Olympus XZ-1 at a glance:

  • 10-million-effective-pixel CCD sensor
  • Seven frames per second
  • ISO 100-6400
  • 1280x 720 HD video
  • 28-112mm equivalent f/1.8 zoom lens
  • Street price around £400

Last year was a great one for high-end compact cameras. Canon released the PowerShot G12, Nikon the Coolpix P7000, Samsung the EX1 and Panasonic the Lumix DMC-LX5, winner of the AP High-end Compact of the Year award. Not to be outdone, Olympus released details of its forthcoming compact, the XZ-1, which features an 28-112mm (equivalent) f/1.8 Zuiko lens. The camera was officially announced in January this year, at the CES trade show in Las Vegas, and its specification will certainly turn a few heads.


Like most current high-end compacts, the Olympus XZ-1 uses a 1/1.63in CCD sensor with 10 million pixels. Although the resolution may seem low compared to consumer compacts, the idea is that the reduced resolution should help keep image noise to a minimum, particularly at high sensitivities.

With enthusiast photographers in mind, the XZ-1 has the ability to shoot raw and JPEG files, along with a high sensitivity of ISO 6400. However, one of its biggest draws must be the 28-112mm (equivalent) f/1.8 Zuiko lens. The wide aperture of this optic allows for shooting in low light and offers a shallow depth of field, which can be hard to achieve on compact cameras.

The lens delivered as promised in low light and, combined with sensor-shift image stabilisation, gave me the opportunity to photograph night-time cityscapes handheld. However, one area of concern is the presence of barrel distortion when shooting at the shortest focal length.

Taken from the Olympus micro four thirds cameras, the XZ-1 features an accessory port that allows additional devices, such as an electronic viewfinder or external microphone, to be attached to the camera hotshoe, but more on this later.

For those less competent with manual exposure options there are a range of automatic exposure settings and scene modes, including the Live Guide. This setting is also found on the company’s Pen-series cameras, and it is designed to make it simple to change exposure or image settings, with the effect previewed live on the rear LCD screen.

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