Olympus Stylus XZ-2 iHS review: Great camera made better by a price drop

Design and features
Though the XZ-2 is a nice choice for when you don't want to haul out a dSLR, if you're looking for a camera to easily slip in a pants pocket, this isn't it. It'll certainly fit in a jacket pocket, but it's bulky due to the lens and the bright, high-resolution tilting 3-inch touch-screen LCD. It's not exactly light, either, at 12.2 ounces.

Shooting with the XZ-2 is really very nice. Between the touch screen and the camera's physical controls, getting the settings just right for shot doesn't take too much effort. Around the lens barrel is a digital/analog control ring. A lever on the front lets you quickly switch modes: digital mode for fine zooming or manual focusing, or analog mode to adjust settings such as aperture, shutter speed, and more. There are two programmable function buttons as well, one on back and one on front.

Olympus Stylus XZ-2 iHS Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7
Price (MSRP) $599.99 $399.99
Dimensions (WHD) 4.4x2.6x1.9 4.4x2.6x1.8
Weight (with battery and media) 12.2 ounces 10.5 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 12 megapixels, 1/1.7-inch BSI CMOS 10 megapixels, 1/1.7-inch MOS
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch tilting touch LCD, 920K dots/optional 3-inch LCD, 920K dots/optional
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 4x, f1.8-2.5, 28-112mm (35mm equivalent) 3.8x, f1.4-2.3 24-90mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still / video) JPEG, raw (.ORF)/H.264 AAC (.MOV) JPEG, raw (.RW2)/AVCHD (.MTS)
Highest resolution size (still / video) 3,968x2,976 pixels/ 1,920x1,080 pixels at 30fps (progressive, 18Mbps) 3,648x2,736 pixels/ 1,920x1,080 pixels at 60fps (progressive, 28Mbps)
Image stabilization type Optical Optical
Battery type, CIPA rated life Lithium ion rechargeable, 310 shots Lithium ion rechargeable, 330 shots
Battery charged in camera Yes No
Storage media SDXC SDXC
Built-in Wi-Fi/GPS No/No No/No

A hot shoe and accessory port give you the option to add accessories. Those include five different external flashes; a macro arm light; an electronic viewfinder; an external microphone; and the Olympus Penpal, a Bluetooth adapter for wirelessly sending photos to computers, smartphones, and tablets. The camera does not have built-in Wi-Fi, but you can use it with Eye.Fi or Toshiba FlashAir wireless SD cards. Also, you can attach the Olympus CLA-12 conversion lens adapter and use it with the TCON-17x telephoto lens that magnifies the camera's 112mm end to 190mm (35mm equivalent) while maintaining the f2.5 aperture.

The battery and SD card slot are under a locking door on the bottom of the camera, which is very close to the tripod mount. If you like to use a quick-release plate or tripod regularly, plan on removing it when you need to swap memory cards. Worth noting is Olympus still uses a proprietary USB input, which would be less irksome if the camera didn't charge via USB. You might want to buy a spare or risk not being able to charge your battery should you lose the one that's included.

General shooting options Olympus Stylus XZ-2 iHS
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800 (1/3EV step)
White balance Auto, Sunny, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash, Custom, two one-touch
Recording modes Auto, Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter speed-priority, Manual, Art Filter, Scene, Custom 1 and 2
Focus modes Face/iESP Auto, AF Target (from 9 to 35 points), Spot AF, AF Tracking, Manual
Macro 2 inches (Wide), 7.9 feet (Tele); 0.4 inch in Super Macro
Metering modes ESP, center, spot, targeted
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) 200 shots

The XZ-2 has a substantial list of shooting options, so whether you're an automatic shooter looking to learn more or a seasoned photographer who likes a lot of control, you're pretty well covered here. Again, the control layout is such that once you have it set up the way you like it, getting to the settings you use the most is no problem.

Along with full shutter speed (Bulb, 60 seconds to 1/2,000 second) and aperture control (f1.8 to f8), you get five color mode options and 11 of Olympus' Art Filters; raw image capture; a built-in 3EV-equivalent ND filter for those times when you have too much light, but want to use the f1.8 aperture; and full-HD movie recording with stereo sound (MOV).

This camera does a lot, and if the few things I've mentioned here have piqued your interest, I strongly suggest going through its full feature list on Olympus' site and downloading the camera manual.

The Olympus Stylus XZ-2 iHS is proof that even if digital camera technology keeps moving forward, a good design and excellent lens still hold up over time. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't look for a good deal, especially in a crowded market.