Camera resolution comparison
Resolution is without a doubt the number one specification for digital cameras.
The models tested here feature 6 to 8 Megapixels which is sufficient to make
great-looking 10x8in prints. Indeed if you mostly print at smaller sizes, these
resolutions could even be considered excessive.
said, higher resolutions give you the flexibility of either cropping into a
small area and still having enough detail remaining for a good print, or of
course to make a much larger print in the first place. It's also a fact of digital
camera marketing that resolutions will continue to increase and many people
will be influenced by this figure more than anything else.
So in ascending order, the Pentax S6 has 6 megapixels, the Fujifilm F11 has
6.3 Megapixels, the Canon A620 has 7.1 Megapixels, and the Sony N1 a considerable
8.1 Megapixels. In terms of actual image sizes, the Pentax, Fujifilm, Canon
and Sony cameras deliver images with 2816x2112, 2848x2136, 3072x2304 and 3264x2448
The Sony clearly has the highest number, but it's important to remember photographic
quality prints typically use 300 pixels per inch. So the 8.1 Megapixel Sony
images, being only 448 pixels wider and 336 pixels taller than those of the
mere 6 Megapixel Pentax S6, really only let you enlarge by an extra inch or
so before losing quality.
So while the Sony N1 genuinely has the highest resolution of the group, there's
not much between the four cameras in practice. Ultimately, all four record sufficient
detail to make good looking 10x8in prints, and that's more than most people
will ever need. Check our Results page for actual technical comparisons of the
resolutions in practice.
Camera file size comparison
All digital cameras allow you to reduce their resolution or increase the JPEG
compression in order to squeeze more photos onto their memory cards, but both
are done at the cost of picture quality. We strongly believe if you've carefully
chosen a new digital camera, you should really be trying to get the best from
it, so recommend only using the best quality settings. This means selecting
the highest resolution and the least JPEG compression.
the image file size dictates how many pictures you'll fit onto a card, we measured
the average size of photos taken using each camera with its best quality settings
- this allows you to estimate how many photos you'll squeeze onto a certain
sized memory card. Remember though, these are average figures, as the size also
varies depending on the complexity of the image.
The Pentax Optio S6 produced the smallest average image size of 1.8MB, followed
by the Canon A620 and Fujifilm F11 at 3MB each and the Sony N1 at 3.4MB. This
means given the same size memory card, the Pentax S6 will squeeze over one and
a half times as many images as the Canon and Fujifilm, and almost twice as many
as the Sony. It does however mean the S6 is also applying more compression than
the others, so check out our Results and Gallery pages to see if this has become
detrimental to overall image quality.
Camera movie mode comparison
Digital cameras have long featured movie modes, but over the years they've matured
from short bursts of poor quality video, to longer clips of surprisingly decent-looking
footage. Lets get one thing straight now though: even the best movie modes are
still no match for the quality of a dedicated camcorder, especially in terms
of sound. But the feature is still well worth having and it's reassuring to
see how much better today's cameras are getting at it.
four models can record video at 640x480 pixels and a smooth 30 frames per second,
which in terms of numbers, is close to actual standard TV broadcasts. Exposure,
audio capture and compression techniques force the quality to be lower than
most TV shows, but it's still impressive.
In terms of quality, all four were roughly similar, although it's revealing
to compare actual file sizes. We filmed roughly the same 15 second clip with
each camera using its best quality 640 / 30fps mode and found file sizes were
up to six times different sizes.
The Canon A620 consumed a considerable 28MB for 15 seconds of video, compared
to 20MB by the Sony N1, 18MB by the Fujifilm F11 and a remarkably tiny 4.77MB
for the Pentax S6. The S6's secret is again compression, but rather than turn
it up and lose quality, Pentax has cleverly employed the more efficient 'Divx'
compression system. This manages to match quality with much smaller file sizes,
and here it really proves its worth.
