The Olympus XZ-2 ($599.99 direct) is one of the more expensive point-and-shoot cameras you’ll find. Its image quality, fast lens, and excellent control layout go a long way toward justifying the high price. But the heart of the camera—a 1/1.7-inch 12-megapixel image sensor—just can’t keep up with the 1-inch 20-megapixel sensor found on our Editors’ Choice Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 , which is just a little more expensive than the XZ-2 at $650, but is capable of much more impressive images.
Design and Features
The XZ-2′s design is pretty standard for a large-sensor point-and-shoot with a hot shoe. It’s a bit bigger on all sides than standard compacts and superzooms. The lens housing juts out from the body, and an old-fashioned lens cap is included to protect it when it’s not in use. The camera measures 2.6 by 4.4 by 1.9 inches and weighs 12.2 ounces—not too far off from the similar Samsung EX2F, which is 2.4 by 4.4 by 1.1 inches and 10.4 ounces. The EX2F features Wi-Fi, which is absent in the XZ-2, but doesn’t support an add-on EVF like the Olympus does.
Most point-and-shoots pack a 1/2.3-inch sensor, which covers roughly 65 percent of the surface area of the 1/1.7-inch sensor found in the XZ-2. Along with a larger sensor, the camera has a big lens that takes in a lot of light. The 28-112mm (35mm equivalent) zoom has an f/1.8-2.5 aperture range. This makes it possible to shoot without a flash in darker environments. It’s not the absolute fastest lens you’ll find in a compact camera—that honor currently goes to the 24-90mm f/1.4-2.3 zoom in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7—but it’s not far off.
The 3-inch, 920k-dot rear LCD tilts so you can shoot with the camera above your head or at your waist. The display is very sharp so you can confirm focus, and bright enough to use on sunny days. It’s touch-enabled, so you can use it to set a focus point or to fire the shutter. Menu navigation via touch is not supported, but you can swipe through photos in playback mode.
The control layout is designed to meet the needs of demanding photographers. There’s a mode dial on the top of the camera, as well as a Record button for movies. The ring surrounding the lens acts as a control device—in Standard mode it controls aperture or shutter speed with detent stops. There’s a toggle switch that changes its function—the detents are removed and the ring acts as a smooth control for manual focus. Manual focus comes in especially handy with macro shooting—the XZ-2 can focus down to 1 centimeter, and getting the exact focus point you want is easy using the control ring.
Rear controls include buttons for EV Compensation, flash settings, and Drive Mode. There’s an OK button in the center of the rear control wheel that brings up a software overlay menu from which other settings, including Focus Mode, ISO, and Flash Compensation, can be adjusted.
Performance and Conclusions
The XZ-2 can start and grab a shot in an impressive 1.6 seconds. It records a 0.2-second shutter lag, a respectable figure for a point-and-shoot, and can fire off shots continuously at about 3 frames per second. It does a bit better than the similar Canon PowerShot S110, which requires 2.2 seconds to start and shoot, and is limited to 2 frames per second, but matches the XZ-2′s shutter lag.
I used Imatest to check the camera’s sharpness and noise performance. The lens is quite sharp; it records 2,003 lines per picture height—better than the 1,800-line center-weighted score that we use as the cutoff for acceptable sharpness. It doesn’t score nearly as well on the noise test. Out-of-camera JPGs—the camera also shoots Raw, but is not yet supported by Lightroom or Aperture—contain more than 1.5 percent noise starting at ISO 400. Noise hovers around 2 percent through ISO 1600, and in the XZ-2′s defense, detail is excellent all the way through that setting, and good at ISO 3200.
The noise doesn’t effect color fidelity, but rather just gives high ISO shots a grainy texture, which is much less distracting than the chroma noise that often plagues digital images at very high ISO settings. I wouldn’t set the camera any higher than ISO 3200, as detail starts to break down quickly past that setting—which is a shame, as the XZ-2 can be cranked all the way up to ISO 12800. The Sony RX100, which has a bigger image sensor, does a better job balancing noise and detail—it keeps noise below 1.5 percent through ISO 6400, and captures excellent image detail in low-noise images through ISO 3200.
Video is recorded in QuickTime format at 1080p30 resolution. It’s very sharp, and colors are accurate, but the camera is a little slow to refocus when recording and the noise of the lens zooming is audible on the soundtrack. There’s a micro HDMI port to connect directly to an HDTV as well as a proprietary USB port that doubles as a charging connection—there’s no dedicated battery charger included, so you’ll have to plug the camera into the wall to replenish its power. SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards are supported.
Despite its performance in lab tests, the main drawback of the Olympus XZ-2 is not low-light image quality—it’s the price. At $600 it’s a tough sell, especially when you can get our Editors’ Choice Sony RX100 for only $50 more—it’s got a bigger sensor that allows for SLR-like bokeh and produces cleaner images at high ISO settings. And, if you aren’t tied to a compact camera, the same money can get you an entry-level compact interchangeable lens camera like the Sony Alpha NEX-F3 , and $700 will buy you a D-SLR like the Nikon D3200 .
The XZ-2 does provide the option for an add-on EVF, which is a feature that few cameras in this class support—although shooters who want a viewfinder would be better served with the excellent optical finder that is squeezed into the Fujifilm X10 . All in all, the XZ-2 isn’t a bad camera, it’s just one that’s priced too high in a very competitive segment of the market.
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|Dimensions||2.6 x 4.4 x 1.9 inches|
|Interface Ports||Proprietary, micro HDMI|
|Battery Type Supported||Lithium Ion|
|Recycle time||0.3 seconds|
|LCD size||3 inches|
|Media Format||Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
|Optical Zoom||4 x|
|Boot time||1.6 seconds|
|35-mm Equivalent (Wide)||24 mm|
|Waterproof Depth (Mfr. Rated)||0 feet|
|Video Resolution||720p, 1080p|
|Lines Per Picture Height||2003|
|LCD Aspect Ratio||4|
|35-mm Equivalent (Telephoto)||96 mm|
|Shutter Lag||0.2 seconds|
|Sensor Size||7.6 x 5.7 (1/1.7") mm|
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