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- Olympus Stylus XZ-2 iHS
- The XZ-2 is a solid upgrade to the beloved XZ-1, but it falls behind in terms of image quality.
Olympus Stylus XZ-2 iHS Digital Camera Review$599.99
It would appear that the only real negative of the XZ-2's switch from CCD to CMOS is its noise performance, which, to be honest, is really pretty bad. While the XZ-1 was among the best of its generation, the XZ-2 lags behind its contemporaries and even its predecessor (up to a point).
The XZ-2 includes settings for both Noise Reduction (in reality, long-exposure noise reduction) and Noise Filter (high-ISO noise reduction). The latter is what most people think of as NR, so you can file this away as just another in Olympus's long history of strange menu decisions. The default setting for Noise Filter is Standard, but Off, Low, and High options are also available. Using the default setting, noise levels start at 0.80% at ISO 100. They hit 1.22% at ISO 400 and stay below 2% until ISO 6400, maxing out at 2.13% at the top ISO setting of 12800.
However, those numbers don't tell the whole story. With NR Off, noise levels exceed 2% starting at ISO 400 and max out at 4.79% at ISO 6400 before dropping again at ISO 12800 due to a sheer lack of detail. This indicates that the "Standard" NR setting is doing some very heavy lifting—an impression confirmed by our test scene crops, which look really, really awful at the top two ISO settings. On the whole, we can't recommend shooting anything above ISO 800 if you want to preserve a reasonable amount of fine detail. ISO 1600 and 3200 shots will look okay when resized for the web, but 6400 and 12800 are right out. More on how we test noise.
The XZ-2 lets you adjust ISO settings in 1/3 stops all the way through its sensitivity range, giving you a total of 22 options from the base setting of ISO 100 through the maximum of ISO 12800. You can also select automatic ISO control, and the camera lets you set the Auto ISO mode range limits through its Custom Menu.