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camera group test

Best high-end compacts compared Compact cameras have come a long way, and the best make ideal back-ups or alternatives to your SLR. Matthew Richards finds the pocket cameras that still pack a punch

Digital Camera May 2012

KIT ZONE group test

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HIGH-END COMPACTS

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1C  anon PowerShot G12, £355

4 Olympus XZ-1, £295

2 Fujifilm X10, £395

5 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5, £310

3 Nikon COOLPIX P7100, £295

6 Ricoh GR IV, £435

A wealth of hands-on controls makes Canon’s 10Mp G12 a serious tool for enthusiasts and advanced users alike. Classic retro styling on the outside, a feast of high-tech performance on the inside, the 12Mp X10 has a lot to offer. A chunky camera with a generous 7.1x zoom range, the 10Mp P7100 has plenty of advanced features to cater to the connoisseur.

Amazingly small and slimline, this is one truly pocketable camera, yet still boasts a 10Mp sensor and 4x zoom lens. Photography: Joby Sessions

THE CONTENDERS

The LX5 has as disarmingly simple layout, but there’s some serious power beneath the skin of this 10Mp camera. Super-small, the GR IV is a real take-anywhere 10Mp camera, so long as you don’t mind missing out on a zoom lens.

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e’ve all done it, and some of us are habitual offenders. We’ll unexpectedly find ourselves in a place where the light is magical and everything comes together to offer the most magnificent photo opportunity, but of course our SLR and lens collection is so bulky that we’ve left it at home. If only there was a camera that offered all the creative shooting modes and advanced adjustments that we expect from our SLRs, but that would fit in a pocket. The good news is, there are several. Compact cameras don’t have to be small on quality or sophistication. Here, we reveal the models that can deliver spectacular image quality even in the most demanding of conditions. So whether you need to travel light or you just want a camera that you can take anywhere, anytime, so that you can stop missing those golden photo opportunities, you’ve come to the right place.

Downsized delights

At the heart of any camera is its image sensor, and this is where downsizing begins for compact models. A fullframe SLR has a sensor that is the same size as a frame of 35mm film, measuring 36x24mm. Most SLRs have APS-C (Advanced Photo System – Classic-sized) sensors that are smaller at around 23.6x15.6mm, but the sensors fitted to most compact cameras are much smaller. Popular choices for high-end compacts include 2/3-inch or 1/1.7inch sensors. The dimensions of these work out to around 8.8x6.6mm and an even smaller 7.6x5.7mm. In this group, the Canon, Nikon and Ricoh cameras all use 1/1.7-inch sensors, whereas only the Fujifilm X10 has a larger 2/3-inch sensor. The Olympus and Panasonic cameras have an

Shop smart Keep it quiet

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ne of the biggest problems of physically smaller sensors is that, for any given resolution, the size of the individual pixels needs to be smaller than on a largerformat sensor. This means that each pixel can’t capture as much light, so image noise can be significantly higher than with SLRs. This is especially true at high ISO

settings, where you’re applying extra gain to the electronic signal generated by the sensor. Most current models offer significant improvements when it comes to banishing image noise, compared with compact cameras of a few years ago. Clever sensor designs enable pixels to capture more light, while more advanced image-processing

“An advantage of lenses having very small focal lengths is that the depth of field can be massive” intermediate 1/1.63-inch size, which roughly equates to 8x6mm. With smaller sensors, the focal length multiplier (often called the crop factor) is significantly greater than with APS-C SLRs. So whereas most SLRs have a crop factor of 1.5x (1.6x for Canon), the compact cameras on test have crop factors varying between 3.93x and 4.55x. The upshot is that to get an ‘effective’ zoom range of, say, 28-112mm, the actual focal length range is tiny in real terms, at about 6-24mm. Because the focal length is so short, and the image circle needed to cover the sensor is small, the lens as well as the camera body can have small physical dimensions.

Big in parts

A major advantage of compact camera lenses having very small focal lengths is that the depth of field can be massive. That’s because depth of field is dependent on the actual focal length of the lens rather than after the crop factor has been applied. At the wide-angle end of the zoom range, there’s no problem keeping very close objects and distant horizons

engines help to smooth out the grainy appearance associated with extra noise, albeit with a probable loss of fine detail in pictures.

simultaneously sharp. The downside is that blurring the background for creative effect is much more of a challenge. You’ll need to use the maximum telephoto zoom setting and select the largest possible aperture. All our cameras here have a full range of Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual exposure modes, so making these adjustments is quick and easy, just like on an SLR. Even so, you’ll still struggle to get a shallow depth of field with the Ricoh GR IV, because it’s the only camera on test that lacks a zoom lens, instead having a fairly wide-angle, fixed focal length lens equivalent to 28mm.

