Olympus XZ-10 £349

7th May 2013 | 08:28

Olympus XZ-10

Will this make the ideal pocket snapper?

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Like:

Touchscreen; Art filters; f/1.8 lens;

Dislike:

Occasional slow processing times; General metering sometimes fails;

Introduction

The Olympus XZ-10 occupies the lucrative premium compact camera space that seems to be ever-growing in the number of options available to consumers.

These cameras offer much more than a bog-standard compact, and certainly much more than a smartphone. Generally offering full manual control, other inviting features include fast aperture lenses and raw format shooting.

Olympus already has the XZ-2 at the very top of its lineup, so this XZ-10 is intended to be the "Lite" version of that camera, with similar specifications in a smaller body, and at a slightly cheaper full price point of £349.99 / US$399.99 / AU$499.

Canon EOS 700D review

As such, the Olympus XZ-10 is in direct competition with the likes of the Nikon P330 and Canon PowerShot S110, both one step below in their respective company's compact lines. It's also up against the Panasonic Lumix LX7 and, arguably, also travel superzoom compacts such as the Panasonic TZ40.

The Olympus XZ-10 is smaller than the Olympus XZ-2, but still manages to house a 12 million pixel sensor. At 1/2.3 inches, it is physically smaller than the Olympus XZ-2's offering, though.

Along with full manual control, there's also semi-automatic modes such as aperture priority and shutter priority. Fully automatic shooting is also available, along with a range of creative modes such as Photo Story and Art Filters. Raw format shooting is a possibility, too.

Canon EOS 700D review

Unlike the Canon PowerShot S110, Wi-Fi isn't built into the body itself, but the camera is compatible with Toshiba's FlashAir Wireless LAN SD cards, which enable image sharing between smartphones and tablets, but not remote shooting.

At its widest point, the Olympus XZ-10's lens boasts an f/1.8 aperture. This rises to a still fairly impressive f/2.7 at the telephoto end of the optic. It's a 5x optical zoom lens, with an equivalent focal length of 26-130mm (in 35mm terms).

Like with the Nikon P330, an inbuilt ND filter is integrated to help with exposure control in bright conditions. Digital zooming is also available, with Olympus' super resolution zoom boosting the lens capability up to 10x. Around the base of the lens is a control ring for altering aperture.

Canon EOS 700D review

The Olympus XZ-10 is equipped with the same True Pic VI processing engine as the latest PEN and OM-D cameras, which helps to facilitate Full HD video recording and high sensitivity shooting. Sensitivity ranges from ISO 100-1600 in the native range, and can be extended up to ISO 6400.

A touch-sensitive, 3-inch, 920k screen is at the back of the camera. You can use this to set the autofocus point or fire the shutter itself. There's no viewfinder, and unlike the Olympus XZ-2, there's no hotshoe or port to attach one, so you'll have to rely on the screen for composition.

The contrast detection focusing system has 35 AF points. Single AF and Super Macro focusing are available. Super Macro promises to enable you to get as close as 1cm from the subject. Fast shooting at up to 5fps is included.

Canon EOS 700D review

Olympus is well known for its love of creative options, and the Olympus XZ-10 is packed with several. Art filters from the OM-D/PEN series have been brought across, including Cross Process, Dramatic Tone and Key Line.

These can be used within the fully manual and semi-automatic shooting modes, as well as having a dedicated mode on the dial. Each art filter is customisable, with different frames and effects being available for each one.

A new feature, PhotoStory, is also included. This enables you to create montages of a number of images taken in quick succession. These are saved as one JPEG file, and can be customised in a number of different ways. Some editing can be done post-capture, such as resizing and red-eye reduction.

Build quality and handling

Olympus says that the XZ-10 is around 40 per cent smaller than the Olympus XZ-2. We think this makes it a more appealing camera for those looking for something small and light to use every day.

It does mean sacrificing certain elements (no room for a tilting or articulating screen, or a wide array of dials and buttons), but we can forgive something this sleek for that.

Despite its small size, it's still weighty enough to give it a quality feel. The grip is much less pronounced than on the Olympus XZ-2, but a rubberised texture helps to give purchase, especially when you're shooting one-handed.

Canon EOS 700D review

The depth of the camera is much smaller, and as such the grip on the back is also less pronounced, but again, a small area of rubberised coating is present.

The layout of the Olympus XZ-10 is very similar to the Olympus XZ-2, albeit on a smaller scale. One of the key differences, though, is the lack of a second Function button, found on the front of the Olympus XZ-2.

