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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 35mm (35mm equiv.) focal length
  • Auto White Balance and auto (program) exposure
  • ISO 1600
  • Exposure compensation (only where absolutely necessary to prevent extreme over/underexposure)

Night Shot comparison (ISO 1600)

Canon SX210 IS
ISO 1600
Casio Exilim EX-FH100
ISO 1600
Fujifilm Finepix F80EXR
ISO 1600
Fujifilm Finepix JZ500
ISO 1600
Kodak EasyShare Z950
ISO 1600 (-0.6EV)
Nikon Coolpix S8000
ISO 1600
Olympus Stylus Mju 9010
ISO 1600 (-0.6EV)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5/7
ISO 1600 (+1EV)
Ricoh CX3
ISO 1600
Samsung HZ35W
ISO 1600
Sony Cybershot DSC-H55
ISO 1600
Sony Cybershot DSC-HX5
ISO 1600

ISO 1600 night shot 100% crops:

Canon SX210 IS
ISO 1600
Casio Exilim EX-FH100
ISO 1600
Fujifilm Finepix F80EXR
ISO 1600

Fujifilm Finepix JZ500
ISO 1600
Kodak EasyShare Z950
ISO 1600
Nikon Coolpix S8000
ISO 1600
Olympus Stylus Mju 9010
ISO 1600
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5/7
ISO 1600
Ricoh CX3
ISO 1600

Samsung HZ35W
ISO 1600
Sony Cybershot DSC-H55
ISO 1600
Sony Cybershot DSC-HX5
ISO 1600

To fit these sorts of huge zoom ranges into such small cameras, it is necessary to use very small sensors. Small sensors typically give noisier images than those in larger format cameras, and for this reason, compact cameras of this type really struggle to deliver acceptable image quality in low ambient lighting at high ISO settings. None of the cameras in this test has delivered the sorts of results that we'd expect from a DSLR or mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, but we wouldn't expect them too. What we'd expect is for the cameras' white balance and metering systems to deliver an attractive exposure, and enough detail for a small print.

Impressively, most of these cameras deliver on all three counts. The two Sonys have a hard time with exposure, and both deliver rather muddy results compared to the other cameras, but detail capture is relatively high from both, and the white balance is acceptably neutral (the church tower in the lower crop is actually meant to be green-ish in color). The Ricoh and Kodak cameras give the smudgiest results, and like the Olympus, the Kodak Z950 struggles with white balance, giving an unnatural orange color cast. The best results, arguably, come from an unexpected quarter - the Nikon Coolpix S8000 manages to deliver accurate white balance, a decent exposure, and accurate colors in the fabric of this model ship's sails.

Compare the Nikon's rendition of this pattern to that of the Casio FH-100. The Casio gives what looks like a sharper result, but the colors of the sails are very muted, as a result of chroma (color) noise reduction followed by aggressive edge sharpening. The Nikon is clearly performing less noise reduction, which results in slightly softer detail at pixel-level but far better color accuracy. Neither approach is necessarily 'right' or 'wrong' and you can judge for yourself how well you think they perform by taking a look at the full-sized originals.

The weakest cameras in this particular environment are the Panasonic pair (represented here by the DMC-ZS7) which simply give a dark and mushy output (the image you see here is after +1EV of exposure compensation), and the Kodak Z950, which struggles to resolve much genuine detail. The Canon Powershot produces disappointingly soft images at ISO 1600, as the camera's general lack of critical sharpness combines with noise reduction to really blur things at 100%. As ever though, this really isn't noticeable in small prints or when images are viewed at screen-size on a computer monitor.

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