Olympus XZ-2 Ken McMahon, June 2013

Olympus XZ-2 vs Nikon COOLPIX A Quality RAW

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To compare real-life RAW performance I shot this scene with the Olympus Stylus XZ-2 and the Nikon COOLPIX A, within a few moments of each other using their RAW modes.

The XZ-2 was set to its maximum 28mm wide angle focal length, matching the 28mm fixed focal length lens of the COOLPIX A.

Image stabilisation on the Stylus XZ-2 was disabled for this tripod-mounted test. All other camera settings were left on the defaults.

  Olympus Stylus XZ-2 results
1 Olympus Stylus XZ-2 Quality JPEG
2 Olympus Stylus XZ-2 Quality RAW
3 Olympus Stylus XZ-2 Noise JPEG
4 Olympus Stylus XZ-2 Noise RAW
5 Olympus Stylus XZ-2 Sample images

The image above was taken with the Olympus Stylus XZ-2. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode and f4 was selected as this produced the best result from the lens. With the ISO sensitivity set to 100 ISO the XZ-2 metered an exposure of 1/800. As usual for this test the camera was otherwise left on the default settings. The Nikon COOLPIX A produced its best results at f5.6 where it metered 1/320th with the sensitivity set to 100 ISO.

I processed both files in Adobe Camera RAW using identical settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. To reduce white balance differences I also set the white balance to for both files to 6000k. These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what's really going on behind the scenes.

These RAW processed files from the Olympus Stylus XZ-2 may bring out a little more detail than the in-camera JPEGs, but they also show quite a bit of noise. If you look at the first crop, the figures by the chapel are less blurry, and there may just be a little more detail in the stonework of the wall. In the second crop there's definitely more detailed in the tiled roofs in the foreground, but at the cost of overall intrusive salt and pepper graininess. The third crop looks less soft and you could also easily correct the fringing here.

The high degree of sharpening and absence of noise reduction can bring out hidden detail in files that in-camera JPEG processing often obscures, but in this case the results look forced. There's a granular bittiness to the crops, they're harder and sharper, but not better than the in-camera JPEGs. So while, with less aggressive sharpening and careful noise processing, you may be able to squeeze a tiny bit more detail form the RAW files, you'll have to be quite careful not to overdo it.

The other thing these crops reveal is the quality gap between the Olympus Stylus XZ-2 and the Nikon COOLPIX A, which appears wider here than on the JPEG results page. It's clear to see that the COOLPIX A's 16 Megapixel sensor is without doubt resolving more detail than the Olympus XZ-2 and judging by these results I'd say it's likely it also outperforms many APS-C DSLRs. If this is indicative of the kind of quality it's possible to achieve without the optical low pass filter it's likely we'll see many more manufacturers, perhaps Olympus among them, taking this route in future.

Now see how these models compare at higher sensitivities in my Olympus Stylus XZ-2 Noise results.


Olympus XZ-2 RAW
f4, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO

Olympus Stylus XZ-2
results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

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