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White Balance

The Z2 has five white balance presets (daylight, cloudy, flash, fluorescent and incandescent), plus auto. There is also a 'custom' (manual) white balance function. In most of our test shots the auto white balance worked perfectly - certainly when photographing under natural daylight (though some shots had a mild, but noticeable color cast). Under artificial lighting the Z2 did much better than many of its peers, though there is a noticeable color cast when shooting under incandescent light. If you want accurate color in these circumstances you will still need to override the auto WB.

Outdoor - Auto WB
Red: 0.4%, Blue -0.1%
Excellent

Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red: 1.1%, Blue -4.7%
Average
Incandescent - Auto WB
Red: 4.5%, Blue -9.7%
Average

Flash Performance

Despite a rather cool tone I was very impressed with the Z2's flash performance - the unit is powerful enough to reach a good 20 feet (with Auto ISO), yet subtle enough to avoid blown-out highlights even when shooting subjects under 1M away. Exposure is excellent - the slight underexposure seen in the examples below is untypical (there is a lot of white in the frame). In fact the only complaint I had when shooting in very low light with flash was that the camera - lacking an autofocus illuminator - sometimes struggled to find the subject.

Skin tone
Slight blue color cast, very slight underexposure
Color chart
Slight blue color cast, very slight underexposure

Macro Focus

In standard autofocus mode the Z2 can focus down to about 50cm (wide end of the zoom) and 2.0M (at the tele end of the zoom). Pressing the macro button enables the standard macro mode, which gets you down to around 7cm from the subject at the wide end of the lens or about 1.2M at the telephoto end. Macro performance is actually best if you zoom in a little (to about the 70mm equivalent setting). Super Macro mode (see below) gets you much closer - as near as 3cm from the front of the lens - but you cannot use the zoom. Overall we were very impressed with the macro capabilities, and the quality of the results (though there were inevitably occasional focus errors when working very close to the subject).

Wide macro - 74 x 55 mm coverage
31 px/mm (776 px/in)
Distortion: Average
Corner softness: Average
Equiv. focal length: 38 mm
Mid Zoom macro - 47 x 35 mm coverage
47 px/mm (1204 px/in)
Distortion: Low
Corner softness: Low
Equiv. focal length: 73 mm

Super Macro mode

As is increasingly common on digital cameras, the Z2 has a second 'Super' macro mode, which lets you get really close - about 3cm from the front of the lens. This gives you a subject area of just under 36x25mm. You cannot zoom in Super Macro mode, and depth of field is so small that focus accuracy is critical; I found it was often better to switch to manual focus and move the camera rather than relying on the AF system. Unusually for a Super Macro mode the focus range is pretty large - 3cm to 1.0M. The only problem - if you can call it that - is that it is often difficult to avoid the lens barrel casting a shadow on the subject when shooting at very small distances.

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

For such a large zoom range the Z2 manages to keep distortion remarkably low - there is no measurable distortion at the telephoto end, and only the slightest barrel distortion at the wide end of the zoom.

Barrel distortion - 0.5% at Wide angle
Equiv. focal length: 38 mm
Pincushion distortion - 0.0% at Telephoto
Equiv. focal length: 380 mm

Specific image quality issues

Despite the strong performance in our studio resolution tests, real-world images from the Z2 all look a lot softer than I would have expected, an indication of modest in-camera sharpening. Noise is a problem at ISO 400, and noticeable on-screen and in large prints at ISO 200, though it is very low at ISO 50 and ISO 100, and very low in long night time exposures. There is very little in the way of purple fringing, certainly less than we'd expect from a 10x zoom lens. Aside from some mild exposure problems (both under and over) on occasion, and the tendency for too much contrast in bright scenes, the only serious issue anyone will really have with the Z2 is camera shake. It is nigh on impossible to hold a 380mm equivalent lens totally still at shutter speeds of less than 1/400 of a second (and the top shutter speed on offer is a measly 1/1000 sec), and the noise at higher ISO's means you tend to avoid using them.

What this camera really needs - unless you're happy to carry a tripod, or you always shoot in very bright light - is image stabilization. For that, of course, you need to dig a little deeper and pay the extra for the next model up in Konica Minolta's range, the Z3.

I found that virtually all pictures taken with the Z2 benefited from some post-processing - sharpening, adjusting contrast and brightness. There is a tendency for shots in less than perfect lighting to look a little flat, whilst, perversely, shots taken in high contrast, bright conditions, are often too contrasty, with seemingly little mid-tone information. That said, our overall impression of the Z2's image quality was overwhelmingly positive.

Purple fringing and blooming

Big zooms are usually plagued by chromatic aberration, but the Z2's images are admirably fringe-free. In fact you need to try very hard to get any fringing at all - I could only find two examples of it in over 600 shots taken in a wide variety of situations. The small amount of CA visible at the edges of wideangle shots in very high contrast situations is usually no more than a few pixels wide, and unlikely to appear in prints. The fringing in the foliage at the edge of the wideangle shot shown below is the worst we managed in all our extensive testing.

38 mm equiv., F5
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