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Comparing Digital Cameras by Pixel Peeping


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#1 Slim

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Posted 11 April 2015 - 11:32 PM

I thought it might be fun to take essentially the same photo with a few different digital cameras, then zoom in on a small region of the image to see how they compare. I was quite surprised by the results. This isn't a thoroughly scientific comparison and of course the test was only performed in one set of conditions. But I hope you find it interesting nonetheless.

This is the original view (from a Canon G16 in this case and resized). All the source images looked pretty much like this, albeit different sizes. In each case the lens was set to the same effective focal length (fixed in one case). All of the cameras were set to take images in the highest available quality JPEG format.

orig_view.jpg

So the idea was to examine more closely a central region of the imagine, with the white house.

First my Canon G16:

zoom_g16.jpg

Considering it's a small region of the image, thoroughly acceptable I would say. No surprises really.

Secondly, the Olympus 'Camedia' which was my first digital camera, bought in 2000:

zoom_olymp.jpg

This camera has a small fixed (non-zoom) lens but what we're really seeing here I think is the relatively low quality of the sensor - look at the noise in the sky and the surface of the walls. Obviously sensor technology has come a long way in the last 15 years. I also had to scale the image region up somewhat to match the sizes of the other images. Nonetheless the image looks thoroughly acceptable uncropped, even viewed at the original 1600x1200 resolution.

Thirdly, my Canon IXUS 145 - I bought this on a whim at Argos in Loughborough a few months ago. It was only £50, less than 1/5th of the price of the G16. It has no image stabilisation and no viewfinder. Yet look how sharp this small region of the image is! It's noticeably less contrasty but that could easily be adjusted off-camera. This really surprised me. On the other hand the grass in the foreground looks a little bit smudged. But the white-painted wrought iron feature to the left of the house (near  the entrance to the village green) looks pin-sharp.

zoom_ixus.jpg

Having checked the EXIF data it turns out that the IXUS chose a lower shutter speed, and a smaller aperture than the G16. Even so - while I haven't been impressed with the low light performance of this camera and won't be taking it to a gig again, it seems to be delightfully adequate for bright daylight use. Which is nice, because it's a very compact little camera.


Lastly, my Sony Xperia phone. This is a little unfair since it has a slightly wider angle than the other cameras examined here and so this is a proportionally smaller region of the image, but - it performs about the same as my old Olympus - quite adequate for snapshots, but nothing to get excited about.

zoom_sonyphone.jpg


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#2 Always the Winner

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Posted 11 April 2015 - 11:58 PM

Attached File  image.jpg   83.8K   8 downloads

This is the same image screen-shotted from an iPhone 5

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#3 Rush Didact

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Posted 12 April 2015 - 12:17 AM

Very interesting!



#4 grep

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Posted 12 April 2015 - 12:30 AM

Are you saving to raw or jpg ?

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#5 Feverish Flux

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Posted 12 April 2015 - 12:32 AM

Who are you spying on?


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#6 Three Eyes

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Posted 12 April 2015 - 01:13 AM

You've proven camera picture quality is getting better and, if you don't mind minimal bells and whistles, cheaper.


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#7 fenderjazz

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Posted 12 April 2015 - 03:03 AM

It's amazing how the newer cheaper cameras do.  I am looking mostly at the roofline where it joins the house, to me it is the greatest contrast and easier to see the line go crisp or blurry/pixelated.  I do prefer the G16 just slightly, but it's possible that it just did a better job with focus and exposure too like an expensive camera ought to.  I do think we get better raw quality today, due to better sensors but some of the features/exposure/focus may vary.  Good experiment!


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#8 Slim

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Posted 12 April 2015 - 08:13 AM

Are you saving to raw or jpg ?

 

JPG -  some of the cameras don't offer RAW anyway. I could tweak more image quality out of RAW files on the G16 but wouldn't be able to do that with the other cameras.



#9 C...

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Posted 12 April 2015 - 10:13 AM

I'm not sure if this is the right topic to ask, but...I have had the worst luck with digital cameras. The two I had that worked the best have broken, and the ones I do have that work never seem to take good pictures. I have tried fiddling with the different settings and still cannot manage to make my pictures look as good as everyone else. And forget about a cell phone camera; I have one of those old-ass phones that's about a step up from those brick phones from the '80s!


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#10 Slim

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Posted 12 April 2015 - 11:39 AM

Sorry to hear that, C. These days you should just be able to set the camera to 'auto' or 'program', point and shoot, and get decent results from most cameras. What is your preferred camera of the two you have?

 

There are a few photography fora out there where you can post images and get help. Lots of advice online about composition and so on, as well as the technical aspects.

