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Photographic tests

White balance

The V610 has just four white balance presets in addition to the auto default; daylight, tungsten, fluorescent and open shade. There is no manual (measured or custom) white balance function, which is frankly inexplicable given it is an option on virtually every other camera these days. Fortunately the TZ1's auto white balance does an excellent job in most natural light situations (and not a bad job with mixed lighting either). Under tungsten (incandescent) light the results have only the slightest warm tone, but fluorescents can cause a serious color cast (no single 'Fluorescent' preset can deal with all the different tube types out there).

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

Flash

The small flash isn't really powerful enough to use at the longer end of the zoom, but otherwise here's little to complain about here. Exposure and color is excellent within the working range of about 3.4m. The only real complaint is that the V610 tends to use high ISO (over 200) with flash, meaning the images can be a bit noisy.

Click here for flash test chart

Skin tone -
Excellent color, slight underexposure.

Macro

The V610's macro function gets you down to about 5cm (2 inches) at the wide end of the zoom, capturing an area just under 5cm across (47x36mm to be exact), with distortion and corner softness well controlled. At the telephoto (10x) end of the zoom the closest focus is 70cm (2.3 feet), and the area captured is just under 7cm across - pretty impressive for such a big zoom.

Movie mode

As is now the norm on cameras of this type the V610 offers a maximum movie size of 640 x 480 pixels at 30 frames per second.

The movies are recorded using MPEG-4 compression (saved as QuickTime .MOV files), which makes them very small indeed - you can fit over half an hour of VGA (640 x 480 pixel) footage on a 1.0 GB card.

Overall quality is perfectly good, though nowhere near what you can get from the best cameras in this class, as compression artefacts can sometimes be quite obvious. There is also a lot of hunting at the long end of the zoom.

Unusually you can zoom whilst filming (complete with a little jump as the camera swaps lenses), but zooming causes the camera to refocus (often dramatically), as this example shows (caution: large file).

Sample movie: 640 x 480 pixels @ 30 fps
File size: 2.77 MB, 5.15 secs, with zooming

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

Resolution

Resolution is surprisingly good in the center of the frame, certainly better than we expected (though not quite up to the standards of the best 'full size' big zoom cameras). The tele lens has marginally better resolution than the wide lens, and the results are a lot cleaner. Both images are slightly soft and show evidence of excessive in-camera sharpening (something you can at least turn down), but there's no doubt the tele lens is the better, optically.

WIDE LENS Crops

Click here for the full resolution test chart

Horizontal LPH

Absolute resolution 1250 LPH
Extinction resolution 1600 LPH *

*moiré visible

Vertical LPH

Absolute resolution 1300 LPH
Extinction resolution 1650 LPH *

*moiré visible

TELE LENS
Crops

Click here for the full resolution test chart

Horizontal LPH

Absolute resolution 1300 LPH
Extinction resolution 1650 LPH *

*moiré visible

Vertical LPH

Absolute resolution 1350 LPH
Extinction resolution 1700 LPH *

*moiré visible

Distortion and other image quality issues

OK, let's get one thing out of the way first; the V610 is not going to win any awards for image quality; the optical compromises involved in squeezing two fairly big zooms into such a tiny body were always going to limit what you could expect, output-wise. The sensor is also pretty noisy at anything but the base ISO.

Distortion is around the class average at the wide end of the wide lens (1.1% barrel distortion - click here for test chart) and fairly low (0.2% pincushion) at the long end of the tele lens (test chart). There i, however, some fairly strong pincushion distortion at the long end of the wide lens (i.e. in the middle of the full 10x range), something you'd never get with a single 10x zoom.

Looking at the image quality overall it's a very mixed bag; on the positive side there's the typical Kodak color, which is rich and deep and makes for very appealing prints. White balance is excellent and exposure generally very accurate. On the downside, the images are soft, over-sharpened (giving visible halos), over-compressed (there are no quality settings) and noisy (with unpleasant noise artefacts at anything over the lowest ISO). If you only ever intend to print at 6x4 inches (or 5x7 at a push) - or view the pictures on a TV screen - you'll probably be perfectly happy, but if you want to produce larger prints (or magnify the images on-screen) the results are disappointing.

Other minor niggles include the usual highlight clipping (not helped by the high contrast) and occasional focus and / or exposure problems, though I should add that none of these are any worse than most of the V610's competitors. One thing that is worse is the V610's habit of claiming it has found focus at the long end of the zoom when the preview screen shows obviously that it's way out of focus. Something to watch out for.

Corner softness

Although neither lens is particularly sharp, the wide zoom has serious fall-off towards the edges and - at the widest zoom setting - has very soft corners indeed. Our sample was particularly soft in the top left corner (as shown below), but there is a visible drop-off in sharpness in all corners. You can see it in 'real world' shots, but how much of an impact it will have will depend on (i) the subject matter and distance and (ii) your tolerance for such things.

Tele lens Wide lens
38mm equiv., F3.9 100% crop

Noise

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)

At lower ISO settings (64 and 100) noise - and the visible effect of noise reduction - is fairly low (you can see a little fine grained luminance noise in the shadows, but nothing too serious), but once you hit ISO 200 you don't want to be looking too closely at the images as they suffer from a loss of detail and some fairly unpleasant noise reduction artefacts (not helped at all by the heavy compression). ISO 400 is very soft and ISO 800 is both soft and noisy.

  ISO 64 ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400 ISO 800
Crops

Noise graph

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

As the graph shows, luminance noise is about average for a 6MP camera at ISO 64 and 100 (though chroma noise at ISO 100 is quite high), but once the noise reduction really kicks in at ISO 200 it flattens out slightly. Despite the fairly harsh noise reduction at ISO 800 the measurable noise is very high.

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