Olympus Stylus XZ-2


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    Olympus Stylus XZ-2

      In summary

      Buy this camera if:
       - You're looking for a capable compact digicam with PASM shooting modes, raw file support and1080p HD video.
       - You want a fast, sharp lens with a focal length that suits a wide range of subject types (from scenes to portraits).
       - You require reliable exposure metering and an above-average dynamic range.
       - You like customisable controls.
       - You would enjoy the Art Filters.

      Don't buy this camera if:
       - You want interchangeable lenses.

      Full review

      Almost two years after the release of the Olympus XZ-1, its successor, the XZ-2 is appearing in retail stores. Designed as the flagship of the company's digicam line-up, the XZ-2 has the same Zuiko 6-24mm f/1.8-2.5 zoom lens as the XZ-1 and the same PEN-type accessory port that can use PEN system accessories.

      Front view of the Olympus XZ-2. (Source: Olympus.)

      The XZ-2 also introduces a new 12-megapixel BSI‑CMOS sensor, which is marginally smaller than the 10-megapixel CCD chip in the XZ-1 (7.44 x 5.58 mm vs 8.06 x 5.56 mm) but should provide better imaging performance. The TruePic VI image processor, which features in the latest Olympus interchangeable-lens cameras, is an update to the TruePic V chip used in the XZ-1.

      Build and Ergonomics
      The stylistic resemblance to PEN cameras is even more pronounced in the XZ-2, which is slightly larger and heavier than its predecessor. On the front panel, the large, fast lens covers almost half of the surface area. There's also a new grip, which is the same as on the latest PEN  cameras – and also interchangeable.

      The lens is largely unchanged since the XZ-1 and features several exotic elements, including  Extra-Low Dispersion Aspherical (EDA), Dual Super Aspherical (two sided aspherical) and Super High Refractive (S-HR) glass components. These technologies are normally the preserve of top-quality SLR lenses. They enable the camera to support fast maximum apertures from f/1.8 at the wide end of the zoom range to f/2.5 at full zoom extension. Optical zooming is limited to 4x and there's no digital zoom.

       Cutaway view of the new camera showing the lens elements and sensor. (Source: Olympus.)
      The control ring around the lens continues in the new model, enabling users to adjust aperture or shutter speed settings, depending on the selected shooting mode. The lens has a plastic push-on cap that is tethered to the neck strap.

      Another new feature on the front panel is a lever that allows users to choose whether the control ring will operate manual focus, zoom or  manual focus plus zoom when the lever function is activated (pulled to the right). The central Fn2 function button on the lever is customisable. Functions that can be assigned to this button include IS, AF and Picture modes, Scene pre-sets, Art filters, drive and aspect ratio settings, image size and quality, flash mode, metering pattern, ISO, Face Priority and ND filter settings.

      Rear view of the Olympus XZ-2. (Source: Olympus.)

      The rear panel gains a tilting 3-inch capacitative touch screen with higher resolution than the monitors on either the PEN cameras or the OM-D E-M5. Like the E-M5's monitor, it pulls out to face upwards for waist-level shooting and tilts down through  50 degrees for use with the camera held high. But it doesn't reverse onto the camera body.

      The touch screen can be used in three ways. It can be set to support just touch focus or focus plus shutter release. The touch controls can also be switched off. Touch focus only works when one of the 35 AF points is selected, which means it doesn't work around the periphery of the screen. 

      The screen also lets users select and adjust settings on the Super Control Panel by touch and use touch controls in playback mode to scroll through images, engage playback zoom and swap between single image and index playback modes. Live Guide screens can also be accessed.

      An additional Function button (Fn1) on the rear panel can be used for any of the following settings: AEL, Preview, AF target mode, Digital Tele-converter, Conversion Lens or ND Filter. There's a small but conveniently positioned thumb rest just above the playback and Fn2 buttons on the rear panel.

