's took a long time to save so I bought a San disk extreme 16gb 45mb/s memory card, which works perfectly with the camera.
it come's with a high quality Olympus branded neck strap but no case, so you will definitely have to get a case to protect it from the odd bump every now and again. In this case, I went with a case logic case as opposed to the official case for the XZ-1 as I was more on a budget.

PROS
Has excellent build quality.
Great image quality.
f/1.8 lens.
4x optical zoom.
Lots of settings to play with.
OLED Screen.

CONS
No automatic lens cover, instead it has a cover, which can be attached to a string to the camera body so you don't lose it. You Auto Self Retaining Open Close Lens Cap Black but this does add to the bulk.
It can bulky if you are looking for something slim and light possible look at the Casio exilim range.
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on 20 May 2013
Wow -- I am stunned by the quality of the pix this camera has produced. It is fairly straightforward to use.

The user interface is different to all of the previous Olympus cameras I own. It is, I am told, more like a DSLR in that respect.

It's easy to use with just a little help from the manual. The Art filters make life fun and they are simplicity itself to use. I've tried the manual controls and they are also easy to understand and use.

We do live in amazing times. Olympus have produced a winner with this camera but they don't sit on their laurels ... Already the XZ-2 is available.

Worth every penny I paid for it and more.

If you are interested in simple, easy , but good photography then this camera supplies in abundance. I'd recommend to all.

BFJ
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on 26 September 2011
There, I have said it. I am sorry for all the professionals out there that want to fanny around with ISO settings and F this and F that. Due respect to those that know how to use the full features of the camera although the point I am making is WOW! I think at the age of 39, I have found my first camera where I switch it on, push a button whilst the camera is on the auto setting and there I have, the most 'professional' looking picture where I cannot fault it in any way.
Ok, here are my 'cut to the chase' raw comments from a non-professional. The bright colours in the picture shine through and the flash does not seem to over expose the picture. The pictures look 'clear' and vibrant. They seem so realistic.
If you want a camera that takes a very decent photo with little or no effort, then buy it.
If you are a professional photographer, I think you have more than I will ever know about cameras to keep you happy.
It's just brill!
The only downside - don't rely on buying it for a super zoom lens. It does zoom in a little but not of any great significance.
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on 20 May 2011
I have used many cameras including a pair of Pentax 35mm SLR's. I then went for compact digital point and shoot cameras for many years and have taken thousands of digital photographs because the camera was usually with me when I was anywhere interesting. For me the key is being able to keep a camera on a belt loop so it is handy when the right opertunity arrives. In the end the soft images of the point and shoot cameras where really annoying me so I went in search of something better. The xz-1 for me is the perfect balance of sharo image, sensible zoom (landscape through to portrait shots) and compact size. I have the Lowepro Dublin 30 bag which is ideal as the smallest possible belt pouch that fits the xz-1. The photographs are sharp and I have had loads of fun with the manual controls and the art filters (grainy monochrome and dramatic are giving great results). I have the in camera sharpness turned up one notch and I just shoot JPEG. LEft in Auto mode the camera produces saturated colours and good exposure consistently. The manual controls take a little time to learn and I had to learn to go into the menu and put the photo mode back to default because it does not forget your settings when you power down. I did look at the Canon S95 and I prefer the size and the video quality of the Canon but the stills quality of the Olympus blows it away.
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I've been a keen digital photographer from the early days and bought my first DSLR - the excellent Nikon D3000 two years ago. I love that camera however there are days when I want to "travel light" without sacrificing quality too much, hence my purchase of the XZ-1. I went for the white version as it's harder to lose in your bag and the slightly retro appearance appealed although you could hardly call this unit a looker with it's uncompromising straight edges and visible screws. The construction is solid but the finish looks like enamel paint that may scuff with mis-use although that isn't a deal breaker for me as I like to use my cameras, not look at them. It is worth comparing prices as the white model is often a few pounds cheaper than the silver or black at time of writing.

