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Olympus Stylus XZ-2 iHS a very good camera made better by a price drop

The XZ-2's excellent lens, features, and photo quality make it an enthusiast compact worth getting. But look for it for less than its original $600 starting price,

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<p>These are 100 percent crops from the center of <a href="http://reviews.cnet.com/how-we-test/digital-cameras/">our test scene</a>. All things considered, the image quality from the XZ-2 iHS is excellent. The lens is nice and sharp, colors are natural, and noise, though present even at ISO 100, is kept under control without sacrificing detail straight through to ISO 800. Since the lens remains reasonably bright even when fully zoomed in and the camera has very good image stabilization, you can actually avoid using its higher ISO settings indoors or in low light.</p>

Olympus Stylus XZ-2 iHS sample pictures

The enthusiast-targeted XZ-2 iHS is quite capable of taking excellent-quality photos. Get an idea of what it can do in this slideshow.

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Originally released in November 2012, the Olympus Stylus XZ-2 is aging well. Featuring a 4x f1.8-2.5 28-112mm lens, a 12-megapixel 1/1.7-inch BSI CMOS sensor, and a 3-inch high-res tilting touch-screen LCD, the camera is built for enthusiast and hobbyists who want to do more than point and shoot (though it does that very well, too).

Olympus Stylus XZ-2 iHS is a premium compact camera (pictures)

With its bright lens, (slightly) larger sensor, tilting touch screen, direct controls, and ample shooting options, the XZ-2 is made for those who want to do more than snapshots.

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Even more than a year after its release this enthusiast compact is a nice choice, though not at its full $600 price.

Olympus Stylus XZ-2 iHS pricey but doesn't disappoint

Even more than a year after its release this enthusiast compact is a nice choice, though not at its full $600 price.

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<p>But not cheaper.</p>
<p>There's a reason the lens which ships with many entry-level interchangeable-lens cameras -- usually an 18-55mm (APS-C) or 14-42mm (Micro Four Thirds) -- adds a mere $100 to the cost of the kit. It allows manufacturers to offer the most inexpensively priced option possible while still delivering a decent out-of-the-box, point-and-shoot-like experience. But while most kit lenses are decent, their narrow aperture ranges can be both creatively stifling and inflexible for shooting in low light, the latter environment where most inexpensive cameras need the most help. Still, there's something to be said for the convenience of a multipurpose zoom lens. </p><p>Primes can be frustrating at times: when you're physically stuck working a fixed distance from your subject or traveling with folks who don't want to humor your attempts to get the right shot, to name just two (<a href="http://reviews.cnet.com/2300-35243_7-10019093.html">Here are my prime lens recommendations</a> as well as a <a href="http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-6501_7-57560029-95/make-the-resolution-try-a-new-lens-for-your-camera/">guide to understanding lenses</a>.). But stepping up to a slightly better lens can improve your photography noticeably.</p>
<p>The latest kit-lens trend has been power-zoom lenses. These are great for convenience and portability, so from that perspective they're better than the traditional versions. But they're still generally not great optically.</p>
<p>I've kept my recommendations to less than $900 and targeted for non-full-frame cameras. While some of these lenses are designed for full-frame cameras -- they tend to be better lenses in general -- I figure if you've bought a full-frame camera you should be able to figure a lot of this out by yourself. Some of them are quite old. Newer lenses tend to be more compact, with better coatings and better optical stabilization (where applicable), but older models still provide good value for the money. </p><p>Also, while some of my recommendations have the same aperture range as most kits -- f3.5-5.6 -- they all have much longer ranges so that they offer about a stop wider aperture across most of the range.</p>
<p>There are also some lenses I'd love to recommend, such as the Olympus MFT 12-40mm f2.8 and Sony E-mount 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS, but they're both too expensive at almost $1,000.</p>

Kick your kit lens to the curb: 12 better choices (pictures)

That 18-55mm lens that came with your camera was never meant to be your one and only.

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The SP-100 is Olympus' 2014 entry into the superultramegazoom category with a 50x f2.9-6.5 24-1200mm lens.

Olympus Stylus SP-100 keeps you on target (pictures)

This camera's clever dot-sight sets it apart from the other bridge cameras out there.

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The TG-850 is waterproof down to 33 feet, shockproof from 7 feet, crushproof up to 220 pounds, freezeproof down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, and dustproof. Out in front is an ultrawide-angle 5x f3.5-5.7 21-105mm lens with a 16-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor behind it.

Olympus Stylus Tough TG-850 flips out (pictures)

With a new ultrawide-angle lens and flip-up LCD, the TG-850 makes it easier to capture the great outdoors and more of it.

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Olympus' OM-D E-M10 may confuse your buying decision

It's got both better and worse specs than the E-M5, at roughly the same price. Plus, Olympus announces a couple of interesting new lenses and add-on grip

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Olympus Tough TG-1 iHS

Olympus' first rugged camera aimed at serious snapshooters, the TG-1's unique lens for its class sets it apart from the pack.

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LAS VEGAS -- Kodak is planning to roll out this not-unattractive, not-terribly-expensive, but not-terribly innovative Micro Four Thirds-based interchangeable-lens camera later this year. The PixPro S-1 has decent specs, including a 16.8-megapixel sensor, 3-inch tilting 920,000-pixel display, Wi-Fi and 5fps continuous-shooting mode. It will ship with a slowish 12-45mm f3.5-6.3 collapsible lens; the collapsing mechanism looks a lot like Olympus' original design for its 14-42mm lens, and the camera uses sensor-shift image stabilization like Olympus as well. There's a second lens, a 42.5-160mm, as well as a spotting scope that may be part of a second bundle.

JK Imaging tosses Kodak onto Micro Four Thirds bandwagon (pictures)

The Kodak PixPro S-1 doesn't look like a clone of any competitors, but aspects of it do bear a striking resemblance to some.

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Top-rated reviews of the week (pictures)

Two fancy cars and a radar detector to go with. A computer that looks like a spaceship, a hard drive that looks like an office building, and a home security system that looks like a...coffeemaker? OK, it's not all glamour this week, but CNET's editors reviewed some pretty great stuff. Check it out.

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Olympus Stylus 1 delivers enthusiast compact for zoom lovers

The Stylus 1 packs a high-end 10.7x f2.8 zoom lens, a larger sensor, and other features hobbyists desire, in a compact body.

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4 stars Excellent
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