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Premium compact 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 widest zoom setting
  • 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 G10 Canon SX110 IS Kodak Z8612
Nikon P6000 Panasonic LX3 Panasonic TZ5
Ricoh R10

ISO 1600 night shot 100% crops:

Canon G10 Canon SX110 IS Kodak Z8612
Nikon P6000 Panasonic LX3 Panasonic TZ5
Ricoh R10

It almost doesn't matter how far up the compact camera tree you climb, high ISO performance is never going to be very impressive. Whereas the difference between all seven cameras at base ISO is minimal (certainly from a detail in a print point of view) the story is a little different here. You probably don't need me to tell you that the Ricoh R10's attempt is pretty poor, with very little of the original image getting in the way of all that lovely colorful noise. The Kodak is little better, as its noise reduction is so extreme that the result looks more like a watercolor painting than a photograph (though, to be fair, in a small print it looks better than the Ricoh). The biggest disappointment here is the Nikon P6000, which really should do better; it can't seem to decide whether to obliterate all the detail with noise reduction or to leave the messy noise in place, so does both.

The two Canons both use pretty heavy noise reduction, but at least the result is printable, as there is enough luminance detail left in there to allow you to get a reasonably sharp shot. The Panasonic TX5 is in the same territory, and isn't terrible. The best of the bunch is the LX3, which is a bit grainy, but has the cleanest detail and the noise is grainy, rather than blotchy, which is far more appealing in a print. Ricoh aside there's not a lot to choose between any of the other cameras, though the G10 and the Nikon P6000 - like the LX3 - do at least offer the option to shoot in raw mode, allowing you to deal with the noise yourself.

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 very common use for compact cameras, including these advanced models, 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 bar).

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 'preflash' system, others actually find and remove red-eye once the picture has been taken). 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 (or near) the widest zoom setting (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 G10
ISO 250
Canon SX110 IS
ISO 200
Kodak Z8612
ISO 200
Nikon P6000
ISO 64
Panasonic LX3
ISO 100
Panasonic TZ5
ISO 100
Ricoh R10
ISO 200

This was perhaps the most consistent group of cameras in this entire series, with 6 of the 7 producing an acceptable exposure with pleasant color. The only camera to produce consistently poor flash exposures was the Ricoh R10, which over exposed every shot we took (giving a harsh, blown-out result). Most of the cameras struggled with focus unless used at their widest zoom settings, but all managed - eventually - to lock onto the subjects using face detection. Interestingly this group as a whole was the slowest, most awkward to use in this flash test, perhaps reflecting the fact that the budget and ultra compact cameras are optimized for this kind of photography, whereas these aren't.

Flash shot 100% crops:

Canon G10
ISO 250
Canon SX110 IS
ISO 200
Kodak Z8612
ISO 200
Nikon P6000
ISO 64
Panasonic LX3
ISO 100
Panasonic TZ5
ISO 100
Ricoh R10
ISO 200

All seven cameras did a pretty good job of removing red eye, but few produced consistently accurate focus (not that you'd really notice in a standard print). In this quick snapshot test the Panasonic LX3, G10 and Ricoh did the best job with focus, and the G10's superior resolution really shows in the eyelashes.

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