      The movie record/stop button has been shifted to the interface between the rear and top panels just behind the mode dial and shutter release, where it's more convenient to operate. Other buttons are unchanged.

      The control sub-dial around the arrow pad is used to set shutter speed in manual mode and exposure compensation in the A and S modes. In playback mode it toggles from one shot to the next.

      Top view of the XZ-2 showing the mode dial, shutter and zoom controls and accessory shoe. (Source: Olympus.)

      The only change to the top panel is the addition of stereo microphones, which are inset just in front of the accessory shoe. Like its predecessor, the XZ-2 has no optical viewfinder, although the excellent VF-2 electronic viewfinder can be added for roughly $250. The hot-shoe also accepts the accessory flashguns designed for Olympus's PEN cameras.

      No change has been made to the accessory ports on the side panel nearest the arrow pad. One is a USB multi-connector, which is used to charge the battery, a process that takes up to three hours via a supplied USB-AC adapter. The other is a Type D HDMI micro connector.

      The Li-90B lithium-ion battery is different from the previous model's and boasts a slightly higher capacity (340 shots/charge vs 320 for the XZ-1). The new camera is Wi-Fi enabled via Toshiba FlashAir cards, which support transfer of image and movie files from the camera to Android or IOS enabled devices, such as smart-phones and tablets. As FlashAir cards weren't available when we conducted this review, we couldn't test this feature.

      Shooting Modes
      A few things have changed since the XZ-1. Although there are still nine settings on the new camera's mode dial, the Low Light setting has been replaced by a second Custom mode, enabling a second set of camera parameters to be stored.

      The iAuto setting includes scene analysis that compares detected brightness and colour levels with pre-set values and adjusts camera settings to match the type of scene identified. This mode locks the majority of camera settings (ISO, white balance, exposure controls) but lets users access a  Live Guide by pressing the OK button. On-screen sliders allow users to adjust colour, brightness, saturation and background blurring via this display.

      The Art Filter mode has been expanded to provide 11 options, including Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Colour, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Cross Process, Gentle Sepia, Dramatic Tone and Keyline. Most settings allow you to add white edges or frame effects, while a few include starburst, soft filters and pinhole effects.

      The 18 pre-sets in the Scene mode are the same as those provided in the XZ-1. So are the Picture Mode settings, which include Vivid, Natural, Muted, Portrait and Monotone. Like its predecessor, the XZ-2 has a built-in ND filter that reduces incoming light by three f-stops and is used to overcome the limitations of the relatively low (1/2000 second) maximum shutter speed for depth of field control in bright lighting or enabling slow shutter speeds to be used with small lens apertures for motion blurring.

      A new addition to the camera's capabilities is provision for users to add copyright data to images as they are captured. The camera can accept copyright holder names up to 63 characters via the Copyright Settings page in the Record (H) section of the Custom menu pages.

      Sensor and Image Processing
      Even though the sensor in the XZ-2 is slightly smaller than the chip in the XZ-1, it has higher resolution and uses BSI (back-side illuminated) CMOS technology, which is more efficient than the XZ-1's CCD chip. The image processor has also been updated in the new camera to the same TruePic VI chip as the OM-D E-M5.

      The XZ-2 supports ISO settings between 100 and 12800 and they're adjustable in 1/3Ev increments. Files are not reduced in size as sensitivity is increased. Three continuous shooting modes are supported, including a 'regular' 5 fps mode at full resolution and a ' High-Speed' setting that can record at up to 15 fps with a reduced (1920 x 1440 pixel) image size.

      Like the PEN cameras, the XZ-2 supports both JPEG and ORF.RAW file capture and offers four aspect ratio settings. Raw files are always recorded with maximum resolution at the 4:3 aspect ratio, which is native to the sensor.  Approximate image sizes for images are shown in the table below.

      Image Size

      Aspect ratio

      Pixels

      Compression

      Fine

      Normal

      Raw

      4:3

      3968 x 2976

      19.2MB

      Large

      3968 x 2976

      6.5MB

      3.5MB

      Medium

      2560 x 1920

      n.a.