Can you handle it?

Handling is often a problem with compact cameras. Firstly, the small size of the camera makes it difficult to get a natural, steady grip, especially when you’re holding it at arm’s length to compose shots on the LCD screen. To help out, all the cameras in the group have either optical or sensorshift stabilisation built in, which helps to minimise camera shake. The Canon, Fujifilm and Nikon cameras go one better by adding an optical viewfinder (OVF). This helps stability, because you can lock the camera into your face, like you would with an SLR, even if the zoom mechanism and off-axis placement

How we test cameras Advice you can trust

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e tested all of the cameras in a wide range of conditions, both indoors and outdoors, paying attention to the performance of autofocus and metering systems. Additional features such as dynamic range optimisation and

Digital Camera May 2012

alternative image style options were tested for their ability to deliver the best possible results. We looked for good handling characteristics, combining easy automatic modes with quick access to advanced settings for more creative shooting. The

effectiveness of optical or sensor-shift image stabilisation was checked, where fitted, along with overall image quality. We ran a series of lab tests under controlled conditions. These involved shooting a variety of test charts to obtain

quantifiable results for colour, dynamic range and signal-tonoise performance throughout the sensitivity range. Images were then processed with Imatest Master and DxO Analyser, and the results are shown after each review.


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HIGH-END COMPACTS Equipment know-how

compacts EXPLAINED

The key features to look for on a high-end compact AF illuminator

Hotshoe

Viewfinder

Mode dial

Hand grip

Lens

LCD

Four-way pad

The contrast-detection autofocus systems used in compacts typically struggle under poor lighting. A built-in AF illuminator is worthwhile, especially for close-ups, where focusing is more critical.

A sculpted hand grip can make for more natural handholding and stability. They tend to be quite small, in keeping with the overall camera size, and the Olympus is the only model here not to have one at all.

of the viewfinder mean you only get an approximation of the composition. If a viewfinder is a must-have, Olympus offers an electronic one as an optional extra, whereas Ricoh has an optional optical viewfinder and Panasonic has both optical and optional electronic viewfinders. The other factor that adversely affects handling is that there’s little room to put dedicated dials and buttons for all your favourite shooting parameters. Even so, the Canon, Fujifilm and Nikon models manage to squeeze in plenty of direct access controls. Indeed, Nikon’s P7100 has more direct control buttons and dials than most of its mid-range SLRs.

All the cameras here have a low-power, built-in flash. With a hotshoe you can use a proper flashgun. With the Ricoh, Olympus and Panasonic cameras it also means an optional viewfinder to be fitted.

The lens built into the camera is all-important as, unlike an SLR or CSC, it can't be swapped for an alternative. It pays to check out the effective zoom range to make sure you get what you need.

Optical viewfinders that are linked to the zoom setting of the lens are fitted to the Canon, Fujifilm and Nikon models. They’re useful on sunny days when composing shots on an LCD can be tricky.

The LCD screen is essential for composing the vast majority of shots that you take. Important information about shooting parameters will also be shown, so you can keep an eye on all your settings.

The Mode dial on high-end compacts should include PASM shooting options as well as automatic and scene modes. Most also have two or more custom settings, for access to your favourite set-ups.

Not just for navigating menus, the ubiquitous four-way pad often doubles up to offer direct access to important shooting options. In some cases, the functions of some of the buttons can be customised.

Under the hood Power zoom

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he vast majority of compact cameras on the market these days have a motorised zoom mechanism. The time-honoured tradition is to use a bi-directional switch, the actuator of which sits just in front of the shutter button for easy access. It might sound like a labour-saving device but, in practice, they’re usually very fiddly to use. You’ll often find that you overshoot the zoom setting that you want and then

have to backtrack, hunting back and forth for the optimum focal length. Zooming from one end of the range to the other can also be fairly sluggish. The Fujifilm X10 is unique in this group in featuring a manual zoom ring, mounted on the lens itself. It’s much more precise in operation and far better for small adjustments,

as well as being quicker overall than a motorised zoom mechanism.

