Travel compacts Grouptest: Image Quality
Canon SX230 HS
The Canon's marginally bright exposures can cause highlight detail to roll off sooner than with some of the others here, and colour is a little on the neutral side, but otherwise it puts in a good all-round performance. Detail is high across its sensitivity range, while image noise levels remain low and unobtrusive. It does lose a little of its magic touch with chromatic aberrations, though, which are visible at both wide and telephoto ends of the camera's lens.
With its sensor-changing EXR technology the F550 EXR handles low-light situations well, but it's perhaps just as well that it features a Raw option as its high-contrast jpeg results won't be to everyone's liking, nor will the distortion at the lens's wideangle setting and the occasional underexposure in brighter conditions. Auto white balance performance is fine, though, and those using the EXR modes appropriately or shooting in Raw should be more than pleased.
The TZ20 does an excellent job in a number of areas, particularly with regards to exposure and colour reproduction. Its white balance system is also generally sound and it's also a fine candidate for video recording. Its Achilles heel, however, is image noise, which is a problem at all sensitivities, and the camera's efforts to reduce this only compromise detail retention further.
It's a shame the S9100 lacks the manual control offered by the others here, and straight out of the camera results aren't quite as good as they could be. White balance can be a little cold and colour lacklustre, while the Vibration Reduction systems struggle a little at the telephoto end of the camera's objective. Nevertheless, image noise control is very good as is detail in images shot at higher sensitivities, while video quality is the best of the group.
Together with the Canon, the Samsung WB650 produces some of the best-exposed images straight out of the camera, and its white balance system scores highly too. Like the Panasonic TZ20 it struggles with image noise at higher sensitivities, while the video recording leaves a lot to be desired. Still, for its more than reasonable price tag, we may be expecting too much here.
The HX7V's exposures are largely sound while flash performance is the best on test. Thanks to its backlit sensor design it also handles image noise very well at higher sensitivities, and does a mighty good job to record detailed video clips too. Sadly it's not all good news, and it falls down with its slightly inaccurate auto white balance system and often over-processed results.