I’ve been recommending DPReview for years in my photography classes, workshops and online. It is one of the best camera review sites. One of the nice features is the ability to download full size JPEG test images of their “standard studio scene” for comparison purposes.
I was comparing the Canon PowerShot SX280 HS with other cameras with similar features (shirt pocket size, 20x zoom range) like the Panasonic Lumix ZS30. There weren’t full reviews of either camera so I went back to reviews of the Canon SX260 HS and the Panasonic ZS20, assuming the current cameras would be somewhat better than the older models and that both would have the pedigree traits of their predecessors (which is often but not always the case for a camera’s family tree).
I went to the studio scene comparison page for the Canon SX260 HS and Panasonic ZS20 (check the links) and compared the photos. In the center of the image they looked fairly similar, not enough to make a big difference. I wanted to check the edges too, so I downloaded both full size JPEGS to take a careful look.
This is a web sized version of the uncropped original photo of their studio scene. The cropped close-ups at the beginning of this article and below came from the bottom left corner of this photo. Lenses are at their best in the center of the image and reveal their optical weaknesses at the edges of the frame, so comparing close-ups of the corner of the images is a good way to see which lens is the best where their flaws are the most obvious.
I opened both images in Photoshop, enlarged both of them to 100% (actual pixels) and lined up the batteries (toward the bottom left corner of each image) side by side. At the top of this article you can see a screen capture of both images opened in Photoshop. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)
The Panasonic Lumix ZX20 is on the left and Canon SX260 HS is on the right. Both images were taken at ISO 100. The Panasonic file at 100% is slightly larger because the Panasonic sensor has more megapixels than the Canon sensor.
What really jumped out at me is the image quality. The canon image is slightly soft while the Panasonic image is just plain mushy.
Look at the “NI-MH” on the bottom of the battery in both images. I generally expect the edges of an image to be somewhat softer than the center. That’s just a fact of life. But I don’t want mushy edges. All other things being more or less equal (sometimes they aren’t), I would choose the Canon over the Panasonic based on image quality.
I bought the Canon SX280 HS several months ago as my fun, big zoom range (20X), carry in a shirt pocket, snapshot camera and I have not been disappointed. For serious photography for my clients and myself, I use DSLRs.
There were other reasons I chose the Canon SX280 HS which I did not explore in this article but that story is for another time.
When you are choosing a camera, once you’ve decided on the features you want (which should be your first criteria), and narrowed your list down to some high rated cameras with excellent reviews, it is a good idea to download some full sized test images from DPReview and do some comparisons. You might find a big difference in image quality that is a deciding factor.
My thanks to the folks at DPReview for giving me permission to use their images!
This is one in a series of articles that will guide you to the best of all things photographic. The rest are here: Buyer’s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs and More.