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In terms of focus accuracy, the X-915 performed well generally, though the lack of an AF assist lamp means it really struggles in low light, even at the brighter, wider end of the zoom. The built-in flash isn't exactly powerful but at least provides evenly balanced coverage at close range. When used in-conjunction with the face-detection AF mode, skin-tones look pleasing, with no unattractive hotspots. And, like other offerings from Olympus, the X-915 has a pretty impressive 1cm super-macro mode.
Powering up and down takes two-seconds or so, but for a second, the X-915 feels like it's not going to respond. It's irksome at first but isn't likely to lose you a shot. Picture quality really doesn't hold too many surprises. Given the zoom range the lens is really only an average performer. Our metal grid shot reveals quite obvious complex distortion at the widest settings and it's soft in the corners of the frame. From our other sample shots, that softness is more pronounced at the tele-end of the zoom where blur due to camera shake, even with the assistance of the anti-shake system is an additional hurdle in anything other than good lighting. Chromatic aberration is another shortcoming and while noticeable on high contrast edges particularly, it can be seen frequently in other areas.
Noise levels are reasonably well controlled, though there are some coloured speckles noticeable even at an ISO setting of 64. By and large though at ISO 400 and above the effects of noise reduction affect image quality, and detail especially, to the point where you might only want to make small prints or use them for the web. Colour rendition is good, but images are quite warm. A lack of dynamic range enhancement features at this level isn't uncommon, but means shadows are often deep with little detail.
The Olympus X-915 has some attractive features, notably the 5x optical zoom, image stabiliser, and the promise of highly detailed shots from the 12-megapixel sensor. In reality of course, more pixels doesn't necessarily translate to better image quality, and given the compromises made to achieve the extended zoom range, the image quality of X-915 is really only average. However, with a current price of just £129, compared with the original RRP of £299 at the time of launch just three months ago, the X-915 is tempting to anyone on a budget.
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