Nikon COOLPIX P100 - Quality

Quality

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

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

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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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 3648×2736 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 vs Panasonic FZ45 / FZ40 vs Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Real-life resolution (approx 300mm)

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

Nikon COOLPIX P100
 
Panasonic Lumix FZ45 / FZ40
 
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS
52mm (291mm) f8, 80 ISO
48.8mm (271mm) f4, 80 ISO
56.1mm (313mm) f5, 80 ISO
48.8mm (271mm) f4, 80 ISO
48.8mm (271mm) f4, 80 ISO
56.1mm (313mm) f5, 80 ISO
48.8mm (271mm) f4, 80 ISO
48.8mm (271mm) f4, 80 ISO
56.1mm (313mm) f5, 80 ISO
48.8mm (271mm) f4, 80 ISO
48.8mm (271mm) f4, 80 ISO
56.1mm (313mm) f5, 80 ISO


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

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To compare real-life performance mid-way through their focal ranges, we shot this scene with the Nikon COOLPIX P100, the Panasonic Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 and 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 to evaluate their performance around the middle of their zoom range. We opted for an equivalent focal length of around 300mm on each model.

All three cameras were set to Program mode at the 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 Program mode. The lens was set to 52 mm (291mm equivalent) and the metering selected an exposure of 1/913th of a second at f8 with an ISO setting of 160. The original 3648×2736 pixel image had a file size of 4.38MB.

Straight away you can see here that the COOLPIX P100 crops look a good deal softer than those from the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 and the PowerShot SX30 IS. One likely reason for this is that the P100’s program mode has selected an aperture of f8 and light diffraction from the small aperture is, at least in part, causing the softness of image detail. The COOLPIX P100 does have a tendency in program mode to select smaller aperture settings even when the lighting conditions would permit a larger aperture at an acceptably fast shutter speed.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to take a look at our wide-angle resolution and telephoto resolution test pages before seeing how they compare at higher sensitivities in our High ISO Noise results.


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

Nikon COOLPIX P100
 
Panasonic Lumix FZ45 / FZ40
 
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS
120mm (678mm) f8, 160 ISO
108mm (600mm) f5.2, 80 ISO
150.5mm (840mm) f5.8, 80 ISO
120mm (678mm) f8, 160 ISO
108mm (600mm) f5.2, 80 ISO
150.5mm (840mm) f5.8, 80 ISO
120mm (678mm) f8, 160 ISO
108mm (600mm) f5.2, 80 ISO
150.5mm (840mm) f5.8, 80 ISO


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 (tele)

 
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To compare real-life performance with the lenses zoomed all the way in, we shot this scene with the Nikon COOLPIX P100, the Panasonic Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 and 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 the maximum telephoto end of their zoom range. For the COOLPIX P100 this is 678mm equivalent, for the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 it’s an equivalent of 600m and for the Canon Powershot SX30 IS it’s 840mm.

All three cameras were set to Program mode at the lowest available ISO sensitivity – 160 ISO on the Nikon COOLPIX P100 and 80 ISO on the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 and the PowerShot SX30 IS.

The above image was taken with the COOLPIX P100 in Program mode. The lens was set to 120 mm (678mm equivalent) and the metering selected an exposure of 1/670th of a second at f8 with an ISO setting of 160. The original 3648×2736 pixel image had a file size of 3.95MB.

Again, the Nikon COOLPIX P100 in Program auto exposure mode has selected an aperture of f8 for this telephoto shot and, again, by comparison with the crops from the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 and PowerShot SX30 IS, the COOLPIX crops look soft and lacking in detail – no doubt an impact of diffraction at the selected aperture of f8. Having said that, the image quality of the COOLPIX P100 at the telephoto end of it’s range is pretty respectable. Despite the softness, there’s a good level of detail there and the second two crops you can see as much detail in the roof tiles as in the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 or PowerShot SX30 IS crops.

