PM2 + 20mm vs Oly XZ-2

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by tjdean01, Feb 27, 2013.

  1. tjdean01

    tjdean01 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2013
    Not that I'm brand-specific, but when it comes to "best IQ in something I can wear on my waist" the two chart-toppers are both by Olympus (honorable mention going to Panasonic m4/3s, Canon G15, Sony RX100).

    PM2 + the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 lens seems like the obvious choice since I don't really need zoom. Everyone says this lens is one of the best and it rates very well (slrgear, dpreview). Whenever it's soft you can just stop down to f3.5 and the sharpness levels off. And according to the review, the 14 mm is even better in that regard when stopped around f5.6! So, I buy the PM2 and these two lenses. I already ordered the 40-150 mm zoom when Olympus had it for $99. $1300 total give or take. I have low-light, wide angle, zoom....and ultimately, good sharpness and hip-pouch portability. Solved my own problem and why am I posting this, right?

    Well, because the sample shots I find taken with the 20mm are slightly distorted and not very sharp. The 14mm worsens the situation. Review numbers say the 14mm is best. Forum posters all swear the 20mm is one of the sharpest lenses they've ever used. It has NO negative feedback on Amazon. Then, how come, whenever I see a rare Olympus XZ-2 sample, it seems to outdo the m4/3s cameras lenses which are supposed to be better? Granted the XZ-2 can only do well up to ISO800, but the lens is f1.8 so would be ok in the dark but more importantly, to me, it definitely looks sharper than either of these lenses in the daytime, at ISO100, even when they're stopped down to where they're sharpest. And it's a one-time fee of $600 and the same size as PM2 with a pancake on it.

    Soooooo, what gives? Why would I buy into m4/3s with these lens when the XZ-2 is, from what I see, better? If XZ-2 out-performs the m4/3s and the 14mm + 20mm pancakes, why bother? My dilemma is for the wide angles only. m4/3s solution would be $1300. XZ-2 would be $600 (and I could use the remaining $700 to buy a PM2 with a telephoto zoom or something).

    Anyone have any samples these lenses vs the XZ-2? I can only find a few and it's not enough to go by. I appreciate it!
  2. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    I do not think the Oly XZ2 could beat the RX100.

    Where are you getting the high praise for the XZ2?
  3. simonz

    simonz Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 20, 2010
    New England
    I don't have any example photos of the m43 panny 20 to compare against the XZ series. However, I own the XZ-1 and many m43 cameras, and I'm very impressed with the images that the XZ-1 produces, and it is my first choice camera where there is plenty of light. At the base ISO, for my purposes, it's as good as any of my m43 cameras at their base ISO. However, once ISO increases, the image quality from the XZ-1 rapidly decreases as does shadow detail. Some people may say that they don't need to shoot with a high ISO, but in many indoor situations a high ISO is necessary to have clear and sharp photos by using a fast shutter speed.

    My point is that the XZ series can produce excellent photos with well lit situations, but in poorly lit scenes, a camera with higher ISO capabilities is needed to produce consistently good photos.
  4. b_rubenstein

    b_rubenstein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 20, 2012
    Melbourne, FL
    Robin Wong did a 4 part review of the XZ2.

    I have a XZ-1. I'm sure the XZ-2 is even better (current model Sony sensor). They are still small sensor cameras and the XZ-1, at base ISO, at 12"x16" print sizes is not in the same class as an E-PL2 with the kit lens. If you're shooting for the web, XZ-2 is probably fine.
  5. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Robin Wong makes every camera look like a miracle machine :D
  6. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    The lens does have some distortion (correctable in Lightroom or other programs, if you find it annoying), but if it's not sharp, then either you got a bad copy or you're doing something wrong.

    The XZ-2 is a nice compact camera, but it simply doesn't get anywhere near the level of detail the 20/1.7 will give you on even the oldest m4/3 body.
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  7. hkpzee

    hkpzee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 5, 2011
    Hong Kong
    Real Name:
    tjdean01, perhaps you can post some images taken with your E-PM2 + 20/1.7 combo which you consider not sharp and share with us, so that we can better gauge what the issue is?
  8. htc

    htc Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 11, 2011
    Real Name:
  9. DoofClenas

    DoofClenas Who needs a Mirror!

