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Customer Review

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent pocketable "enthusiast" camera, current price is good value, 28 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Olympus STYLUS XZ-10 Digital Camera - Black (12MP, F1.8-2.7 5x i.Zuiko Wide Optical Zoom) 3 inch Touch LCD (Camera)
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.
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