To compare real-life performance when zoomed-out, we shot this scene with the Canon PowerShot SX40 HS, Panasonic Lumix FZ150 and Sony Cyber-shot HX100V within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings.
The lenses on each camera were adjusted to deliver the same field of view and all three cameras were set to f4 in Aperture priority mode for a level playing field. f4 was chosen to maximise sharpness and minimise diffraction.
The sensitivity was manually set to the lowest available setting on each camera: 100 ISO on all three models. Note the firmware for the FZ150 tested here was v1.0.
The image above was taken with the Canon PowerShot SX40 HS with the lens set to 6.7mm (37mm equivalent) and the aperture set to f4 in Aperture Priority mode; f4 was chosen to maximise sharpness while avoiding diffraction, and selected on all three cameras below for a level playing field.
At f4 and 100 ISO, the SX40 HS metered an exposure of 1/800 for the scene here, whereas the FZ150 and HX100V opted for 1/1000 and 1/1250 respectively. The quicker exposures of these two models were more appropriate for recording the brighter portions of the scene, but again for a level playing field I matched their exposures to the SX40 HS, as that’s the model on test here. So I applied +0.3 and +0.6EV of compensation to the FZ150 and HX100V respectively, forcing them to expose this scene at 1/800. So below you’re seeing and comparing exactly the same exposure from each camera.
The first row of crops clearly reveals the problem with the exposure metered by the SX40 HS here: it’s very saturated and much of the detail on the snowy mountain ridge has been lost forever. To be fair to the SX40 HS, the exposure isn’t bad for the entire scene as a whole (as seen in the reduced version above left), but it could arguably be better still with -0.3 EV compensation applied. Indeed the 1/1000 exposure originally metered by the FZ150 looked best of all to my eyes, while the 1/1250 originally metered by the HX100V was perhaps a tad too dark. Perhaps the Sony deliberately underexposes a little to protect highlights on a sensor with a more limited dynamic range due to its high resolution. Conversely maybe the Canon slightly over-exposes to reduce the amount of visible noise in shadow areas. The bottom line is you may need to apply a little negative compensation to the SX40 HS to protect highlight areas.
On a positive note though, none of the crops of the first row exhibit any coloured fringing, which is unusual given the high contrast of the subject and big zoom ranges of the lenses. As such, we can assume all three are applying some degree of digital correction in this regard, which is very welcome on this kind of camera.
Moving onto the remaining crops, you can more easily see the difference between the resolutions of each camera: the Canon and Panasonic share the same 12 Megapixel resolution, whereas the Sony wins the numbers game with 16 Megapixels. This is why the Sony crops show a tighter area in their 100% crops, but is there actually any greater detail within them?
Looking very closely, I’d say the Sony HX100V is indeed resolving a little more detail than the Canon and Panasonic models in this scene. It’s just about visible in the very fine details around the buildings and foliage, but it’s a lot more subtle than you might expect given its four extra Megapixels. Certainly judging from these crops I wouldn’t choose the Sony based solely on it having a higher resolution sensor.
Meanwhile, there’s unsurprisingly even less to note between the Canon and Panasonic crops. The degree of detail is essentially the same, and the only real difference is a very minor alternative approach to image processing.
So in terms of in-camera JPEGs at the base sensitivity under bright light conditions, the Canon SX40 HS and Panasonic FZ150 are essentially neck-in-neck, while the Sony HX100V enjoys a tiny edge in resolving power – but not enough to be a deal-breaker against the others.
What really does make a bigger difference though is the Panasonic FZ150’s ability to record RAW files – something that’s not possible on its two rivals here. In my Panasonic FZ150 RAW quality I illustrated the degree of highlight detail that can be retrieved from its RAW files, which was forever lost on JPEGs. This is a key advantage the FZ150 has over the competition, especially when one of its rivals here (the Canon) has a tendency to over-expose a little and suffer from more blown highlights as a result. If you’re willing to process RAW files on your computer, you’ll simply be able to retrieve much more highlight detail from an FZ150 RAW file than you can from any of the JPEGs here.
Now let’s see how each camera performs at higher sensitivities in my Canon SX40 HS noise results.