So, if you want to squeeze the best possible image quality from the COOLPIX P10’s lens, we’d suggest setting either Aperture priority or Manual exposure mode and selecting a wider aperture than the one frequently chosen by the camera’s Program auto exposure mode.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to take a look at our wide-angle resolution and mid range resolution test pages before seeing how they compare at higher sensitivities in our High ISO Noise results.

Nikon COOLPIX P100 vs Panasonic Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 vs Canon PowerShot SX30 IS High ISO Noise


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


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

 
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shopping below

 
 

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions we shot this scene with the Nikon COOLPIX P100, the Panasonic Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 and the Canon PowerShot SX30 IS.

The lenses on all three cameras were set to approximate the same field of view and ISO was manually set.

The above shot was taken with the the COOLPIX P100 in Program mode with the lens at a wide angle setting of 4.6mm (26mm). The ISO sensitivity was set to 160 ISO and the exposure was 0.6 of a second at f2.8. The crops are taken from the area marked with the red square and presented below at 100%.

The COOLPIX P100’s unusually high base ISO sensitivity setting might cause you to think twice about considering it. After all, at 160 ISO it’s at twice the level of the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 and PowerShot SX30 IS, both of which start at 80 ISO. But as our crops below show, there’s no real need for concern. At the base 160 ISO sensitivity setting the COOLPIX P100 produces a more than acceptable result that compares very favourably with the 100 and even the 80 ISO crops from its competitors. We wouldn’t go so far as to say noise is entirely absent from the 160 ISO crop, but you have to look very closely to spot it and it certainly wouldn’t be noticeable at anything other than a 100 percent view.

At 200 ISO the story is much the same, though with only a 25 percent increase in sensitivity (the ISO scale is arithmetic so a doubling of the ISO number means a doubling in sensitivity or, to look at it another way an increase of one stop) that’s perhaps not surprising.

At 400 ISO we start to see some of the detail disappearing from the stone column on the left of the crop and there’s a softness creeping in that wasn’t there before. At least it’s uniform, though, and there’s no evidence of localised detail smearing that you sometimes get with too aggressive noise reduction. At 800 ISO it’s softer still and at 1600 ISO the softness has aquired a slightly clumpy texture. but even at these high ISO settings the results are very useable. At 3200 ISO the P100 finally loses the noise battle and the image is starting to break up quite badly. It’s not nearly as bad as some 3200 ISO full resolution modes we’ve seen though.

At the lower ISO settings the COOLPIX results are on par with those from the Panasonic Lumix FZ45 / FZ40. As we’ve said, the 160 ISO crop from the COOLPIX P100 looks every bit as good as the 80 and 100 ISO crops from the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40. At 200 ISO the COOPIX P100 edges ahead with a sharper more detailed crop and from there all the way up we’d say the P100 produces better results, slightly softer but with significantly less noise and more image detail than the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 crops.

There’s less of a readily discernible difference between the noise performance of the COOLPIX P100 and the PowerShot SX30 IS. Again there’s not much to differentiate between the 160 ISO setting on the COOLPIX P100 and the 80 and 100 ISO settings on the PowerShot SX30 IS. We think the COOLPIX looks better at 200 and 400 ISO though, before the PowerShot pulls it back to neck and neck at the 800 and 1600 ISO settings.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that the COOLPIX P100 has a full-resolution 3200 ISO setting whereas the Panasonic and Canon cameras have to make do with reduced resolution high ISO modes. What’s more, the COOLPIX P100’s 3200 ISO setting produces better quality results than the limited resolution offerings of the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 and PowerShot SX30 IS, and even gives their 1600 ISO settings a close run.

Now head over to our Nikon COOLPIX P100 gallery to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

Nikon COOLPIX P100
 
Panasonic Lumix FZ45 / FZ40
 
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS
80 ISO Not available
80 ISO
80 ISO
160 ISO
100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
3200 ISO
3200 ISO (High Sens scene mode)
2500 ISO (Low Light scene mode)
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