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Friday, 28 January 2011


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"it harkens back to the fast ƒ/1.8 lenses on Olympus's old compacts from the 'digital morning'"

You got the point there, Mike. I still own and (occasionally) use my old Oly C-5050Z, sporting an extraordinary f/1,8 lens, which has given me my best jpegs in all considerable terms so far. A lens like that, fixed next to today's sensors would be, and probably is on the XZ1, a sure winner.
By the way,those jpegs I got with the Oly stand and appreciate massive post processing (yes, jpeg), I suppose as a result of a nearly perfect match between lens and in-camera processing engine.

Impressive, if the results are good. Equivalent to some excelent primes in that range, that would cost a lot of money, from a 28/1.8 to a 110/2.5.
One trend I see is the one chosen by Pansonic m4/3, fully embracing software distortion correction. The path here I think is going for the sharpest of the sharpest you can design leaving the distortion variable out, and then correcting for it in software. I think that's what goes on with the 20/1.7 and other fantastic little lenses.
Accepting lens design limitations and going this way is in my opinion a huge advance, because you can produce sharper lenses with less design constrains (size, etc). And the images end up looking fantastic, much better than a distortion/sharpness juggling lens of the same price range. In this context zooms become exponentially more able, I think. You just design aiming for maximum sharpness at any focal length, let the software take care of vignetting and distortion and you can get amazing cost effective results.
There's a side benefit(?) for manufacturers, it becomes harder to cross platforms.

Going be the weird standard where 1" = 16mm in actual sensor diagonal, and assuming 4:3, I think that'd be 7.9mm × 5.9mm — about 20% more area than 1/1.8" sensors. 3× as big as the sensor in an iPhone 4. And about a fifth the size of a 4/3rds sensor; about 5% of 35mm full-frame.

What made this one most appealing to me was its compatibility with the EVF from the Pen line.I wish it were a little wider, but otherwise, it's very tempting.

Well I may just buy another Olympus after all (having sold off my extensive OM system in frustration and disgust at the lack of sensible digital migration options). One thing seems to carry through here, apart from the lens. The OM system (not counting OM10-40 etc) pioneered the concept of "one hand holds it and clicks the shutter, one hand adjusts aperture AND shutter speed, while supporting the lens". So sensible yet never becoming a universal paradigm. Now (I know other digicam makers have control rings around the lens mount) Olympus return to the innovative genius of Maitani.

This camera has the unfortunate problem of being released in the shadow of the X100... If the Fuji didn't exist, I think there would be a universal hullabaloo about the XZ1!

That said, I am still very interested in the XZ1, especially after looking at the RAW output - it's really quite impressive.

As a small child my father always had either his Olympus 35RC and/or his XA with him wherever we went... There is a special place in my heart for nice Olympus compacts.

I like some of the tradeoffs they've chosen with this camera. 28mm is wide enough. 90mm is not long enough, 112mm is better, especially when it's f/2.5.

The generally low f-number through the range is going to beat cameras like my Canon G11 for shallow depth of field potential, and probably helps the autofocus succeed at long focal lengths.

Probably there are additional tradeoffs such as distortion, most likely corrected in camera, most likely resulting in softness.

I'll be very interested in version 2 of this camera.

Yes... the "digital morning." I paid 700 something for an Oly C5050Z when they came out. It paid for itself when my wife was asked on her job (not photography) if she had a good digital camera and could take some pictures of her corporate clients. Early adoption...good. I would still be using it but I'm drawing the line at a second lens-barrel mechanical fix. The 1.8 was great and now it's a memorable bookend-Pentax Ds on the other side. Will be checking out the XZ-1 and also the E-PL2 for a hundred more (and a system commitment.)

I would consider it, if the lens could be controlled by turning it. I hate button zooms.

Despite the seemingly awesome lens (dpreview's review says it's not only well-spec'd but genuinely good), I'm not sure I'd pick this camera over the competition. The review points out a couple of cons that would probably be deal breakers:
No direct access to ISO setting in A or S priority modes.
No AEL/AFL so no way to take exposure and/or focus readings then recompose.

Maybe a firmware update can address those.

Otherwise, a nice addition to that market segment. (I do wish a tilting LCD were available on more of these cameras).

To indulge in a little gear talk, this looks like a pretty important and likely successful camera for Oly, partly serving as an entry to micro43. It's not too hard to see a person owning this and then later comparing it to the EPL2 or whatever comes, and realizing the size difference isn't so bad, and finally going for a "system" camera. The clip-on viewfinder probably looks bulbous on this, but I'd like one anyway.

Two years ago this summer I suddenly needed reading glasses. So now, along with all the other problems with using a rear screen to see and shoot the image, I am unable to clearly *see* that image.

Not good.

Thank God for the folks at Fuji.


At the dawn of the digital age, I bought myself an Olympus C2500L to test the waters (this was as far back as 2000!, the stone age!). I shot a bunch of pictures of journalists for a client, on film of course, and highly "lit". The client wondered if I might just do a few snaps from the Olympus that they could use on the web, in case they got bogged down scanning the film for the project they were working on. I just unplugged the Hasselblad, plugged in the Oly set to the same asa, shutter speed and f/stop as the film, and shot Tiff files for them. Not only did they look virtually perfect on the back (to the film), they looked great on computer as well...

I've always held out great hope that Olympus would be the one that would be able to produce the camera I was looking for, especially since I had such great luck with them out of the box (and those early results were more "film-like" than anything else I tried at that time), and they were one of the few companies that kept tiff in the file selection for a lot of their early units, which I loved (and still love).

