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Compact 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 38mm equivalent focal length
  • Auto White Balance and auto (program) exposure
  • Base ISO (lowest setting)

Base ISO Landscape comparison (all cameras at approx 35mm equivalent focal length)

Canon SX200 IS
ISO 80
Olympus Stylus 9000
ISO 64
Panasonic ZS1
ISO 80
Panasonic ZS3
ISO 80
Samsung HZ10W
ISO 80
Sony H20
ISO 80

Base ISO Landscape 100% crops:

Note that for this group test we've included two crops; the lower crop shows each camera's ability to capture fine low contrast detail.

Canon SX200 IS
ISO 80
Olympus Stylus 9000
ISO 64
Panasonic ZS1
ISO 80

Panasonic ZS3
ISO 80
Samsung HZ10W
ISO 80
Sony H20
ISO 80

As with previous group tests it should be said that, although we took the images as closely together as possible, the temperamental London spring weather does mean that some images are slightly more cloudy than others.

Despite this, the Sony, Canon and Panasonic ZS1 have produced fairly similar color responses. The Olympus and the ZS3 both produce slightly warmer results than the rest while the Samsung is a little cooler than we'd like, making the bridge's warm colored brickwork almost appear gray. Having said that on none of the cameras are the colors far enough from the ideal to be a problem and the color response can be fine tuned before shooting on all models.

Looking at the pictures in closer detail, the difference between the cameras in this comparison is unlikely to be visible unless you're producing prints big enough to frame. The Olympus Stylus 9000 stands out - and not in a good way - producing visibly less detailed output than the rest. This is partly due to a very strong noise reduction smearing away fine detail even at base ISO and partly due to a softer lens. The Panasonics and Sony are producing the most detail (though the Sony get pretty close to over-sharpening) followed by the Canon and Samsung which show good sharpness but also lose fine detail through noise reduction (the Samsung more so than the Canon).

The other issue that you would be likely to spot in a large size print is chromatic aberration (the colored fringes that appear on high-contrast edges, particularly towards the edge of the frame). Luckily this is not a major issue on any of the contenders. The Samsung is virtually CA-free and the Panasonics and the Olympus show a tiny amount in extreme high contrast situations. The Canon (mainly towards the edges of the frame) and Sony are the worst offenders but even with these cameras your prints have to get fairly large in order to spot the flaw. Overall the issue is so well under control that we suspect at least on some of the cameras a degree of in-camera processing is taking place.

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 SX200 IS
ISO 80
Olympus Stylus 9000
ISO 64
Panasonic ZS1
ISO 80
Panasonic ZS3
ISO 80
Samsung HZ10W
ISO 80
Sony H20
ISO 80

The telephoto capabilities of these cameras vary from 240mm to 380mm (in 35mm film terms). However, the only camera that really stands out in terms of focal length is the Sony H20 with its tele-heavy 38-380mm zoom range. All the other cameras put much more emphasis on the wide angle, the Samsung HZ10W with a 24-240mm zoom range being the most extreme example. To be honest for the vast majority of consumers some extra wide-angle will be much more valuable than a slightly longer tele end. It's always useful to fit a couple of extra people into an indoor group shot but you'll have to find a very specific photographic application to frequently make use of the Sony's 380mm tele end, especially as the AF (of all the cameras in this test) will struggle with 'typical' long zoom tasks such as sports or wildlife photography.

The Sony and Canon show some mild CA, which you would be very unlikely to spot in a print, at the long end of the zoom but all the other contenders are surprisingly clean. All in all it is impressive how much detail the cameras resolve at the extreme tele setting, you have to consider though that these shots were taken using a tripod and the ability to get such sharp shots hand-held will depend to a large extent on having enough light (all lenses are fairly slow at the long end, reaching from F4.4 on the Sony to F5.9 on the Olympus), a steady hand and the effectiveness of the image stabilization system.

Wide angle

With the exception of the Sony H20, all the cameras in this group offer at least a 28mm equivalent field of view which is what you get with most entry level DSLRs' kit lenses. The Samsung is the widest of the pack offering 24mm and thus unrivalled flexibility (1extra mm at the wide end will have a much greater impact on the versatility of a camera than a handful of extra mm reach at the telephoto end of zooms this long). The H20's 38mm on the other hand many photographers would not regard as a wide angle lens at all. The Sony really only is for you if you can live without a wide-angle option. As you'll see if you download the full size images, there's very little sharpness drop off at the edges even at the widest zoom setting with any of these cameras.

Canon SX200 IS
28mm equiv.
Olympus Stylus 9000
28mm equiv.
Panasonic ZS1
25mm equiv.
Panasonic ZS3
25mm equiv.
Samsung HZ10W
24mm equiv.
Sony H20
38mm equiv.
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Comments

Matafuko
By Matafuko (1 week ago)

Just picked up a second hand SX200 for £35!
I bought it because I was surprised at a 12mp, 12x optical, 720p HD and manual function camera would be available so cheaply these days.
I have an SLR but wanted a smallish carry around thing. I am not - in any way - precious about it being top of the line, but the resolution, zoom and manual functions are perfectly adequate for me.
I'm in pretty much total agreement with your review and once you replace the idea that it's the most expensive in the batch test with the fact that I got it second hand for a steal - there's not a bad word I can say about it!
(It's even in the cool blue colour)

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