    Nov 9, 2012
    Traverse City, MI
    Real Name:
    Came from an xz-1, and now own the epm2 and 20/45 it.
  10. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Are you sure things are not soft because they're outside of the Depth of Field? The DOF of the E-PM2 is much smaller than the DOF of the XZ-2 at the same aperture and distance, and will have less of the frame in focus.
  11. MAubrey

    MAubrey Photographer

    Jul 9, 2012
    Bellingham, WA
    Real Name:
    Mike Aubrey
  12. tjdean01

    tjdean01 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2013
    Wow, you guys are great! I got tons of replies! I'm going to stick around here; provided I stick with m4/3s, that is! (Got rid of my PL2.) Let me to try to reply to everyone who was so nice to help.
    Definitely not a fan of the RX100. People might say I'm crazy for saying the 20/1.7 is soft everywhere except in the center, but I'm not alone regarding the RX100. I'm really not a fan of Sony products either. That camera is off my list. Regarding praise for the XZ-2, I'm not sure what you're looking for here. All I did was looked at sample images. I will post some below.
    This is what I'm seeing as well and I think the XZ-2 only improves on your already good XZ-1. Someone said that the P&S lenses are more optimized for the smaller sensors so corner to corner sharp glass is easier to obtain on a smaller sensor than a larger one. Others disagree with that, I know, but all I know is that I'd like to see a few side by sides before making my decision.

    What's seriously baffling is that we're even having this discussion! I mean, a $500 large sensor interchangeable lens camera with a highly regarded $400 lens--a prime lens at that--versus a P&S zoom!??
    This is what I was expecting so I was going to buy the 20/1.7 and a body, but, after looking at samples I haven't been impressed. I still need more side by side comparisons to say for sure though! Why don't they do this test for compacts?
    I thought this at first too but it doesn't really add up. Yes, the center of the photos are sharper, but what I believe I'm seeing softness in the lens rather than being out of focus because when it's out of focus it would get more and more out of focus the further away from the center we go and become smooth, creamy, bokeh. I'm not seeing that. I'm seeing what I see on $100 P&Ss. It could easily be tested by someone who had the camera: simply focus on something not in the center of the lens and see if the center is still sharper.

    Anyway, here are a very few examples. And I've only been able to find one or two side by side. I'll do links so you can open in new window or download them:

    Dpreview tests. Okay, here here are six comparisons. The cameras are all shot stopped down as to increase sharpness. All on a tripod. The center of the 20/1.7 is sharp as indicated by the colored pencils. But look at the other photos. Now, the Panasonic GF1 is definitely capable when the 50 mm lens is on it (which is what was also used for the Oly PL1). The XZ-1's images are also very sharp (it was, however, zoomed in). But the GF1 + 20mm combo did not do the trick and doesn't stand up to the others. If you'd like go to the studio comparison tool.

    Next I looked at some Image Resource samples. We have the 14mm, the 20mm, and the XZ-2 shot at 24mm. I don't, however, know what focal length 24 mm means. Judging from the aspect I'd say it was zoomed in a bit. In these photos the primes are a touch sharper (I can only see it on the fabric in the upper left). But still, not a great comparison because they are at quite different focal lengths.

    Next, the only photos I really have to compare are pretty non-comparable, such as the dpreview sample images. Here are some 14mm samples, 20mm samples, and the XZ-2. There are no comparisons though. The 14mm looks less than impressive! Another question, is the 14-45 kit lens lessless distorted than the 14mm prime? It really doesn't look very good. Here's some distortion and softness across the frame.

    I really DO want the m4/3s with the big sensor for low-light compact fun but not if it and the pancakes are beat in sharpness by its P&S little brother :mad:

    Please show me!
  13. PaulGiz

    PaulGiz Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 3, 2013
    Rhode Island, USA
    1. What is your definition of distortion? Lenses exhibit pincushion or barrel distortion. Are you referring to perspective? If so, this is just a function of focal length. Shorter focal length at same image size means more perspective. If that's what's bothering you, then larger sensor means longer focal length at same image size, thus less perspective distortion.

    2. Funny for an m4/3 lover to say, but to quote the drag racers: "There's no replacement for displacement." Under ideal lighting conditions a teensy (but modern) sensor can yield excellent sharpness and decent dynamic range. Under difficult conditions, not so much. A good image is possible, but less likely.

    3. Like others, I don't see what you're seeing about the 14 & 20 being soft.

    Your best bet for consistent quality is the PM2 plus pretty much any native lens. This is a fact. Of course, you may feel otherwise, and may enjoy the xz-2 more. That is entirely up to you. Your camera, your research, your decision.

    • Like Like x 1
  14. tjdean01

    tjdean01 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2013
    Do these numbers mean anything to anyone? I can't find a comparable sharpness test either.

