Is smaller better? Olympus XZ-10 has premium compact features, but not the size


posted Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 11:43 AM EDT

What, precisely, defines a premium compact camera? For many photographers, it's the presence of a larger image sensor than is typical of most compacts, the better with which to grab as much light as possible. It's an understandable point of view -- photography is all about capturing light, after all -- but it's perhaps a rather narrow definition. There are quite a few other features present on most premium compacts, besides the sensor size -- and with the Olympus XZ-10, more than a few of these are present. Experienced photographers look for things like a bright lens, physical controls, manual and priority exposure modes, and a raw file format when choosing a camera, and the XZ-10 ticks every one of these boxes.

The Olympus XZ-10 has a smaller sensor than many of its premium compact camera rivals, but has more than a few other features that differentiate it from typical compacts.

Sure, the XZ-10's 12-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor is no larger than those of the typical fixed-lens camera, but that gives it an advantage over many of its premium compact rivals in terms of both size and weight. For the kind of photographer who buys a premium compact, that's arguably more important. There's a good chance that it's being purchased as a second camera alongside an interchangeable-lens camera, after all, so they've likely already got access to a much larger sensor. And by opting for a smaller sensor, Olympus has not only been able to slash size and weight significantly -- the XZ-10 is 0.4 inches narrower, 0.2 inches shorter, a full half-inch shorter, and a third lighter than the XZ-2 -- but to include a more powerful 5x optical zoom lens.

At the time of writing, the Olympus Stylus XZ-10 had not been unveiled in the United States market, and the company had not indicated any plans to do so. In Europe, the XZ-10 goes on sale from late March 2013. UK pricing is set at around £350. Available colors in that market will include black, white, and brown. More details in our Olympus XZ-10 preview.