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Nikon COOLPIX A Ken McMahon, April 2013

Nikon COOLPIX A vs Olympus XZ-2 Quality RAW

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To compare real-life performance in RAW I shot this scene with the Nikon COOLPIX A and the Olympus XZ-2, within a few moments of each other.

The Nikon COOLPIX A has a 28mm equivalent fixed focal length lens. To match its field of the view the zoom lens on the Olympus XZ-2 was set to its 28mm equivalent maximum wide angle position.

The COOLPIX A lacks image stabilisation and it was disabled on the XZ-2 for this tripod-mounted test. All other camera settings were left on the defaults.

  Nikon COOLPIX A results
1 Nikon COOLPIX A Quality JPEG
2 Nikon COOLPIX A Quality RAW
3 Nikon COOLPIX A Noise JPEG
4 Nikon COOLPIX A Noise RAW
5 Nikon COOLPIX A Sample images

The image above was taken with the Nikon COOLPIX A. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode and f5.6 was selected as this produced the best result form the lens. With the ISO sensitivity set to 100 ISO the camera metered an exposure of 1/320. As usual for this test the camera was otherwise left on the default settings. The Olympus XZ-2 produced its best results at f4 where it metered 1/800th with the sensitivity set to 100 ISO.

I processed both files in Adobe Camera RAW using identical settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. To reduce white balance differences I also set the white balance to for both files to 6000k. These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what's really going on behind the scenes.

This set of crops from the COOLPIX A's RAW files processed in Adobe Camera RAW 7.4 shows the most detail I've yet seen from an APS-C sensor. It was fortunate that Adobe released an update to camera RAW adding support for the COOLPIX A's RAW files the day before we were due to publish this review. So credit is due to Adobe as well as to Nikon for these excellent results.

In the first crop you can clearly make out the finer detail in the chapel walls though, interestingly, there looks to be a little bit of a red fringe around the door suggesting Nikon is correcting some fringing on in-camera JPEGs. Despite the slightly hazy conditions you can also make out the lamp room of the light house and the foreground roofs and windows are crisply defined. The quality of the lens is really brought out in the third crop which has detail as sharp as anywhere else. It also backs up Nikons claim that aberrations have been dealt with optically and no digital massageing is required to eliminate them.

The fourth and final crop from close to the middle of the frame is the most impressive though. The level of detail here is pretty high by any standards from the stonework in the distant building with the white van parked in front to the individual roof tiles visible on the buildings in the foreground. It's clear to see that the COOLPIX A's 16 Megapixel sensor is without doubt resolving more detail than the Olympus XZ-2 and judging by these results I'd say it's likely it also outperforms many APS-C DSLRs. If this is indicative of the kind of quality it's possible to achieve without the optical low pass filter it's likely we'll see many more manufacturers taking this route in future.

Now see how these models compare at higher sensitivities in my Nikon COOLPIX A Noise results.


Olympus XZ-2 RAW
f5.6, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f5.6, 160 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO

results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

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