S90 vs Nikon D3/Pana LX3/Pana ZS3/Oly EP1 Golden Gate Bridge Shootout

Started Oct 9, 2009 | Discussions thread
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ebrandon
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S90 vs Nikon D3/Pana LX3/Pana ZS3/Oly EP1 Golden Gate Bridge Shootout
Oct 9, 2009

It started innocently enough.

I picked up an S90 yesterday, and thought it was giving me pretty good pictures. Lots of people on the forum seemed concerned though, that it only had 10 megapixels, or that the pictures looked maybe a little soft.

So I asked myself, how does it stack up against the Nikon D3 which has also has "only" 12 megapixels, but no one would say it doesn't take amazing images.

What does this:

and an extra $6000 really get you in good light with stationary objects like a bridge?

But then it seemed a pity not to bring the Panasonic LX3 and ZS3 which I was comparing to the S90 in another thread.

And then it seemed a shame not to bring my wife's Olympus EP1 to get a crop sensor in the comparison between the point and shoots and the big full frame camera.

So what are the findings? I'll describe the experience of shooting with these different cameras and let you be the judge of resulting images. All the pictures are JPGs, straight out of the cameras. Different cameras have different exposure compensation based on what looked best to me for that camera in that situation.

The entire gallery with access to full-size images is here

http://thebrandons.smugmug.com/Other/Golden-Gate-Shootout/9901741_bAX5n#674832500_XxGav

The Nikon D3

After playing with point and shoots quite extensively for several days it was a revelation to pick up and use the D3 again.

While the S90 fits in my pocket, the D3 & 24-70 f2.8 lens barely fits in my backpack. It's really big and heavy and feels good in the hand, but bad hanging on your neck.

The huge optical viewfinder is a pleasure -- it made me realize how much I was "guessing" at composition and straightness with the point and shoots.

But you know all that, the purpose of this thread is to ask the question "Does it give a clearly better image in this situation than the point and shoots?"

Here are the D3 pictures

The Canon S90

The S90 was easy to compose with, and the user interface made it quick and easy to check that I was at the right ISO, exposure compensation, etc. and to experiment with different settings.
Having only one aspect ration felt like a constraint.

Here are the S90 pictures

Olympus EP1

The EP1 is my wife's camera, so I am less used to it, and less keen on changing settings (aspect ratio, etc.) than I would be on my own cameras.

Nevertheless, it was relatively easy to compose the image. It took considerably more searching and fiddling to set & check and experiment with the settings than it did with the other cameras.

Here are the EP1 pictures

Panasonic LX3

The LX3 was the best point & shoot experience. Like the Nikon D3, all key settings were immediately accessible with their own switch/dial/button. It was very easy to set and modify settings.

For example, the LX3 has a switch right on the lens barrel to set the aspect ratio to 4:3, 3:2, or 16:9. This made it easy to experiment and to settle on the 16:9 aspect ratio for the horizontal shot and the 4:3 aspect ratio for the vertical shot.

Similarily the dedicated exposure compensation button, quick-menu joystick for setting ISO, etc. were all terrific.

I don't know why but of the point and shoots the LX3 screen was the easiest to use to compose the image -- it was clearer and brighter than the others.

Here are the LX3 pictures

Panasonic ZS3

While I love the ZS3 as a video camera, it was the least satisfying P&S to use in taking this still image.

The controls and UI were OK, but the screen was less clear and useful than the LX3 or S90.

Additionally the shutter button is more awkwardly placed than the LX3 and needs to be hit a good deal harder than the S90 shutter button. This makes it a little more difficult to maintain asbolute straightness at the moment of taking the picture.

The biggest problem, however, is that the ZS3 has separate still & video buttons. This means that it isn't in "still image" mode or "video" mode -- it's in ready to go for either depending which button you hit. Unfortunately, stills are in the 4:3 aspect ratio and video is 16:9. This means you have two bad choices:

1) Keep the 4:3 image clear to shooting stills, and guess at what will and won't be in-frame when you begin a video.

2) Have translucent grey lines on the top and bottom of the screen all the time, to preview the framing of a video.

I choose option 2 and I found it made it quite difficult to critically compose and align the image with all the vertical lines of the bridge. Therefore I had to shoot about 2-3 times more images with the ZS3 than the other cameras to have confidence I got two good shots.
Does any of this make any difference to the final image? You be the judge.

Also, the ZS3 got this image with its long zoom, that none of the other cameras here was able to get on this day:

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