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Superzoom camera group: Real world comparison

Below you'll find the second set of our 'real world' comparison shots taken with each of the cameras in the group. Click on the thumbnail to see the full image.

  • All taken from the same tripod position at approximately identical zoom settings
  • Auto White Balance and auto (program) exposure
  • ISO 1600
  • -0.3 to -1.0 EV exposure compensation (only where absolutely necessary)

Night Shot comparison (ISO 1600)

Canon SX20 IS
ISO 1600
Casio EX-FH25
ISO 1600
FujiFilm HS10
ISO 1600
FujiFilm S2500HD
ISO 1600
Kodak Z981
ISO 1600
Nikon P100
ISO 1600
Panasonic FZ35
ISO 1600
Pentax X90
ISO 1600
Samsung HZ25W
ISO 1600

ISO 1600 night shot 100% crops:

Canon SX20 IS
ISO 1600
Casio EX-FH25
ISO 1600
FujiFilm HS10
ISO 1600
FujiFilm S2500HD
ISO 1600
Kodak Z981
ISO 1600
Nikon P100
ISO 1600
Panasonic FZ35
ISO 1600
Pentax X90
ISO 1600
Samsung HZ25W
ISO 1600

The small sensors that enable such incredible zoom ranges to be fitted in sensibly sized and priced packages do a pretty good job in bright sunshine. Unfortunately, they begin to struggle as the light levels fall. Just as we saw in our last superzoom camera group test, at ISO 1600 the results are pretty dismal. The results range between speckled (from noise) and smudged (by noise reduction) with the best performance put in by the cameras that get the balance right (or least-badly wrong).

None of them are capable of producing anywhere near the level of detail they achieved in good light, though most will produce a (just about) acceptable print at a small size. The Panasonic (again) does the best job, followed by the Canon which is quite soft but also relatively clean of artifacts. The FujiFilm S2500HD and the Kodak both produce very smeared results and represent the bottom end of the cameras in this group.

The Panasonic and Fujifilm HS10 at least have the option to save ISO 1600 output to a RAW file, so that more sophisticated noise reduction can be applied by users who have bought such software.

Low light flash portrait comparison

Below you'll find the final set of our 'real world' comparison shots taken with each of the cameras in the group. Click on the thumbnail to see the full image.

One of the most common uses for compact cameras is for social 'snaps' of friends and family, and in anything but the brightest light this means using flash. This test allowed us to not only check each camera's flash performance, but also to find out how well they cope with focusing and face detection in more challenging conditions (in a dimly lit room).

In the resultant shots we're looking first and foremost for accurate focus and exposure and pleasing color balance (flash can produce very cool / bluish results - not ideal for flattering skin tones). We're also looking at how well the red-eye reduction works (some cameras use a simple 'pre flash' system, others actually find and remove red-eye once the picture has been taken, and some even do both). Red-eye reduction is useful but less critical than overall color/focus/exposure as it's easy to remove in post processing (and most printing labs do it for you automatically).

  • All taken from the same position at very similar zoom settings (subject distance approx. 3 feet)
  • Auto White Balance and auto (program) exposure
  • Auto ISO
  • Auto flash mode (with red-eye reduction turned on where available)
  • Face detection active where available
  • Three shots taken with each camera and the best chosen
Canon SX20 IS
ISO 640
Casio EX-FH25
ISO 400
FujiFilm HS10
ISO 400
FujiFilm S2500HD
ISO 200
Kodak Z981
ISO 200
Nikon P100
ISO 200
Panasonic FZ35
ISO 160
Pentax X90
ISO 200
Samsung HZ25W
ISO 200

The good news is that none of the cameras in this test have produced terrible results but nevertheless there is quite some variation in terms of skin tones and image detail. Exposure, usually a sticking point in this test, on the other hand is handled pretty well by all contenders. The Fujifilm HS10 produces the brightest image and the Samsung exposes a little more conservatively than the rest but overall all cameras are well within acceptable limits. In terms of color response most cameras produce a flattering, slightly warm, cast. Exceptions are the Kodak Z981 which, again, has a touch of green to it and the Fujifilm HS10 which is a little cooler than the rest.

All of the cameras balance the flash with ambient light, avoiding unattractive dark backgrounds and do so quite well. However, while most achieve this with fairly low sensitivities the Casio and Fujifilm HS10 crank ISO up to 400, the Canon even to 640. This results in a loss of detail, mainly caused by noise reduction. The Panasonic FZ35 shows the best detail in this test.

Flash shot 100% crops:

Canon SX20 IS
ISO 640
Casio EX-FH25
ISO 400
FujiFilm HS10
ISO 400
FujiFilm S2500HD
ISO 200
Kodak Z981
ISO 200
Nikon P100
ISO 200
Panasonic FZ35
ISO 160
Pentax X90
ISO 200
Samsung HZ25W
ISO 200

All of the cameras have done a very good job of reducing red-eye, either by firing a pre-flash or applying in-camera reduction. As you can see skin tones and level of detail vary, the latter mainly depending on the ISO setting that was chosen by the camera's Auto mode. The Panasonic delivers the best detail at a low sensitivity while the Canon uses ISO 640 which doesn't help its generally rather soft output in this test.

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