Digital Cameras Guide

Olympus XZ-1 review

Olympus XZ-1 - The Fastest Lens on the Block

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Overall rating 8.5/10
Very fast lens at both wide and zoom ends
Control ring gives quick manual control
Easy AF point control
Flash intensity can be stepped down
Loose lens cap can fall off
Rear control wheel feels small and fiddly
Aggressive noise reduction



According to Olympus' website, the 'X' in 'XZ-1' is a brand new 'Creator' series of cameras, so named to separate it from the rest of Olympus' compact cameras. And stand out from the rest it does, with a list of impressive credentials. It has a 1/1.63" CCD sensor, which is larger than usual for a compact. For comparisons' sake, the popular Canon Powershot S95 uses a 1/1.7" sensor. Coincidentally, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 also uses a 1/1.63" CCD sensor. The XZ-1 also has fully manual controls, as well as an accessory port equal to those found on the PEN E-P2 and E-PL1. This latter means that the XZ-1 can use whatever accessories its bigger brothers can.

And the most exciting feature about the XZ-1 must be its f/1.8-2.5 i.Zuiko Digital lens with a 35mm equivalent focal length of 28-112mm, which makes it the first compact with a Zuiko lens and the fastest glass that can be found in a compact camera today. To put things into perspective, the Canon S95 goes f/2.0-8.0 at 28-105mm, the Panasonic LX5 does f/2.0-3.3 at 24-90mm and the Samsung EX1's lens opens to f/1.8-2.4 at 24-72mm.

(If you're wondering what all these numbers mean, a lower f-number simply means the lens' opening – or aperture – can open wider, allowing more light in and letting the photographer shoot at a faster shutter speed compared to a lens with a smaller aperture, especially in low light. That's why they're called brighter or faster lenses. Another consequence of shooting with a wider aperture is that you get blurrier backgrounds, which brings focus to your subject and adds to the aesthetic of an image.)