The most notable difference, however, is the screen, which on the Olympus XZ-2 is a tilting device. Here instead is a fixed screen - it's still touch sensitive though.

Canon EOS 700D review

You can select an autofocus point via the touchscreen, simply by tapping on whichever bit of the screen you want to set the point to. Alternatively, you can also elect to have the shutter triggered in this way - tapping the screen will focus and release the shutter at the point you choose. If you prefer not to use the touchscreen at all, you can switch off via the screen itself.

To change the AF point without the touchscreen, you need to press a dedicated button on the back of the camera - acting as the left directional key on the four-way pad. After pressing it, use the arrow keys or the scroll dial to the point you want.

It's great to see a touchscreen on a camera of this calibre, and it's something that elevates it above the Nikon P330. It's very responsive in use and makes grabbing those quick shots very easy, and takes the frustration out of changing the autofocus points. It's particularly useful when shooting at wide apertures or in macro focusing mode.

Canon EOS 700D review

Navigating the rest of the Olympus XZ-10's controls is very similar to the Olympus XZ-2, and indeed, many of the other cameras currently on offer from Olympus - perhaps most notably the PEN series. If you're familiar with any of these models, this would make an excellent second shooter for your pocket.

At the top of the camera is a mode dial for quickly switching between the various modes on offer, including fully automatic, semi-automatic and fully manual. It's also here that you can access art modes and the new montage (Photo Story) feature.

This is a fun new feature that enables you to frame a set of pictures together in one montage. There are many apps available for smartphones that do this, so it's nice to see a similar function making an appearance here. A range of presets are available, which are good fun to play with.

Canon EOS 700D review

Similarly, anyone who's familiar with Olympus products will know of the company's love for digital art filters, and many of those available on the PEN and OM-D range show up here.

Around the Olympus XZ-10's lens is a ring that can be customised for different uses, including altering the aperture and shutter speed (when in semi-automatic and manual modes). This ring changes function depending on the mode you're shooting in - for instance, in Art mode, the ring switches between the different filters. A dial around the four-way navigational pad is used to alter exposure compensation.

On the back of the camera is a Function button for quickly accessing other key parameters, such as white balance and ISO. This can also be customised to only include the functions you use most frequently.

It's not necessary to delve into the main menu too frequently, because a sort of quick menu can be accessed by pressing the OK button in the centre of the four-way directional pad. Here you'll find fairly in-depth access to settings such as white balance, ISO, aspect ratio, art filter and more.

Performance

Because the Olympus XZ-10's sensor is physically smaller than the Olympus XZ-2's, it would be logical to assume that this will have an impact on performance. That said, we had reasonably high hopes for the camera, because Olympus has consistently proven itself capable of producing high-quality premium compact cameras.

Happily, we've not been disappointed by the overall quality of the images that the Olympus XZ-10 produces. There's lots of fine detail on display, while colours are reproduced vividly without being over the top.

Zooming into 100% reveals some areas of purple fringing in images with high contrast edges. There's also some evidence of image smoothing, although it doesn't start to become particularly noticeable until around ISO 400, increasing in prevalence as you go through the range.

Canon EOS 700D review

Noise is controlled well throughout the sensitivity range, up to around ISO 1600, where it starts to become problematic as detail is also lost. Images shot at higher ISOs are still useable at printing and usual web sizes, so for the average user it shouldn't be too much of an issue.

All-purpose metering, known as ESP metering on Olympus cameras, does a generally good job of producing accurate exposures, although it can struggle in high-contrast situations. Switching to spot metering is pretty easy, though, and because the screen displays a live view of the resulting exposure, it's fairly easy to get a better exposure when necessary.

Automatic white balance is also a generally good all-round performer, even in situations where there is mixed or artificial lighting. Under some artificial lighting conditions, the camera tended to err towards warmer tones, but switching to a more appropriate white balance setting is quick via the OK menu.

Canon EOS 700D review

Olympus's range of PEN and OM-D cameras are noted for their autofocusing speeds, and it seems that the company has put some of that knowledge into its compact camera range. The Olympus XZ-10 is capable of very quick focusing, locking on to subjects accurately and comfortably. This is also made quicker in operation by the ability to use the touchscreen to change the autofocus point to the area you desire.

Macro focusing enables you to get as close as 1cm from the subject and makes for some impressive frame-filling shots. A lot of detail is maintained in this mode, and is useful for subjects such as flowers.