      1.7MB

      Small

      1280 x 960

      n.a.

      0.4MB

      Large

      3:2

      3968  x 2624

      5.7MB

      3.1MB

      Medium

      2544 x 1696

      n.a.

      1.6MB

      Small

      1296 x 864

      n.a.

      0.3MB

      Large

      16:9

      3968  x 2232

      5.0MB

      2.7MB

      Medium

      2560 x 1440

      n.a.

      1.4MB

      Small

      1280 x 720

      n.a.

      0.3MB

      Large

      1:1

      2976 x 2976

      5.0MB

      2.7MB

      Medium

      1920 x 1920

      n.a.

      1.4MB

      Small

      960 x 960

      n.a.

      0.3MB

      Like other recent Olympus cameras, the XZ-2 records movies in the MOV (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264) format. However, only two movie resolutions are supported: Full HD (1920 x 1080-pixel) and HD (1280 x 720 pixels). Both have a frame rate of 30 frames/second. Individual movie clips can be up to 4GB in size of 29 minutes in length.

      The dedicated movie button is used to start and stop movie recording and the camera defaults to full auto mode, which means few adjustments are available. You can, however, set exposure compensation prior to recording a clip and the zoom is usable during recordings. Most Art Filters can also be applied.

      Playback and Software
       All the standard playback settings are provided, including single playback with or without shooting data, thumbnail plus detailed data and RGB histograms and multi-image thumbnails. The Olympus Viewer 2 application (Windows and Mac) is the standard software for copying images and movies to a computer and converting ORF.RAW files into editable formats. Its capabilities are limited so  most users will wait for third party raw converters, like an update to Adobe Camera Raw, which should appear soon.

      Performance
      While we were impressed by the imaging performance of the Olympus XZ-1, its successor is better in almost every respect. Since both cameras share the same lens, credit is undoubtedly due to the new sensor and image processor.

      Colours in test shots appeared natural and quite similar to the colours from recent PEN cameras we've tested, reflecting the contribution of the TruePic VI processor. The dynamic range in still images was also better than average for a small-sensor digicam (although this control was less effective in movie mode).

      Autofocusing speeds were similar to the XZ-1's and  fast for a contrast-based TTL system, particularly with wider angles of view. Some hunting was detected in low light levels with longer focal lengths, which is typical of cameras in this category. You can optimise AF speed by reducing the playback display time to one second after each shot or switching off playback altogether.

      Imatest confirmed our subjective assessments of image quality and colour reproduction. Because the current version of Adobe Camera Raw didn't support raw files from the XZ-1 when we conducted our tests, we were forced to use Olympus Viewer 2 to convert raw files into 16-bit TIFF format for our Imatest evaluations.

      Testing showed the review camera to be capable of meeting expectations with both JPEGs and ORF.RAW files converted into 16-bit TIFF with the supplied software. High resolution was retained through most of the review camera's sensitivity range with a gradual decline as sensitivity was increased. The graph below shows the results of our tests at different ISO settings.

       

      Low light performance was slightly better  than the XZ-1's as the effects of high ISO settings only became evident in long exposures at ISO 3200 and higher, while flash exposures at ISO 6400 remained acceptably sharp. The review camera was able to balance flash exposures and produced even levels across the ISO  range, with very slight over-exposure at ISO 12800.

      Imatest analysis on the lens aperture ranges across four focal length settings showed edge softening to be less than we found with the XZ-1. The best performance was recorded at 9.4mm, with the worst at the shortest focal length setting (6mm). The graph below shows the results of our tests.

       
       Lateral chromatic aberration was almost negligible, edging into the 'low' band with the longer focal lengths. We're not sure whether this improvement in performance over the XZ-1 is due to the sensor or better in-camera correction for this aberration. In the graph below, the red line marks the border between negligible and low CA, while the green line separates low and moderate CA.

