Olympus XZ-1 Digital Camera Review$499.99
The Olympus XZ-1 exhibited excellent performance in our noise testing—at both 3000 lux (bright light) and 60 lux (low light). We were happy to see that the camera was able to produce clear, relatively noise-free photos across most ISO options. There is a marked increase in noise at ISO 800, but that's not out of the ordinary for a camera in this price range. More on how we test noise.
What we found to be most impressive was the XZ-1's noise performance in low light, which was nearly identical to its performance in bright light. Usually point-and-shoot cameras capture much noisier photos in low light, especially at the higher ISOs. We found that the XZ-1 excelled across the board, with only a minor bump in noise at 60 lux. It's rare to find a camera with such reliable noise performance across ISOs and light levels; if you find yourself shooting in a wide variety of lighting, the XZ-1 will produce low noise photos that you can really count on.
Even compared to the other cameras in our comparison group, the Olympus XZ-1 is among the cream of the crop. These are all cameras that perform very well—whether you're comparing them to other point-and-shoot cameras or even low-end SLRs. The XZ-1 is one of the very best we've seen, turning in a noise performance that was exceeded only by the surprising Samsung TL500. Entries from Panasonic and Canon fared less well: the LX5 was noisier across the board and the G11 saw a sharper increase in noise in low light.
The XZ-1 comes with the wealth of ISO levels that you've come to expect with a high-end point-and-shoot camera. In ISO Auto mode, the camera limits its ISO selection to ISO 100-800, expanding that range to ISO 3200 in the camera's low light mode.
When shooting in manual mode, however, the range increases to include ISO 6400 and the user is able to select ISOs in 1/3-EV increments. It's great to have more options (you can select from a total of 19 ISO settings), but it can be annoying to scroll past so many options when you'd rather limit yourself to the standard ISOs. Most cameras that offer 1/3 EV ISO increments also offer the ability to turn that option off.
We were also disappointed to see that there is no ISO limiter setting. If you want to shoot on auto ISO, you'll have to be content with a maximum ISO of 800.
NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.