Olympus XZ-2 vs XZ-1 – Differences Comparison

December 7, 2012

Olympus XZ-2

The XZ-1 was a big success and mostly due to its impressive JPEG image quality and very sharp lens. At the time of launch, the XZ-1 was probably among the best compact digital cameras on the market.  On September 17, 2012 Olympus has announced the successor for the XZ-1, the stylus XZ-2 iHS. There are a lot of expectations from this little camera among amateurs and enthusiasts alike.  In this article I will be comparing the Olympus XZ-2 iHS vs XZ-1 to help those of you who are debating which one to get.


Who is the XZ-1 / XZ-2 For?

Both the XZ-1 and XZ-2 are premium compact cameras. They both utilize a relatively large sensor (XZ-1: 1/1.63″, XZ-2: 1/1.7″) with the XZ-1 having a bit larger sensor and with a back-illuminated CMOS sensor instead of a CCD. Olympus aimed those two cameras to the enthusiast crowd, those who are picky when it comes to image quality and willing to pay a higher price for a premium compact camera.  Both cameras are equipped with a very bright F1.8-F2.5 lens, which is one of the main selling-point for those two cameras.

After the XZ-1 came out, more companies introduced their own competitive models for the XZ-1. Sony introduced the Cyber-shot DSC-RX100, Panasonic launched the Lumix DMC-LX7 and other companies follows the same trend. The idea was to create the perfect compact digital camera, that even at the days where mobile phone cameras are serving as a viable alternative, advanced photographers will be convinced to carry a second camera with them in their pocket. So the main emphasize is on high image quality and a bright lens for better low-light shooting, all in a lightweight and compact design.

The Sony RX100 is probably one of the best implementation of such camera. It was included in the top best inventions of the year for 2012 by TIME magazine. You pay for a premium price but you get what you paid for. Both the XZ-2 and RX100 are sold almost at the same price, with the RX100 sold around $50 more. A $600-$650 dollar compact digital camera isn’t cheap. You can buy the Nikon D3200 + 18-55mm lens for around $600.

those premium compact cameras will appeal also to those who don’t want to bother with interchangeable lenses. Lets not forget that you also have the option to buy compact system camera + lens for this price. The thing is that cameras like the Olympus XZ-1 and XZ-2 weren’t suppose to compete against interchangeable lenses. Some photographers with a CSC or DSLR might even consider getting a compact digital camera too, due to its portability. It’s a type of camera that you can carry everywhere you go. I have a DSLR camera (Nikon D3100 + 2 lenses) and I can tell you from my own experience that I can’t take the camera everywhere I go. Maybe I can, but I don’t like carrying a camera bag with me when I go to a party, visiting my family or just when doing my daily routine and certainly not when I go to work.

For an amateur photographer, the mobile phone camera is probably the best camera one can get. However, it lacks the optical zoom and bright high-quality lenses that those type of premium compact cameras have. In the future we will certainly see new technologies that will solved the optical zoom ‘issue’  (actually this was kind of addressed by mobile phones like the Samsung S camera) and will certainly see those premium compact camera swollen up and be apart of any mobile phone. Having said that, if you need a high quality compact camera right now, the best option is to get a premium compact camera, and one of the highly recommended ones are the Olympus XZ-1 and XZ-2 iHS.


XZ-1 vs XZ-2 – Differences

To better understand the differences between XZ-1 and XZ-2 iHS, lets take a look at a side by side comparison table. This will give you a good overview of the specs differences between the two cameras.

Olympus XZ-1 vs XZ-2 size comparison

Olympus XZ-1 and XZ-2 iHS comparison (via camerasize.com)

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As you can see from the following specs comparison table, the XZ-2 improved upon the XZ-2 on various aspects, including improved sensor design with higher resolution, the new TruPic VI image sensor, higher max. ISO, high resolution tilting LCD (both cameras have a touch-sensitive screen),  more AF points, faster burst, full HD videos with stereo sound a new camera design. Olympus also added a DUAL IS technology to help reduce blur when shooting handheld, HDR backlit correction (Combine several images into one high dynamic range image) and Super  Resolution technology to expand the zoom power up by 8 times, while still keeping very good image quality. Olympus also improved the user interface with something that is similar with what you get with its Compact System Cameras (ie. OM-D / PEN).


Furthermore, Olympus added the ‘hybrid control ring’ which allows easier access for changing camera settings. Take a look at the next video to see the Hybrid control ring in action:


Oh, and there is the new rubberized grip at the front.



The Olympus XZ-2 iHS was designed in every way to improve upon the XZ-1 and become a respectable successor for its older brother.  Olympus focused on making the XZ-2 easier to use with improved performance and low-light capabilities of the camera, giving enthusiast an updated model that is worth upgrading to from the XZ-1, as well as a well-worthy competitor to other premium compact camera models out there on the market. Point-and-shoot isn’t dead yet, and that’s an understatement when it comes to the XZ-2.