       Backlit subjects were generally handled well and we found little evidence of flare and no veiling at all, even when the light source was on the border of the frame. Close-ups were also effectively recorded, although it was necessary to select the macro mode in the AF/MF section on the custom settings menu. Bokeh at wide apertures was very attractive for the sensor size.

      Barrel distortion was fairly obvious at the 6mm focal length but gone by the middle of the focal length range, edging into slight pincushioning at 24mm. No vignetting (edge and corner darkening) could be seen in shots taken at wide aperture settings across the focal length range.
       In the auto white balance mode, the review camera failed to totally remove the colour casts of incandescent lighting but came very close for fluorescent lights. The pre-sets over-corrected slightly but manual measurement delivered natural colours under both types of lighting and the camera's menu system provides plenty of scope to adjust colours as you shoot.

      Video quality was better than the XZ-1's, thanks to the addition of  a Full HD setting,  although not as good as the still shots.  Blown-out highlights were common in contrasty subjects and coloured fringing often marked their edges. Autofocusing was relatively fast in movie mode and the camera handled transitions between near and distant subjects, moving objects and panning very well.

      Audio quality was acceptable, but not brilliant, largely because the stereo microphones are too small to provide good separation of the sound channels. You can't adjust the audio levels for movie recordings, although volume levels are adjustable during playback. The in-camera wind filter could suppress wind noise in outdoor recordings but not eliminate it totally.

      Our timing tests were conducted with a SanDisk Ultra 4GB SDHC card. The review camera powered-up in just under a second. Shot-to-shot times averaged 0. 5 seconds without flash and 1.1 seconds with. It took 2.4 seconds to process each Large/Fine JPEG file, 2.8 seconds for each ORF.RAW file and 2.9 seconds for each RAW+JPEG pair.
       The XZ-1 provides two continuous shooting modes but only the 'normal' sequential speed is available for ORF.RAW and RAW+JPEG capture. The official frame rate of approximately five frames/second was confirmed by our tests, regardless of file size or format.

      In the High-Speed mode, the image size is reduced to 1920 x 1440 pixels and average capture rates were 19 frames/second. Processing times ranged from 3.8 seconds for a burst of 10 JPEGs at standard speed to 5.9 seconds for 10 RAW+JPEG pairs. In the High-Speed mode, it took 3.7 seconds to process a burst of 19 frames.

      Buy this camera if:
       - You're looking for a capable compact digicam with PASM shooting modes, raw file support and1080p HD video.
       - You want a fast, sharp lens with a focal length that suits a wide range of subject types (from scenes to portraits).
       - You require reliable exposure metering and an above-average dynamic range.
       - You like customisable controls.
       - You would enjoy the Art Filters.

      Don't buy this camera if:
       - You want interchangeable lenses.
       