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Top The Mode dial has two custom settings and sits above the separate ISO dial Above The 5x zoom lens is equivalent to 28-140mm, with an aperture of f/2.8-4.5

Canon PowerShot G12, £355 This power compact is a control freak’s delight quick glance is all that’s needed to confirm the G12’s advanced aspirations. The front, top, back and sides are crammed with sophisticated features, controls and connections. The camera may look a bit daunting to beginners, but serious photographers will delight in the instant availability of functions such as ISO and Exposure Compensation, which have their own clearly calibrated dials. The features list is long and impressive, adding options like an HDR shooting mode and high-def

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movie capture, both of which were absent on the preceding G11. Even so, maximum movie resolution is only 720p rather than full 1080p, but it’s backed up by an excellent hybrid IS (Image Stabilizer) system that counters positional shift in the camera, as well as the usual angular vibration. The G12 also features Canon’s HS system, which combines a

Performance

“The front, top, back and sides are crammed with sophisticated features, controls and connections”

Around the back… Canon PowerShot G12 A feast for the fingers S button You can assign 19 different functions to this ‘shortcut’ button

Star button Auto Exposure Lock and Flash Exposure Lock are under the thumb with this handy button

LCD With a full pivot facility, the 2.8-inch, 461k pixel LCD screen is clear, bright and a joy to use

Four-way pad Macro, manual focus, flash and self-timer buttons are all encircled by a rotary command dial

Digital Camera May 2012

high-sensitivity sensor with DIGIC 4 image processing in a bid to deliver ‘exceptional low-light shooting capabilities’. That’s the theory, at least. The standard ISO range stretches from ISO80-3200, but an expanded ISO12800 setting is available as an added extra, with a much reduced 2.5Mp image size. Overall handling is excellent, with the chunky body enabling a natural grip, despite the cluttered control buttons. The G12 is also the only camera in this group to feature a fully articulated LCD screen, which is great for shooting from tricky angles and also for taking self-portraits. The G12’s AF system is very accurate and pretty quick, even when shooting in low lighting conditions. The metering system is practically foolproof and delivers perfect exposures almost every time. Overall image quality is very good when shooting in JPEG mode, and excellent if you choose to shoot raw files. Despite Canon’s claims, the PowerShot G12 isn’t exactly a star performer at high sensitivity settings, and noise is very visible in images taken above ISO800.

Features

Build quality

image quality

value

Overall


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Top As well as EXR and modes like Motion Panorama, there are two custom settings Above The zoom has an aperture range of f/2-2.8 and an effective 28-112mm range

Fujifilm X10, £395

of the control buttons are shifted to the left of the LCD screen around the back. This makes for a far less cluttered surface while still giving direct access to a host of important shooting parameters. The only thing missing is an ISO button, but you can assign this to the programmable Fn button on the top plate.

Retro chic, but bang up to date he Fujifilm X10 looks like a classic and classy customer, but there’s plenty of craftiness lurking beneath its magnesium top plate. The 2/3-inch 12Mp CMOS image sensor is the largest in the group, both in physical dimensions and resolution, and it’s from Fujifilm’s wellestablished EXR stable. When the going gets tough, the sensor shares pixels to deliver low-noise images at very high sensitivities, as with the Canon G12, but it can also do an HDR trick. For this it uses half the pixels to

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capture highlight information and the other half for lowlights, then creates a high dynamic range image from a single exposure. It’s also the only camera in the group that offers full 1080p video capture. Like the Canon and Nikon cameras, there’s a separate calibrated dial for Exposure Compensation but, without an articulated or tilting screen, some

Performance

“Autofocus is fast and precise, even in gloomy conditions, and metering is unerringly accurate”

Around the back… Fujifilm X10

Good if you want to use both thumbs Left-hand buttons The strip of Play, AE, AF and WB buttons give your left thumb something to do

Four-way pad Macro, drive mode, flash and self-timer sit within a rotary command dial

OVF/LCD The optical viewfinder and LCD are both of high quality, giving a choice for shot composition

Raw The bottom-right button enables raw on/off in addition to combined raw and JPEG shooting

Despite being noticeably more slimline than the Canon and Nikon cameras in this group, handling is still excellent. The optical stabilisation isn’t quite as fabulous as Canon’s hybrid system, but runs very close. The manual zoom ring on the lens is much more precise, and much easier to control, than any of the other cameras’ motorised zooms, and can also be used to quickly switch the camera on and off. Autofocus is also fast and very precise, even in gloomy conditions, and metering is unerringly accurate. Image quality is wonderfully lifelike, and the film simulations like Provia (standard), Velvia (vivid) and Astia (soft) work a treat. Beneath its understated styling, the Fujifilm X10 is a powerful camera that packs a considerable punch.

