Canon’s S90 and more recently the S95 have held the title of king of P&S cameras in my book for the last 18 months – they are excellent cameras w/ larger than average sensors, a fast lens and excellent control scheme that includes a lens ring that controls several different features. The XZ-1 offers all of that with a faster lens, hot shoe/accessory port in a slightly larger package, still smaller than Canon’s G12. Image quality is excellent and looks to be slightly better than the S95 in the lower ISO numbers and just slightly worse in the higher ISOs but I want to stress that these differences are very slight and both cameras take excellent images that you are hard pressed to tell any difference in your average day to day use. Additionally the XZ-1 has a faster lens, f/1.8 at the widest and f/2.5 at full zoom. This means two things – you can actually control depth of field some, something that previously was really only an option in more expensive DSLRs and you can shoot at lower ISOs and still get bright images. These benefits come at a cost, the XZ-1 is about $100 more than the S95 currently and is a slightly larger camera.
Bottom line: Both cameras are excellent, the S95 offers a pocket fitting form factor. The Olympus gives you a faster lens, very bright OLED screen and the option to add an external flash. At $599 though you are approaching the cost of the increasingly popular 4/3 cameras like Olympus’ own PEN E-PL2 – even better quality, very friendly manual controls and the ability to switch lenses. This puts the XZ-1 in an awkard position, it certainly is an excellent camera but until the price drops I continue to give the S95 my nod, though it is a slight nod.
As always find me on twitter @camerarec for my latest thoughts.
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