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Photographic tests

White balance

The Z1000 has fairly comprehensive white balance controls, with six presets (daylight, cloudy, shade, fluorescent N and D, tungsten) and one manual (custom) setting in addition to the default Auto mode. In our tests outdoor white balance was excellent, very difficult to fool. Indoors the results below pretty much reflect our real-world findings; better than average Auto White Balance performance under artificial light (and very good if you use the presets).

Auto White Balance Fluo Preset Auto White Balance Incandescent preset
Fluorescent light - Auto white balance excellent,
Preset white balance excellent
Incandescent light - Auto white balance average,
Preset white balance good

Flash

The small built-in flash unit has a range of around 0.1m - 3.6m (0.3 to 11.8 feet) at the wide end of the zoom and 0.4m - 1.9m (1.3 to 6.2 feet) at the long end, which is a bit underpowered compared to some competitors, but perfectly OK for social snaps. What it excels at is short distance flash, especially if you use the 'soft flash' option (which is also useful for adding a bit of fill flash to portraits without getting a harsh result. Unusually you can also shoot a 3-frame burst using flash.

Exposure is generally excellent as long as you stay within the range; as the example on the left shows it's easy to get too far away and end up slightly underexposed, though it's easily fixed in post-processing.

Click here for flash test chart

Skin tone -
Excellent color, slight underexposure.

Macro

As is common to most compact digital cameras the EX-Z1000's macro mode is most effective at the wide end of the zoom, where you can get as close as 6cm, capturing an area just over 53cm across. At the long end of the zoom the performance is less impressive - 40cm subject distance capturing an area just over 12cm wide - but still pretty useful. There is inevitably some distortion and corner softness when shooting very close up at the wide end, but it is not too strong, and certainly on a par with the better cameras in this class.

Movie mode

As is now the norm on cameras of this type the Z1000 offers a maximum movie size of 640x480 pixels - enough to fill most television screens at 30 frames per second (AVI format). There are two quality settings (High and Normal) and an 'LP' option (320 x 240 pixels, 12.5 fps).

The High Quality mode is very sharp, though to my eyes it looks very 'processed' and at around 1.3 MB/s it's also going to eat up your cards fairly quickly. Normal quality is a lot less processed-looking, but the results are very soft.

Focus is fixed (pan focus mode) whilst shooting movies, so there's none of the hunting common to cameras of this type.

To download a Normal Quality movie (5.1MB) click here

Sample movie: 640 x 480 pixels @ 25 fps
File size: 7.59 MB, 6.8 secs

Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)

Resolution

Although they're not the cleanest results in the world, the resolution is remarkably high, and well above what we've seen with most 8MP cameras. Pretty impressive stuff.

Crops

Click here for the full resolution test chart

Horizontal LPH

Absolute resolution 1800 LPH
Extinction resolution 2100 LPH *

*moiré visible

Vertical LPH

Absolute resolution 1800 LPH
Extinction resolution 2000 LPH *

*moiré visible

Distortion and other image quality issues

The Z1000 exhibits moderate distortion at the wide end of the zoom - 1.4% barrel distortion (click here for test chart) - very slightly higher than normal, but it's nothing to worry about on a camera of this type. There is also some (very mild) barrel distortion (0.3%) at the long end of the zoom (click here for test chart).

General comments

At lower ISO settings the Z1000's output is, on the whole, remarkably good, though once you get over ISO 100 the quality drops fairly rapidly and at anything over ISO 200 the images are suitable only for small prints (or downsized use on-screen). the images are full of detail and at ISO 50 even low contrast detail such as fur and foliage is well preserved. Focus is generally excellent (though around 1 in 20 shots we took at the long end of the zoom had focus errors), and white balance rarely fooled. We saw very little evidence of purple fringing in the 700 or so gallery shots we took (there is a little around overexposed areas and specular highlights, but it's nothing serious). We were impressed by the lack of highlight clipping, but the default contrast and sharpness are a little high.

The biggest problems are the aforementioned occasional focus errors and a tendency (actually a very consistent tendency) to overexpose bright scenes at the wide end of the zoom. The only saving grace is that the preview screen seems to reflect this pretty accurately, so you at least know when a -0.7 or so AE compensation. Overall though, given the inevitable image quality compromises involved in ultra compact cameras such as this, the results are impressive.

Noise

Important note: The Z1000 only allows you to set ISO 50-400 manually. There are two modes offering higher ISO values in Auto ISO mode (only) - Anti-shake mode (up to ISO 800) and High Sensitivity mode (up to ISO 3200). The lack of manual controls means we cannot run our standard tests on the full ISO range (800 and above), though we've done our best! ISO 1600 and 3200 use pixel-binning to produce very low noise, but almost detail-free results. ISO 800 is very noisy, and has very strong noise reduction.

With tiny, high pixel count chips noise is always going to be an issue, and to a large degree this is more a test of the effectiveness (both measurable and visible) of a camera's noise reduction system. Designers have to balance the desire to produce smooth, clean results with the need to retain as much detail as possible (if you blur away the noise, you blur away image detail too). The Z1000's measured noise is very low at all ISO settings (for which read 'high noise reduction'), but the ISO 50 and 100 results don't show any significant loss of detail. This is promising news indeed, given the number of cameras using this sensor recently announced. It certainly seems - at low ISO settings - to be no worse (and possibly better) than the 8MP 1/1.8 chip seen in recent models including Casio's own EX-Z850. Where it can't compete is at ISO 400 or above, where the 6MP 1/2.5 sensor (used in many current Canon models) beats it hands-down.

ISO 50 ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400 ISO 3200
100% Crops

Low contrast detail

What the crops and graph above don't show is the effect of noise reduction on low contrast fine detail such as hair, fur or foliage. An inevitable side effect of noise removal is that this kind of detail is also blurred or smeared, resulting in a loss of 'texture'. In a new test the crops below show the effect of the noise reduction on such texture (fur) as you move up the ISO range.

100% Crops
ISO 50 ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 (anti shake mode) ISO 3200 (Hi Sens mode)

What's surprising about the results above is how good they are at ISO 50 and 100; after testing the Panasonic FZ50 last week I was expecting to see smeared low contrast detail even at the lowest ISO, but at ISO 50 in particular the fur has remained very well defined. Things get very mushy at ISO 200 and above (and chroma noise starts to creep in), and the higher ISO settings (only available in a couple of Best Shot modes) are pretty useless - ISO 1600 and 3200 use pixel-binning and produce very low resolution results.

Noise graph (ISO 100-400)

Indicated ISO sensitivity is on the horizontal axis of this graph, standard deviation of luminosity is on the vertical axis.

Measurable noise is very low compared to many lower pixel-count cameras we've tested recently, though at ISO 200 and above this is down to strong noise reduction.

 

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