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Olympus XZ-1

I have been looking for a high quality compact camera for a while.  The only modern one I own is a Lumix FT1 which is designed as a tough camera.  It's actually not bad sharing a lot of features with the TZ7 which was it's contemporary.  However, it does not have much in the way of manual controls for when things get complicated.  One of the things I wanted the camera to be able to do was be discreet enough to take into concerts.  Many venues ban Pro cameras and looking at the gear in the sin bin it included anything with interchangeable lens or a long looking lens.  This pretty much rules out DSLRs, EVILs and bridge cameras.  I also ruled out the far too serious looking Canon Gs and the Nikon P7000.  This basically left 2 prime candidates the Canon S95 and the Lumix LX5.  These are two very nice cameras with a lot of admirers.  I read the reviews and I wasted a few hours of retailers  time.  The S95 has the edge on portability and zoom range, the Lumix on ultimate quality and lens speed.   I failed to make a decision.

Then along comes the XZ1, borrowing a lot of Pen tech, it's a re-entry into this Market segment by Olympus.  Now despite spending my formative years wielding SLRs from arch rival Pentax, my first real photographic experiences were with my Dads Olympus 35RC rangefinder.  This little gem was capable of some really nice results fed with Kodachrome.  Olympus had continued to serve up decent compact cameras to my family over the years.  I myself had shunned them in the digital era because I needed to support another memory card format like I needed a hole in the head.  So there was still some residual goodwill which made this new compact a contender.  What really attracted me though was the lens -  a Zuiko branded piece of glass boasting a f1.8 aperture.  More importantly it was still an f2.5 even at maximum zoom of it's 28-112mm equivalent range.  By comparison the S95 is a 28-105mm f2-4.9 and the LX5 is a 24-90mm f2-3.3.  It seemed to me that the extra reach and speed of the Olympus would make it ideal for concerts.  I have taken a few test shots which I have posted up here

Generally speaking I have been pleased with it and it's a nice camera to use with its bright, hi-res OLED screen.  There are a couple of issues which I have taken a bit of a gamble on.  The first is the RAW format which just isn’t that well supported yet.  My number 1 wish would be for Aperture to gain support as this is my tool of choice although I do own DXO too for more tricky conversions.  No news on either of these adding support.  I don’t like the Olympus tool so at the moment I am using a beta version of Adobe Camera Raw.  The second issue is video where both the frame rate and codec yield results below its rivals.  MJPEG 720p30 is well supported, which helps on the road but I am already set-up to ingest H264 from DSLRs so I would prefer the better efficiency and higher quality of the Canon Quicktime or Lumix AVCHD.  Low light sensitivity may not be quite on a par but at anything more than full wide that pales into insignificance because of that big Zuiko.  There is no way around it, thats a killer feature which I just can’t resist.


If it really impresses it I might treat it to the EVF (which it shares with the PENs) which is fine thing, if eye-wateringly expensive.  It does make it a damn side more discreet than holding it mid-air whilst illuminating your face for 10 minutes.  "Me, Mr Steward, videoing?  What makes you think that?"

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Reader Comments (3)

Great work on the blog.

I once took a GH2 and long lens into a Blur gig at hyde park and they checked my bag at the gate. The security guy took a look at the GH2 body sans lens, suspiciously. I told him it was a compact camera. Then he felt around on the outside of the bag to check if I had anything else banned, he felt the long lens and asked what the bump in the compartment was. I told him that was a can of pringles and he let me in.

I'd feel much more comfortable with a XZ1 at gigs!

Although larger than the S95 it looks great. I didn't realise you could get the PEN EVF attachment for it... that's a good idea. Nice one Olympus.

April 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Reid

Oops I mean GH1 not GH2 :)

April 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Reid

That made me smile, will be writing to Lowepro and asking them for lens cases printed to look like Pringles. Actually using a Pringles carton would be cheaper of course, but then you would have to put up with lenses that smelt of cheese and chive.

April 7, 2011 | Registered CommenterAndrew Howe

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