Olympus XZ-1: Video and Image Quality

by Jim Keenan Reads (2,149)
Editor's Rating
8.00

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 9
    • Features
    • 8
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 7
    • Performance
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 8.00
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Video Quality
Video quality out of the XZ-1 is not too bad, but I’d rate it a bit below the G12 and P7000 overall. At times it looks very good, but often it seems a bit soft, and with close up subjects the AF seems to hunt a bit, taking a sharp image in and out of focus on occasion. Capture is handy, featuring a dedicated one-push movie capture button on the camera back. The built-in microphone is fairly sensitive but there is no wind-cut feature – you can only enable or disable audio recording.

Sample Video Download

Recording times are sub-par: maximum file size is 2GB, but the clip lengths of 7 minutes at 720 HD and 14 minutes at 480 SD are the shortest I’ve encountered. Users should also be aware that if you’re shooting in one of the art filter modes and switch to video, the camera will apply that filter to your video and the results may be disappointing depending on the individual filter. For example, the pinhole and grainy film filters produce a jerky video when panned, while the diorama effect greatly accelerates the speed of the pan.

Image Quality
Default images out of the XZ-1 are very good, with nice color rendition and sharpness.

Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image

Overall I thought still image quality was on a par with the G12 and P7000, which I feel offer the best compact digital images of any camera I’ve shot. I’ll be adding the XZ-1 to that list. For folks who shoot in the manual modes, there’s plenty of user inputs to adjust image output to your liking if the default product fails to meet your needs.

I mentioned the art filters in the context of their impact on videos, but here’s a look at them applied to a still scene – the filters can’t be applied to RAW images:

Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
Pop Art
Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
Soft Focus
Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
Pinhole
Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
Diorama
Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
Grainy Film
Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
Dramatic Tone

And here’s the XZ-1 color palette along with red and yellow filtered monochrome options:

Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
Natural
Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
Muted
Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
Vivid
Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
Portrait
Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
Red monochrome
Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
Yellow monochrome

Auto white balance was used for the majority of shots in this review and did a good job overall, although it shot a bit warm under incandescent light. The XZ-1 offers daylight, cloudy, shade, incandescent, fluorescent and underwater WB presets along with a custom setting.

Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light

Default metering is Olympus digital ESP, with exposure based on light levels at the center of the image and also the surrounding areas; some areas are more weighted than others. In practice it worked well for most lighting situations, although it did lose some highlights in high contrast situations. There are center-weighted and spot options available to manual shooters.

With the physical size of the XZ-1 sensor being a bit larger than that in the G12 or P7000, expectations were that noise performance could equal or possibly surpass those two. Surprisingly, I noticed a loss of fine detail in the jump from 100 to 200 ISO, particularly in the area of the bear’s nose, and the overall image looks a bit softer than at 100. This is admittedly pixel-peeping, as both images look the same small, but it still came as a shock to see a fairly dramatic change at only the first ISO step. 400 drops off a bit compared to 200, but not as much as I expected given the results between 100-200. In some areas it looks about the same as 200, but there are some losses in fine details in others and a bit more graininess.

Olympus XZ-1
ISO 100
Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
ISO 100, 100% crop
Olympus XZ-1
ISO 200
Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Olympus XZ-1
ISO 400
Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Olympus XZ-1
ISO 800
Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Olympus XZ-1
ISO 1600
Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Olympus XZ-1
ISO 3200
Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
ISO 3200, 100% crop
Olympus XZ-1
ISO 6400
Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
ISO 6400, 100% crop

ISO 800 is a fair bit worse than 400, with fine details starting to smudge and more grain appearing. ISO 1600 takes another significant downturn, with widespread smudging of fine details and more grain – the Auto Zone coin is almost a featureless disc at this point. ISO 3200 is rapidly becoming a smudge fest and 6400 loses most of what fine details are left – even some of the larger letters such as “SUNPAK” are getting hard to read.

I felt the P7000 and G12 were about even at 400 ISO, but the XZ-1 looks to be falling behind a little bit at 400, so its overall noise performance would have to be rated as a disappointment compared to others in the class. It does a bit better than a typical compact digital, but looks to be in third place in a noise race with the P7000 and G12. Here’s where those fast lens maximum apertures come into play, allowing the XZ-1 to shoot hand-held at lower ISO sensitivity in low light to help negate the apparent noise advantage enjoyed by the competition.

Additional Sample Images

Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image
Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image Olympus XZ-1 Sample Image


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