Olympus XZ2 Hands-on Preview
by Shawn Barnett
Special care was taken to differentiate the Olympus Stylus XZ-2 from a close competitor, the Panasonic LX5/LX7, with the surprising result that the camera body grew a bit, both in size and price. As I've noticed from their other recent cameras, Olympus is still watching the competition and innovating as well, with a new approach to the front ring control that could make the Olympus XZ-2 more versatile than other premium pocket cameras. Shipping in October for a cool $600, the Olympus XZ-2 is indeed quite a premium camera.
Starting with a 12-megapixel sensor upgrade, the Olympus XZ-2's new imager is a 1/1.7-inch backlit CMOS design. Next, the Olympus XZ-2 has what camera fans long for: a big, bright, light-loving lens. The 28-112mm f/1.8-2.5 iZUIKO Digital lens is essentially the same as that in XZ-1, which according to our tests was pretty impressive in the XZ-1, besting the competition at the time. It's what surrounds the lens, though, that'll get your attention.
Note the switch just lower left of the lens. In its downward position shown at left, the ring surrounding the lens moves smoothly. Flip it toward the grip and the ring surrounding the lens clicks as it turns. Set it one way to control things like aperture, set it the other way to focus or zoom, depending on which function you choose to change via the Function 2 button in the center of the switch. Pretty cool. While the Canon S100 is locked to firm detents and the Sony RX100 turns freely, the Olympus XZ-2's ring can do both, changing duty with the flick of a switch. Nice.
Another changeable feature is the removable grip, brought over from the Pen E-P3. Just a few turns of the screw makes the front of the XZ-2 almost as clean as the XZ-1.
That hot shoe on the top deck includes the AP-2 port, which will work with a number of accessories, including electronic viewfinders, lights, and of course the hot shoe will work with Olympus's line of remote flashes as well. The possibilities are what makes the Olympus XZ-2 interesting.
A pop-up flash is featured on the left side. Slide the rear switch to the right and the XZ-2's flash slides slowly up into position. Left and right microphones flank the hot shoe, and a blue ring surrounds the Power button when on. A Zoom toggle surrounds the Shutter button. The Mode dial is a little close to the edge for my taste; I'm hoping they make sure it's good and stiff and not loose.
It's also apparent from the top angle that there's an articulating LCD, a welcome addition that surely helped raise the price a bit as well.
Rather than feature the company name across the bottom of the articulating LCD, Olympus signals its intent to revive the Stylus brand name across its line of pocket cameras. That's not just conjecture on my part, they told me that was the plan. The tilting 3-inch LCD screen is also a touch panel, featuring a Touch shutter function and 920K-dot resolution.
The red Record button is well placed on the rear beveled edge, and the fairly standard control cluster sits beneath the thumb rest.
Also, originally intended to ship with a Toshiba WiFi card, the Olympus XZ-2 includes FlashAir technology expected to enable connectivity to tablets and smartphones, with the Olympus Image Share smartphone application, and even upload directly to social media sites. This wasn't ready for demonstration when we saw the Olympus XZ-2, so we'll have to wait to see how it works.
ISO ranges from 100 to 12,800; Movie mode can capture Full HD movies at 1080p with stereo sound; and the XZ-2 includes an iAuto mode that recognizes up to 30 scenes and users can select from 11 Art filters and 5 Art effects.
Overall, the Olympus XZ-2 looks like a promising design. That it's a little bigger doesn't bother me much, and I like that it's easier to grip. Its tilting LCD should make it more versatile, and some will like the touchscreen functionality. The $600 price tag is $100 higher than the price of its predecessor, rivaling the company's own Micro Four Thirds cameras; time will tell whether that strategy will work for the company. We look forward to getting a sample of the Olympus XZ-2 for testing and review.
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