The Olympus XZ-1 can now be bought for around $330 (for amazon latest price click here) and as for the time of writing this article, the XZ-2 costs around $600, almost twice more expensive.  The XZ-1 is still am amazing camera, the new XZ-2 won’t take away that (Amazon user opinions: “XZ-1 Wins out”, “..Best in class..”, “Great lens!”).  The XZ-1 is certainly a keeper when it comes to image quality and the price is just right.



The question that you might ask yourself is whether those added features and updates worth paying the extra price?

When it comes to video, not doubt that the XZ-2 exhales with its 1080p / stereo video recording and high-res tilting LCD display. Video enthusiast will certainly want to take a look at the  XZ-2 Stylus premium compact camera.  Some people might look at the other features as optional but not a must, for others, those features will certainly be worth extra for. It really comes to personal preference, but I’m sure that you are interested to know about image quality – is there a big difference?


Image Quality

The Olympus XZ-1 is in my opinion one of the most impressive cameras when it comes to JPEG image quality. Out of the box, the Olympus XZ-1 takes ultra sharp image with amazing details and contrast. It’s better than anything I’ve seen from any camera, even in a DSLR – the JPEG image quality at low ISO is truly impressive!

The XZ-1 utilizes a CCD sensor. Its high ISO performance is still good, but you can still see some amount of noise at low ISO and above ISO400 image quality just start losing a lot of details and noise kicks in really badly.

The XZ-2 image quality is really impressive with very sharp images, lots of details, brilliant color rendering and contrast. It’s like your are viewing the scene with your own eyes without any screening in front of you. The XZ-2 also much improved when it comes to high ISO performance. ISO 800 looks relatively very clean, including ISO1600, and we can see the big drop at ISO 3200. With RAW you can get an overall a bit better image quality. So overall I am very impressed with the high ISO performance of the XZ-2. Lets not forget that the XZ-2 doesn’t have a 1-inch sensor (13.2 x 8.8 mm) and its far smaller than ASP-C, however, image quality looks extremely good for a relatively smaller sensor – I’m impressed.

Even at ISO 1600, 3200 and 6400 you can barely notice chroma noise.  Luminance noise is certainly present starting from ISO 400 and above.  The noise pattern looks really good, not a “painting” like noise that you might have seen with other cameras. This means that it’s easier to reduce/remove using a noise reduction software (I recommend Nik Software Dfine 2.0). The XZ-1 was probably best at ISO 400 and below, with the XZ-2 you can even have usable ISO1600 and even ISO3200 images. Certainly a big step over the previous model and that’s due to the TruPic VI image processor and newly developer BSI-CMOS sensor.  This observation comes after viewing and comparing many high ISO sample images of both the XZ-1 and XZ-2.

If you find yourself shooting a lot of images at high ISO, the XZ-2 will certainly worth buying over the XZ-1 or upgrading from the XZ-1.

XZ-2 Sample images (via Flickr)

ISO 800


ISO 100

Cosmos Flowers

ISO 250


ISO 500 (look at the beautiful Bokeh!)

A series of the same scene in various ISO setting can be viewed on Flickr here.



The Olympus XZ-2 is a fully-features premium compact camera and a well-worthy update from the XZ-1.  The XZ-1 is almost twice cheaper and still offers among the best JPEG we’ve seen under ISO400. The XZ-2 features the same fast lens but improved in all the other aspects, including new camera design, better LCD, faster burst, the new hybrid-ring,  more AF points, higher ISO range and  Full HD videos with stereo sound. It also improved on the high ISO performance, making even ISO3200 pretty usable too. The new TruPic VI image processor and the new BSI-CMOS image sensor both gives the XZ-2 the boost it needed for low-light shooting. The XZ-2 certainly makes a great impression even alongside the other competitive models from Panasonic, Sony, Canon and Nikon. The JPEG quality of both the XZ-1 and XZ-2 is impressive. Both cameras deliver very high quality image, among the best JPEGs I’ve seen in years. Many enthusiasts will pick one of those two cameras based on that IQ performance. The fast aperture allows you to shoot images with a relatively shallow depth of field. You are no longer limited to shooting with relatively good lighting conditions. The fast aperture lens, new BSI-CMOS sensor, new TruPic VI image processor – all will result in a much improved low-light performance.

The XZ-2 was design with the same GUI as Olympus PEN cameras, which makes it easier to navigate and change settings.  Video enthusiast will love the Horizontal tilting 3-inch high-res LCD and being able to shoot at Full HD video resolution, the LCD looks amazing, bright and sharp. The XZ-2 like the XZ-1 offers plenty of customizations, filters and art effects for you to enjoy playing with. Whatever camera you choose, you are sured to enjoy, what I personally think, is the best out-of-the-box JPEG image quality from any other compact camera to date.  Both are excellent premium compact cameras for the enthusiast photographer, who don’t mind paying more but get a photographic tool that allow him full creative control and being able to fully control over the image output. It’s a fun camera to use with pro features. Highly Recommended!

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