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Waterproof camera group: Studio comparison (high ISO)

For our high ISO studio comparison we chose to use ISO 1600 - beyond this few compacts produce output that is usable, and most will only shoot higher ISOs at a reduced pixel size.

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 FujiFilm Z33 which does not offer this feature)
  • Program Mode P (or the closes equivalent setting)
  • ISO 1600
  • Luminance matched (middle gray ~L50)
  • Lighting: Daylight simulation, >98% CRI

ISO 1600 studio comparison:

High ISO settings allow you to shoot in low light without using a tripod or the flash and has become one of the key differentiators between digital SLRs (which, whith theit much larger sensors, are usually pretty good at higher sensitivity settings) and compacts (which aren't).

Since (with current technology) the combination of high pixel counts and small sensors tends to result in high-ISO noise (and there's not a huge difference between the various makes), what we're looking at here is how well each camera's processor deals with it, and how well the result balances the need to reduce/remove noise and the desire to retain fine detail.

Heavy, unsophisticated noise reduction also removes lots of detail from the image, but if the noise reduction is too low you'll get so much noise that it will appear even in the smallest print.

Canon D10
ISO 1600
FujiFilm Z33
ISO 1600
Olympus Tough 6000
ISO 1600
Olympus Tough 8000
ISO 1600
Pentax W60
ISO 1600
Pentax W80
ISO 1600
Panasonic TS1
ISO 1600
   
   

100% crops: center

Canon D10
ISO 1600
FujiFilm Z33
ISO 1600
Olympus Tough 6000
ISO 1600
Olympus Tough 8000
ISO 1600
Pentax W60
ISO 1600
Pentax W80
ISO 1600
Panasonic TS1
ISO 1600
   
   

None of these cameras perform fantastically at ISO 1600, as you would expect when there are so many pixels in such a small sensor. The Canon D10 takes a fairly heavy-handed approach, applying a lot of noise reduction, which not only destroys much of the detail, but makes the image seem quite desaturated. The D10 produces the softest image in the group tested here - a complete turnaround from the results at lower ISO settings.

The Pentax W60 takes a similar approach as the D10, but doesn't apply quite as much noise reduction. As a result there is slightly more detail and color information left behind, but there is also a little more visible noise in the image. The TS1 takes a middle ground between the D10 and W60 and the results are more pleasing than either - there are lots of noise reduction artifacts and noise is still visible in the image, but there is a lot of fine detail left behind and at medium to larger print sizes it will produce a noticeably better result than either the D10 or the W60.

The Tough 6000 and the Z33 takes similar approaches to noise reduction, and retain more detail and noise compared to the D10. There is more chroma noise visible in the Z33 compared to the Tough 6000, and the Olympus seems to retain a fraction more detail than the Z33. Looking somewhat similar to the result for the Z33, the W80 attempts to retain some detail in the image, and succeeds in producing a noise-filled image that while more detailed than the Tough 8000 image, is still towards the bottom of the group in detail and noise. The Tough 8000 is actually worse than the Canon D10; the blurring away of detail and leaving large amounts of chroma noise.

100% crops: Edge

Canon D10
ISO 1600
FujiFilm Z33
ISO 1600
Olympus Tough 6000
ISO 1600
Olympus Tough 8000
ISO 1600
Pentax W60
ISO 1600
Pentax W80
ISO 1600
Panasonic TS1
ISO 1600
   
   

Towards the edge of the frame the TS1 performance remains better than the D10 due to the less aggressive noise reduction used. You can clearly see more fine detail on the front of the Martini bottle (along with more noise). Though worse than that TS1, with the Canon D10 you can at least still get a basic idea what it's supposed to be a picture of (even if all texture, contrast and fine detail has gone). The other cameras offer varying combinations of noise, artefacts and blurred detail - in other words just what you'd expect from a high resolution compact viewed at a pixel level.

The ISO 1600 setting on all these cameras should produce acceptable - or at least usable - 6x4 prints, but printing anything larger is going to magnify the problems, so use only in emergency situations. You should also note that since neither the W60, W80 or the Z33 have image stabilization, they use high ISO setting to keep images sharp in low light situations, so their poor ISO 1600 performance is more of a problem, more often, than the other cameras in this group.

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