Compared to... Panasonic TZ3

Below you will find a studio comparison between the Canon PowerShot TX1 and the Panasonic DMC-TZ3 at each camera's highest manually selectable ISO setting (ISO 1600 on the TX1, ISO 1250 on the TZ3 - this is around half a stop difference).

Studio scene comparison (TX1 @ ISO 1600, TZ3 @ ISO 1250)

  • Canon PowerShot TX1: Program AE mode, ISO 1600, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, +0.33 EV compensation
  • Panasonic DMC-TZ3: Program AE mode, ISO 1250, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, +0.33 EV compensation
  • Lighting: Daylight simulation, >98% CRI
Canon PowerShot TX1
Panasonic DMC-TZ3
ISO 1600, 1/1250 sec, F5.0
ISO 1250, 1/320 sec, F4.4
3,611 KB JPEG
2,554 KB JPEG

Unless they are tied to a chair whilst a marketing man dances around waving a knife to the sound of 'Little Green Bag', I fail to see what possesses engineers at companies like Canon to allow cameras out of the factory with modes that produce output like this. Or maybe I'm just too fussy. The output is everything you'd expect from ISO 1600 on a 1/2.5-inch 7MP sensor; noisy, lacking detail and downright unpleasant. They might've been able to reconstruct Steve Austin as the bionic man from half a nostril found on the runway, but you can't turn a handful of photons into a faithful photographic record of a scene no matter how hard you try. Not that the Panasonic is much better; the color smearing is so extreme that they might as well take a black and white shot and supply a set of crayons with every camera.

But of course not everyone is as offended as me by compact camera high ISO output, and no one is ever going to look at ISO 1600 pictures blown up this far. I just made a 6x4 dye-sub print from this shot and, I guess, for most casual users (who care more about getting that shot of little Johnny's first steps to fame in the school play than they do about 'photographic quality') it is better than not getting a picture at all.