Features

Build quality

image quality

value

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Top There are scene modes and effects, a low-light mode and three user settings Above The mighty 7.1x zoom range is equivalent to 28-200mm at f/2.8-5.6

Nikon COOLPIX P7100, £295 Note to Nikon: less is more! lthough bigger than most compact cameras, there’s not a centimetre to spare as the P7100 is awash with buttons and dials. The top plate alone has a combined push-button and rotary control for image quality, ISO, white balance, picture controls and auto bracketing, along with a hotshoe, shooting Mode dial, Exposure Compensation dial, main on/off button, shutter button, zoom control and programmable Fn 2 button. Just beneath the top plate controls are four more buttons and dials around the back, plus a command dial

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on the front. The rear of the camera is similarly stuffed with a tilting LCD screen, more buttons and a four-way pad that doubles as a rotary controller. Suffice it to say that for CKTs (Compulsive Knob Twiddlers), the P7100 is a dream come true. For serious shooters, the plethora of controls offers quick access to any and every shooting parameter you

Performance

“The plethora of controls offers quick access to every shooting parameter you could wish for”

Around the back… Nikon COOLPIX P7100 An excellent choice for touch-typists Top-left dial One of many dials, this one's for WB, ISO, Qual, Picture Controls and auto bracketing

Top-right dial The Exposure Compensation dial has the main command dial under it, and there’s a sub-command dial round the front

LCD/OVF The LCD features an up/ down tilt facility. The OVF is just above the lens

Four-way pad Four-way flash, autofocus, macro and self-timer buttons combine with a rotary dial

Digital Camera May 2012

could wish for. Impressive specs include a powerful and class-leading 7.1x zoom range (equivalent to 28-200mm), backed up with an effective optical stabiliser that works well even at the longest telephoto setting. The three-inch LCD is very high-res at 921k pixels, and teams up with a built-in optical viewfinder. Part camera, part digital darkroom, the P7100 has a particularly long list of special effects, as well as the more usual scene modes, which you can access directly from the shooting Mode dial. It adds a fun element to an advanced camera, although performance is a mixed bag. Handling is very good once you’ve memorised where all the buttons and controls are positioned, but the maximum burst rate is painfully slow at just 1.2fps, compared with 7fps for the Fujifilm and Olympus cameras. Ultimately, it’s the outright image quality that’s the biggest disappointment here. Nikon cameras are renowned for their punchy pictures, but colour rendition from the P7100 can be downright lurid, even when using the standard Picture Control setting.

Features

Build quality

image quality

value

Overall


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Top There are lots of art effects and scene modes, but a single custom shooting setting Above Faster than most, the 4x 28-112mm equivalent zoom lens is rated at f/1.8-2.5

Olympus XZ-1, £295

The super-skinny Olympus won’t weigh you down eighing in at around 100g less than the chunky Canon and Nikon cameras on test, the XZ-1 is a more slimline affair, despite boasting a larger 1/1.63-inch (8x6mm) image sensor. It’s the only camera in this group that doesn’t have a sculpted hand grip and handling feels considerably less assured as a result. Direct access controls are few and far between on the XZ-1, so there’s much more reliance on scouring through the menus whenever you want to change anything. At least there’s a quick menu available for

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major settings like ISO, white balance and picture style, as well as drive, autofocus and metering modes. This displays on the LCD screen when you press the OK button at the centre of the four-way pad. One neat touch is that the lens features a context-sensitive control ring around its circumference. For example, in Aperture Priority mode,

the ring adjusts the aperture setting. Another uncommon, but useful, feature is a Bulb mode for long exposures – this is shared only by the Ricoh in the group. There are no less than 18 scene modes and six different art effects to play around with, but unfortunately the Olympus XZ-1 lacks a built-in viewfinder. An optional electronic viewfinder is available, but it’s a rather pricey proposition at around £180, and can’t be used at the same time as a flashgun because it clips into the hotshoe.

