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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 SD880 IS
(Ixus 870 IS)
Fujifilm F100fd Nikon Coolpix S710
Panasonic Lumix FX150
Samsung NV100HD
(TL34 HD)
Sony Cyber-shot W300

ISO 1600 night shot 100% crops:

Canon SD880 IS
(Ixus 870 IS)
Fujifilm F100fd Nikon Coolpix S710
Panasonic Lumix FX150 Samsung NV100HD
(TL34 HD)
Sony Cyber-shot W300

Whilst shooting in good light at base ISO produced surprisingly consistent output from all six cameras, things look very different when the light levels drop and the ISO sensitivity is cranked up to 1600. Based on the studio tests earlier there's no real surprises here; the Fujifilm F100fd is the clear winner, with the Canon SD880 IS (which has a lot less sharp detail yet still looks pretty noisy) the runner up, but still some way behind.

Of the rest, the output varies from almost unusably noisy (Panasonic FX150), through noisy and smeary (Nikon S710) to unusably soft but almost noise-free (the Samsung). You'd struggle to get a usable print from the Nikon, Panasonic or Samsung, you'd be ok at a very small size with the Sony or Canon and you could comfortably go to 5x7 inches with the Fuji (as long as your expectations were reasonable). Of course for social snaps or emergency use when flash isn't an option your criteria will be very different, and all the cameras here will produce something in very low light, though I suspect even a camera phone could do as well as the 14.7 megapixel Samsung.

It's worth noting that the Panasonic FX150 has two saving graces; the first is variable noise reduction (the examples in this review were taken at the default '0' setting, you have two steps either side to play with), the second is a raw mode that will allow the more serious user to use their own noise reduction workflow.

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.

Perhaps the most common use for small point and shoot cameras 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 skintones). 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

The Fujifilm F100fd has three auto ISO settings but all tend to choose ISO 800 for flash shots.

Canon SD880 IS
(Ixus 870 IS)
ISO 250
Fujifilm F100fd
ISO 800
Nikon Coolpix S710
ISO 100
Panasonic Lumix FX150
ISO 100
Samsung NV100HD
(TL34 HD)
ISO 200
Sony Cyber-shot W300
ISO 400

All six cameras managed to get an acceptable exposure with none of the 'blown out' overexposure we've seen with cheaper models. There's slight variations in color, with the Sony W300 producing the warmest, most flattering skintones and the Nikon Coolpix S710 the coolest, least flattering (in fact the S710 is the bottom of the class here since it's the only one that has underexposed the shot).

Flash shot 100% crops:

Canon SD880 IS
(Ixus 870 IS)
ISO 250
Fujifilm F100fd
ISO 800
Nikon Coolpix S710
ISO 100
Panasonic Lumix FX150
ISO 100
Samsung NV100HD
(TL34 HD)
ISO 200
Sony Cyber-shot W300
ISO 400

In terms of detail these 100% crops obviously favor those cameras that choose lower ISO settings (all cameras were set to auto ISO) - not that this helps the Samsung NV100HD, which applies more noise reduction at ISO 200 than most cameras do at ISO 800. The red-eye removal systems worked on all cameras except the Sony W300 (the Samsung hasn't completely removed red-eye but it's an acceptable result). The best result here comes fro the Canon, though if you force the Fujifilm F100fd to use a lower ISO value it produces better skintones and sharper details.

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