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Olympus Stylus XZ-2 iHS Digital Camera Review$599.99
Lens & Sensor
Like many other recent high-end compact cameras, the XZ-2 boasts an incredibly bright zoom lens. Though it's unchanged from the one used on the XZ-1, it remains one of the most outstanding designs on the market today, at least in terms of specifications. Its aperture ranges from f/1.8 on the wide end to a still-wide f/2.5 at full telephoto. Granted, the lens zoom ratio is only 4x (28-112mm effective), but it's still on roughly the same track as the lens in Canon's new PowerShot G15, which claims a 5x (28-140mm effective) zoom with a f/1.8-2.8 aperture range. These two are by far the brightest cameras on the block throughout their focal ranges.
The 1/1.7-inch 12-megapixel CMOS sensor represents a change from the 10-megapixel CCD unit found in the XZ-1. Keeping up with the Joneses, the XZ-2 sensor's size, pixel count, and ISO sensitivity range all match the G15's sensor spec for spec. There are a few larger imaging sensors on the compact camera market today, from the Fuji XF1 and X10's 2/3-inch model to the massive 1.5-inch outlier found in the Canon G1 X, but 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensors are essentially par for the course in this category these days.
While the XZ-2 does not have a built-in optical viewfinder, as does the Canon G15, it can accept the tried and true Olympus VF-2 and VF-3 electronic viewfinders—the same EVFs that can be used with the earlier XZ-1 and several of the company's PEN-series Micro Four Thirds bodies.
The XZ-2's rear LCD is 3 inches on the diagonal, like most high-end camera screens these days, and offers a resolution of 920,000 dots. Relative to the G15, it has a couple of big advantages. First, it can tilt through about 130 degrees of motion (80 degrees up and 50 degrees down), which can be a great help in composing shots. While we prefer full flip-out 'n' tilt-style screens, Olympus's tilt-only solution is nevertheless a big improvement over the fixed screen on Canon's G15, at least in terms of versatility.
Second, the screen is touch-sensitive. Olympus's touchscreen implementation on the XZ-2 is virtually identical to what you'd find on the flagship OM-D, and that's a very good thing indeed. It allows you to touch the screen to focus or shoot, and also to manipulate or page between images during playback. And it's a capacitive screen, which means it's extremely responsive (like any modern smartphone).
As with virtually every other advanced compact, the XZ-2's pop-up flash is positioned atop the far left edge of the camera. It's tiny, not very powerful, and doesn't extend very high above the lens, but it gets the job done for quick snaps. Luckily, since the XZ-2 has a full hot shoe (along with Olympus's standard accessory port) it can accept a number of add-on flashes for more serious strobist use.
Though some cameras in its class offer more advanced options, the XZ-2 has only two ports: HDMI and a proprietary USB 2.0 jack that can either send data or video/audio.
The XZ-2 is powered by the proprietary Li-90B lithium ion battery pack, which it inherited from the TG-1 waterproof camera. This cell provides 1270mAh of juice for roughly 310 shots on a charge. Though it's a bigger battery, that's actually 10 shots less than the XZ-1 could manage, and it lags the G15 by about 40 shots.