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Enthusiast Compact 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 roughly half way through the zoom range
  • Manual white balance where available (nearest preset used where not - indicated with a *1)
  • Aperture Priority or Manual mode where available
  • Luminance matched (middle grey ~L50)
  • Lighting: Daylight simulation, >98% CRI

Base ISO studio comparison:

All digital cameras produce their best output at the lowest ISO setting, and this is particularly true of compacts, where the very small sensors and high pixel densities mean that noise becomes an issue as soon as you start to move up the ISO range. We use this studio test as a quick and easy way to get an overall impression of what each camera's sensor and lens are capable of, particularly in respect to resolution, edge-to-edge sharpness and contrast.

It's worth mentioning that you need to be aware that the 100% crops shown here are slightly unrepresentative of the kind of enlargement at which typical users of compact cameras will be viewing their photographs. 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).

Note: the Kodak Z8612 IS has, in common with most Kodak cameras, no manual white balance option. This is presumably because Kodak thinks its users can't be trusted with a control that could mess up their photos if misused (if Kodak made cars they'd weld the doors shut so you couldn't crash them).

Canon PowerShot G10
ISO 80
Canon PowerShot SX110 IS
ISO 80
Kodak Z8612 IS
ISO 64 *1
Nikon Coolpix P6000
ISO 64
Panasonic Lumix LX3
ISO 80
Panasonic Lumix TZ5
ISO 100
Ricoh R10
ISO 80
   
 

100% crops: centre

Canon PowerShot G10
ISO 80
Canon PowerShot SX110 IS
ISO 80
Kodak Z8612 IS
ISO 64
Nikon Coolpix P6000
ISO 64
Panasonic Lumix LX3
ISO 80
Panasonic Lumix TZ5
ISO 100
Ricoh R10
ISO 80
   
 

Considering that there is a fairly large spread of nominal resolutions (from 8.1 to 14.7 million pixels) there's not a huge amount of difference between the amount of detail captured by the majority of cameras here, or in the overall sharpness. The clear winner is the Canon G10 (which is one of the highest resolution compacts we've ever measured), but even the 'mini superzoom' cameras put in a pretty good showing despite smaller sensors and considerably more ambitious zoom ranges. The only camera that produces significantly different output is the Ricoh R10, which shows the classic smearing of texture and smooth appearance of noise reduction, something we'd prefer not to see at ISO 80.

100% crops: Edge

The crops below are taken from nearer to the edge of the frame (very small lenses tend to fall off in sharpness as you move away from the center).

Canon PowerShot G10
ISO 80
Canon PowerShot SX110 IS
ISO 80
Kodak Z8612 IS
ISO 64
Nikon Coolpix P6000
ISO 64
Panasonic Lumix LX3
ISO 80
Panasonic Lumix TZ5
ISO 100
Ricoh R10
ISO 80
   
 

Most of the cameras show only a very slight fall-off in sharpness towards the edge and in no case is it enough to show in a print. These test shots are taken in optimal conditions; we'll see in a couple of pages how they cope at their widest zoom settings.

Color comparison

Canon PowerShot G10
ISO 80
Canon PowerShot SX110 IS
ISO 80
Kodak Z8612 IS
ISO 64
Nikon Coolpix P6000
ISO 64
Panasonic Lumix LX3
ISO 80
Panasonic Lumix TZ5
ISO 100
Ricoh R10
ISO 80
   

A quick glance at the color charts above shows that from a color and contrast point of view the six cameras here are relatively consistent, with some variation in the default saturation. There are also slight variations in the overall color rendition (mostly in terms of red saturation and how the color is tweaked to produce vivid blue skies and bright foliage), though as our 'real world' tests show this doesn't produce a lot of visible difference in photographs.

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 (of 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 2008 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 PowerShot G10
ISO 400
Canon PowerShot SX110 IS
ISO 400
Kodak Z8612 IS
ISO 400
Nikon Coolpix P6000
ISO 400
Panasonic Lumix LX3
ISO 400
Panasonic Lumix TZ5
ISO 400
Ricoh R10
ISO 400
   
 

There's quite a lot of visual difference between the various cameras here, certainly when viewed up this close, but for the most part the ISO 400 output isn't terrible. The worst result comes from the Kodak Z8612 IS, has a very smeary appearance and shows strong pink banding - in fact the Kodak is the only one that we consider won't produce an acceptable result printed at 5x7 inches. The Nikon P6000 is slightly disappointing, especially next to its direct competitors (the Canon G10 and Panasonic LX3), but is perfectly usable. The Ricoh R10 has the same strong noise reduction seen at ISO 80, so doesn't actually look that different - there is smearing of low contrast detail, but unless you're doing large prints it's on the right side of acceptable.

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