Reviews: Expert Compact Cameras

REVIEW / Olympus XZ-2: Luxury Expert Compact

138 readers want this Me too !
Last updated: February 4, 2015  
Add to favourites

Jump to...

Franck Mée
Morgane Alzieu
Published on November 27, 2012
Translated by Catherine Barraclough

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Sensor BSI CMOS 12 Mpx, 1/1.7" , 27 Mpx/cm
  • Lens 4x 28-112 mm f/1.8 -2.5
  • Stabilisation Mechanical
  • Viewfinder NA
  • Screen 7.6 cm, not TN, 920000 dots, 3:2, Monopoint
  • Sensitivity (ISO range) 100 - 12800 ISO ext. 64 mm

OVERVIEW

Eighteen months after outing the relatively well-liked XZ-1, Olympus is back with a new expert compact camera—the Stylus XZ-2. Here, the lens is lifted straight out of the XZ-1 but the camera's design has changed considerably. Plus, the internal electronics have been completely revamped and promise improved performances.

HANDLING 5/5



The Olympus XZ-2 is visibly a descendant of the XZ-1, but big changes have been made to the new model's design. First of all, grip has improved thanks to the arrival of a new handle (which is removable!) and a rubber thumb-pad on the back of the camera. There's also a tilt screen, making it easier to line up shots at waist height or over the top of an obstacle. Finally, two Fn buttons have appeared—Fn1 for fast access to the setting of your choice and Fn2 for access to the Quick menu, where you can change various settings with the lens ring.

And there's more good news, as Olympus has packed this camera with loads of great custom options. So as well as assigning the settings of your choice to the Fn1 button and picking the options you want to access in the Fn2 menu, you can also re-assign the functions of the lens ring and the notched settings wheel (around the four-way arrows) mode by mode, including playback mode. The lens ring can be set to function notched or smooth (see inset) and dial direction can be customised too!

Olympus Stylus XZ-2 - screen and controls

The screen is a new 920,000-dot LCD, replacing the OLED used in the XZ-1. While the onscreen image is cooler, it's also more evenly balanced—light greys are still a little too white but the distribution of grey levels is more even. Colour fidelity has improved (OLED screens are almost always over-saturated) and is now within average for a camera screen. Contrast has dropped a little as a result, but the brightness level remains similar. Plus, the fact that the screen can be tilted will help you avoid reflections and glare, ultimately improved readability.

SPEED 4/5



The Stylus XZ-1 was already on the better side of average in this field, and the XZ-2 does a good job too. It starts up in a pretty speedy 1.5 seconds, photo-to-photo turnaround is fast and the autofocus is fine (it's neither slow nor fast).

Olympus Stylus XZ-2 - speed, responsiveness

The 5.3 fps burst mode is decent too. It's even available in RAW mode but only for three frames—the camera then continues at 1 fps.

IMAGE QUALITY 4/5



The XZ-1 had an excellent lens twinned with a relatively bog-standard CCD sensor. Logically, then, the XZ-2 keeps the XZ-1's lens but the sensor has been upgraded to a BSI CMOS. In theory, we should see some pretty good results here.

Olympus Stylus XZ-2 - ISO test, picture quality

The ISO test results from the XZ-2 are a world apart from those of the XZ-1. The XZ-1 smoothed pretty heavily from 800 ISO upwards, and digital noise took an unpleasant purple tint at 1600 ISO. You get none of that with the XZ-2. Shots at 800 ISO are impeccable and you could still feasibly use 1600 ISO shots, even though some soothing is visible in finer details. Beyond that, things get a bit more tricky, but speckles of digital noise aren't that much of a problem as they aren't too crazily coloured. Obviously, quality is nowhere near a match for the excellent Sony RX100, but among expert compacts with small-format sensors, the XZ-2 certainly holds its own. We'd place it just slightly behind the Canon G15 but ahead of the Samsung EX2F, and it gives a generally more natural-looking result than the Panasonic LX7.


At wide-angle, this Olympus lens performs well. The centre of the frame isn't quite as sharp as with Panasonic's LX7 but quality stays consistent over the frame. Even the corners of the shot hold up well—although, at 100% size, there's a slight fringe of chromatic aberration. At telephoto, the XZ-2 is the expert compact that's gets closest in quality to the LX7, wrangling its way past the Nikon P7700.

Note too that Olympus takes a different approach to image processing in this expert compact, setting itself apart from current trends in the market. While chromatic aberration isn't totally eliminated, this camera is particularly resistant to moiré effects and generally does a better job than its competitors when picking out fine lines.

Olympus Stylus XZ-2 - white balance

Finally, the automatic white balance has a special "Warm" option in the internal menu, so you to keep a very neutral image (left) or opt for a generally warmer picture while still benefiting from an automatically adjusted white balance. The effect is obviously particularly visible under incandescent lighting and makes for a good compromise between neutrality and atmospheric-looking shots with no need to use manual white balance controls.

VIDEO 4/5



The video mode was a bit of a let-down in the XZ-1 (like all other expert compacts of the time). Thankfully, Olympus has updated things in the XZ-2, bringing Full HD video at 30 fps (H.264 encoding). The image is pleasant, sharp, nicely exposed and free from digital noise.

Audio quality is on the better side of average, with distinct noises reproduced well and a nice stereo effect. The only problem is that when you zoom, the system designed to mask the noise of the lens motor ends up muffling the overall soundtrack quite heavily.
Lens Ring: Notch or Not
Since the Canon S90 dared to be different, manufacturers have rediscovered the benefits of adding a lens ring to a compact camera. Some camera-makers, like Canon and Panasonic, use notched lens rings, while the Sony RX100 has a smooth-turning ring. Notches make it easier to adjust a setting that has fixed, specific values or "stops", such as aperture. A smooth ring makes it easier to seamlessly adjust continuous settings such as the focus. A notch-free lens ring also has the advantage of being perfectly quiet in video mode!

With this camera, Olympus gives you the best of both worlds. Out of the box, the lens ring is notched and is set to adjust the exposure settings (aperture in modes A and M, shutter speed in S mode). A little lever on the front of the camera can be flipped at any moment to get rid of the notches for manual focusing, zooming, etc. The lever is set around the Fn2 button, which offers fast access to settings in the Quick menu (white balance, image styles, burst mode, metering, autofocus, sensitivity, etc.—the list of options is customisable) where settings can be changed using the lens ring. The whole system is very practical and nice to use. Good work Olympus!

PROS

  • High-end build and assembly
  • Great to handle: lens ring with/without notches, advanced customisation options, tilt screen, etc.
  • Sensitivity handled well (800 ISO poses no problem) / Lens is very good quality at all focal lengths

CONS

  • Responsiveness is within average but nothing more
  • Function to mask the noise of the zoom motor muffles sound in video mode
  • No match for the Sony RX100 at high ISO settings

CONCLUSION 4/5

The XZ-2 is a success for Olympus. The controls and general handling are particularly nice in this camera, plus image quality is good and there are plenty of advanced functions. However, the Sony RX100 is still one giant leap ahead of all expert compacts with small-format sensors. To compete, the Olympus XZ-2 can flaunt its lower price and its tilt screen, but will that be enough?
4 Olympus Stylus XZ-2 Digitalversus 2012-11-27 13:00:00

USER REVIEWS (0) 3/5

No users have reviewed this product yet. Post a user review
ADVERTISING

Similar Reviews

Find competing devices:

ADVERTISING