Olympus Stylus XZ-2 iHS Digital Camera Review
The XZ-2 is a solid upgrade to the beloved XZ-1, but it falls behind in terms of image quality.
The XZ-2's color accuracy is among the best in its class, with a best uncorrected color error value of just 2.47 when using the "Muted" color mode. Of the camera's three other non-monochrome color modes, "Natural" and "Portrait" also recorded very good scores of 2.51 and 2.77, respectively. As one might expect, "Vivid" was a bit further afield, with a smallest error value of 3.33. Saturation numbers were also good across the board, ranging from 102% in the Muted color mode to 106.7% in Natural, before jumping to 118.3% in Vivid mode (again, as expected). Compare this to a competitor like the Canon G15, whose saturation levels were either way under (92%) or way above (113%+) normal.
This combination of very accurate colors and on-target saturation is a rarity in compact cameras, so the XZ-2 pulling it off is a big win. What it means for users is that they can take it straight out of the box and get lifelike shots from the get-go. (Though regardless of what they say, we often find that consumers don't actually like accurate colors and saturation.) More on how we test color.
NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.
Though it can't quite match the Panasonic LX7's superb scores, the XZ-2 is clearly head and shoulders above most of its rivals when it comes to color accuracy. Its precisely calibrated saturation, which isn't weighted as heavily in our comparison, puts it even further ahead.
Compared to the competition, the Olympus XZ-2 suffers badly from inaccurate automatic white balance. Though it's better than many cameras when it comes to AWB under tungsten light, it's correspondingly worse under compact white fluorescent and daylight conditions. It's possible that in trying to balance the AWB range to minimize problems under incandescent lighting, Olympus may have unintentionally crippled its performance under other lighting types, but we don't really have enough evidence to draw a firm conclusion.
When a custom white balance is set, the camera performs much better, though still not as well as some of its closest rivals. Average color temperature errors with custom WB hover around 200 kelvin, while in AWB they're more like 600 kelvin. These issues are visible in the real world, but not to the point that it will annoy most users. Generally speaking, the camera renders all scenes slightly warmer than they appear in reality; some users may even enjoy this tendency.
White Balance Options
The XZ-2 is equipped with eight white balance presets: Auto, Sunny, Shadow, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Underwater, and WB Flash. Beyond these, it also offers two custom white balance presets and the ability to calibrate the white balance to a specific color temperature, in increments of 200 kelvin. You can select a white balance preset from either the main menu, the default quick menu overlay (by pressing OK while shooting), or the optional Super Control Panel.
Aside from the direct kelvin entry option, all of these can be fine-tuned using A (amber-blue) and G (green-magenta) axis sliders. Annoyingly, you need to go into the main menu's custom settings to make these changes, though we suppose it's not a trip you'll need to take all that often.
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