To test real-life performance, I shot this scene with the Nikon COOLPIX A1000 and the Panasonic Lumix TZ95/ZS80 using their best quality JPEG modes. Both cameras were mounted on a tripod and image stabilisation was disabled. For this first test both cameras were set to their 24mm equivalent maximum wide angle setting. Aperture Priority mode was selected for the exposure and both cameras were set to f4.
As usual the crops below are taken from the areas marked in red above.
The first thing to note is that the 20 Megapixel sensor in the Lumix TZ95 / ZS80 produces a smaller crop area with larger detail than those from the 16 Megapixel COOLPIX A1000.
Casting an eye down the left hand column of crops the thing that strikes me is just how consistent the quality of the COOLPIX A1000 crops is. From the first crop taken from the extreme left edge of the frame, through the two from the central area over to the last crop from the right edge, there’s very little to differentiate them. I’d say there’s a little bit of noise evident and the finest of details isn’t particularly well resolved, but this is a pretty good set of results at the wide angle setting.
Compared with the crops on the right from the Lumix TZ95 / ZS80 the COOLPX A1000 crops are a little more detailed and contrasty.
Now scroll down to see how these two super-zooms compare when zoomed in to a middling focal length.
Nikon COOLPIX A1000 JPEG Quality at 95mm equivalent
For this next set of crops I zoomed the Lumix TZ95 / ZS80 in to 98mm and set the COOLPIX A1000 to match the field of view. At this focal length I set the maximum aperture on both cameras which was f5. The story here is pretty much the same as with the first set of crops. The COOLPIX crops look a bit more punchy with a tad more detail, those from the Lumix TZ95 / ZS80 are a little bit soft, with some visible noise texture,
Now scroll down to see how things look at 275mm equivalent.
Nikon COOLPIX A1000 JPEG Quality at 275mm equivalent
These crops from the COOLPIX A1000 at the 275mm equivalent focal length are again very consistent – and the same is true of those from the Lumix TZ95 / ZS80. So both lenses are doing an excellent job, there’s no edge softness, distortion or chromatic aberration to speak of and any differences we can see are mostly due to the limitations of their respective sensors or the result of processing. At this point I don’t think there’s a great deal in it in terms of quality, though the COOLPIX A1000 is a little less noisy and some might prefer its sharper, more contrasty output. Don’t forget that both these models shoot RAW, so there’s always the option to tweak to get a result that’s closer to your personal preference. Now scroll down to discover if the maximum zoom setting reveals any surprises.
Nikon COOLPIX A1000 JPEG Quality at 840mm equivalent
For this final quality test I zoomed both cameras in to their maximum zoom focal length – 840mm on the COOLPIX A1000 and 720mm on the Lumix TZ95 / ZS80. I set the maximum available aperture – f6.9 on the COOLPIX A1000 and f6.4 on the Lumix TZ95 / ZS80. I’ve taken three crops here – one from the middle of the frame and two from the right edge. At the extreme end of the telephoto range we do see some variation in performance for both models. The COOLPIX A1000 suffers from quite visible purple fringing and the Lumix TZ95 / ZS80 is producing some very soft results from the edge of the frame – particularly in the bottom right corner.
Overall, I’d say that there’s little to differentiate the two models here in terms of their lens performance, which in both cases is excellent and very consistent, both across the frame and throughout the zoom range. However, the COOLPIX A1000 crops look punchier and more detailed than those from the Lumix TZ95 / ZS80. In all probability that’s due to more robust noise processing on the TZ95 / ZS80. We can take a closer look at that in the next section, where I look at the noise performance across the sensitivity range for both of these models.
Panasonic Lumix TZ95/ZS80 JPEG Noise Quality
To examine noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Nikon COOLPIX A1000 and the Panasonic Lumix TZ95 / SZ80 at each of their ISO sensitivities using their highest quality JPEG settings. Both cameras were mounted on a tripod and stabilisation was disabled.
I set both cameras to their maximum 24mm equivalent wide angle focal length. Both cameras were set to f4 in Aperture Priority mode; the COOLPIX A1000 selected 1/5 at its base 100 ISO setting and the Lumix TZ95/ZS80 selected an exposure of 1/6 at its base 80 ISO sensitivity. As usual the crops below are from the areas marked in red above. As with the quality crops above, the 20 Megapixel sensor in the Lumix TZ95/ZS80 produces a smaller crop area with larger detail than the 16 Megapixel sensor in the COOLPIX A1000.
For now, let’s ignore the 80 ISO crop from the Lumix TZ95 / ZS80 and start with the 100 ISO crop from the Nikon COOLPIX A1000 which looks crisp, detailed and relatively noise free. There’s a little bit more visible noise creeping in at 200 ISO – look at the bottom left corner of the crop where it’s most visible.
Beyond that the COOLPIX A1000 does a good job of managing noise up to 1600 ISO, where it starts to interfere with image detail and would quite visible on a full size print.
By comparison, the crops from the Lumix TZ95 / ZS80 are, well, not exactly noisier, but clumpier and less detailed (as a result of noise processing) from the off. And when you get to the middle and upper segment of the sensitivity range there’s quire a bit of difference. I would say that the 800 ISO crop from the Lumix TZ95 / ZS80 is on a par with the 1600 ISO crop from the COOLPIX A1000. You wouldn’t get as big a print from the 16 Megapixel COOLPIX A1000, but it would look cleaner, crisper and more detailed at an equivalent ISO sensitivity setting.