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Compared to Olympus C3030Z & Sony DSC-S70

We chose to compare the Coolpix 880 to the Olympus C-3030Z and Sony DSC-S70 because they're both similarly sized 3 megapixel digital cameras. Although specifications are similar there are some subtle differences:

  Olympus C-3030Z
 
Nikon Coolpix 880 Sony DSC-S70
Price Street US$ 850 Street US$ 750 Street US$ 800
Lens 3 x optical zoom (32 - 96mm) 2.5 x optical zoom (38 - 95mm) 3 x optical zoom (34 - 102mm)
CCD 3.34 megapixel 3.34 megapixel 3.34 megapixel
ISO 100 / 200 / 400 100 / 200 / 400 100 / 200 / 400
Img. 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200,
1024 x 768, 640 x 480
2048 x 1536, 1024 x 768,
640 x 480
2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200,
1208 x 960, 640 x 480
Expose. Auto, AP, SP, Man Auto, Scene, P, AP, Man, CSM Auto, AP, SP
Meter iESP,Spot 256 segement Matrix, Center-Weighted Avg, Spot, Spot AF area Center-Weighted Avg, Spot
Focus AF, manual (zoomed) AF, 5-area, manual (sharpened) AF
Normal 80 cm 40 cm 25 cm
Macro 20 cm 4 cm (full zoom) 4 cm (half zoom)
Apert. 13 selectable apertures 2 selectable apertures 9 selectable apertures
Shutter 16 sec - 1/800 sec BULB + 8 sec - 1/1000 sec 8 sec - 1/1000 sec
Whitebal 5 position + preset 5 position + tuning + preset 3 position
Flash Internal & External Internal only Internal & Sony External
Burst 3.5 fps up to 5 images 1.4 fps up to 10 images None
TIFF Yes Yes Yes
JPEG 3 compression modes 3 compression modes 1 compression mode
Self T. 10 sec / Remote 3 or 10 secs 10 secs
Playb. Zoom: 1.5x - 3.0x Zoom: 1.2x - 4.0x Zoom: 1.1 - 5.0 x
Storage SmartMedia (max 64 MB) CompactFlash Type I (no max.) MemoryStick (current max 64 MB)
Storage 16MB Supplied 8MB Supplied 8MB Supplied
Remote IR Included Optional wired None
Connect USB USB & Serial USB
Other Audio recording SCENE modes, Best-Shot Select Audio recording
Battery 4 x AA / 2 x Lithium 2CR5 / Nikon Lithium recharge* Sony InfoLithium (included)
Weight 380 g 320 g 420 g
* Optional

Based on this analysis the Coolpix 880 is a clear leader, with many more features and much more flexibility than both the S70 and C-3030Z it's an easy choice. But enough talk of specifications, how does the Coolpix 880 measure up from an image quality point of view?

A few notes about this sample shot: Lighting - 2 x 800W studio lights with dichroic daylight filters bounced off a white ceiling reflector. This normally creates perfect light for digital cameras auto white balance (as it's almost exactly the same as daylight) however the S70 struggled under this light, despite our best efforts we couldn't get the white balance right (even with different filters on the lights) which explains the purple cast on the S70 sample.

The second problem we had with the S70 was it's inaccurate LCD viewfinder which only produces about 90% frame coverage made it very difficult to frame the shot exactly the same as the Nikon and Olympus which both had almost perfect frame coverage...

Olympus C-3030Z
 
Nikon Coolpix 880 Sony DSC-S70

Very close, isn't it? Colour rendition very good between all the cameras, Sony showing the most vivid colours (over saturated to me) closely followed by the Nikon and lastly the Olympus. Resolution and sharpness about equal, the 880 piping the S70 and C-3030Z on a few of the crops above. Slight noise visible on the Coolpix 880 image but not really a problem.

Colour Chart Comparison

Shot in daylight, Auto White Balance, EV compensation +0.3 (all cameras), measured light ~10 EV.

Nikon Coolpix 880 Olympus C-3030Z
 
Sony DSC-S70  

As usual it's close, the CP880 showing very good colour and scale rendition, leaning towards neutrality rather than the more pleasing but slightly over saturated look of the DSC-S70.

We're only measuring colour here. RGB values below were taken from a VGA reduced image (to average colours and eliminate JPEG artifacts) using the Eyedropper tool in Photoshop with a 5 by 5 Average Sample Size.

  Coolpix 880 Olympus C-3030Z
 
Sony DSC-S70
Patch White 204,204,205 197,197,197 182,182,182
     
Middle Gray 117,117,118 92,92,92 85,85,87
     
Patch Red 210,35,45 191,21,21 189,17,27
     
Patch Green 0,158,83 0,140,52 1,132,35
     
Patch Blue 66,40,107 56,41,102 33,26,123
     

Resolution Comparison

Shots here are of the PIMA/ISO 12233 standard resolution test chart (more available for comparison in our comparison database). Studio light, cameras set to auto, Exposure compensation +0.7 EV for all cameras. How to read the charts: All values are 1/100 th lines/picture height/width. So the "10" value equates to 1000.

Nikon Coolpix 880
Olympus C-3030Z
Sony DSC-S70

Measurable findings (three measurements taken for each camera):

Camera Measurement Absolute Res. Extinction Res.
Nikon
Coolpix 880
Horiz LPH 900 1300
Vert LPH 900 1400
5o Diagonal LPH 900 n/a
Olympus
C-3030Z
Horiz LPH 900 1350
Vert LPH 900 1350
5o Diagonal 900 n/a
Sony DSC-S70 Horiz LPH 1050 1400
Vert LPH 1050 1500
5o Diagonal LPH 1000 n/a

Definition of terms:

LPH Lines per Picture Height (to allow for different aspect ratios the measurement is the same for horizontal and vertical)
5o Diagonal Lines set at 5o diagonal
Absolute Resolution Still defined detail (below Nyquist frequency*)
Extinction Resolution Detail beyond camera's definition (becomes a solid gray alias)
n/a Not Available (above the capability of the test chart)
n/v Not Visible (not visible on test results)
* Nyquist frequency defined as the highest spatial frequency where the CCD can still faithfully record
image detail. Beyond the Nyquist frequency aliasing occurs.

The Coolpix 880 is a good match for all the cameras here, the S70's internal algorithms just squeezing a little more resolution out of our test charts, but overall it's very close run thing. Put simply all these three digital cameras have almost identical resolution performance.

Red Channel Noise

The samples below are of 50 x 50 blocks cropped from the colour comparison charts above of the Blue and Cyan patches, each block is then broken down into it's red green and blue channels and reflected as such directly below.

As we expected the Coolpix 880 produces about the same amount of red noise as the Coolpix 990, and almost identical to the Olympus C-3030Z. And, as we saw in the S70 review Sony seem to have got this demon under control, almost no red in the blue channel at all, and very very little noise (nothing at all on the Cyan patch).

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