 

I often crop my images a bit to recompose them, and tweak the contrast / sharpness etc in an image editor.



#11 Three Eyes

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Posted 12 April 2015 - 04:56 PM

I use the shotgun approach. I'll take 10 to 15 shots from different angles and light situations of a given subject and hope I get one that's presentable. I'll post a few of my "masterpieces" sometime.

 

And yes, use an image editor to bring out the most in your photos.


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#12 Three Eyes

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Posted 12 April 2015 - 05:17 PM

There are a few photography fora out there where you can post images and get help. Lots of advice online about composition and so on, as well as the technical aspects.

 

There are good how-to photography guides you can check out from your local library too. (Anybody remember libraries?) Here's a good one I've just begun reading. The first chapter is a lesson in the elements of photography. The rest of the book devotes separate sections to specific photographic subjects such as people, landscapes & nature, animals, architecture, events, artistic expression and other applications. Each section shows in a non-techie way how to photograph these particular situations with your digital camera.

 

triathalon-and-books-038.jpg


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#13 Tony

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Posted 12 April 2015 - 10:09 PM

I've just picked up a Panasonic GF6 for next to nothing (£99 manufacturer refurbished) and I am really happy with the results (so far only set to auto) but I need to move on up to the manual settings to get more control.
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#14 grep

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Posted 13 April 2015 - 01:06 AM

JPG -  some of the cameras don't offer RAW anyway. I could tweak more image quality out of RAW files on the G16 but wouldn't be able to do that with the other cameras.

 

I ask the question because you could well be comparing jpeg encoding algos.....

 

I'm still using a decade old Nikon D70's, and I see a clear difference between raw and the HQ jpegs it saves.

 

Just sayin.


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#15 smoog

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Posted 13 April 2015 - 01:41 AM

digital camera fuckin bit it when i was documenting petroglyphs in death valley last month (first day of a 6 night camping trip) so i used my note 4

 

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#16 C...

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Posted 13 April 2015 - 03:38 AM

The two cameras I had that worked best; one of them was a Vivitar and the other was a Sony. The Vivitar broke when I fell at one of the venues and the camera did not survive the fall as well as I did. The Sony was just super-old and stopped working one day. I probably liked the Sony best; those took the best pictures, I think.

 

The camera I have now is an off-name brand and it's so old that even a pawn shop won't take it anymore. The fact that it looks like a camcorder keeps me from taking it to many places, despite that I try to explain that it's a fucking camera and I'm not videotaping anything.

 

Anyway, I saw a Vivitar at Wal-Mart for $30 that I thought I would pick up. It's probably not the best I can get, being only $30, but I want a camera I can take to concerts and shoot decent photos. That's mostly what I use a camera for. I just want a camera that takes decent shots and that I don't have to futz around with different controls or settings for different light or times of day.


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~"Feeling lonely and content at the same time, I believe, is a rare kind of happiness" —Nightwish~
 
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#17 Slim

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Posted 13 April 2015 - 08:14 AM

I ask the question because you could well be comparing jpeg encoding algos.....

 

I'm still using a decade old Nikon D70's, and I see a clear difference between raw and the HQ jpegs it saves.

 

Just sayin.

 

Oh yes, that's certainly one of the variables. Encoding to JPEG inevitably introduces compression artefacts. So you've got the quality of the lens, the quality / size of the sensor, the resolution (pixel count) of the sensor and the quality of the JPEG encoding algorithm. In addition to that some cameras (nearly all modern cameras) do some on-board image processing before they encode to JPEG - most notably including image sharpening. All of these factors conspire to mess with the integrity of the scene you see in front of you before you press the button.

 

As you'll know if you've ever used an image editor you can encode JPEGs at varying levels of compression, the trade-off being that smaller (more compressed) images are lossier (lower quality). Storage space was much more at a premium on the old Olympus - the biggest card you could get for it was 128MB and I used a 32MB card for years, which allowed about 70 images to be stored. So even taking into account the fact that the images are inherently lower resolution before compressing, it's likely that tighter compression was used than Olympus would deploy on their cameras now. Additionally encoding methods have improved over the years and at a given file size, an image is likely to be of better quality than would have been the case years ago.

 

Having said all that - I still believe that the biggest difference between the Olympus and (say) the IXUS is the sensor and even if encoded losslessly, the image wouldn't be much improved.

 

I have also encoded all of these images to JPEG a second time by editing and saving them.


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#18 Slim

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Posted 14 April 2015 - 09:15 PM

Oh another variable to add to the list - camera shake. I tried to legislate against that a bit by taking two shots with each camera and choosing the best in this case. Some of my cameras have image stabilisation and to me that's something like magic.






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