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Image Quality Part Two: Best Cheap Compact System Cameras

Panasonic Lumix GF6

Despite featuring a sensor which is physically the same size as the Olympus PEN E-PL5, the GF6 manages to capture an impressive level of detail and sharpness, way ahead of the Nikon J3 and being more of a close challenger to the Canon EOS M in this regard.

GF6
ISO 800 and ISO 6400

Its performance across its ISO range is similarly strong, producing excellent noise-free images between ISO 160 and 1600. Heavy chroma noise does become apparent up to and above ISO 6400, and as a result this setting is best avoided.

The metering system does display a slight bias towards overexposure, with some instances resulting in highlights being blown and thus exposure compensation being called in to action.

GF6 1
ISO 800 and ISO 6400

On the other hand, the model’s Auto White Balance system is unerringly accurate, coping with a full range of lighting conditions admirably.

Samsung NX2000

Although the NX2000 sits firmly in the APS-C sensor camp, and thus should be able to capture impressive level of detail and a good level of sharpness, unfortunately heavy JPEG processing means that the final images do appear a touch over-sharpened.

NX2000 1
ISO 800 and ISO 6400

This over-sharpening also results in issues at higher ISO settings with regards to noise control and handling.

Although noise is well controlled throughout the lower end of the ISO range, as soon as you head above ISO 1600 noise becomes more of an issue and overtakes fine detail.

One real area of concern is the model’s metering system. The NX2000 displays a keen tendency to underexpose, with images produced on the camera noticeably darker than almost all of the other cameras in the group.

NX2000

Although this does mean that highlight detail is retained, if you want an even exposure you’ll have to dial in the exposure compensation to suit.


Sony NEX-5R

The NEX-5R’s sensor is capable of capturing an impressive level of detail, and is second only to the Canon EOS M in this regard, performance no doubt due to the APS-C sensor on board.

This larger sensor also aids the camera’s high ISO performance, and noise is well controlled throughout the lower end of the ISO scale. In fact, the NEX-5R produces relatively noise-free images right up to ISO 3200, and it’s only the two higher settings at which noise becomes an issue.

NEX-5R

While on the whole the NEX-5R’s Auto White Balance performance is good, it does create images a touch warmer than was either welcome or expected.

The model’s metering system is another area that’s slightly problematic, with the NEX-5R displaying a tendency to underexpose even when set to its standard multi-metering mode setting.

Sony NEX-5R

This underexposure does mean that detail is retained in the highlights, although for a truly even exposure it’s best to dial in to the exposure compensation to around 1 EV.

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