    The 20mm was reviewed here but you might want to look at this review instead because it's the same test.

    Olympus Stylus XZ-2 - Photo Review

    Like I said, I plan to get something pocketable now. Next year maybe an OMD (E-M6, perhaps? :biggrin:) with the 12/2.0 and 45/1.8!
  15. fin azvandi

    fin azvandi Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 12, 2011
    South Bend, IN
    Well to be honest, perhaps part of the reason you're having trouble finding comparisons is that very few people are actually having this kind of discussion. Forgive me if I've misunderstood your level of photographic knowledge, but it seems to me that you are making some apples-to-oranges comparisons and using technical terms like distortion, sharpness/softness, focal length, etc without quite knowing what they mean. In that case, you might be in a situation of digging up a lot of "information" but are not able to interpret it in a useful way. For example, do you understand how aperture size and distance to subject affect the depth of focus, or how changing the focal lengths affects the perspective (and thus may "distort" the subject)? Again, I'm not trying to attack you but some of your questions are honestly confusing.

    As others have said, in good light and stopped down to a moderate aperture, modern P&S cameras can take pretty amazingly sharp photos. Comparing those kinds of photos at web size is not going to tell you anything about the differences between cameras. The difference is going to be when you are shooting in less than ideal light, or looking at a larger print, etc. I'm sure the Oly XZ-2 is a great camera, and will produce excellent images within a certain range of conditions, but the E-PM2 + 20mm (or even the kit zoom lens) will do just as well or better in those conditions PLUS give you the ability to shoot in more challenging conditions. I would also say that rather than looking at images of test displays, looking at real world images may give you a sense of how the E-PM2 + 20mm can render richer, more 3-dimensional images.
  16. tjdean01

    tjdean01 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2013
    I understand everything you're saying, especially why the M4/3s will give me more in the "PLUS" category. But what I'm asking here is what will do better in daylight, corner to corner sharpness, if everything is on the same plane and in focus. You say, "but the E-PM2 + 20mm (or even the kit zoom lens) will do just as well or better in those conditions." I thought so to. I mean, it's obvious, right? I was actually going to buy the PM2 and the 20mm just a week or so ago but when I saw they raised the price I guess I looked at some (inconclusive) samples and saw evidence of the XZ-2 looking better. The XZ-2 was never on my list, but now I'm on the fence.

    Maybe it's just the in-camera sharpening of the P&S? PS, of course I'm looking at the photos at 100%.
  17. b_rubenstein

    b_rubenstein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 20, 2012
    Melbourne, FL
    You're almost certainly looking at JPG processing differences. Of course, if your definition of IQ is restricted to sharpness of of web images, the get the P&S camera. Apparent sharpness is not always, and very often not, image detail. Again, if you want a handy, dandy all in one P&S go for it.
  18. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Real Name:
    What are you going to use the camera for? The question you should be asking is which one is better for your intended use, not which one has better edge sharpness in a test shot.

    It seems to me like you're basing IQ on one quality - corner sharpness. Even in the Imaging Resource images you've posted, I don't see softer corners on the EP1 + 20mm shots. On the contrary, I see greater detail due to the larger sensor size (i.e. more pixels). Try reading the text on the proportional scale chart on the right side for example; the XZ-2 simply doesn't have as much pixel level detail to work with. Then factor that you're actually looking at buying the E-PM2 which has a considerably higher resolution sensor than the older E-P1, which means the disparity will be even greater.

    The E-PM2 will be better overall for:

    1) high ISO noise performance (indoor & low light photos for example)
    2) light-gathering capability
    3) printing, especially larger sizes
    4) post-processing, especially with RAW - cropping, sharpening, noise reduction, etc.
    5) shallower DoF, if that's your thing
    6) overall detail and resolution
    7) Interchangeable lenses (hold more value over time, more versatile, etc.)

    The XZ-1 will be better at:

    1) range of focal lengths without carrying multiple lenses
    2) pocketable size (with zoom versus fixed lens at least)
    3) greater DoF at same aperture

    Don't get wrapped around the axle staring at test chart corners; look at the 20mm Image Thread, or since we don't have an E-PM2 thread, you can look at the OM-D EM-5 Image Thread, or E-PL5 Image Thread, both of which share the same sensor as the E-PM2 and will give you plenty of real world examples of what it's capable of.

    Lastly: if you're already convinced the XZ-2 is the way to go, why not just buy it and find out for sure? I don't advocate abusing return policies, but if you legitimately think you'll be happy with the camera why not order from a store like Amazon with a 30 day return policy and find out for yourself?