Performance

“One neat touch is that the lens features a context-sensitive control ring around its circumference”

Around the back… Olympus XZ-1 It’s very streamlined and sensible Hotshoe The hotshoe and underlying port enable an optional electronic viewfinder to be attached

Record A dedicated video record button gives instant access to movie capture, with a maximum resolution of 720p

LCD The three-inch LCD lacks a pivot or tilt facility, but has a higher-than-average 610k resolution

Four-way pad Autofocus, Exposure Compensation, flash and drive mode are placed at compass points around a rotary dial

The maximum burst rate is an impressive 7fps, but in high-speed drive modes only fairly low-res, 1280x960-pixel images are available. The Fujifilm X10 in this group also drops image size when using its fastest 7fps continuous shooting mode, but to a much more usable 2816x2112 pixels (6Mp). Colour rendition, sharpness and tonal range are all good in well-lit scenes, but for indoor shots without flash, the XZ-1’s images lack detail, even at low ISO settings, while noise is a major problem at high sensitivity settings. The autofocus speed also drops considerably in dull conditions.

Features

Build quality

image quality

value

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Top Intelligent Auto works well, and the second custom mode has three options Above The 3.8x f/2-3.3 zoom lens goes extra-wide, with a great 24-90mm range

Panasonic DMC-LX5, £310 Slick and smart, with a touch of real luxury bout the same size and slightly lighter than the Olympus XZ-1, the Panasonic LX5 nevertheless feels a lot less fiddly to use. The shooting Mode dial is bigger with larger markings, and there’s a decent-sized command dial on the back, which is a vast improvement on Olympus’s very thin rotary dial around the four-way pad. The Panasonic camera shares the same generously sized 1/1.63-inch (8x6mm) sensor as the Olympus model, which is a step up from the Canon, Nikon and Ricoh cameras in

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the group. Some of the features here include Panasonic’s ‘Intelligent Resolution’ system, in which outlines, detailed texture and gradations in a scene are automatically analysed by the image-processing engine, which enhances them accordingly. Sliding switches mounted on the lens barrel give quick access to focus modes and to image aspect ratios,

Performance

“It’s the only camera on test that zooms out to an extra-wide 24mm equivalent focal length”

Around the back… Panasonic DMC-LX5 There’s quite a lot going on AF/AE Lock Like the Play button, this is recessed so accidental operation is almost impossible

Four-way pad Focus, ISO and flash modes are joined by a programmable Fn button, around the Menu/Set button

LCD The three-inch, 460k LCD is clear, bright and easy to see, even under a sunny sky

Q. Menu The Quick Menu offers fast access to all of the most important shooting parameters, via the LCD screen

Digital Camera May 2012

with options for 1:1, 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9. The control for Exposure Compensation is a lot harder to find, as it’s not labelled anywhere on the camera or in the menus. However, once you resort to looking it up in the manual and discover that you need to press in the rotary command dial on the back of the camera, you won’t forget again in a hurry. The 3.8x zoom range is the smallest in the group (bar the Ricoh GR IV with its fixed focal length lens) but it’s impressively sharp and distortions are well contained. Better still, it’s the only camera on test that zooms out to an extra-wide 24mm equivalent focal length, which enables you to squeeze more into the picture. The maximum telephoto length of 90mm, however, is comparatively disappointing. The Intelligent Auto shooting mode is particularly good at judging scenes and coming up with the right camera settings for you, while the autofocus system is reasonably quick and metering is accurate. And if you really can’t live without a viewfinder, Panasonic offers optional optical or electronic finders to slot into the hotshoe.

Features

Build quality

image quality

value

Overall


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HIGH-END COMPACTS

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Top Scene modes include an HDR setting for merging two bracketed shots Above The 6mm, f/1.9 fixed lens has an equivalent focal length of 28mm

Ricoh GR IV, £435

raw and JPEG modes. This is something that’s available in every other camera here. There’s also no built-in viewfinder to be found on this camera, although an optical finder that clips into the hotshoe is available as an optional extra. On the plus side, the Ricoh GR IV boasts a new hybrid autofocus system that combines the regular contrast detection of other compact cameras with a separate autofocus sensor. Ricoh claims that autofocus performance is twice as fast as with the older GR III.

