At CP+ we were able to get our hands on a pre-production version of one of Olympus' more interesting recent offerings - the Stylus XZ-10. The XZ-10 sits in the company's lineup below the XZ-2 and, unlike its larger brother, has a 1/2.3" sensor - the standard size used in the majority of compacts. In this respect its closest rival is a camera like Nikon's P310 but the XZ-10 has a solidity of build and a level of direct control that the Nikon doesn't. Crucially it also has a more consistently fast lens than any of the cameras it competes with - F1.8-2.7 across its 26-130mm equivalent range. It's also in fairly select company in that it offers the ability to shoot Raw.

The XZ-10 becomes one of the few 1/2.3" sensor cameras to feature a lens control ring (we can only think of the Casio EX-ZR1000).

That lens won't offer a tremendous amount of depth-of-field control (it'd be the same as a 26-130mm F10-15 lens on a full frame camera), but does mean the XZ-10 can keep to lower ISOs than its small sensor peers can in the same lighting conditions. A built-in ND filter allows you to continue to use those brighter apertures in bright conditions, too.

With the lens retracted, the XZ-10 is pretty pocketable

Handling the XZ-10 is a nice experience - it has a nice weight to it and feels solidly built, and the rubber grip down the front of the camera makes it comfortable and secure to hold without adding unduly to its bulk. And, helped by the smaller sensor, the XZ-10 is a small cameras - it's much more pocketable than its bigger brother, the XZ-2. As with that model, the XZ-10 includes two control dials (one around the lens, the other being the rear four-way controller) and a touch-screen interface that can be used as much or as little as you like. It also has a Fn button, which cycles through any of the 16 settings you've enabled in the menu.

The two dials can be reconfigured, with different settings selected for each shooting mode.

Despite being the junior XZ model, the XZ-10 retains most of the customization of the XZ-2, with everything from dial setup (function and direction) to display options being configured via the usual length setup menu. Unlike the XZ-1, the little XZ-10 allows control over the noise reduction level being applied to JPEGs.

Photo Story lets you create composite images from multiple shots... ...just like the camera's Art Filters there are several options that can be applied with each style.

The XZ-10 becomes the first Olympus to feature 'Photo Story' a mode that creates composite images from two or three photos taken together. There are a number of different framing styles and sub-modes available, such as five vertical stripes made up of consecutive high-speed images, or a faux-Poloroid image set into the main image. Like Art Filters, there are plenty of options and, while the mode won't be for everyone, the system seems well worked-out with touch-screen operation making it easy to replace one of the already captured images and replace it, simply by tapping one of the shots at any point before you save the final composite image.

If you're not happy with your selection, tapping on either panel of the image gives you a chance to re-shoot that section. Alternatively, pressing 'OK' creates a finished image.

As befits its position in the lineup, the XZ-10 appears to balance point-and-shoot features with some more enthusiast-friendly tweakability. Only the omission of Super Control panel (one of our favorite interfaces, and one made better when combined with a touch-screen and lens dial), spoils our initial impression of the Stylus XZ-10. We'll look to publish a samples gallery from the camera as soon as production versions become available.