Previous page Next page

Superzoom camera group: Studio comparison contd...

ISO 400 compared

Most cameras can produce perfectly acceptable results at their lowest ('base') ISO setting, but it doesn't take much of an increase in ISO sensitivity before image quality starts to break down. This is a problem common to all compact cameras, and despite the various claims for low-light performance that you'll see manufacturers making, the truth is that all small sensor cameras struggle when you increase the ISO much above their base.

We'll take a look at how these cameras perform at their highest ISO settings on the next page, but for now, here's a comparison of their image quality at ISO 400.

ISO 400 is important because arguably, 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 2010 we feel it's fair to expect any compact camera to produce a usable result at ISO 400, with the main difference being the balance of visible noise and the destructive effect of noise reduction.

Canon SX210 IS
ISO 400
Casio EX-FH100
ISO 400
Fujifilm F80 EXR
ISO 400
Fujifilm JZ500
ISO 400
Kodak Z950
ISO 400
Nikon S8000
ISO 400
Olympus mju 9010
ISO 400
Panasonic DMC-ZS5
ISO 400
Ricoh CX3
ISO 400
Samsung HZ35W
ISO 400
Sony H55
ISO 400
Sony HX5
ISO 400

There really isn't a lot of differentiation here, and none of these cameras could be called poor at ISO 400. Some are better than others though - if only slightly - and it is clear for example that the Sony H55's output is blurrier than that of its near-relation the HX5, and that despite the parity in pixel count, the Panasonic ZS5 (and ZS7) is better at retaining detail than the Samsung HZ15W. The worst performers here are the Canon, Olympus and Nikon compacts, which are already producing the sort of detail smudging and general softness that we associate with high ISO noise reduction.

There's not much in it, but if we had to pick an overall winner from this selection we'd choose the Casio Exilim FH-100, which gives sharp, high-contrast results from its 10 million pixel sensor. The Casio CX3 and Sony HX5 use the same back side illuminated CMOS sensor as the Casio, but neither of them can match the Casio for detail reproduction here. The Panasonic DMC-ZS5 and ZS7 also give impressive results, and all are perfectly usable at a standard print size.

Previous page Next page

Comments