Roundup: Enthusiast Zoom Compact Cameras
Olympus Stylus XZ-2
12MP | 28-112mm (4x) Zoom | $550 (US) £425 (UK) €550 (EU)
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- Full specifications, plus user reviews and more sample images
The XZ-2 is a fairly significant re-working of the XZ-1, that was one of our favorite enthusiast compacts when it was launched at the start of 2011. The XZ-2 retains much of what made that camera good, including a well-performing lens that remains bright across its entire range. More significantly, in response to improved competition, the XZ-2 has addressed all our major concerns over its predecessors' shortcomings - adding more external control and greater customization, both in terms of controls and image processing.
The camera also gains a higher-resolution, flip-out touch screen and removable front handgrip. But these come at the expense of compactness and take the camera out of truly pocketable territory.
- Stabilized 12.0MP 1/1.7" BSI CMOS sensor (mm)
- 28-112MM (equivalent), F1.8-2.5 zoom lens
- ISO 100-12800
- Dual mode (click/clickless) lens ring control dial and four-way dial
- 1080p30 video with stereo microphones
- 3.0" tilt LCD touch screen with 920k dots
- 310 shot battery life (CIPA)
- Hot shoe for external flash units
- Accessory port compatible with VF-2 and VF-3 electronic viewfinders
- Built-in ND filter
- In-camera Raw conversion option
The XZ-2 isn't the smallest or prettiest camera in this group, nor is it the largest or most control-covered - instead it sits in the middle-ground, offering all-round capability with plenty of customizable direct control. This makes it one of the most enjoyable photographers' compacts that we've used - it can be set up to provide the information and control that the shooter wants, with plenty of flexibility to tailor that to different shooting styles. As well as being able to customize the lens dial, the XZ-2 also has two Fn buttons, the second of which can have up to 14 functions assigned to it; pressing the button cycles through the selected options.
If you prefer not to take control and use the camera as a point-and-shoot, the iAuto mode will look after you well. iAuto mode includes the same touch-screen-operated, results-orientated Live Guide system as the company's PEN cameras, making it easier to control the camera's results, even if you don't understand the full implications of aperture or white balance.
Performance and Image Quality
The XZ-2's bright lens helps the little camera live up to the potential offered by its handling - it's able to keep using low ISOs for a little longer than most of its competition. There's every reason to think it shares its BSI CMOS sensor with the Nikon and Samsung models, but combines it with an impressive JPEG engine that produces very likeable images. The XZ-2's metering and white balance are dependable, to the point that you can concentrate on making the photographic decisions. The XZ-2 includes an extensive set of Art Filter processing effects, along with a post-capture in-camera Raw conversion option that's second only to the Fujifilm system in terms of flexibility.
The XZ-2's lens performs well throughout its range - maintaining good levels of sharpness and corner performance, even with the aperture wide-open. Some lateral chromatic aberration can be apparent if you look closely at wide-angle images, but it's not particularly pronounced and can be avoided by processing in most Raw packages. The XZ-2's focus speed is one of the only areas in which it doesn't stand out in this group - it's neither the fastest nor the slowest, perfectly acceptable without being stunning. Overall the XZ-2's lens is core to its appeal - offering a useful focal length range with well-sustained brightness and solid performance.
The XZ-2 is one of the most capable all-rounds in this test, marrying a fast lens with a useful zoom range and a degree of customization that makes it quick and enjoyable to use. Add its good image quality and excellent JPEG engine to the equation and the whole package looks extremely tempting. Users wanting a viewfinder may not not be sold on the XZ-2 (though it's compatible with the VF-2 and VF-3 electronic viewfinders), and nor will people needing something that fits in a small pocket. For everyone else, it's only the high price tag that might dissuade them from buying what is an excellent camera.
Studio and Real-World Samples (links open in new tab)
|Studio Comparison Tool||Olympus XZ-2 Samples (33 images)|
What we like: Excellent image quality. Fast, good quality lens. Lots of direct control and customization. In-camera Raw conversion
What we don't like: Flip-up screen adds to bulk. Flash exposure disappointing. Default JPEG settings a bit over-processed.