I'm not enjoying XZ-1 (maybe P&S cams in general)

Started Nov 8, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Scott McL
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I'm not enjoying XZ-1 (maybe P&S cams in general)
Nov 8, 2012

This is not a review. Just 2 cents from an old timer who was completely new to P&S digicams and had no idea what to expect. It might we useful for other DSLR shooters dipping a toe into the small sensor digicam waters for the first time.

Some background. Before purchasing the XZ-1 at $200 on Amazon, I had never shot a digital P&S before in my life. My only two digital cameras have been a D70 and then an aging D200. Before that I shot film with an N80 briefly, an FM3a, a pair of Leica M6 TTLs and a Rollei AFM-35 P&S.

Even the D70 and D200 were far from ideal. Both viewfinders sucked compared to the FM3a, and I used magnifying eyepieces on both of them. I still hate the lack of visual (non-AF) focus confirmation I can get from the FM3a ground glass focus screen or the Leica RF patch. Makes precise focus pure guess work.

I've also never shot with a normal zoom. The only zoom lens I possess is the Nikon 12-24/4. I don't shoot landscape, so I might not be the harshest judge, but it's IQ at close range seems pretty darned good. Otherwise, I've only shot AF-D and AI-S lenses I used with my Nikon film cameras, and Leica and CV primes on my Leica bodies. At least on the Nikon crop sensor DSLR's, the Nikon primes have performed admirably (if not always at Leica lens levels, particularly wide open, but hey, they don't cost as much either).

So this is my general shooting experience when I first laid hands on the XZ-1, my first P&S.

I imagine the Oly XZ-1 is a fine digicam, but I have no experiences with which to make comparisons. It seems to have oodles of features and a heads up settings display worthy of a jet fighter. But the image quality seems pretty mediocre. Maybe it's the zoom lens or maybe it's the small sensor. I can't tell exactly why, but I don't get near the same contrasty files I get with either the D70 or D200 (up to ISO 400 or so, I'd guess). I did shoot raw, and indeed the files are extremely noisy even at low ISO (as mentioned on some posts here) without any noise reduction. Again, that might well be par for the course for small sensor cameras, but I don't really know. The JPEG files have really nasty banded halos around any point light sources. I know that specular highlight quality can vary with the shape of aperture blades, but these nasty banded halos pretty much ruin a photograph as far as I'm concerned.

Zooming without a zoom ring is slow and annoying. Except in bright sunlight (who shoots in bright sunlight?), the meter seems to have an affinity for rather too slow shutter speeds. I have no idea why auto-iso doesn't have a minimum shutter speed setting. This is a trivial electronics/software (i.e., basically cost free) feature that's been around for many, many years. Image stabilization is a nice gimmick, but it doesn't do squat for motion blur - and I don't really want to shoot lots of fine art still life with a digicam. People move.

Being a new nearsighted glasses wearer, I sadly now realize that lack of a viewfinder with diopter control makes shooting with glasses on a nightmare. Again, no fault of the XZ-1, but I didn't know what to expect of the "pocketable P&S" experience. I did note that folks liked the VF2, but I imagine unless it's superior to the D200 VF, I'd hate it (recall I think the D200 VF sucks already). It also costs more than the camera. Folks seem to think the VF3 sucks compared to the VF2, so that's not an option. In any case, it ruins even the jacket pocket-ability of the XZ-1 camera, which pretty much defeats the purpose of a small digicam for me.

I could go on and on, but all in all, it's been a thoroughly annoying camera - again, probably for me my first experience with any P&S digicam in general, and not the XZ-1 in particular.

I really wanted a smaller camera I could carry around easily, but I suppose I now have learned that I desire base ISO IQ at least as good as the D200 - and really, given 5 years of sensor tech progress, at this point I'd feel unsatisfied if I didn't also get far, far superior low ISO performance, which already sucks on the D200 - before making any other shooting ergonomics compromises I might be willing to make for a smaller camera.

My prior experiences with film P&S didn't prepare me well for my first digicam encounter. With the Rollei film P&S (basically a rebadged Fuji Classe with very nice super contrasty 38mm Rollei lens), film is just film, so except for giving up a big VF, full manual shooting and other features, the IQ was unquestionably stellar compared to my Nikon and Leica film cameras, of course, given equivalent film loaded into the camera.

I guess this will be true someday with larger sensor small digicams, but not yet. And minus a VF with diopter, I now have learned the much heralded RX100 isn't going to make me any happier.

Maybe I'll take a look at an X100. Dunno. If folks have other small carry-all camera suggestions that might better fit my expectations (criteria?), I'd be happy to hear any suggestions.

I've never returned anything to Amazon before, but I think I have all the original packaging (the plastic around smaller parts is ripped up). Hopefully they'll take it back with few hassles. If not, I guess I can give it to my 6 year old who will break it within a week.

It's been a useful learning experience about digicam foibles for me, and I do fully recognize that many folks love the XZ-1 and get great images out of it. But while I had high hopes, it's just not for me, I guess.

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"Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed." - Garry Winogrand

Fujifilm FinePix X100 Nikon D200 Nikon D70 Olympus XZ-1 Sony RX100
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