      SPECS

       Image sensor: 7.44 x 5.58 mm BSI-CMOS sensor with  12.76 million photosites (12 megapixels effective)
       Image processor: TruePic VI
       Lens: Zuiko 6.0-24.0mm f/1.8-2.5 zoom lens (28-112mm in 35 mm format)
       Zoom ratio: 4x optical
       Image formats: Stills - JPEG  (DCF / Exif 2.3), ORF.RAW, RAW+JPEG; Movies - MOV (MPEG-4AVC/H.264)
       Image Sizes: Stills - 4:3 aspect: 3968 x 2976, 2560 x 1920, 1280 x 960; 3:2 aspect: 3968  x 2624, 2544 x 1696, 1296 x 864; 16:9 aspect: 3968  x 2232, 2560 x 1440, 1280 x 720; 1:1 aspect: 2976 x 2976, 1920 x 1920, 960 x 960; Movies - 1920 x 1080, 1280 x 720 
       Shutter speed range: 60-1/2000 seconds plus Bulb (max. 16 min.)
       Self-timer: 2 or 12 seconds delay (cancel available)
       Image Stabilisation: Sensor Shift
       Exposure Compensation: +/- 3EV  in 1/3 EV steps
       Focus system/range: 35-area contrast-based Imager AF with Single AF (S-AF) / SuperMacro Mode / Continuous AF (C-AF) / AF tracking (C-AF + TR) / Manual Focus (MF) modes; range: 5 cm to infinity; macro 1 to 60 cm
       Exposure metering/control: ESP light metering, Spot metering (with highlight/shadow control), Centre weighted metering
       Shooting modes: Auto, P, A, S, M, Scene (Portrait, e-Portrait, Landscape, Sport, Night, Night + Portrait, Candle, Sunset, Documents, Panorama, Fireworks, Multiplex exposure, Beach & Snow, Underwater - Wide, Underwater - Macro, HDR), Art Filter
       ISO range: Auto, ISO 100 to 12800
       Art Filters: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Colour, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Cross Process, Gentle Sepia, Dramatic Tone, Keyline
       White balance: Auto WB, Sunny(5300K), Shadow(7500K), Cloudy(6000K), Incandescent(3000K), Fluorescent(4000K), Underwater, WB Flash(5500K); 2 one-touch WBs, Custom WB (Kelvin setting)
       Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, Red-eye reduction,  Fill-in, Off, Red-eye reduction slow sync., Slow sync, Full,1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, 1/64, 1/128; range: 0.6-11.1 metres
       Sequence shooting: Max. 5 frames/second for up to 200 shots
       Storage Media: SD, SDHC, SDXC memory cards; UHS-I, Eye-Fi, FlashAir compatible
       Viewfinder: Optional VF-2 EVF
       LCD monitor: Tilting 3-inch capacitative touch screen LCD monitor with 920,000 dots
       Power supply:  Li-90B Li-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx. 310 shots/charge
       Dimensions (wxhxd): 113 x 65.4 x 48 mm
       Weight: Approx. 346 grams (with battery and memory card)

      RRP:  AU$649; US$600
       Distributor: Olympus Imaging Australia; 1300 659 678, www.olympus.com.au

      TESTS

      JPEG images

       
       ORF.RAW files converted with Olympus Viewer 2

       

       

      SAMPLES

       Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.

      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.

      6mm focal length, P mode, ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/8.
       
       

      24mm focal length, P mode, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/8.

      Macro focus, 24mm focal length, A mode, ISO 100, 1/2000 second at f/2.5.
       
       

      Macro focus, 6mm focal length, P mode, ISO 100, 1/1000 second at f/8.
       
       

      Vignetting at 6mm, f/1.8.
       
       

      Vignetting at 24mm, f/2.
       
       

      Rectilinear distortion at 6mm.

      Rectilinear distortion at 24mm.
       
       

      60-second exposure at ISO 100, 7mm focal length, f/1.9.
       
       

      15-second exposure at ISO 1600, 7mm focal length, f/2.2.
       
       

      10-second exposure at ISO 6400, 7mm focal length, f/4.5.

      4-second exposure at ISO 12800, 7mm focal length, f/6.3.

      Flash exposure at ISO 100, 24mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/2.5.

      Flash exposure at ISO 1600, 24mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/2.5.

       

      Flash exposure at ISO 6400, 24mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/4.5.

      Flash exposure at ISO 12800, 24mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/4.5.

      24mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/640 second at f/6.3.

      19mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/800 second at f/5.6.
       
       

      6mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/320 second at f/7.1.

      Strong backlighting; 6mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/1600 second at f/8.

       

      24mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/8.

      6mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/30 second at f/4.5.

      Still frame from Full HD movie clip recorded at 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution.

       

       Still frame from HD movie clip recorded at 1280 x 720 pixel resolution.
       

      Rating

      RRP:  AU$649; US$600

      • Build: 9.0
      • Ease of use: 8.5
      • Autofocusing: 8.8
      • Image quality JPEG: 8.8
      • Image quality RAW: 8.8
      • Video quality: 8.5

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