Panasonic JPG processing
Are you sure????
I was looking at the XZ-1 as an alternative and went to the dpreview of the Olympus camera and the JPG comparison page. Compared it to the Nikon J1, LX5, and GF1 (all of which are price comparable and all of which offer things I am looking for in a camera - I'm resigned to no camera being perfect).
If you stick those cameras in, leaving them all at the 100 ISO setting the colours are just more vivid and less washed out. Even bumping the GF1 up to 400 ISO it's still more vivid than the LX5 - I use the batteries in the lower left and the detail area of the Martini bottle - you can really see the difference in the reds and greens. The LX5 100 ISO JPGs are no comparison to the XZ1, but the GF1 is close. Interestingly for the GF1 there is the regular ISO listing and also listings for the 20mm kit lens - those are HORRID.
I'll take the XZ1 over the LX5 due to the colours (even though I prefer the LX5 ergonomics). But if the JPG colour rendering comparison between the XZ1 and GF1 is accurate, I'll go buy a used GF1 in a heartbeat.
Ok, I thought you were concerned about the color being washed out at higher ISO. Here you'll have to keep the sensor size in mind, since the large sensors have an advantage.
Concerning the base ISO colors, it's more a question of the marketing department's demands. 'Consumers' in the pejorative sense tend to prefer boosted/ oversaturated colors, which usually is reflected by the default settings. Eg. concerning the Panasonics you mention, the GFx cameras are targeted at hip Japanese teenage girls. The LXx series is not. Especially the Panasonics have unlimited settings for the color setup (saturation, contrast, WB, hue, film modes, etc.) so the difference you see in the 'comparomater' has probably more to do with the chosen default setting, than the camera/ Jpg engine itself.
Here's a caveat, what
see is the rendering of the jpg of your screen. There's a huge difference between the screens. It should be forbidden by law to let people using non-hardware calibrated TN panels to make judgements about colors I have an IPS hardware calibrated screen, a standard 'office' TN panel LCD, and two laptops. The difference I get from going one screen to the other is greater than than you'll see between the various brands...
'If you can imagine sharing a waterbed with a baboon that's just been doused in itching powder.' J.C. reg. the suspension of the Lincoln Town Car '82