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Olympus Stylus XZ-2 iHS Digital Camera Review$599.99
In the lab, the XZ-2 displays excellent dynamic range performance, recording up to 7.89 stops of "high-quality" dynamic range at ISO 100. It keeps this number above 6 stops up through ISO 400 and over 4 stops through ISO 1600, but tails off to just 2.85 stops at the max ISO setting of 12800.
But the lab results don't always provide a complete picture. Lab-based dynamic range numbers are heavily dependent on signal-to-noise ratios, and since the XZ-2 is applying very heavy noise reduction by default, it in effect artificially inflates the camera's DR capabilities. For this reason, we like to cross-reference our lab numbers with both our noise reduction tests and our experience shooting the camera in the real world.
In the field, we found that the XZ-2 was a capable performer with regard to dynamic range, but not the equal of some of its closest competitors. The camera did a very good job of preserving highlights in most circumstances, but occasionally this came at the expense of shadows, which had a tendency to dissolve into inky pools of nothingness in high-contrast scenes. In the field it lagged behind the Canon G15, which scored slightly worse in our lab testing.
The XZ-2 provides a couple software-based dynamic range assists. While shooting, there's an automatic shadow adjustment option available under the "Gradation" option, and you can also use the JPEG Edit submenu to apply shadow adjustment after the fact. Then there's the HDR scene mode, which merges several shots to make sure shadows and highlights both have a fair shot at proper exposure. Unlike some other cameras, you can't adjust the intensity of the HDR effect, but luckily the XZ-2 seems to apply it in moderation. More on how we test dynamic range.