It’s small in size, but big on price onsidering it’s the most expensive camera in this group, the Ricoh’s build feels a little bit plasticky, but is nevertheless based on a tough magnesium alloy body. It’s also extremely light, being barely more than half the weight of the Canon or Nikon cameras on test. The GR IV is the outright smallest camera in the group too, although this is mainly because it has a fixed lens, rather than a zoom. Many photographers will find the absence of a zoom lens quite limiting, as you’re stuck with an effective 28mm

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focal length. A wide-angle conversion lens is available as an optional extra, bringing the focal length down to 21mm, but telephoto shooting is off the menu. Having said that, there is a digital zoom facility that offers up to 4x magnification, but this is a poor alternative to optical zoom. Other limitations include the inability to shoot simultaneously in

Performance

“Ricoh claims that autofocus performance is twice as fast as with the older GR III model”

Around the back… Ricoh GR IV Basic, but sophisticated in parts Hotshoe An optional hotshoe-mounting OVF works with 21mm and 28mm focal lengths

Adjust button Press this in and then rock it left or right to make any necessary shooting adjustments

LCD The three-inch LCD has a class-leading resolution of 1.2Mp

Four-way pad Flash and macro settings are available, along with a customisable Fn button

New to the GR line is a sensor-shift stabilisation system that works reasonably well, but just isn’t quite as effective as the optical equivalents used in all the other cameras in this group – with the exception of the Olympus model. Rather disappointingly, the hybrid autofocus isn’t noticeably faster than with any of the other cameras on test, although a ‘quick snap’ mode enables you to apply a preset focus distance. Making use of this feature means that you are able to take autofocus out of the equation. Overall image quality is good, but certainly not great.

Features

Build quality

image quality

value

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camera group test

Image quality in focus Outdoor

Canon PowerShot G12

Images tend to be more punchy than from most Canon SLRs, with plenty of vibrancy and contrast, yet highlights are retained well.

Resolution

ISO200

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Fujifilm X10

Nikon COOLPIX P7100

Olympus XZ-1

Images are wonderfully crisp and lifelike, thanks to accurate metering even in tricky conditions, and impressive dynamic range.

Acid greens in this shot are an example of how the Nikon pumps up saturation, even in its standard Picture Control setting.

As is often the case with Olympus cameras, the XZ-1’s colour balance brings a certain warmth to outdoor images.

ISO200

Sharpness is very good in the ISO80-400 sensitivity range, but it does drop off noticeably from ISO800 upwards.

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ISO200

The X10 reveals amazing levels of detail along with great contrast, even under flat lighting, only dropping off at very high ISO settings. ISO200

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ISO200

The P7100 has the lowest scores in the group for resolution. There’s not a lot of attention to fine detail either, which is rather disappointing. ISO200

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It starts off well at ISO100, but resolution drops steadily through the sensitivity range and is extremely poor at ISO3200. ISO200

NOISE

ISO200

ISO3200

COLOUR error

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ISO3200

ISO3200

ISO3200

Despite Canon’s claims, image noise at high ISO settings is merely average, and very noticeable in the ISO1600-3200 range.

Image noise is well contained even at ISO3200, although a little fine detail is lost. The X10 is one of the best low-light performers in the group.

Image noise isn’t a problem in the ISO100-400 range, but ramps up significantly after that. At ISO3200, it’s very disappointing.

There’s precious little fine detail in low-light conditions, even at medium sensitivity settings. At ISO1600 and above, shots look noisy and blurry.

Accurate Auto White Balance helps to ensure good colour performance is maintained in wide-ranging lighting conditions.

Colour rendition is vibrant but accurate, making for beautiful pictures of everything from landscapes to portraits.

As with resolution, the P7100 has the worst lab test score in the group for colour accuracy. It’s all too obvious in many of the camera’s pictures.

Colour rendition is good overall, but there’s often a slightly warm colour cast to images, due to the way white balance is handled.

image test verdict

Very good in the ISO80-400 sensitivity range, image quality is still perfectly acceptable at ISO800, with plenty of vibrancy to boot.

Digital Camera May 2012

image test verdict A real star performer, the Fujifilm X10 delivers image quality that can rival or even beat many of the SLRs currently on the market.

image test verdict

Compared with the excellence of Nikon’s entry-level SLR cameras, the P7100 is a big disappointment in terms of image quality.

image test verdict

The sun-loving Olympus XZ-1 gives pleasing results in good lighting conditions, but unfortunately it fails to impress when light levels fall.


