Olympus XZ-1 vs Canon S95

The Ultimate-Premium-Compact-Camera-Battle

One of the hottest photographic items on the floor of the CES in Las Vegas this month was the Olympus XZ-1 premium compact camera. Joining the high-end pocket camera party that has been invigorated lately; it’s got a number of exciting features. But with the Canon S95 recently placing at the top of DPReview’s recent enthusiast compact group test, you might wonder how they fare against one another. Let’s take a look, and see which camera wins out in their respective categories.

Image Quality: Tie

Both sport a 10MP CCD sensor, but the Olympus is slightly larger, at 1.63″ vs 1.7″. It also carries a maximum sensitivity of ISO 6400, a full stop more than the Canon. Judging from the studio scene comparison on DPReview, the XZ-1 is impressively sharper, while the S95 is a bit cleaner. The quality of the noise is different too, with the XZ-1 being more splotchy, and the S95 being more hazy. In the end, it’ll come down to your personal preferences: detail at the expense of noise (XZ-1) or noise at the expense of detail (S95). In any case, neither one is a slouch. The Panasonic Lumix LX-5 and Nikon P7000 also hold up well, but we think the Oly and Canon take the cake on IQ.

Olympus XZ-1 Sample Gallery from dpreview

Canon S95 Sample Gallery from dpreview

Lens: Olympus

Both lenses are roughly equivalent, with the Olympus being 28-112mm and the Canon being 28-105mm. The extra 7mm on the Olympus won’t make much of a real world difference. The real story is the aperture value. Not only is the Olympus slightly faster at f/1.8 on the wide end, but it can shoot at f/2.5 on the long end versus the f/4.9 from Canon. This is significantly faster and will certainly make a difference when shooting portraits and other scenes fully zoomed. An interesting thing to note is that this lens produces DOF roughly equivalent to your standard 18-55mm kit lens that is zoomed out to 55mm. And all that on a comparatively tiny sensor. Kudos to Olympus on this front.

Features: Olympus

A couple of things caught our eye about the Olympus. One of these is it’s ability to shoot an exposure for 60 seconds. I’ve always felt limited by 15s on my Canon compacts. Another thing is the macro mode – the Olympus can focus up to 1cm while the Canon can only go to 5cm. This is another thing I’ve felt limited by and should prove handy for those who like shooting macro. It also features a built-in ND filter and in camera RAW conversion. Meanwhile, the Canon has better image stabilization, which is always handy shooting in low light without flash, and 24p HD video for those who like the film look.

Controls: Canon

The Olympus takes a page from Canon’s book, adding a control ring on the front of the camera, placed around the lens. That makes it the 2nd camera to have one in the entire compact playing field. However, the ring on the Olympus cannot be customized – differing from mode to mode which might be baffling – but at least the settings make sense. Both have a rear control dial on the back, which seems to be compulsory these days. Only the Canon has a shortcut button. In the end, both are good, but the Canon is simply more customizable.

Body: Canon

Both are small and compact, but the Canon (100 x 58 x 30 mm) nudges the Olympus (111 x 65 x 42 mm) out here in terms of being pocketable. I’ve had the S90 for over a year and it’s truly a pocketable camera. Another interesting thing to note is that although the Canon is only slightly smaller – it’s much less heavy, at 193 vs 275 grams.

Screen: Olympus

Both screens are 3″, but the Olympus has the advantage here. First, its 640k dots as opposed to 480k, giving the viewer 30% more pixels to preview your shots. But most importantly, its an OLED instead of an LCD. OLEDs are known to be brighter, more accurate, and eat away less battery life.

Price: Canon

The S95 already wears a heavy price tag at nearly $400, but the XZ-1 costs $100 more at half a grand. This is verging on DSLR price territory. and indeed some DSLRs can be had for this cheap. We’ll see if time brings the price tag down a little bit.

Conclusion: Both

If the faster lens, sharper images, slightly longer reach, OLED screen, flash hotshoe, closer macro, and longer exposures are that important to you and cost is not a factor, then the Olympus is for you. If the smaller size, less noise, 24p HD movie mode, better stabilization, and you want to save $100, get the Canon. Either way, both cameras will surely satisfy their owners. And finally, its good to see another brand joining the high end compact market.

Check out these other good comparisons and and reviews:

Hands on Video from CNet

Comparison from Pocket Lint

Comparison from SnapSort

Review from DPReview

Preview from Photography Blog

Review of Canon S90 from Aputure

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