Maybe this is heading in the right direction, maybe they will be the one to have a high rez, high quality lens (locked on and therefore "dustless"), with great output in a small package with a hot shoe for pro photo strobe...

I always felt that regardless of what all the other camera companies said in their advertising, Olympus sort of "got" the pro photo thing, just based on that C2500L. Remember reading an article one time a few years ago, talking about some photographers in the Iraq theater, shooting with Olympus digital point-and-shoots so they weren't wrecking their high-end stuff in the sand storms...kudos again to Oly...

For whatever it's worth Samsung came out with a 1.8 camera last year.


My S95 is sooooooo last year...


I think I'll skip this for the E-PL2. I just saw one in the store a few minutes ago. It fit nicely in my hand, looks great and you can use the optional electronic viewfinder. Don't know how well it functions. I'll wait for dpreview for that. I just looked at it quickly. The kit lens is a lot smaller than the previous one. According to dpreview the XZ-1 has one glaring fault - "Lack of AEL/AFL button rules out focus and recompose technique." Olympus always seems to almost get it right. As alternative to the E-PL2, there's rumoured to be a Nikon mirror-less camera coming up.

The really cool thing, IMHO, about the XZ-1 (I guess its the other end of evolution from the XA) is that it has the accessory port from the Pen line, as well as the ability to control the FL-{36,50}R flashes from the popup flash, something no other compact can do. So you can use a good stereo mic or (sadly or, not and) the clip-on electronic viewfinder, as well as the groovy and thoroughly tentacular MAL-1 macro light.

This makes Olympus the first to integrate a compact into their system cameras. Whether this is a win or not remains to be seen.

I like the lens on XZ-1 a lot. Aside from being brighter than my Canon S90, it seems to be genuinely sharper too. But I am too much used to AFL to give it up. Also the S90/95 with a height of 30 milimeters can live in my jean's pocket, even though it bulks out a bit but it's still managable. The XZ-1 with its 42mm height is not jeans pocketable, which makes the use cases different, for which I have a PEN.

Perhaps the AFL can be added later by a firmware update, but I doubt it based on my previous experience with Olympus.

So as much as I'm tempted by the zuiko lens, I have to pass.

My 5050 still gets use. At ISO 64 or 100, the RAW and TIFF files are quite nice.

In spot mode, at least, (which I use nearly exclusively) a half shutter press locks exposure and focus. Perhaps the XZ-1 is the same?

It's probably just me. I realize Olympus as a brand needs an entry in this space.

The space is crowded. Just as the low-end is saturated, this area is about to be. Once everyone has spent their $400-500 on a sophisticated point and shoot, they won't need another one for years.

More, the price of SLRs is coming down to meet this as a price point.

I think we risk overestimating this as a segment based on internet chatter.

So I say it's likely just me. And Olympus had to play. But more and more of the same is becoming less and less interesting.

Strange that the video should be so poor. For a lot of potential buyers that alone would be a show stopper.

A shame because the normal stills output looks impressive. The lens is fast enough so that this camera genuinely competes with micro 4/3 cameras with kit lenses in terms of subject isolation and noise.

Lack of an AEL button is a drag although the EV comp defaults to the rear dial in most modes so thats not such a biggie I suppose.

Just to clarify: the xz-1 does feature AEL and AFL. It's just that they are activated simultaneously by a half-Press on the shutter release. So you CAN lock focus and exposure, just not separately. Dpreview tell this inside the review, but it's inaccurately written in the conclusion.

Maybe it's just me, but given the choice between a 28mm f1.8 and a 24mm f2.0, I'll go with the latter.

I can remember every painful missed opportunity because my enthusiast digicam "only" went to 28mm, and what a wonderful world opened once I got the R1 and its 24mm.

Yes, even that sometimes wasn't wide enough, but it was wide enough often enough, and that was enough for me.

What i really miss is a step-zoom-function, like the Ricoh has at first. But in the end – its all about photography.

Absolutely, 24/2 beats 28/1.8 for me, too; that's 1/3 stop or less difference in aperture, I really don't much care, but 24mm is usefully wider. I carry a 24-70 on my D700, and my compact is an LX3 with a 24/2.

However, note the differences at the other end. And I need the fast aperture at the long end a lot more than I do at the wide end. I'd go back to 28/2 in a second to get 100+/2.8 at the long end.

I went more than a decade before I owned anything wider than a 28mm, and could live with 28 again now -- especially with stitching to solve the angle of view problem in surprisingly many circumstances.

I don't imagine that it's a coincidence that Olympus is calling this an XZ - the XA was a similarly well-spec'ed compact that found favor with photo enthusiasts. But it too was somewhat hampered by limited manual control. I will perk up if and when they ever announce a digital version of the 35RD - although it seems that Fuji has beaten them to it.

Ronin> I'm not sure DSLR price point is the only thing considered: compactness plays a huge part. Many people, myself included, agree to pay premium prices for something good(-enough) that fits in a pocket, if only for those times when I don't feel like carrying all the gear about.

David Dyer-Bennet> Very good point about the faster long end - one that I hadn't considered because I *personally* don't use long focals much - I very seldom go above 80mm or so - while I often need a relatively wide view. But you're right, for some people it would be an important issue.

I'm waiting for the prices to drop a bit on this one first, but generally very appealing.

Being able to use the ring for zoom (like the S95) or just a stepped zoom would be very useful in composition. ISO button would be #2 on my list. I don't use expousure and recompose, so AE lock isn't my priority.

S95 is obviously fits better in the jeans - I don't have a problem with neck strapped camera or carrying a messenger or light bag all day, but I do know that 'man-bags' are unpopular in the US.

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