More thoughts on the Olympus XZ-1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Isabel, Goy and Brandy, taken with the Olympus XZ-1

I’ve been using the Olympus XZ-1 for about a week now and been heartened by the positive responses to my original short review. If you are considering to get the XZ-1, I’ve got some additional thoughts that came up after more time with the little gem.

1. The lens cap is a real stinker. Ditch it.

Unlike the Panasonic LX-3 where the lens cap stays clipped on the lens (with a spring release mechanism), the XZ-1’s default lens cap keeps popping off with the slightest brush against it. This is incredibly risky for the camera lens, which would become exposed accidentally and be prone to horrific scratches.

Especially so when I always carry the camera slung around my torso and don’t always look at where or what the lens might be brushing against. This is the exact unpleasant experience that I had with my Canon G3 so many years ago where the lens cap design was a real afterthought.

XZ1 Case 2

XZ1 Case 1

I was thus extremely relieved when I found out that Olympus Singapore was selling the premium leather case (above) at their service centre. It costs S$138 (about USD $107 currently) and is a blatant profit margin driver. But that said, it’s designed really well, and overall workmanship is very high.

If you can find it in your locale, don’t even think twice, just buy it immediately! This is probably a cunning Olympus upsell mechanism, but at least the case gives off a whiff of high society ;D

2. It’s a compact cam, so live with the compromises

To be honest, while I like the XZ-1 plenty, I love my Olympus Pen EP-1 even more. The Pen represents the best combination of size, weight, image quality and manual control among my three cameras (the last being my Canon EOS 5D). During the last week of Chinese New Year family visits, it was the Pen that I brought with me most of the time.

And like it or not, the XZ-1 does noise reduction like every other compact cam, but I agree with other reviewers it is a bit too enthusiastic.

On the upside, pimples and skin blemishes get smoothed out automatically so everyone looks like they have great skin. On the downside, I wouldn’t dare enlarge or crop my photos too aggressively if they are above ISO 250 and poorly exposed.

You might also realize I’ve resisted putting in all sorts of test shots or 100% crops in this blog. Yet some readers have asked me to go test the XZ-1 against other cameras like the S95 and LX-5. Hey, these are just casual photos I take for myself and my family, nobody’s paying me to do technical tests and I do find doing test shots incredibly boring.

So why did I get an XZ-1 then? Well, there are those times when you don’t want to be changing lenses, or thinking too much about that bothersome camera bag at your side. What makes me happy about the XZ-1 is that it offers the same film-like color rendition of the Pen, and the tonality is amazing, whether in color or BnW.

What makes this camera really worth the money is the thrill of having dSLR image standards (in terms of color) and lens capabilities (in terms of aperture) in a compact form factor.

The XZ-1 won’t be the right camera to learn photographic principles such as depth of field, shutter speed, or exposure compensation (I would still recommend a full dSLR for that), but it’s the right camera for those who already know how to shoot well.

And bad news if you’re looking for a camcorder replacement – a HD camcorder is still the best option because the XZ-1 isn’t really good at video.

3. You are smarter than the camera

Call it wishful thinking but I do wish more people would take some time to learn photography basics rather than asking “Can this camera take great pictures?”

The camera can only take great photos IF you know how to, and that requires an investment of time and practice.

After all, nobody can cook a good meal without good guidance and practice.

Like every other camera out there, the XZ-1 will not always know if you’re trying to take a picture of a brightly-lit beach, or want to isolate a character in a dim place, or recognize severe backlighting.

All these adverse shooting conditions can be overcome with just a little knowledge of exposure compensation or even better, understanding the relationship between ISO sensitivity, lens aperture and shutter speed. All this can be learnt from a photography guide book you can borrow from any library, or a quick read of online websites.

All too often, I see people expecting their cameras to do miracles for them, and constantly getting disappointed as a result. Technology has brought great leaps to photography in the past ten years, but one thing remains the same – cameras are mere tools, and you decide if the camera can do great work for you.