Out of the box you're up and running once the battery and (your own) memory card (sorry Nikon) is inserted. It comes with a full neck strap but even for a heavy (275g) and larger "compact" like the XZ-1 this is overkill and hardly pocket-friendly so the wrist strap was purloined from my old Powershot (sorry Canon). The battery charger is very small and discreet and plugs directly into the camera so you can still use it whilst charging. Charging from empty takes around 2-3 hours. If you've not used a DSLR you may often find the lens cap jumping off on power up but this could be solved with the purchase of an Automatic Open/Close Lens Cap  if it becomes a problem.

In use over 3-4 weeks I have really enjoyed getting to grips with this and enjoyed experimenting - something you have to do as no written manual is provided which is seriously annoying for a £300 piece of kit. Highlights for me include "Live Guide" i.e. the ability to "edit" e.g. blur/brighten/saturate shots before you take them. Not satisfied with the results then an excellent JPEG/RAW editing tool allows you to make changes after the event too. You can add a voice recording to each pic which could be useful to some. Picture quality has been clear and bright, a tribute to the quality lens and sensor. Macro and super macro modes are excellent though it would have been nice to have this as a quick option on the rather spartan dial, ditto sports and portrait. iAuto will put it into Macro mode (mostly) where appropriate and give you some excellent bokeh but more advanced users will want full control. The menu system I would describe as functional rather than intuitive or particularly attractive compared to recent Sony offerings.

I have had great fun with the panorama tool (see my images) simply take one picture and go left or right (for two more) lining up the dot in the circle on the screen and it automatically takes the subsequent shots for you. Get your kids to run into all three shots and you can produce some great fun photos and a steady hand (or a tripod) produces excellent landscape vistas although they do take a while to process and appear to drain the battery slightly quicker too.

The "Art" filters are a welcome addition, my favourites being the "dramatic" and "grainy black and white". As the video function is on it's own button you can record video in any of the six filters provided which increases the camera's creative capacity too. I don't actually use video much but it's worth noting that you can zoom while recording although you will hear the motor. The internal speaker is quite quiet so camera playback volume isn't great.

Pro's :
Excellent lens
Good performance
Build quality
Great features
Pre and post editing on the camera
Super macro enables shooting from very close up

Cons :
No written manual (pdf supplied on disc with some fairly good editing software)
Optical zoom is only 4x
Not very ergonomic
Not many quick select options on the dial

This is an excellent addition to my camera kit that compliments rather than replaces my Nikon. I would not describe it as over-designed or particularly beginner-friendly but the iAuto will do the trick in most situations for happy snappers and advanced users are well catered for. I miss the viewfinder (although this is an expensive option on the XZ-1) of the DSLR more than I thought I would, ditto an optional polaroid filter but also enjoy the great features and usability of the Olympus. If anything it's given me a new found respect for my D3000 and it will be a tough decision to choose which one to take out with me from now on.

** UPDATE ** I have also been lucky enough to use the Sony Cyber-shot HX10 which is slightly cheaper and worth considering. See my review on it's product page.
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on 9 April 2011
Like many people, I have bought several compact cameras to compliment my DSLR and have largely been disappointed - to the regular benefit of my children. The XZ-1 is exactly what I have been looking for and for once, the kids are going to lose out!

The lens is remarkable and exposures to date have been stunningly accurate - Photoshop is seldom tempted to `auto-enhance'. Screen resolution and colour rendition is outstanding.

Like many (semi) compacts, there is still a short but irritating delay between pressing the button and exposing the picture. My only serious criticism however, is the vulnerability of the `mode dial' on the top surface of the camera. This is very subject to accidental re-positioning and I wish there was a menu option to prevent further alteration once it is set!

The optional viewfinder is an expensive but worthwhile addition. Just need someone to bring out a soft case to accommodate it whilst attached to the hot shoe!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 March 2011
Colour: Black|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have used Olympus cameras for over thirty years, including the OM10, OM2n film cameras and the compact digital FE-190. The XZ-1 has a professional look, feel and weight.

First impressions straight out of the box:
The camera comes with a shortish neck strap, battery, USB/power cable, an AV cable (not HDMI), a CD containing software, and a basic setting up booklet in 29 languages. As soon as the camera is set up it is obvious that it has a wealth of features and information from the number of icons that are immediately displayed on both sides and the bottom of the screen, with two or three additional items along the upper edge. The camera uses its own rechargeable battery, which is charged in situ using a small mains adapter, or from a computer via the USB cable. There is also a micro HDMI socket.

