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Waterproof camera group: Studio comparison (base ISO)

On this page you'll find our standard studio comparison shot 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 with the zoom set to approx. 60-70mm (equivalent).
  • Manual white balance (except FujiFilm Z33 which does not offer this feature)
  • Program mode P (or the closes equivalent setting)
  • Base ISO (lowest setting)
  • Luminance matched as much as possible (middle gray ~L50)
  • Lighting: Daylight simulation, >98% CRI

Base ISO studio comparison:

Digital cameras tend to produce their best output at the lowest ISO setting, and this is particularly true of compacts, where pixels are packed in tight on the small sensor and noise levels rise quickly as ISO settings increase. We are using the studio test here as the best case scenario to see what the sensor and lens combination are capable of in terms of edge-to-edge resolution, sharpness and contrast.

It's worth mentioning that the 100% crops shown here (and the full resolution images if you choose to download them) are not entirely representative of the the kind of enlargement required by the typical use cases these cameras are destined for. With 10 million pixels, for example, the 100% crops are roughly the same as looking quite closely at a print around 50 inches across.

If you're only ever going to produce 5x7 inch prints, the best way to assess each camera is to download the full resolution images on this page (and elsewhere in the group test) and produce some prints yourself - or simply look at them on-screen at a lower magnification (if they look ok to you when reduced to fill a 20" screen you'll be happy with standard sized prints from them).

Canon D10
ISO 80
Fujifilm Z33
ISO 64
Olympus Tough 6000
ISO 50
Olympus Tough 8000
ISO 64
Pentax W60
ISO 80
Pentax W80
ISO 64
Panasonic TS1
ISO 80
   
   

100% crops: center

Canon D10
ISO 80
Fujifilm Z33
ISO 64
Olympus Tough 6000
ISO 50
Olympus Tough 8000
ISO 64
Pentax W60
ISO 80
Pentax W80
ISO 64
Panasonic TS1
ISO 80
   
   

In all but the case of the Pentax W60 and W80, these zoom settings are in the middle of the zoom range for these cameras. Even a quick glance shows that the Canon D10 and Panasonic TS1 clearly produce the best resolution, sharpness and detail at their base ISO settings, though they are not as good as the very best compact cameras (such as the Canon G10). The W60 manages a quite an impressive result at the center of the frame, with plenty of detail captured and not too much noise. Adding a higher resolution sensor to the W60 (to make the W80) has produced a result that is noticeably softer in the center of the frame than the W60.

A combination of noise reduction and folded optics sees the Fujifilm Z33 and both Olympus cameras put in a less than stellar performance, resulting in a very soft crop. While the differences between the images captured by any of these cameras are not going to be too noticeable in prints at 5x7 inch sizes or at web resolutions, they will be visible if you make prints of 8"x10" or over. (The W80's odd color rendition would be visible at any size, of course).

100% crops: Edge

Canon D10
ISO 80
Fujifilm Z33
ISO 64
Olympus Tough 6000
ISO 50
Olympus Tough 8000
ISO 64
Pentax W60
ISO 80
Pentax W80
ISO 64
Panasonic TS1
ISO 80
   
   

Towards the edge of the frame both the D10 and TS1 crops are not quite as good as at their centers, but they are still obviously better than the other cameras in the group. These all drop-off somewhat towards the edge of the frame, but the Tough 6000 and W60 do well to come in not far behind the leading pair.

ISO 400 compared

Most cameras can produce perfectly acceptable results at their lowest ('base') ISO setting. Despite all the marketing hype surrounding super-high ISO modes (up to 12,800 in some cases) the truth is that all small sensor cameras start to struggle as you raise the ISO. We'll look at the performance of each camera at really high ISO settings on the next page, but before we do, let's have a quick look at how they do at ISO 400.

ISO 400 is important because it's the setting you're most likely to use for indoor flash shots (see later) and is usually the highest setting where compact cameras still produce what we would consider to be 'acceptable' output; anything higher and the problems of noise and strong noise reduction (which smears away detail) really start to take their toll. In 2009 we feel it's fair to expect any compact camera to produce a usable result, with the main difference being the balance of visible noise and the destructive effect of noise reduction. So let's see how the cameras in our group fare.

Canon D10
ISO 400
FujiFilm Z33
ISO 400
Olympus Tough 6000
ISO 400
Olympus Tough 8000
ISO 400
Pentax W60
ISO 400
Pentax W80
ISO 400
Panasonic TS1
ISO 400
   
   

The story at ISO 400 is similar to that at base ISO. The Canon D10 and Panasonic TS1 perform pretty well, and still manage to retain plenty of the detail from ISO 80 while keeping noise levels quite low. The Pentax W60 also performs quite well at ISO 400. While not as good as the D10, it will still produces a nice looking 8x10 print at this ISO setting in good light.

The Olympus Tough 6000 performs about as well as the W60 at ISO 400, and certainly is much better than the higher resolution Tough 8000 at retaining fine detail and keeping noise levels low. The Tough 8000, W80 and Z33 are all quite bad as the noise reduction smears away a lot of the detail that is kept by the other four cameras in this roundup. Of the three, the Tough 8000 performs least well.

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