The XZ-1 represents a peak in the current stage of evolution of cameras, but I don’t foresee cameras taking photos for us for a long long time.

21 Replies to “More thoughts on the Olympus XZ-1”

  1. Hi Ian, could you let me know if your ZX-1 is “Made in Japan” or some other country?

    Justy curious to know if there are “Made in Japan” and “Made in X” versions of this camera or there is only one version.

    Thank you sir!

  2. Hi,

    Can you show a picture from the back side from the case, please?
    Is there other fixation?
    Thanks in advance for your help
    Pablo

  3. Hey,

    I love the personal take, especially the part “If you’re looking to learn photography, this is not for you”. I will get myself a cheap compact and a not-too-expensive dSLR.

    Also, fun to see pictures from Singapore. Moving over there in a few months, have no idea what to expect. The pictures put a human touch on an otherwise unknown place 🙂

  4. What do you think of the Ricoh LC-2 lens cap? I think i saw there are few Youtube videos of this LC-2 lens cap on XZ-1. Of course this has to involve some minor mod.

    1. This might be late news. You don’t hv to use LC-2 cap on the XZ-1; JJC has a very specific model called ALC-XZ1 tailor fit for the XZ-1. Works beautifully. Just gently screw-on. SMS me, 98296259 (SGP) if you would like to get one from me. S$19/=

  5. Hi
    Im considering either an xz1 or a pen e as an alternative to an SLR for shooting beautiful head shots of vintage watches for a coffee table book, allied tona light box/tent, tripod set up. Also macro shots of just the dials wihout the glass on (so no reflection issues for close ups). Which style of cam is better suited in your opinion…? The low light capability is irreevant to me, just the optics for rhis type of work.
    Thanks in advance for any feedback.
    Cheers
    Rich

  6. Hi Rich, if you’re doing a coffee table book, I don’t recommend anything other than a dSLR for its resolution, tonality, and range of proven macro lenses.

  7. May I know where did you bought you’re Olympus XZ-1 ? Is it in singapore? If it is, which part is it? Thank you 🙂

  8. Hi Ian,

    After reading your post yesterday, I got one for myself during lunch today at Mini Challenger at Funan 2nd level for @$650 and it came with a free screen protector, 8GB SD card, mini tripod and cleaning kit.

    I live next to the Olympus Service and Marketing office and found the price of the external charger at $56 and a spare battery at $61 pretty steep.

    But I love the images it produces

    Thank you for a wonderful personal review of the camera.

  9. Hi Ruby, sorry for the late reply. I bought it at MS Color at AMK Central for S$699. The price should be lower now.

    Hi Felix – accessories are where many camera makers make good margins ;D Enjoy your camera and thanks for reading!

  10. Hi. I am also planning to purchase the Olympus case, but I wanted to know if it will clear my automatic lens cover. I have posted some link photos of how my camera looks like. Over all, the lens cover added about 5mm from it’s original lens cover attached to the lens. The diameter is about the same with the f dial knob. I don’t think it will be an issue but I wanted to make sure since I will need to order the case online versus purchasing from a store. Thanks.

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v645/duceduc/DSC02229.jpg
    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v645/duceduc/DSC02228.jpg

    1. Hi Duc, I really have no idea as the leather case is a snug fit for the lid-less lens and I’m not sure if there is enough clearance. If you’re going to get the case, you don’t need the automatic lens cover anyway.

      1. Thanks for the reply. I am not a case fan; it just adds on the ‘bulkyness’ to the overall size. However, I need to have the camera in some kind of pouch so I don’t scratch it when stowed inside my everyday pouch bag. (ones most japanese uses to walk-about with). I have looked around for a generic size camera pouch but I couldn’t find one I like. Either it is too small or too bulky.

        I hate to ditch the custom lens cover so soon as it cost a few pennies.

  11. Hi Ian,

    I am interested in the XZ-1 case you mention. Could you tell me if it has a belt loop on the back? Also, if the case was attached to a belt, do you think it would be easy to take the camera out quickly?

    Thanks for your input!
    -D

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