The XZ-1 can shoot 720p HD movies at a frame rate of 30fps in the accessible but rather sizable Motion JPEG format. The video quality is good but not exactly stunning. Motion is conveyed well but the overall result is a little dull and fuzzy, in contrast to the super-sharp stills output. The camera is able to zoom and focus when shooting movies.
Art Filters can be used when shooting movies, giving some interesting effects. Many of the filters are so processor-intensive that the frame rate of video capture is lowered. The resulting movies are still played-back at 30fps despite the slower capture rate, resulting in sped-up playback. Depending on your perspective this restriction can be seen as a feature, lending a further effect to the videos that can be quite interesting.
The camera itself captures stereo sound (unlike the PENs, which have mono microphones), and can be fitted with the SEMA-1 accessory for the use of an external stero mic.
The XZ-1 has an optional 3-stop (3EV) ND filter engaged via the function menu. This is not an uncommon feature in this class but is particularly significant on a camera with a lens this bright as it lets you keep the lens as open as you want, even in bright light, without being too limited the 1/2000th sec maximum shutter speed. It can also be used in situations in which you want to use a longer exposure than ISO 100 would allow - for emphasizing the flow of water, for instance.
|The ND filter allows the lens to be used with wide apertures, even in broad daylight, allowing full use of the shallow depth-of-field it can offer.|
Depth-of-field and background blur
The large aperture diameter and long equivalent focal length mean that the XZ-1 can offer at least as much control over depth-of-field as an APSC or Micro Four Thirds camera when using their respective kit lenses. The image quality isn't quite a match but the XZ-1 offers similar levels of creative control in a much smaller package.
|Olympus XZ-1 (112mm equivalent, F2.5)||100% crop|
|Panasonic DMC GF2 (84mm equivalent, F5.6)||100% crop|
|Nikon D3100 (83mm equivalent, F5.6)||100% crop|
Overall Image Quality / Specifics
In general we've been very impressed with the XZ-1's image quality. We're big fans of the bright and punchy 'Natural' mode and are pleased to see it become the default Picture Mode for iAuto mode. Exposure and White Balance are both pretty dependable, meaning you can point and shoot with a high degree of confidence.
The only real cloud in the skies over XZ-1 land is the occasionally problematic lens flare. We only found flare to be a problem in one of the hundreds of photos we've taken with the camera (we actually quite like the ability to induce it in some situations). However, this is the downside of that large, curved, un-hooded front lens element.
|Bright light sources can prompt lens flare in extreme circumstances.|
In general, though, we were impressed with the XZ-1's image output - a sharp, bright lens and flattering image processing makes for consistently good results. The lens is consistently sharp in the center with slightly soft corners, especially at short focal lengths and wide apertures. Stopping down quickly sharpens the corners and, particularly at longer focal lengths, the results are very impressive.
|Sample at 28mm equiv. F1.8||Sample at 28mm equiv. F2.8|
Bottom left-hand corner crop
Here are four real-world RAW samples that you can download and subject to your favored processing methods for assessing the potential for noise reduction and sharpening on providing an optimal image.