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Superzoom camera group: Studio comparison (base ISO)

On this page you'll find our standard studio comparison shot 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 with the zoom set to approx. 60-70mm (equivalent).
  • Manual white balance (except Olympus Stylus 9000 which does not offer this feature)
  • Program mode P
  • Base ISO (lowest setting)
  • Luminance matched (middle gray ~L50)
  • Lighting: Daylight simulation, >98% CRI

Base ISO studio comparison:

All digital cameras produce their best output at the lowest ISO setting, and this is particularly true of compacts, where the very small sensors mean that noise becomes an issue as soon as you start to move up the ISO range (and high pixel densities make this a particular problem at the pixel level). We use this studio test as a quick and easy way to get an overall impression of what each camera's sensor and lens are capable of, particularly in respect to resolution, edge-to-edge sharpness and contrast.

It's worth mentioning that you need to be aware that the 100% crops shown here (and the full resolution images if you choose to download them) are slightly unrepresentative of the kind of enlargement at which typical users of compact cameras will be viewing their photographs. With 10 million pixels, for example, the 100% crops are roughly the same as looking quite closely at a print around 50 inches across.

If you're only ever going to produce 5x7 inch prints the best way to assess each camera is to download the full resolution images on this page (and elsewhere in the group test) and produce some prints yourself - or simply look at them on-screen at a lower magnification (if they look ok to you when reduced to fill a 20" screen you'll be happy with standard sized prints from them).

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

100% crops: center

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 longest lens we've seen on a compact camera so far offers a 24x zoom, the cameras in this comparison manage just about half of that. However, even the production of a lens with a more moderate zoom range of 10x or 12x involves a certain amount of compromise when it comes to optical quality. Despite that, we've seen some fairly impressive image results from compact superzoom cameras over the past few years. In terms of sharpness and detail the results of this test are pretty even with the Olympus Stylus being the only camera that's showing visibly less detail. This appears to be down to a combination of noise reduction and a fairly soft lens. None of these cameras can capture quite the same level of sharp detail as the very best compact cameras with smaller zoom ranges (such as the Panasonic LX3 or Canon G10), but you'll need to be producing big prints to see the difference.

100% crops: Edge

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

Moving nearer to the edge of the frame we can see that the Panasonic, Samsung and Sony models are all roughly on a par with each other (the main difference is the amount of sharpening), with the Canon losing a bit of sharpness compared to the center of the frame and the Olympus also being softer and less detailed. It's very difficult to pick out a leader from these crops but at pixel level the Panasonics and the Sony just about show the best compromise of sharpness and and a clean, artifact free image.

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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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