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CES 2011: Olympus XZ-1 joins compact bridge club

New Olympus XZ-1 compact camera challenges Canon G

Olympus XZ-1

The new Olympus XZ-1 compact bridge camera.

Olympus has unveiled the new XZ-1 compact bridge camera, a slim model with a huge array of manual features for demanding photographers.

With the new XZ-1, Olympus has joined a select club of manufacturers to produce compact bridge cameras. This is a tightly-contested corner of the camera market, and there have been few players to date, so Olympus will have plenty of ground to catch up to establish itself against the competition.

Watch the video below for hands-on first impressions of the Olympus XZ-1 (incorrectly referred to as the ZX-1 in the video) from CES 2011.

Olympus XZ-1 video review from CES 2011


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The compact bridge club

The Olympus XZ-1 is a newcomer to an exclusive clique of camera manufacturers producing compact bridge models – cameras small enough to fit into a jacket pocket, that still allow for manual adjustments and high-quality photos.

Typically, these cameras are suited to photographers who want direct control over their shots, but don’t fancy the bulk and weight of a DSLR or system camera.

Read our handy advice on how to buy the best compact bridge camera.

The battle for bridge camera dominance

For the last couple of years, Canon has virtually ruled the roost with its PowerShot G-series of compact bridge cameras, regularly updating the line with quality models that have established themselves well amongst demanding photographers.

Panasonic and Nikon lurked in the background with their older, but highly respected LX3 and P6000 models.

All of this changed in 2010. As well as seeing in Canon’s latest model, the Canon PowerShot G12, 2010 also heralded the long-overdue Panasonic Lumix LX5 and Nikon Coolpix P7000.

New to the club in 2010 was Samsung, debuting its Samsung EX1 compact camera.

Olympus XZ-1 joins the compact bridge competition

It’s against this small group of four rival models that Olympus pits its new XZ-1, and it’ll be interesting to see how well this new camera is received when it launches

The XZ-1’s specifications are certainly impressive upon first inspection, and Olympus appears to have paid due attention to the popular features of its rivals in designing the new camera.

Olympus XZ-1 headline features:

  • 10Mp resolution
  • f1.8 aperture lens
  • 4x optical zoom
  • 28mm wide angle
  • 720p HD video
  • Built-in flash
  • No built-in viewfinder
  • Hot shoe
  • RAW shooting
  • Launch price of around £400

10Mp resolution on the Olympus XZ-1

Olympus has given the XZ-1 a relatively restrained resolution of 10Mp.

This may seem at odds with the escalating megapixel counts being seen on most compact cameras right now, but there’s logic to this move. In our expert independent tests, we’ve found that cameras with higher resolutions can perform less capably in low light.

Olympus claims that the XZ-1 is specially designed to get excellent shots in low light conditions.

Interestingly, every one of Olympus’s compact bridge rivals has also settled on 10Mp as the ideal resolution for this camera type.

f1.8 Zuiko lens

Helping the XZ-1 to achieve superior low light shots is its f1.8 Zuiko-designed lens. This large, bright aperture of f1.8 is designed to allow more light to reach the image sensor, allowing it to capture more detail in low light.

The large maximum aperture should also allow you to achieve creative shots with blurred backgrounds.

Of the XZ-1’s rivals, only the Samsung EX1 manages to equal the f1.8 aperture. The Panasonic LX5 is the next closest, with its f2.0 lens.

The Zuiko lens allows for a 4x optical magnification, beginning from a 28mm wide angle. This is the same wide angle you’ll find on the Nikon P7000 and Canon G12, though it’s not as wide and the Lumix LX5 and Samsung EX1’s 24mm wide angle lenses.

720p HD video on the Olympus XZ-1

The Olympus XZ-1 can capture 720p HD video at 30 frames per second.

The Canon G12, Nikon P7000 and Panasonic LX5 can also capture HD video at 720p – only the Samsung EX1 lacks this feature.

No viewfinder on the XZ-1

There’s no built-in optical viewfinder on the XZ-1, keeping the camera body smaller. You can choose to attach an external electronic viewfinder to the hot shoe, however.

The Canon G12 and Nikon P7000 offer built-in optical viewfinders, while the Panasonic LX5 and Samsung EX1 do not.

Full manual control and RAW shooting

The XZ-1 allows you to exploit a full range of manual controls, including aperture, shutter speed, white balance, exposure, ISO and flash strength.

The camera also allows you to shoot RAW images for increased editing options. There’s a built-in pop-up flash, and you can also attach an external flash to the hot-shoe.

We’ll have a full review of the XZ-1 as soon as it’s available to test. In the meantime, check out our First Looks of all the latest cameras to be launched at CES 2011.

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