Compact cameras are in trouble. Smartphones continue to don sexier optics, allowing the photographer in all of us to carry one less item and still get decent shots of our lunches/cats/moderately funny occurrences. Not content to just fade away, manufacturers are ramping up the quality and features of their compact cameras to stay relevant — and in the process, the buyer benefits. Taking cues from its larger-framed and sensored older brother (The XZ-2), the Olympus Stylus XZ-10 ($351) emerges from this crucible as a true pocket rocket.
Specifically, the XZ-10 balances impressive features and foundational point-and-shoot perks. Its small black body features pro-style controls for more manual management of your images (something enthusiasts demand and smartphones can’t deliver), including a programmable lens control ring. The fast wide-zoom lens has a maximum aperture of 1.8-2.7 through the 26-130mm equivalent focal range; this allows you get shots in lower light without having to crank up the ISO (maximum of 6400), and thus, the noise, while a built-in neutral density filter allows for shooting wide open in bright light. Rounding out the notables is 1080p HD video with stereo sound, because let’s be honest, “Pics or it didn’t happen!” might as well be “YouTube or it didn’t happen!” these days. Somewhat disappointingly, its 12MP 1/2.3″ backlit CMOS sensor is only the standard for compacts. Still, if pocketability, manual controls and a manageable price tag are top priorities to you, the XZ-10 might be right at home in your hand.