Image stabilisation does a good job of helping to keep images blur free, even while shooting at the far end of the telephoto optic. That said, a 5x optical zoom is not particularly long, and is outdone by the likes of the Nikon P330, with its 10x offering, though it matches the Canon S110's lens.

Canon EOS 700D review

Although the Olympus XZ-10 has a small sensor, you can still get some creative shallow depth of field effects, thanks to the f/1.8 maximum aperture of its lens. Out of focus areas are rendered well, with some attractive bokeh on display. The drop-off in focus is also smooth and impressive.

Shooting at mid-range apertures, such as f/8, enables us to examine the edge to edge sharpness of the lens. The Olympus XZ-10's offering is pretty good, keeping lots of detail up to the edges of the frame. Zooming in 100% does reveal some softness at the very edges of the frame, but it's not something that is noticeable at normal printing and web sizes.

Processing times are generally very quick, with shot-to-shot time when shooting in normal modes pretty speedy. The camera can slow down when using some art filters, though.

Canon EOS 700D review

Art filters are something that Olympus has become particularly famed for. On the Olympus XZ-10 there's an impressively wide range to choose from, with many of them also customisable. Some, as you might expect, are better than others. This is down to personal taste, but it's definitely worth experimenting with what's on offer.

Our personal favourites are Cross Process, Dramatic Tone and Pinhole Effect. It's also useful that you can shoot in raw format, meaning that should you decide you'd prefer a clean version of the image down line, you can access that too.

Although not a tilting screen, like the Olympus XZ-2, the Olympus XZ-10's display is still high resolution and provides a good angle of view, which is helpful when shooting from slightly awkward angles. It also doesn't suffer too badly from glare or reflections, except in the very brightest of sunlight.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Olympus XZ-10 review, we've shot our resolution chart.

If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Olympus XZ-10 is capable of resolving up to around 20 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.

For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

JPEG

Olympus XZ-10 review

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 100, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 200, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 400, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 800, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 1600, score: 14 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 3200, score: 10 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 6400, score: n/a (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Raw

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 100, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 200, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 400, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 800, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 1600, score: 14 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 3200, score: 10 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 6400, score: n/a (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

Here we compare the Olympus XZ-10 with the Canon PowerShot S110, Nikon Coolpix P330 and Panasonic LX7.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Olympus XZ-10 review

These results show that JPEG images from the Olympus XZ-10 contain a weaker signal to noise ratio than JPEGs from the Canon PowerShot S110, Nikon Coolpix P330 and Panasonic LX7 at low-to-mid sensitivities, though at ISO 3200 the Olympus's JPEGs draw level with the Panasonic's, and at ISO 6400 the Olympus's JPEGs come out slightly ahead of all the other cameras'.

Raw signal to noise ratio

Olympus XZ-10 review

The signal to noise ratios of the TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Olympus XZ-10 are stronger than its JPEGs, coming out ahead of the Panasonic LX7's at every sensitivity except ISO 100, and beating the Nikon Coolpix P330 at ISO 100-400, and again at ISO 6400. Between ISO 800 and 3200, however, the Olympus's TIFF images have weaker signal to noise ratios than the Nikon's. The Canon PowerShot S110's TIFFs beat the Olympus's at every sensitivity indicating that it produces cleaner images.

JPEG dynamic range

Olympus XZ-10 review

The Olympus XZ-10's JPEGs show relatively strong dynamic range at low-to-mid sensitivities, coming out ahead of the Canon PowerShot S110 and Nikon Coolpix P330's JPEGs at ISO 100-400, while sitting just below the Panasonic LX7's JPEGs at ISO 100-200, before overtaking at ISO 400. At ISO 800-3200 the Olympus's JPEGs display weaker dynamic range than the Canon and Panasonic's, before coming out on top again at ISO 6400. The Olympus's JPEGs beat the Nikon's at every sensitivity.

Raw dynamic range

Olympus XZ-10 review

This chart indicates that TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Olympus XZ-10 show a smaller and weaker dynamic range than those from the Canon PowerShot S110, at every sensitivity. The Olympus's TIFFs show greater dynamic range than the Nikon Coolpix P330's at ISO 400 and 6400, and the same sort of amount at ISO 200, but are weaker at other sensitivities. The Olympus's TIFFs show greater dynamic range than the Panasonic LX7's at every sensitivity but ISO 100 - although at ISO 200 and 1600 the two cameras produce very similar results.

Sample images

Olympus XZ-10 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Colours straight from the Olympus XZ-10 are bright and punchy without going over the top.

