Olympus Stylus XZ-10 Review
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
Performance starts with image quality, which is the criteria used as the foundation of our digital camera ratings. Ergonomic issues may get in the way, but in the end, image quality counts the most. Image quality has multiple components which can be attributed to the sensor, lens and processing.
The Olympus XZ-10 manages reasonably for its small sensor. Noise clearly shows at short shutter-speeds but is not as destructive as we have seen. At moderately slow shutter-speeds, noise-reduction obliterates details and makes everything look quite soft. In either case, potential print sizes from the XZ-10 are limited to mid-size ones for most of the ISO range.
In strong light for a scene without too much contrast, one can manage something slightly larger but for the most part typical 9x12" prints are reasonable up to ISO 1600. ISO 3200 is very noisy yet remains usable for small 4x6" prints. ISO 6400 can make it in case of an emergency.
In absolute terms, this puts the XZ-10 behind recent premium compacts. At the wide-end of the zoom, its bright lens is also matched by the competition but at the telephoto-end, the XZ-10 has at least one stop of advantage in terms of light gathering ability.
The Olympus Stylus XZ-10 uses a lens with an ultra-bright F/1.8 maximum aperture at wide-angle and F/2.7 at telephoto. It appears rather sharp from wide-open with a slight gradual increase in softness towards edges. A bit of stopping down helps but the finest details are always muddy due to image-noise, even at base ISO. Once noise-reduction kicks in, it no longer matters as the entire image becomes blurry.
One thing that users of compact cameras are not used to is shallow depth-of-field at wide apertures. This may be confused as softness by novices but it is not. Shallow depth-of-field is often used in creative photography to isolate a sharp subject on a blurry background.
Color & White Balance
Color accuracy for the XZ-10 is about average. The output is somewhat close to reality but with a noticeable hue shift. Among color modes, Natural is closer to reality with some over-saturation while not being over the top. The Vivid mode is best suited for things which do not resemble reality. Muted is not really muted, only a dim version of Natural, so similar over-saturation is present. For best results, use Natural with Saturation dialed down to -1. Those who shoot RAW can get much better color accuracy by creating a color-profile for their camera.
Automatic White-balance is good and even handles artificial light well, occasionally leaving only a slight yellow. Outdoor, it works very well. Presets work just as expected. The custom white-balance option is almost perfect, something which a one-step correction towards blue can take care of. The XZ-10 features white-balance fine-tuning. This can fix color issues when a setting is not quite managing.
This compact digital camera has a sophisticated multi-segment metering system called ESP. It is generally reliable and can best be described as conservative. This means that there is much more chance of it under-exposing than over-exposing, which is certainly the more sensible thing to do. Under-exposure can occur for scenes with small bright highlights. Sometimes the XZ-10 misses those which causes blown out highlights.
The autofocus system of the Olympus XZ-10 is accurate and reliable. It always locks focus unless the subject is too close. Macro focusing is reliable as well. Focusing is quick in good light and slows down in low-light, which is normal. This definitely faster and more sensitive than most compact cameras.
In use, the XZ-10 is very responsive. Nearly every button-press and dial-turn gets an immediate response. The performance of this digital camera is characterized by the following measurements:
- Power On: 1s. Good for a camera with an extending lens.
- Autofocus: ½s in good light, up to 1s in low-light. Better than average.
- Shutter-lag: Instant with 1s black-out. Good for the former, not so much for the latter.
- Shot-to-shot speed: 2s. Below average.
- Playback: ¼s to enter ¾s to exit. Average.
- Power Off: 1s. Faster than average.
While this camera is responsive, its performance is mostly average. Autofocus speed is generally good. This, combined with the nearly instant shutter-lag, makes the camera rarely frustrating in use. The last performance number of the XZ-10 is battery-life of 240 shots-per-charge which is on the low side.
The Olympus XZ-10 is a premium compact camera which brings full manual controls and dual control-dials into an unusually small form-factor. The center-piece of this model is an ultra-bright F/1.8 stabilized wide-angle 5X optical-zoom lens that remains relatively bright at the telephoto end of the zoom with a maximum F/2.7 aperture. Indeed, even manual-controls alone are rare among such small cameras these days and someone who wants to control exposure without demanding much image quality can easily do with the XZ-10.
Image quality itself compares well to typical fixed-lens cameras. It falls short of more costly premium-compacts, such as the Olympus Stylus XZ-2
Olympus Stylus XZ-2, which use a larger sensor and still fits an ultra-bright lens. The performance of the XZ-10 is generally well-rounded with reasonable sharpness, color, white-balance and metering. The area where this camera is truly frustrating is video which is impossible to frame properly due to the lack of an actual Video mode and a significant reduction in angle-of-view.
The bottom line is that the XZ-10 delivers what is aims to, which is to provide a smaller alternative to premium compact digital cameras. It does so at a very good price-point, making it one of the better values among small cameras.
Olympus XZ-10 Facts
|12 Megapixels Fixed Lens||ISO 100-6400|
|5X Wide Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/2000-30s|
|Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|5 FPS Drive, 200 Images||Custom white-balance with 2 axis fine-tuning|
|1920x1080 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Spot-Metering|
|3" LCD 920K Pixels||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
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