Ahead of its official announcement, Pocket-lint was whisked away - to the outskirts of the Mojave desert, no less - to have a play with the forthcoming Olympus Stylus XZ-10. This brand new, high-end yet amateur-targeted compact camera takes on much of what we've enjoyed about the existing XZ-series compacts, but compresses the body size into a more pocketable little marvel than its higher-spec cousins. So what do we make of it?
We're already XZ-series fans, and the XZ-10 looks to be a logical sidestep from what the compact is all about. It's some 40 per cent smaller than the XZ-2 model, yet still features much of the control and specification.
However the new size is partly down to the sensor size, as the XZ-10 features a 12-megapixel 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS sensor, not the larger-than-average 1/1.7-inch version in the XZ-2. That's the main compromise to make for this particular camera and, as yet, we don't know how well the image quality output will perform compared to other standard compact cameras.
Olympus has continued with a very XZ-style lens in the XZ-10. With its 26-130mm f/1.8-2.7 equivalent, lots of light can enter the lens whatever the zoom setting, and it's also got a little more reach than most other high-end compact cameras. This is possible because the camera's sensor doesn't need optical parts as large as in other XZ-series models.
Around the XZ-10's lens there's a control ring to adjust settings, for example, although this doesn't click into the smooth-rotation manual focus ring as per the XZ-2, instead the XZ-10 is a click-stop only ring. Still, that's cooler than what most compacts are able to offer, and it's not just a "showy" feature either, it's genuinely useful for quick aperture, shutter or other setting adjustments.
The rear screen is touch-responsive, which makes for quick and easy focusing or adjusting particular settings, handled by the likes of on-screen sliders. It's much like the XZ-2 here, except that the XZ-10's screen is fixed to the rear rather than mounted on a tilt-angle bracket.
Another new technology that's made the cut - but that we weren't able to test out in full due to our location and that it wasn't ready at the time of preview - is what Olympus is calling "OI.Share". That stands for "Olympus Image Share" apparently, but we just can't separate "Oi!" and "Share!" in quite the same way; it makes us think of Dizee Rascal's Fix Up Look Sharp too much. Less "oi-ing", more sharing, as this feature is all about sharing images directly with a tablet or smartphone device. Sounds good, we just hope it's as fluid to use as, say, the Samsung Galaxy Camera's share options, irrelevant of the name oddity.
As well as the usual array of Olympus art filters, there's also a brand new "Photo Story" feature that chops the screen up into picture book-like arrangements and you can fill each blank area with a shot. This can be done live, where the camera shows the layout on the rear screen and fills in only the current area with an image before moving on to the next. We believe it can also be used after shooting by selecting shots from the SD card, but the early version on this pre-production camera wasn't up to much at the time of testing - one to look out for in the future.
Overall the smaller and lighter XZ-10 felt great in the hand. It might not have the top-spec features such as a hotshoe or larger-than-average sensor, but assuming image quality can match up to what looks to be a top-notch lens then it should be a quality little compact. We'll bring you a full and final review as and when we get hold of a production model.
The XZ-10 is due April, priced at £350 upon launch.