Olympus XZ-10 review

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The Olympus XZ-10 copes well with low light situations, producing images that are relatively low in noise without losing too much detail. This image was taken at ISO 800.

Olympus XZ-10 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Here we can see the camera has struggled a little with the high contrast conditions of an indoor scene, with bright light coming in through the windows, but the dynamic range is still respectable.

Olympus XZ-10 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Macro focusing is available as close as 1cm away from the subject, leading to creative frame-filling shots.

Olympus XZ-10 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Both automatic white balance and metering have done a good job of providing a scene that is well exposed and accurately coloured, despite the mixed lighting conditions.

Olympus XZ-10 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The Olympus XZ-10 has a 5x optical zoom lens - this is taken at the widest point of the lens.

Olympus XZ-10 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

This shot is taken at the telephoto end of the zoom optic. While it doesn't have the longest reach of the premium compacts on the market, it's still fairly flexible.

Olympus XZ-10 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

General purpose metering has really struggled to provide a well exposed image here, being confused by the contrast in the scene.

Olympus XZ-10 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

In this shot, we changed to spot metering for better results - the sky has been a little overexposed, though.

Olympus XZ-10 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The Olympus XZ-10 makes a good pocket camera for use every day, while still enabling you to get creative with shots.

Olympus XZ-10 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

As with most Olympus cameras, a wide variety of art filters are available and worthy of experimentation. This is the Cross Process effect.

Olympus XZ-10 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Dramatic Tone is another filter that has been brought across from the range of PEN and OM-D CSC cameras.

Olympus XZ-10 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Dramatic Tone also has a black and white option, leading to dramatic monochrome shots.

Olympus XZ-10 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Cross Process can also be customised to suit different needs. This example has red toning, rather than the standard green tint.

Olympus XZ-10 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Sepia toning is another art filter that is available.

Olympus XZ-10 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

You can shoot in a number of different aspect ratios. By default, this is set to 4:3, but 3:2, 16:9 and this 1:1 square crop is also available.

Sensitivity and noise images

JPEG

Olympus XZ-10 review

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 100 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 1600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 3200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 6400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Raw

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 100 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 1600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 3200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Olympus XZ-10 review

ISO 6400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Verdict

Olympus has once again produced a very capable premium compact camera in the Olympus XZ-10, that in some respects is more of a follow-up to the Olympus XZ-1 than to the larger and more unwieldy Olympus XZ-2.

For those looking for something to easily slip into a jeans pocket, while retaining appealing aspects such as full manual control and a wide aperture lens, this is perhaps the better option out of the two - which are at very similar price points at the moment.

Image quality from the camera is impressive, while lots of fun can be had with the art filters and Photo Story option. Being able to shoot in raw format while using art filters is a particular bonus, because some other manufacturers - such as Sony - don't have this option.

Having that f/1.8 aperture lens is also a great creative bonus, because it enables you to achieve some impressively shallow depth of field effects, and also boosts the camera's ability to shoot at lower sensitivities in low light.

There's not too many handling quirks to worry about here, with most of the operation carried out from within the "quick" OK menu. Having a function button is also a bonus, while the ring around the lens is a nice touch for advanced photographers. It's also useful that this lens ring can be used when in automatic modes to control other aspects.

Having a touchscreen on this camera is a plus point, especially when it comes to setting autofocus point. It's a shame that some of the menu operation can't be controlled by the touchscreen, though. Being able to swipe through images in playback is a nice touch for those used to smartphone operation.

We liked

There's plenty of things to like about the Olympus XZ-10, most notably the lens, touchscreen and art filters that are available. It's a nifty little compact camera that fits snugly into a jeans pocket and would make a good backup camera for both existing Olympus users and those using other brands.

We disliked

It can be difficult to think of problems with cameras such as this, but we would perhaps have liked to have seen a few more customisable function buttons on the body of the camera for quicker access.

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Final verdict

The premium compact camera market is one that is packed with some serious competition, but the Olympus XZ-10 more than holds its own against most of the competition.

Images are great, and for the most part handling is also a good experience, while bonuses such as the touchscreen and art filters make it more appealing than some of its rivals - such as the Nikon P330.

That said, Canon has managed to include Wi-Fi in the S110, while Sony has opted for a larger sensor in its RX100. So, while this is a good all-round performer, there's nothing overly exciting about it that gives it a niche selling point - it'd be nice to see Olympus experimenting a bit more in this area of the market.

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