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Superzoom camera group: Real world comparison

On this page you'll find the first 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 approximately 45mm equivalent focal length
  • Auto White Balance and auto (program) exposure
  • Base ISO (lowest setting)

Base ISO Landscape comparison (all cameras at approx 45mm equivalent focal length)

Canon SX20 IS
ISO 80
Casio EX-FH25
ISO 100
FujiFilm HS10
ISO 100
FujiFilm S2500HD
ISO 100
Kodak Z981
ISO 64
Nikon P100
ISO 160
Panasonic FZ35
ISO 80
Pentax X90
ISO 80
Samsung HZ25W
ISO 64

Base ISO Landscape 100% crops:

Note that for this group we've included two crops; the additional (lower) crop shows each camera's ability to capture fine low contrast detail as it can be found in distant foliage.

Canon SX20 IS
ISO 80
Casio EX-FH25
ISO 100
FujiFilm HS10
ISO 100

FujiFilm S2500HD
ISO 100
Kodak Z981
ISO 64
Nikon P100
ISO 160
Panasonic FZ35
ISO 80
Pentax X90
ISO 80
Samsung HZ25W
ISO 64




As with previous group tests it should be said that, although we took the images as closely together as possible, the unpredictable London weather means that a very slight variation in cloudiness can occur. Please also note that the Casio and Kodak images were retaken on different days.

Despite this, as we've seen previously, the renditions of the scene are fairly consistent - the Canon, Casio and Fujifilm HS10 have produced a very similar, almost neutral, color response. The Panasonic and Samsung are a little warmer, the Nikon and Pentax slightly on the cool side and the Kodak image has a slightly unpleasant greenish tinge. The Fujifilm S2500HD image is a little less saturated than the competition and also quite cool. There are also small variations in exposure.

Looking at the pictures in closer detail, most of the cameras are pretty close but there are also clear winners and losers. The Panasonic FZ35 offers arguably the best mix of noise reduction and sharpening. Its output is not as crisp as some of the other cameras at the pixel level, but shows a lot of detail and comparatively little noise.

The Canon produces very good detail too but uses a touch more noise reduction resulting in a little more blurring of fine detail. At the other end of the scale are the Fujifilm pair and the Casio. Both the SD2500HD and HS10 output is fairly soft, due to very strong noise reduction, even at base ISO. The same is true for the Casio which however appears to be capable of yielding better results at longer focal lengths (see our studio test). This is unusual in so far as you'd expect a zoom lens to be optimized for the 'midway' settings but as you can see below the EX-H25 produces better results at the extreme wide angle setting.

All other cameras are from a detail point of view pretty much on the same level. As you'd expect from cameras with such small sensors on all of them there is strong evidence of noise reduction smearing away fine detail but overall they offer reasonable detail for a camera in this class and not too many artifacts (the Pentax, Kodak and Samsung all apply a fair dose of sharpening though which gives the sky, at close inspection, a slightly grainy appearance).

All in all the the difference between the best and worst in the group is unlikely to be visible unless you're producing prints big enough to frame. The other thing likely to detract from large prints is chromatic aberration (the colored fringes that appear on high-contrast edges, particularly towards the edge of the frame). There's good news though. On this latest generation of superzoom cameras this is, almost certainly thanks to in-camera processing, pretty much a non-issue. The Canon SX20 IS and the Kodak are the only cameras that show noticeable fringing. On the Kodak it is really only the slightest of hints but on the Canon it is much more visible and gets fairly intrusive towards the edges of the frame.

Telephoto (long end of zoom)

This is less of a direct comparison as the cameras have slightly different focal length ranges, but gives you an idea of the kind of range offered (these were shot from the same tripod position as the previous shots).

Canon SX20 IS
ISO 80
Casio EX-FH25
ISO 100
FujiFilm HS10
ISO 100
FujiFilm S2500HD
ISO 100
Kodak Z981
ISO 64
Nikon P100
ISO 160
Panasonic FZ35
ISO 80
Pentax X90
ISO 80
Samsung HZ25W
ISO 64

The telephoto capabilities of these cameras vary from 486mm to 720mm 35mm equivalent focal length (the Olympus SP800UZ, which unfortunately was not available for this test, offers even 840mm). While purely in terms of numbers, this is a fairly large variation, in reality it's difficult to find photographic assignments where this really matters. Examples would be the photographing of small birds in the wild or planes in the sky. However, in those cases you'll probably be more worried about holding such a long lens steadily and the poor focus speed at the tele end of most of these cameras. Another factor that is easy to overlook when shooting distant subjects using an extreme telephoto lens setting is atmospheric haze, which can have a dramatic impact on detail and contrast.

With the exception of the Fujifilm HS10 and the Nikon P100, all the cameras show some degree of CA at the long end of the zoom. On the Samsung and Panasonic it is merely a hint but on all the other cameras CA will be noticeable, at least on larger prints. Overall, considering the extreme focal lengths, the image quality is quite impressive though. Almost all cameras capture what we consider to be a very good level of detail. The Canon and Panasonic show impressively sharp results across the frame and are the joint winners at the tele setting.

The Pentax , Nikon, Samsung and Kodak are more or less on an equal level with good detail in the center of the frame but some slight softness around the edges. The Fujifilm HS10 and S2500HD are not too far off but show slightly softer edges. At the end of the table there's the Casio again which delivers similar image characteristics to the wider shot above. The falloff in sharpness towards the edges is not significantly worse than on any of the other cameras but the image is quite soft to start with.

Overall the results of this test are pretty impressive, considering that on a DSLR you'd need a lens as big as a house to achieve comparable reach. When looking at these shots you should however keep in mind that they were taken using a tripod and that the ability to get such sharp shots hand-held will depend to a large extent on having enough light, a steady enough hand and the effectiveness of the image stabilization system.

Wide angle

All the cameras in this group offer at least a 28mm equivalent field of view. At 24mm the Fujifilm HS10 offers the most extreme wide angle. At first sight this does not sound like too much of a difference but one has to keep in mind that at the wideangle end of a zoom 1mm has a much greater impact on the versatility of a camera than a handful of extra mm reach at the telephoto end of a superzoom lens.

To put it in context, the 28mm offered by three cameras in this group is equivalent to the wide angle setting on many DSLR kit lenses. To get the HS10's 24mm equivalent focal length you'd have to invest in a dedicated wide angle lens. Again the results of this test are quite impressive and if you download the full size images you'll see that there's very little sharpness drop off at the edges even at the widest zoom setting with any of these cameras. The Canon, Casio and Panasonic show no discernible sharpness falloff at all.

Canon SX20 IS
ISO 80
Casio EX-FH25
ISO 100
FujiFilm HS10
ISO 100
FujiFilm S2500HD
ISO 100
Kodak Z981
ISO 64
Nikon P100
ISO 160
Panasonic FZ35
ISO 80
Pentax X90
ISO 80
Samsung HZ25W
ISO 64
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