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XZ-1 image smearing problem, and a possible cause

Discussion in 'Olympus Forum' started by Allan, Feb 23, 2011.

  1. Allan

    Allan SC Rookie

    15
    Feb 18, 2011
    Phoenix, Arizona
    It has not been reported on this Forum, but on others there is much discussion about the image quality from the Olympus XZ-1. The complaint is that the image looks "smeared," or "plasticky" when viewed on the screen at full magnification. This is the first thing I noticed too, shortly after unpacking my XZ-1 and looking at the first few test shots.

    Actually, I was crestfallen. The smearing was not subtle. You would not have to be a pixel-peeper like me to notice it. I tried shooting RAW, to no effect.

    The problem was generally thought to be a result of over-zealous noise-reduction instituted by Olympus on the JPEGs. There is no provision to turn NR off on this camera. But I found the problem was not restricted to high ISO -- it was just as strong at ISO 100, where you would expect noise reduction to not be implemented.

    Now I think I have an answer to what is causing the probelm. My hypothesis is that the Image Stabilization on my XZ-1 is faulty.

    I was in the process of documenting the smearing problem, in anticipation of returning my XZ-1 to Ritz Camera. I decided to use a wall hanging as a test subject. This Peruvian rug is handy, since I don't have to get up off the couch to take the shot.

    But this time I decided to center the photo, so I put the camera on a tripod and squared it up. Then I turned Image Stabilization OFF, as you are supposed to do when the camera is on a firm support.

    Much to my amazement, the smearing problem disappeared! The photo was as detailed as another shot I took with my Pen E-P2, also with IS set to OFF.

    Now, things make sense. Image Stabilization is supposed to be of a different magnitude at different zoom focal lengths. If IS is somehow getting the wrong info about the focal length, the result can be skewed. Or for some other reason, the IS is just plain faulty.

    I like this hypothesis, but it needs to be tested by others who are experiencing the problem. So if anybody else here has an XZ-1 and is experiencing this problem, I'd like to get some feedback.
     
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  2. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    Well summarized. I think I replied to your post on DPR. I have had the same experience, but I think it is more than that. I think the JPG rendering engine, or the processing software in total since it also occurs in RAW, is not handling complex detail well, i.e. foliage. Sharp edges and other easily contrasted geometric shapes render nice and sharp (with IS turned off), but complex detail and subtle variations end up mud.

    I wanted to like this camera and in all other ways I do, but back it goes.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Allan

    Allan SC Rookie

    15
    Feb 18, 2011
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Yes, that's where mine is headed too. It is not incumbent on us buyers to pay for the mistakes of Olympus. Which will leave me without a pocketable camera, alas.
     
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  4. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    I processed several of the RAW files in the clunky Olympus Master app and turning NR off helps, but not much. I have no idea why Olympus would not provide that setting in the XZ-1.
     
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  5. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    olli
    Surprising. I haven't come across this in any of the reviews I read for this camera. Perhaps there is a bad batch out there?
     
    • Like Like x 1
  6. wt21

    wt21 SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 15, 2010
    All I can say is thank you for being early users and reporting back. You've saved me a few days and return shipping charges. Thanks for letting us know!
     
  7. LisaO

    LisaO SC Regular

    123
    Jul 11, 2010
    I would imagine this could be fixed with a quick firmware update.
     
  8. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Jason
    From all the things I've read at dpreview, there seems to be users who show the smearing worse than others. Some of the sample images I saw were even worse than what dpreview posted. I'm wondering if there are two versions of the camera out there.
     
  9. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    That could be the case. Some XZ-1 images look fantastic while others look horrid (like mine). Supply is very limited right now and I wonder if Olympus identified the issue and has pulled back supply to correct it. If so, we may never know. Most companies don't fess up to such things. It is likely that the review cameras, if provided by Olympus, all of which seem to be having good results, were fully vetted before being shipped to the review. At least, that's what I would do!
     
  10. Allan

    Allan SC Rookie

    15
    Feb 18, 2011
    Phoenix, Arizona
    I returned my XZ-1 a few hours ago, for a refund. My faith in Olympus has not suffered any irreparable blow -- I'll still be out photographing with my Pen E-P2 (and its four lenses), which I hold in highest regard.

    In today's daylight shooting I was not able to replicate the results I'd mentioned earlier, using the camera with IS set to OFF.

    My XZ-1 had a bum chip. Shortly before I returned it I found that the metering pattern was stuck on multi-pattern. Although I was in aperture priority mode the menu would not allow me to select center-weighted or spot. This, presumably, is totally unrelated to the smearing issue we have been discussing.

    I will continue to follow this thread, but it's unlikely I'll have anything more to contribute to it.
     
  11. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 12, 2010
    Philly, Pa
    My daughter got the camera yesterday for her Hubby. She has the same problem and is sending it back...in fact, it's in the mail already....
     
  12. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Jason
    SS, figured you would have pushed for the LX5 :)

    Dj
     
  13. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    That's disappointing for her. There must be something going on here, at least with a few cameras. I'm returning mine to B&H and I almost asked them if they have had other returns. I asked for an RMA with the reason "not as expected" - I was unsure whether to say there was a problem with the camera or that it simply disappoints.
     
  14. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Jason
    This is really dissapointing. Considering that the first few people who've picked it up are forum members here or at dpreview and they are returning it, it can't look good. Maybe once they start moving them, the average joe won't notice the problems.
     
  15. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    Has anyone else here tried this camera. A lot of people seem to have it now and love it. Makes me think I had a bad copy. Or maybe average Joe is not too critical...
     
  16. Allan

    Allan SC Rookie

    15
    Feb 18, 2011
    Phoenix, Arizona
    The smearing issue is now getting some good documentary evidence. See the two photos at this thread, one showing a patio with grass, the other showing a Chinese restaurant: XZ-1 Smearing [Page 2]: Olympus Talk Forum: Digital Photography Review.

    The Chinese restaurant image shows smearing of the vertical slats in a fence. The smearing appears in a horizontal band, with the slats rendered sharp above and below the smearing. This demonstrates that the smearing is not caused by noise reduction. It is puzzling, and capricious.
     
  17. vincechu

    vincechu SC Veteran

    316
    Sep 14, 2010
    Quite a shame that a lot of great looking on the paper cameras, with so much potential are suffering from quality issues and defects - (I'm a pentax k5 user)

    Makes you think that companies are cost cutting/rushing to get goods out quickly at the expense of quality.
     
  18. rgonzale

    rgonzale SC Rookie

    15
    Mar 1, 2011
    Newark, DE, USA
    I was a little suspicious of the Chinese restaurant photo, because the "smearing" was too abrupt. Sure enough if you follow the thread, the person who took the photo returned to the scene and found that the fence construction caused the appearance of smear. IE the camera is redeemed in this instance at least.

    I think the jury is still out on whether this is "normal" jpg smearing for a small-sensor digital compact or a bad batch of cameras or truly a systematic problem with the XZ-1?

    Also according to the dpreview thread, the smearing may or may not affect RAW images. When seen in RAW, it seems to be related to Olympus' software package and might not appear in RAW images processed with a third party package?