Best high-end compact camera: 6 compared

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Best high-end compact camera

Olympus XZ-2 - £350/AU$600/US$600

The Olympus XZ-2 represents a major revamp of the Olympus XZ-1, ditching the 10MP CCD image sensor in favour of a new backlit 12MP CMOS sensor. The image processor is also uprated to the same TruPic VI chip that's featured in the Olympus OM-D, which we're very fond of. Image quality should get a big boost in low lighting conditions, especially at high sensitivity settings.

There's no built-in viewfinder but an optional EVF (Electronic Viewfinder) is available as an extra accessory. The high-resolution LCD screen is very clear and bright, and the only one here that's a touchscreen. It's particularly handy for point-and-shoot focusing. The LCD also has a vertical tilt facility, lacking on all the other cameras on test apart from the Nikon P7700, which has superior full articulation.

A standout feature is the lens ring, which features both analogue and electronic operation. In analogue mode, it gives precise control over zooming and focusing. In electronic mode, you can select other parameters like aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation. Couple this with the Olympus XZ-2's customisable function buttons, and it's easy to tailor the camera to your exact needs.

The f/1.8-2.5 lens delivers reasonable sharpness throughout its aperture and zoom ranges, the latter stretching from an equivalent 28-112mm. Sensor-shift image stabilisation works well but isn't quite a match for the optical stabilisers on the Canon G15, Fujifilm X20 and Nikon P7700 cameras. The 5fps maximum burst rate should suffice, but it's only about half the speed of most cameras here Image noise at high ISO settings isn't nearly as low as we were hoping for.

Outdoor images

Best high-end compact camera

Contrast is a little too high, with a tendency to make lowlight areas look quite muddy, and colour rendition could be better.

Resolution

Best high-end compact camera

There's little to choose between this and the Nikon P7700 in terms of sharpness. Both deliver very similar and slightly disappointing results.

Noise

Best high-end compact camera
Noise at ISO 200

Best high-end compact camera
Noise at ISO 3200

High ISO images can look very grainy, almost to the point of being blotchy. We were hoping for better low-noise performance from the Olympus XZ-2.

Colour error

Best high-end compact camera

The Olympus has the worst score for colour accuracy, the lab test results being borne out by real-world shooting in a variety of conditions.

Image test verdict

A bit of an under-achiever when it comes to image quality, we were hoping for better results all-round from the new and improved Olympus XZ-2.

Read our full Olympus XZ-2 review