Sharpness levels compared

A common criticism we level at Nikon compacts is that they don't sharpen their output as much as their competitors. Quite simply, we think the default output of a camera should suit the needs and expectations of the users it's aimed at. Ideally it should also have the options to tailor the output to the needs of the few but its out-of-the-box settings should at least be the ones best suited to the majority of its users.

We believe that many people will not change the camera's sharpening settings (and many will not even read the manual to find out how to do so, especially as it comes on a CD). But for those people who do choose to tweak their camera, which is less destructive than post-processing and re-saving as a JPEG, here is the option available. Here we compare sharpening set to Auto (the default setting), and set to "+1," the highest setting.

Studio scene comparison (@ ISO 64)

  • Nikon P50: Program mode, ISO 64, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, +0.70 EV compensation
  • Nikon P50: Program mode, ISO 64, Sharpening set to +1 (Maximum),
    Manual white balance, +0.70 EV compensation
  • Lighting: Daylight simulation, >98% CRI
Nikon P50
Nikon P50 (Sharpness +1)
ISO 64, 1/63 sec, F4.1
ISO 64, 1/61 sec, F4.1
1,973 KB JPEG
2,019 KB JPEG

This is not the time to use the phrase 'day and night.' This is as sharp as you can get the P50 to make your images. In some places the image does look marginally sharper but the amount of (admittedly subtle) sharpening artefacts starting to appear in areas of fine detail is worrying, given that the results still aren't as crisp as some of its competitors. We'd probably recommend that most people leave their P50 set to sharpness +1 if they're not going to post-process their images on their computer - they bit more 'punch,' they offer outweighs the extremely slight deterioration in image quality.