It's also worth noting all the cameras locked their optical zooms while filming,
although the Canon A620 offered a digital zoom facility during the recording.
Camera creative control comparison
All but the most basic cameras feature some degree of creative control beyond
fully automatic modes, and the four models on test were no different. The most
popular creative options for compact cameras remain scene preset modes, which
automatically configure the camera's settings for certain common situations,
such as portraits, landscapes, sports and night shots. Then there's the traditional
photographic modes which allow you to manually adjust the lens aperture and
shutter speed yourself.
Canon's PowerShot A620 has the greatest manual photographic control of the
four, matching the exposure modes of considerably more sophisticated cameras.
Its main mode dial offers Program, Manual, Shutter and Aperture Priority modes
which will delight photographic enthusiasts who want complete control.
Beginners are also well-catered for though with the dial offering direct access
to three scene presets, along with a fourth special scene option which allows
you to choose from a further eight presets using the screen. There's also a
stitch-assist mode to aid panoramic photography along with 'My Colours', a novelty
mode which can selectively change specific colours in an image. You can additionally
choose a vivid colour option, along with sepia or black and white modes.
Switching the main mode dial to SP on Fujifilm's FinePix F11 allows you to
choose from five scene presets using an on-screen menu. Turning the dial to
A / S / M switches the camera to Manual, Aperture or Shutter Priority mode,
depending on which has been pre-selected on a menu. Pressing the 'F' button
on the rear of the camera also allows you to select a more vivid colour mode
or a black and white option.
The creative options of Pentax's Optio S can be viewed by pressing the Mode
button on the rear. This displays a choice of 15 options on-screen including
panorama assist and the movie mode, although sadly no traditional photographic
modes like Aperture or Shutter Priority; note the tests which required specific
apertures were achieved by varying the distance of our studio lamps.
Delve into the S6's menus though and you'll find three sliders to adjust sharpness,
saturation and contrast. There's also a selection of digital filters to choose
from including sepia and no fewer than four black and white options, three of
which simulate the use of red, green and blue filters.
Cyber-shot DSC-N1 offers eight scene presets and the choice of Auto, Program
or fully Manual mode. The latter only offers three aperture settings, and you
must also remember to manually balance the shutter speed for a correct exposure
- luckily the camera tells you how much under or over you are at any time though.
Switch out of fully Auto mode and the N1 lets you adjust the Saturation, Contrast
and Sharpness settings, along with choosing a sepia or black and white option.
The N1 also has a neat feature where low resolution copies of all the photos
you've taken can be stored in the camera's internal memory, even if you remove
or erase the card. There's enough room for 500 images in this album, and you
can delete any you don't want. It's a great feature which allows you to effectively
carry an album of your favourite shots and share them with friends on-screen
or using a TV slideshow.
Speaking of which, Sony even lets you transfer a handful of MP3 music tracks
onto the N1, so slideshows can be accompanied by your favourite tunes. A novelty
perhaps, but a fun idea none-the-less.
Camera startup time comparison
A couple of seconds doesn't sound like much, but in photographic terms it could
mean the difference between capturing a great shot, or missing it completely.
Cameras which start and respond slowly can prove extremely frustrating, so we
timed how long it took for each to wake up and be ready for action.
Slowest of the group was the Pentax S6, which gave the impression of speed
by popping its lens out quickly, but then paused for a fraction before letting
you take any photos; you're looking at around 2.5 seconds between pressing On
and taking a photo. Sony's N1 was much nippier, taking 1.8 seconds to startup.
Next was Fujifilm's F11, taking 1.5 seconds. The Canon A620 was quickest of
all though, ready for action in 1.3 seconds.
Note all four cameras extended their lenses during power-up: the Canon, Fujifilm,
Pentax and Sony lenses slide out to 23, 26, 20 and 23mm respectively. All but
the Canon could fold their lenses in to become flush to the surface of their
bodies; this isn't an issue on the Canon though as it's grip was much bigger
than the actual protruding lens housing.