Nikon COOLPIX P100 Ken McMahon, January 2011
 

Nikon COOLPIX P100 results : Real-life resolution / Sharpness mid-range / Sharpness telephoto / High ISO Noise

Nikon COOLPIX P100 vs Panasonic FZ45 / FZ40 vs Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Real-life resolution (wide)

 
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To compare real-life performance when zoomed-out, we shot this scene with the Nikon COOLPIX P100, the Panasonic Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 and the the Canon PowerShot SX30 IS within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings.

The lenses on each camera were set to approximately the same field of view. As all three cameras have closely matched maximum wide-angle focal lengths - 26mm equiv for the COOLPIX P100, 25mm equiv for the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 and 24mm equiv for the PowerShot SX30 IS, we used these settings for our wide-angle quality comparisons.

In Program mode the COOLPIX P100 selected an aperture of f8, whereas the Lumix and Canon cameras selected an aperture of f4. To avoid quality differences due to diffraction, we set the COOLPIX P100 to Aperture priority exposure mode and manually selected the same f4 aperture as was selected by the Lumix and Canon cameras in Program mode. All three cameras were set to their lowest available ISO sensitivity - 160 ISO on the COOLPIX P100 and 80 ISO on the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 and PowerShot SX30 IS.

The above image was taken with the COOLPIX P100 in Aperture priority mode. The lens was set to 4.6mm (26mm equivalent) and, at the set f4 aperture, the metering selected an exposure of 1/1259 of a second at an ISO setting of 160. The original 3648x2736 pixel image had a file size of 4MB.

This scene was shot at around mid-day and in the autumn sunlight it provides a challenging test for digital camera sensors. Because of the wide range of tones in the scene, even if the exposure is spot on it's likely that tonal detail will be lost at one end, or the other, or both, of the range.

Here, the COOLPIX P100 has slightly overexposed the image. Looking at the histogram there's a small, but significant gap on the left and a spike on the right indicating that recordable highlight data has been lost. Had the P100 selected a faster shutter speed and given this scene half a stop less exposure it could have recorded more highlight detail without losing any of the detail in the foreground shadow areas. You don't really need a histogram to tell you this though, it's clear from the image above and the crops that the highlights have been blown. There's also a slight blue cast to the colours, the P100 has a tendency to set the auto white balance on the cool side.

Now let's take a look at the detailed crops. The most noticeable thing about these is the overall graininess that's fairly clearly visible over the entire area of all four crops, it's easiest to spot in flat areas of colour like the sky in the first two crops and the sea in the third one. There's no mistaking this for anything other than noise and, though it's not overwhelming it does mean that flat colour areas look a little clumpy and finer detail is obscured to a degree.

Despite the noise though, the P100 does a pretty good job of resolving fine detail in these crops. The lighthouse is a single white column and, through the haze you can make out some detail in the rocks around it. You can make out the crosses at either end of the chapel roof in the top crop and in the mid and foreground detail - the window frames and chimneys in crop 2 and the balcony dividers and rails in crop 4, there are plenty of crisply defined edges. So, despite the noise,we think the results from the P100's 26x zoom lens and 10 Megapixel CMOS sensor are excellent overall.

The COOLPIX P100 crops certainly hold their own by comparison with those from the Panasonic Lumix FZ45 / FZ40. The COOLPIX P100 detail is smaller due to the difference in resolution, but even so there is a comparable level of detail in all of the crops. Look at the window frames in the second crop and theres a similar level of detail in both. In the crop from the central area of the frame showing the balconies we'd say the COOLPIX P100 detail looks marginally crisper, but then in crop 3, from the edge of the frame the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 looks to have a slight edge. So, these two cameras, which are closely matched in terms of price, prove difficult to separate in respect of their image quality. Aside from the megapixel count, which is only going to be a consideration if you like to make big prints, there's not much in it.

The COOLPIX P100 crops also hold up well compared with the Canon PowerShot SX30 IS. For one thing, like the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40, the COOLPIX P100 suffers from none of the colour fringing problems that beset the PowerShot SX30 IS at the extremes of the focal length range. And neither the Powershot SX30 IS nor the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 crops are noise free, even though their base ISO sensitivity setting is a stop lower than the COOLPIX P100's. But the PowerShot SX30 IS crops are all undeniably sharper and cleaner than those from the COOLPIX P100. So to sum up, a great performance from the COOLPIX P100 which in these comparisons puts it in joint second place with the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 behind the PowerShot SX30 IS.

Wide angle performance is only part of the story though, for the full picture make sure to take a look at our mid-range resolution and telephoto resolution test pages before seeing how they compare at higher sensitivities in our High ISO Noise results.



Nikon COOLPIX P100
 
Panasonic Lumix FZ45 / FZ40
 
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS
f4, 160 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 160 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 160 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 160 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO


Nikon COOLPIX P100 results : Real-life resolution / Sharpness mid-range / Sharpness telephoto / High ISO Noise



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