Central to the D-pad, the Func button, is particularly fiddly. Depending on the shooting mode selected, it’s used as a shortcut to everyday features, such as white balance, ISOs, image size and compression. The same button must also be used to confirm choices from the main menu, so it is a bit of a shortcoming.
Of course you could argue that as the X-915 isn’t exactly dripping with features you’re unlikely to find yourself thumbing through a huge menu of choices. Once you’ve selected a Scene Mode, there are 14 to choose from, or if you’ve left it set to the usual iA (intelligent Auto) option, there are fewer options still. Besides the now slightly outdated SD TV video clip modes (640 x 480 pixel / 320 x 240pixel 15/30fps) most options are offered with the P (Program) mode.
The intelligent Auto option is worth a brief mention, though, as it will choose the appropriate shooting mode based on light conditions, subject distance and likely other criteria. What’s interesting is that the X-915 often did choose a suitable mode, and even tells you on-screen what it has selected. If it could tell you why, that would be even better. Still if it can’t make an informed guess, it will plump for the safety of the Program mode.
Of course the main attraction at this price is the 5x optical zoom. It’s the 35mm equivalent of a 36-180mm f/3.5-5.6, not particularly wide at the wide-end and quite slow at the tele-end. However, the greater reach is very welcome but, conversely, this set-up will also need everything the anti-shake system can provide. Olympus states that the X-915 has Dual Image Stabilisation, which it has but kind of implies it works in tandem, when in reality it doesn’t. The processor based Digital Image Stabilisation option works only with movie capture. And, while not entirely unexpected, the lens can’t be zoomed in the movie mode. A digital zoom option produces the inevitable jaggies and is best avoided. Despite that drawback, you can alter the focal length before capture, which can be useful.
Another plus is the choice of three AF modes. There’s a wide-area array using nine points, a face-detection alternative for portraits and groups (with detection for up to 16 individuals) and a centre-spot option. In use, the face detection option isn’t quite as robust as expected, as the subject must be looking down the lens for it to work. For the complexity of the lens, focus operation was reasonably swift, but it simply can’t match some of the blindingly fast point-and-shoots. Don’t think for a moment that the tele zoom can be used for sports or action, because it’s just too slow. What’s more, the LCD’s refresh rates are on the low side leading to smearing when panning or when simply trying to follow the action. Still, it may be asking too much of a camera costing a shade under a £130.