When Olympus released its first serious advanced compact camera, there wasn't a huge amount of competition. A year and a half later, the market looks considerably different. Proficient performers like the Sony RX100 have come along, with large, 1-inch sensors, and then there are models like the Samsung EX2F and Panasonic LX7, which have faster, f/1.4 lenses.
It's fair to say that the Olympus XZ-2 has a lot to live up to.
What's first noticeable about the new camera is a redesigned body. It's not a radical shift away from the tried-and-tested black svelte models that have come before, but the addition of an interchangeable grip helps make it easier to hold than the earlier model.
Lens specifications are somewhat ho-hum — that is, exactly the same as the XZ-1. It's an f/1.8-2.5 lens with a 4x optical zoom. New elements are the 3-inch 920,000-dot touchscreen that can tilt out from the camera body.
The control ring found around the front of the lens has more precise click stops, which is apparently what Olympus users were asking for in this iteration. Just below the ring is a small control lever. When flicked, it changes the dynamic of the ring into a smooth movement rather than in stepped increments. The default action in the smooth motion is for manual focus, but this can of course be adjusted by pressing the button in the centre of the lever to control any number of parameters, such as white balance.
Sensor wise, it gets an upgrade from CCD to a 12-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS unit. The accessory port below the hotshoe is compatible with all of the accessories, such as an electronic viewfinder, from the Pen series of interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs).
Like the new Pen cameras, which were announced simultaneously, the XZ-2 will support the FlashAir Wi-Fi SDHC card format for transferring photos to a range of wireless devices.
The XZ-2 will retail for AU$649 when it goes on sale in early November.