Image: Hugh Threlfall
May 22 2011
You could spend half your life debating the perfect travel camera. Do you go, as do so many tourists, for a DSLR the size of a food mixer and whose abilities far exceed anything you either need or would be able to handle? Are “mirrorless” DSLRs such as the Olympus PEN models or the Sony NEX, with interchangeable lenses but a small, lightweight body, ideal for your travel habits? Or is the best job just a good mobile-phone camera, which is far from a silly option?
Somewhere within this range comes a category ideal for travel, but which tends to get overlooked – quality compacts that don’t boast swappable lenses or anything fancy, but are good enough to take the odd award-winning photo in foreign climes.
There’s no actual shortage of such cameras – I could name the Canon PowerShot S95, the Nikon Coolpix P300 and the Lumix DMC-LX5 off the top of Google’s head. But this new one from smart-but-niche Olympus is the best I’ve encountered, even though it’s not caused much of a stir on the high street. The XZ-1 can be snapped up for £400 (admittedly the price of a starter-model food-mixer DSLR), or less from several websites.
The XZ-1 has an unusually big 10 megapixel chip, which ensures that its pictures look luscious, and a fine 4x optical zoom for sharpness and detail. The lens zooms from (in 35mm terms, as ever) 28mm to 112mm to cover any holiday eventuality bar distant wildlife. The best thing about the XZ-1’s lens, however, is that it’s a really unusual (at this level) f1.8, making the camera the king of low-light photography without horrible flash – which I hope you, as readers of style and sophistication, use as little as possible. Using the wide aperture with a fast shutter speed in good light also gives a professional-looking out-of-focus background.
All things are bright and beautiful round the back of the XZ-1, too, with a splendid 3in, high-resolution OLED screen. Olympus also does a clip-on electronic viewfinder (£220) for bright-light use, again quite rare in the class.
There are too many more good things to mention, but this is an impressive, easy-to-use camera you should love.