One thing I noticed immediately when handling the camera was that the lid of the flash gun is in exactly the position I place my forefinger, when holding the camera with my left hand, while making adjustments with the right. Relatively quickly this ceases to become an issue but initially it is a little unnerving since the lid is smooth and moves slightly (because when the flash is used, it springs up like a jack-in-the-box). By contrast, on the right hand side, there is a small rubber mat which provides excellent grip, so that the camera can be held one handed with ease. The mode dial is well-positioned and easily adjusted.

User Manual:
An essential item in the package for a camera as fully featured as this one is the User Manual on the enclosed CD. The CD also contains software for both PC and Macintosh computers. The instruction manual is in PDF format and at 95 pages appears to be comprehensive. I found it useful at the start to print out the pages that gave details of the controls and the information that can be displayed on the screen when the camera is switched on. After a week of frequent daily use, I am still learning and experimenting with the many features. The more I use the camera, the more impressed I am with it.

Controls:
After setting the Mode dial (2 x auto, 3 x manual modes, custom setup, low light, scene modes and art filters) the wheel controller on the rear of the camera becomes the centre of operations for making further selections. The small outer ring can be rotated as well as 'tipped' to select items. In the centre is the OK button, which is used to confirm a selection but also gives access to a number of menus, depending upon the Mode settings. The metal control ring surrounding the lens can also be used to make adjustments. There are sufficient options here to provide many hours of experimentation. Other controls include buttons for Movie, Review, Menu and Info.

In my opinion, this is an expensive camera to use simply for snaps, although it will perform this role admirably and with a wide range of pre-set scene mode settings (eight more than on the FE-190): e-Portrait, Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Night+Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Self Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Multi-Exposure, Cuisine, Documents, Beach & Snow, Underwater Wide, Underwater Macro, Pet, and Panorama. The panorama setting takes three frames, then knits them together in the camera to make a 'school photo' type extended picture. The self-portrait on the XZ-1 produced an almost unbelievably sharp image, far sharper than the FE-190. There are a number of in-camera informational screens with tips and examples to aid the user.

Features and functions:
There is not the space here to list the detail of all the features but the following refer to my personal use for the camera (you may plan to use it differently):
Great stuff I use all the time: focus grid; zoom (28-112mm equivalent); macro settings (down to 1cm); image stabilisation; electronic viewfinder accessory (sold separately).
Advanced features I shall use frequently: manual shutter ('bulb' + 60 sec to 1/2000 sec (auto gives1/4000 sec)) and aperture control (f1.8-8.0).
Advanced features I shall use occasionally: video; panorama; manual ISO selection.
Advanced features I shall probably not have a use for: histogram; high speed AF tracking; selectable aspect ratios; image size and compression settings (I leave this on LF); RAW settings; wireless flash control.
'Fun' features I am unlikely to use: the art filters (though these seem to be popular with other people).

What it does for me:
For me the most exciting functions are the manual controls for aperture and shutter speed. The focus grid is extremely useful for choosing which area(s) of the shot are used for autofocus. This camera's low light capability is quite amazing: it functioned when conditions were much darker than I expected, it exposed perfectly and still the autofocus was precise. Together with the terrific macro and extra-macro facility of the superb lens, these features put the camera straight into another league, bridging the gap between a compact and a DSLR. In fact, all the features I required of an SLR and lost when I moved to the FE-190, I have gained back and more with the XZ-1.

Why do I always choose Olympus cameras? Because I believe the lenses and metering are second to none. When I used the Olympus 35 mm film cameras, it was essential to be able to rely on those two factors because it was impossible to see the picture until it was developed. Now, with digital technology, those same features are just as important in obtaining a high quality result. This camera combines low light and close up excellence with ease of use and very extensive flexibility: a huge amount of camera in a small space.

