High-end compact camera fans pay attention: Olympus has updated the XZ-1 with the brand new Olympus Stylus XZ-2, and Pocket-lint was on hand to have a play with a pre-production model of this supped-up compact.
Amid the flurry of large-sensor compacts feeding into the market at the moment, Olympus has upgraded the CCD of the XZ-1 with a brand new 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor in the XZ-2. Despite owning the same 12-megapixels as its predecessor, this latest sensor has a back-lit construction for optimum image quality. In simple terms, that means the wiring has moved to the rear of the sensor, out of the way of the light path, which helps to provide a "cleaner" signal.
But it's the new external design features that excite us the most. Eagle-eyed XZ-1 users will see a couple of striking things about the XZ-2: there's a Function button and switch on the front of the camera and the newly logoed "Stylus" is emblazoned upon the bottom of the rear screen.
Of those main points outlined above it's the switch around the front function button that has the biggest impact. Users of the XZ-1 will be aware that it has a rotational wheel around the lens that's ideal for clicking between apertures and other settings. In the XZ-2 this click-stop motion is still available, but flick the function switch and it becomes a totally smooth rotation that can control manual focus. So now the lens control ring offers dual controls, each with a single sensation in the hand, and enhanced customisation to control what you want. Awesome.
The XZ-2's lens remains the same 28-112mm f/1.8-2.5 zoom as its predecessor, but for any lens to sustain a wide f/2.5 aperture at the 112mm equivalent focal range is impressive. But then that's why the camera is a little on the large size.
Gone is the OLED screen, replaced with a higher-resolution 921k-dot LCD version. The screen is mounted on a new bracket for flipping out to all kinds of angles, plus it's now touch sensitive for a proper hands-on experience. It can be used to change the focus point, fire the shutter and be used to control the camera, all with the touch of a finger.
The "Stylus" name isn't new to Olympus, but this new logo form is. We have to admit, Olympus hasn't had the easiest bunch of names in the past. "mju" for example was never a great name, and while Stylus isn't exactly ace - the word seems to suggest a digital pen range, but the camera range has absolutely nothing to do with those - it's a lot easier to say. It's probably about time Olympus had something as easy to chuck around a conversation as "Lumix" or "PowerShot".
We don't have a final release date for the XZ-2, but the price is anticipated to be around the £479 mark. It's not cheap, but from what we've seen it looks like it'll be well worth it.