Olympus Stylus XZ-2 Review

Olympus Stylus XZ-2 Review

Stylus is back! Where did it go? Dunno!

For a while there, Olympus branded its cameras solely by model number but since the launch of the PEN line it seems the company needed a more visible delineation, so it has engraved ‘STYLUS’ very faintly on the flash housing of this new camera.

Olympus Stylus XZ 2

Olympus Stylus XZ 2 back

At first sight, the Olympus Stylus XZ-2 looks impressive, very compact, solid, with a rapid lens extension when powered up.

Scene modes

Art Filter

External controls are minimal: the mode dial has positions for auto, PASM, two custom settings, scene modes and the Art Filter selection (11 in all for stills and video shooting); the power button is surrounded by the zoom lever.

At rear is the four way rocker to access flash, AF, self timer, single or continuous shooting and exposure compensation; close by there is a menu button, display control and a Function control.

Then the big surprise, at last for me: at front, just beneath and to one side of the lens is a lever which takes you into manual control, the setting displayed on screen. It is possibly the best manual focus arrangement I’ve seen on a compact digicam. This front of camera control is fully programmable and can be used as focus ring, aperture control, shutter speed control and shooting mode selector, amongst other custom functions.


Some may find the menu system endless, with multiple sub menus; to be honest, the setting out of camera menus has never been an Olympus strong point.

Added to all of this is the easy to use tilting LCD screen which can be tilted 80 upwards and 50 degrees downwards … but it does not unfortunately swing sideways.

Overall, the XZ-2 is a delight to use, compact and easily controlled. From power up to first shot took only a second, with follow on shots coming in as fast as I could tap the shutter.

A nice touch is the switchable speed grip which can be moved to either side of the camera: southpaws please apply!

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Olympus Stylus XZ-2 Features

The good news is that the lens is a Zuiko with a maximum aperture of f1.8 … that’s fast! And, when fully zoomed in to its 4x tele end the aperture is still a rapid f2.5. All of which sets the XZ-2 above much of the pack in compact digicams.


In the distortion department the wide and tele ends of the zoom show little or no aberrations. A good performance.

The 12.0 million pixel CMOS can account for a maximum image size of 3986×2976 pixels, so expect to make a 34x25cm print.

Movies can be shot in Full HD at 1920×1080 pixels resolution, saved in the MPEG4 format and accompanied by stereo sound. Whilst the auto focus appears to monitor the shot throughout recording, you cannot take stills mid-video.

Olympus Stylus XZ-2 ISO Tests

Olympus XZ-2 ISO 100.JPG

Olympus XZ-2 ISO 400.JPG

Olympus XZ-2 ISO 800.JPG

Olympus XZ-2 ISO 1600.JPG

Olympus XZ-2 ISO 3200.JPG

Olympus XZ-2 ISO 6400.JPG

Olympus XZ-2 ISO 12800.JPG

At ISO 1600 there are signs of noise in the image. By ISO 3200 the noise is even more apparent in even grey areas. At ISO 6400 the noise is still there (obviously) but definition is starting to fall. At ISO 12800 noise is up and definition is down but IMHO the setting is still suitable for some subjects.

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Olympus Stylus XZ-2 Review Verdict

Quality: well above average.

Why you’d buy the Olympus Stylus XZ-2: compact body, fast lens, minimal external controls.

Why you wouldn’t buy the Olympus Stylus XZ-2: complex, cascading viewfinder menu array.

In this market the camera is a little pricey, when compared to models with maxi zooms … but I guess you have to pay for upper level lens quality.

Extra note: external accessories, developed for PEN cameras, such as the digital eye-level viewfinder (VF-2 or VF-3) can be attached to the XZ-2 for ADDED functionality. The built-in pop-up flash can also wirelessly control Olympus flash units such as the FL-600R and 300R strobes. Plus: the new Stylus XZ-2 fully supports wireless connectivity via the new FlashAir mobile connectivity SD card.

A camera for the beginner and ambitious as well!

Olympus Stylus XZ-2 Specifications

Image Sensor: 12.0 million effective pixels.
Sensor: 15mm CMOS.
Metering: Multi segment, centre-weighted, spot.
Lens: f1.8-2.5/28-112mm as 35 SLR equivalent.
Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Shutter Speed: 60 to 1/2000 second.
Continuous Shooting: 5 fps at full resolution and 60 fps at 3 megapixel resolution.
Image Sizes (pixels): Stills: 3986×2976 to 640×480.
Movies: 1920×1080, 1280×720 at 30 fps.
Viewfinder: 7.6cm LCD screen (921,000).
File Formats: JPEG, RAW, MPEG4.
Colour Space: sRGB, Adobe RGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 12,800.
Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI mini, Eye-Fi, DC input.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery.
Dimensions: 113x65x48 WHDmm.
Weight: 346 g (inc battery).
Price: Get a price on the Olympus Stylus XZ-2 at Amazon.

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Olympus Stylus XZ-2
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Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

Some Older Comments

  • Deon April 13, 2013 04:37 am

    The xz-2 has a very easy super compact menu that pops up on the screen for easy adjustments. The control ring is a pleasure. The touch screen for instant focus and fast shots - very nice. This Oly makes shooting a breeze. And photo quality exceeds what the Nikon p7700 or Canon G15 offers. Love this little jewel. The price tag? I don't care, it is good value to me.

  • mike lukas December 31, 2012 04:27 am

    Jason, the Panasonic LX7 does NOT have a better lens. It might be a little faster, but the Zuiko in this XZ-2 is a jewel. Also the Sony RX100 has been known to have exposure problems. The one I have is relatively slow to focus, has undependable autofocus for sure. My Canon GX-1, although requiring more work and much bigger body, gives similarly good results to the Oly XZ-2. The image processor in the Oly yields the best JPEGs, to my eye. I like Canon's reds and yellows, but Oly's blues and greens are simply beautiful. The reds and yellows aren't far behind. The RX100's JPEGs are too flat and RAW is too much work, but it produces sharp, well-exposed files. The Fujifilm is too big (and problematic with digital artifacts, etc.).
    I 'm all about the final printable result, and the Oly gives me prettiest shots, and "pretty" sells.

  • Jason November 28, 2012 08:48 pm

    Moreover, the Panasonic LX7, with the same sized sensor and even FASTER and better quality lens is selling for around 400.

    Decent compact, but the price alone kills it against similar compacts in its class.

  • Jason November 28, 2012 08:45 pm

    Virtually the same price as the MUCH better and MUCH larger sensor packed Sony RX100. To compete with the MUCH better selling Sony, this camera needs to be closer to 300-350. Sorry Olympus, until you can cram a larger sensor into this body, you have an inferior product for the same cost as your better competition.

  • Allan Smailes November 16, 2012 09:44 pm

    I think the XS1 would be so Awesome for what it does.
    Cheers Allan Smailes. Townsville

  • Chitra Sivasankar Arunagiri November 14, 2012 11:47 am

    I agree with Jai Catalano. Sure it is a lot of money to pay for a point and shoot camera.

  • Ben Chapman November 14, 2012 08:47 am

    It's visually a very nice looking camera

  • Jeff November 14, 2012 07:06 am

    For approximately the same price one could purchase the Fujifilm X-S1. Wouldn't that be a better cost/benefit ratio? Yes, I would find the menus system endless!

  • Jai Catalano November 14, 2012 06:18 am

    No to knock your review. It is good but It's $600. That is just a lot of money for a camera. No matter how you slice it.

    Thankfully it does a lot but if you ask me there are other ways to spend your money than on a $600 point and shoot.