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HIGH-END COMPACTS

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5

CSC benchmarks

Ricoh GR IV

See how each camera fares in our lab tests

W Landscape photography benefits from excellent dynamic range, especially at ISO80-400. There’s plenty of sharpness and vitality too. ISO200

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The GR IV tends to under-expose high-contrast scenes to avoid blown highlights. As a result, pictures can end up looking a bit gloomy. ISO200

what’s this? Find out how we test on page 104

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processed in DxO Analyser. Colour error is measured using the X-Rite ColorChecker chart. We also shoot a resolution chart, indicating the detail each camera is able to record in line widths per picture height (LW/PH).

e shoot three charts with each camera and assess performance with visual and computer analysis. Dynamic range and noise are measured with the DxO transmission chart. Images of this chart are then

JPEG COLOUR ERROR Closest to zero is best Canon G12

17.6

Fujifilm X10

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Nikon P7100

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Olympus XZ-1

10.8

Panasonic LX5

12.7

Ricoh GR IV

8.9

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Despite having a prime rather than zoom lens, resolution is only average, falling midway between the excellent Fujifilm and under-achieving Nikon.

ISO200

ISO200

ISO3200

It’s best to stick to the ISO80-400 sensitivity range, as image noise becomes noticeable at ISO800 and is poor by the time you hit ISO3200.

ISO3200

There’s very little image noise at sensitivity settings between ISO80-200, but it’s noticeable at ISO400 and very poor at ISO3200.

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Colour error RESULT: The Ricoh GR IV was the most natural, but the Fuji X10 and Nikon P7100 both show slightly over-saturated JPEG colour.

Raw signal-to-noise ratio (after conversion to tiff) SIGNAL-TO-NOISE RATIO (DB)

In lab testing, the LX5 is an average performer in terms of resolution, but images generally look impressively sharp, with plenty of contrast.

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Highest values are best

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ISO SENSITIVITY

NOISE RESULT: The Fuji X10 shows consistent results, topping the group up to sensitivity of ISO800. Above this value the Nikon just takes the lead.

RAW DYNAMIC RANGE (after conversion to tiff)

With one of the best scores in the group for colour accuracy, images from the LX5 look very true to life, straight off the camera.

Lifelike colour rendition is reflected by one of the most impressive lab test scores for colour accuracy in the whole group.

image test verdict

image test verdict

The LX5 is on a par with the Canon G12 in all areas of image quality, producing punchy, vibrant results, but high ISO performance could be better.

Frequent under-exposure can give images something of a dull and muted look, and image noise becomes a real problem at high ISO settings.

DYNAMIC RANGE (EV)

12

Highest values are best

11 10 9 8 7 6

0

200

400

800

1000

1200

1400

1600

SENSITIVITY

DYNAMIC RANGE RESULT: From a sensitivity of ISO200 the Fujifilm X10 shows at least a 1EV higher dynamic range result than the rest of the group.

KEY

Canon

Nikon

Panasonic

Fujifilm

Olympus

Ricoh

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camera group test the digital camera verdict

Fujifilm has the X factor

Proving that you really can get SLR-like quality from a compact camera, the X10 leads the pack

he X10 is an unassuming little camera to look at, even if its classic styling has a timeless quality. Under the skin, however, it’s packed with high-tech treasures. The large (2/3-inch) sensor has the highest resolution in the group at 12 megapixels, and it’s put to good use with great image sharpness and features that include enhanced high-sensitivity performance and automatic HDR processing from a

T

single exposure. It’s not just about the image quality, though – the X10 wins out with supremely good handling for such a small camera. The manual zoom lens is so much quicker and more precise than the motorised systems fitted to all the other cameras. Next up, it’s a close call between the Canon G12 and Panasonic LX5. There’s practically nothing to choose between them in terms of image quality, so it boils down to whether you prefer the abundance of control

Above The lovely Fujifilm X10 comes out on top in this group of compacts

buttons and dials that cover the G12’s chunky body, or the more streamlined approach of the LX5, which also lacks a built-in optical viewfinder. At the bottom of the pile are the Nikon P7100 and Ricoh GR IV. There’s no lack of direct-access controls on the Nikon, which has a similar design to the Canon, but its continuous drive rate is painfully slow and image quality is a disappointment. The Ricoh’s lack of a zoom lens limits its appeal and overall versatility.

