On Friday, I attended a photography lecture by Dan Winters, a well-known, highly respected photographer. Though he has photographed world-famous actors, musicians and politicians, he is more than a portrait photographer. His most recent book showcases the last launches of the space shuttles and is personal work features black and whites and even line drawings. This was the perfect opportunity to test my new Olympus XZ-1 point and shoot. And though I brought my Olympus E-PM2, I didn’t use it much. I wanted to push this new camera to see what it could do.
For the people who live near Austin, you should look into the “Icons of Photography” lecture series organized by the Austin Center of Photography (ACP). They brought in Dan and loads of other world-famous photographers. This is the third time I’ve gone — I’ve also seen Elliott Erwitt and Peter Turnley.
The XZ-1 is Olympus’ previous generation, high-end point and shoot. Though the XZ-2 is its newest incarnation, XZ-1 is still very compelling, especially since you can get it at a discount. This is the first time I’ve really tested it and I’m satisfied by its performance. Noise wise, in RAW, ISO 100 and 200 are very clean. ISO 400 is probably the limit for what I consider a clean useable photograph under normal conditions. The noise creeps in when viewed at 100% but the image still looks good on my 27″ Apple monitor. By ISO 800, the noise is clearly visible at normal sizes, on-screen. In Black and White though, where the digital noise crudely simulates film grain, I find it usable, especially if some noise reduction software is applied.
Beyond sensor performance, what differentiates this camera from lesser point and shoots is the f1.8 to f2.5 lens. Coupled with remarkably good image stabilization, which I find superior to the Olympus E-P3 and E-PM2, the camera proved very capable. The photograph below was taken fully extended to an equivalent of 112mm and shot at 1/15 of a second. That’s a 3 stop IS performance which I consistently got. Even fully zoomed, since I was at a fast f2.5, I was able to keep my ISO at 400.
Of course my Olympus Pens have superior image quality but what I get with this camera is versatility in a small package. I get a zoom range of 28mm to 112mm and with a built-in super macro feature. I did a closeup on my friend David’s OM-D, for example. Since I don’t have a macro lens for any of my other camera systems, this gives me a fun option when I want to dabble in closeups. I’ve discovered some unfortunate limitations with the XZ-1, I believe. I want to test these out some more before I report on them.
I suspect, based on these initial tests, that this camera will have a place in my tool set. It will not replace my Olympus Pens but will add some additional flexibility without adding much weight or bulk. Tests and observations of this camera will continue, of course. Please stay tuned.
Click on the photographs to see a larger image and hover over the photos to see the exposure detail.