Olympus VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder - Black (available as a separate item, reviewed here by request)
4*
Extremely useful accessory
A small and well-crafted piece of kit, whose external simplicity belies its functionality and sharp, bright image. It plugs into the hot shoe and accessory slots at the top of the camera and is powered from the camera. Pressing a single button toggles between viewfinder and camera back screen (monitor). It does not interfere with using the built in flash. The VF-2 can be used on other Olympus cameras, so if you own more than one camera, a single viewfinder could be used on each compatible unit. The only reason for dropping a star here is the price -in my opinion the quality is 5*.

The VF-2 is perfect for use in bright sunlight, where the monitor on the camera itself is difficult to use for setting up and reviewing shots without dodging into a shady spot to do so.

The viewfinder is a very useful addition for anyone, like me, who is longsighted and for those used to an SLR type viewfinder. The great thing about a digital camera with a display screen is being able to review (playback) pictures as you go. If you are longsighted, you end up holding the camera at arms length to be able to focus your eyes on the screen on the back of the camera, or resort to your reading glasses. The electronic viewfinder shows all the information you would otherwise see on the screen on the back of the camera. You can adjust the focus to your individual eyesight by simply rotating the rubber 'dioptre' ring.

Since having the viewfinder, I am using it as the preferred method for operating the camera. It is also useful for macro work and has the added feature that it can be tilted through up to 90 degrees.

Minor negative factors: firstly that it does add to the overall size of the camera and prevents the use of the hot shoe to mount and/or trigger an additional flash unit. The flash issue is probably not a problem, as the built-in flash can be used to wirelessly trigger up to three other flash units. When the review (playback) button is pressed, the camera reverts to monitor view, instead of the image remaining in the viewfinder.

In summary:
Cons - adds to the overall size of the camera, costs half as much as an XZ-1 camera (March 2011).
Pros - a real advantage in bright sunlight, especially useful for long-sighted users, can be transferred between cameras, great for macro shots, has a tiltable eyepiece, does not get in the way of the camera's built-in flash unit, comes with its own storage pouch.
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on 1 January 2012
Olympus XZ-1 is quite good at what it offers in small body and a bright sharp lens. If you are looking for ultimate highest possible quality, ILCs, DSLRs and maybe you would even move on and preffer FF-SLRs with those fast big tele lenses. But this is not what you want, isn't it?

All you want to know is how good is XZ-1 for available light indoor photos but without losing decent image quality.

I would suggest you to go for XZ-1 if not Fujifilm X10. You picked the right category in compacts, Enthusiast level. I recently took photos in the streets of old city Jerusalem this Christmas period and almost all of them were taken at a very low available light and none with flash.

There are few advantages of XZ-1 over other enthusiast cameras:

! Its more pocketable than any of the Canon G12, Nikon P7100, Fuji x10
! It got fastest and brighter lens that goes from f1.8 to f2.5

Comparative to other compacts:

! Better build quality, LCD and handeling
! bigger sensor and ofcourse brightest lens
! very good shutter lag, no noticeable delay

Comparative to DSLRs:

! Greater Depth of field (even wide open f1.8 is usable in most scenerios)
! more versatile focal range then any kit lens (except 18-105 VR on Nikon)
! No shutter sound (mute the voice in the settings)
! Better macro

There are few things you need to be careful, I missed on it couple of times: make sure you taking photos on RAW. Higher ISO Jpegs are not that great on this camera, but RAW are mind blowing, very sharp and detailed. Even at ISO 800 f1.8 little Photoshop and you getting wonders. Shutter lag on compacts are bad, but search on this camera shutter lag, and you will notice there is nothing to complain about in this field as well.

Handeling is great with thumb wheel moved to arround the lens (like Canon S90-S100).

Now few other consideration maybe:

* Fuji F600EXR for exr sensor and more zoom lens
* Nikon J1 for slightly bigger sensor and insanely fast AF system (but kit lens is not as versatile and not as bright)
* Oly Pen E-PL3 for all advantages listed under Nikon J1 but even bigger sensor more lenses and tilting LCD BUT with considerably shallow depth of field and noisy shutter sound (which is not ideal for street or candid photography).

However in its intended enthusiast cameras market segment, this is the KING camera.
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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!
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