How the cameras compare Canon PowerShot G12

Fujifilm X10

Nikon COOLPIX P7100

Olympus XZ-1

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5

Ricoh GR IV

Website

www.canon.co.uk

www.fujifilm.eu/uk

www.europe-nikon.com

www.olympus.co.uk

www.panasonic.co.uk

www.ricoh.com

Street price

£355

£395

£295

£295

£310

£435

Image sensor

10Mp CCD

12Mp CMOS

10.1Mp CCD

10Mp CCD

10.1Mp CCD

10Mp CCD

Sensor size

1/1.7 inch

2/3 inch

1/1.7 inch

1/1.63 inch

1/1.63 inch

1/1.7-inch

Main shooting modes PASM, Auto PASM, Auto PASM, Auto PASM, Auto PASM, Auto PASM, Auto Optical zoom range

5x (28-140mm)

4x (28-112mm)

7.1x (28-200mm)

4x (28-112mm)

3.8x (24-90mm)

Fixed (28mm)

Viewfinder Optical Optical Optical Optional EVF Optional EVF/OVF Optional OVF Flash

Built-in, hotshoe Pop-up, hotshoe Pop-up, hotshoe Pop-up, hotshoe Pop-up, hotshoe Pop-up, hotshoe

ISO range (expanded)

80-3200 (12800)

100-3200 (12800)

100-3200 (12800)

100-6400

80-3200 (12800)

80-3200

Metering modes Eval, Centre, spot Multi, spot, average Matrix, Centre, spot ESP, Centre, spot Multi, Centre, spot Multi, Centre, spot Focus modes Single, cont, manual Single, cont, manual Single, cont, manual Single, cont, manual Single, cont, manual Single, cont, manual Shutter speeds

1/4000-15 sec

1/4000-30 sec

1/4000-60 sec

1/2000-60 sec, Bulb

1/4000-60 sec

1/2000-180 sec, Bulb

Max burst rate

2fps

7fps

1.2fps

7fps

2.5fps

1.5fps

LCD screen

2.8-inch, 461k, pivot

2.8-inch, 460k, fixed

3-inch, 921k, tilt

3-inch, 610k, fixed

3-inch, 460k, fixed

3-inch, 1.2M, fixed

Image stabilisation Optical Optical Optical Sensor-shift Optical Sensor-shift Video (max resolution) 1280x720

1920x1080

1280x720

1280x720

1280x720

640x480

Memory cards SD/HC/XC SD/HC/XC SD/HC/XC SD/HC/XC SD/HC/XC SD/HC/XC Body (WxHxD), weight 112x76x48mm, 401g

117x70x57mm, 350g

117x79x48mm, 395g

111x65x42mm, 295g

110x66x43mm, 271g

109x60x33mm, 219g

Battery life

270 shots

350 shots

320 shots

400 shots

390 shots

370 shots

Features

Build Quality

Image Quality

Value

Overall

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kitzone

HIGH-END COMPACTS

1st Fujifilm X10 The camera looks good, the pictures look great. The X10 is a triumph of downsizing that proves you don’t need a huge great SLR to get superb results. It has the highest image resolution in the group and is the only camera that can shoot full 1080p movies. What’s good: 2/3-inch, 12Mp sensor, excellent manual zoom, stunning image quality. What’s bad: Lacks the fully articulated or tilting screens of the Canon and Nikon models. Our verdict: For maximum image quality and versatility from a compact camera, the Fujifilm X10 is unbeatable.

our TEST results

2ND Canon G12

The best high-end compact revealed...

What’s good: Fully articulated screen, great hybrid image stabiliser, plentiful controls. What’s bad: Lab test resolution scores and high-ISO performance could be better. Our verdict: A smart camera that delivers punchier results than most Canon SLRs.

3RD Panasonic LX5 What’s good: Simple design is easy to live with, widest-angle zoom lens in the group. What’s bad: Lacks telephoto reach. Optical or electronic viewfinders are optional extras. Our verdict: Slimline but power-packed, the LX5 matches the Canon G12 for image quality.

4th Olympus XZ-1

5th Nikon P7100

6th Ricoh GR IV

What’s good: Slim build makes it a very pocketable camera. Plenty of scene modes. What’s bad: Autofocus performance and image quality suffer in low-light conditions. Our verdict: Only worth serious consideration if you’re after a very compact power compact.

What’s good: Shooting controls aplenty, tilting LCD screen, class-leading 7.1x zoom range. What’s bad: Image quality is disappointing and continuous drive rate is very slow. Our verdict: The design ethic is very similar to the Canon G12, but the Nikon just isn’t as good.

What’s good: Great new hybrid autofocus and sensor-shift stabilisation. What’s bad: Fixed 28mm lens lacks zoom versatility. Image quality is merely average. Our verdict: The Ricoh doesn’t do enough to justify its very high asking price.

Digital Camera May 2012

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FUJI X10 head to head test  

Kitzone Camera group test

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