Wednesday, December 28, 2011

COMPARISON: Nikon 1 V1, Fuji x10, & Canon s100 (plus Fuji x100 and Canon G12 & s95) UPDATED: 12/28/11

Nikon 1 V1, Fuji x10, Canon s100 & G12 - Click for a larger view
Nikon 1 V1, Fuji x10, Canon s100 & G12

The Nikon 1 V1, Fuji x10, & Canon s100 (plus Fuji x100 and Canon G12 & s95) all have something in common this holiday season – they are collectively the hottest high quality compact cameras on the market. While some like the s95/s100 may be classified as a “point and shoot” camera, I really put all of these cameras above and beyond the typically low quality consumer cameras that we call point and shoots.

This article is the home page for other articles that cover each camera individually. I’ll send this series with a comparison article(s) that will cover how they compare in more depth. Please check back often to see links to new updates as my goal is to complete this series by mid-December 2011.

What about the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1, etc…?

Noticeably absent from this line up is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1, but the reason is simple – I just could only do so much so I focused on the cameras I was most interested in. I’ve borrowed a friends DMC-GX1 briefly and it seemed like an okay camera, but I had my hands full with this comparison so other cameras simply didn’t make the cut. My apologies to the Lumix fans out there.

What do you mean by plus Fuji x100 and Canon G12 & s95?

When writing this article I had “on hand” the four cameras shown in the photo at the top of the page, but you can also read my existing reviews on the G12, s95, and x100. I am very familiar with those cameras and I own a G12 (as well as having extensive experience with the G9, G10, and G11) . However, the x100 and s95 was not on-hand for a side, by side comparison during my testing. I have all of my data from testing them previous and will discuss that during this comparison.

My Testing Methodology

While these cameras are DLSR-like, they are not DSLR’s. Instead, they are more portable so I wanted to test these cameras as my alternative camera for times when I didn’t want to have my bulky DSLR. As a result, the types of photos I’d take or situations I’d be in with these cameras are entirely different than what I’d do with DSLR’s. In short, I used these as every day practical cameras not only for myself, but I also shared it with my wife and friends to give me their subjective feedback on the real-world usefulness of these cameras. In fact, some of my friends might choose these as their step up from their current crappy point and shoot as a DSLR-alternative, so my testing drew lots of interest.

I carried one or more of these cameras to normal day to day activities and shot them as I’d normally shoot my G12 or iPhone. While I typically modified the settings to capture RAW files (when possible), I did try to take advantage of the auto features of these cameras and use their in-camera JPEG’s as much as possible. I did this because my idea behind owning one of these cameras is to sacrifice some quality (over a DSLR) in exchange for portability, easy of use (i.e., literally point, shoot, and move on), and faster post-processing times (either print or upload to the web “as is” from the in-camera JPEG, or only minor Lightroom edits).

At the conclusion of my testing I did put all of these cameras on a tripod and did various testing using different modes, focal lengths, ISO, etc… This testing is primarily for my own use, but I will share some of those images and data in this series. However, I’m not trying to replace what DPReview.com does – they have a staff and its their full-time job, so they can do a lot more than me.

If you want a scientific comparison to pixel peep until your eyeballs dry out, then go to dpreview.com. If you want a subjective opinion of Ron Martinsen, his wife and friends on what these cameras are REALLY like to own and use on a daily basis then you a have come to the right place. My goal of this comparison, much like I’ve done in my tripod & ball head series, noise reduction roundup, lens rental series, printing series, and web hosting series is to give you MY personal opinion of which product I like the most based on my own personal preferences. I test them as scientifically as I care to so I can try to eliminate any bias or preconceived notions, but the winner(s) here will be the camera(s) that I’d actually go out and buy (at B&H’s normal prices) just like you. I’ll also consider which camera my wife would want as well as she’s the one who will use it most often, and while image quality is important so are size, features and ease of use.

Detailed Review List & My First Impressions

Click the review link next to name of the camera below to see my full review. If there is no hyperlink then I haven’t published the review yet, but it is coming soon. I’m also including what my first impressions of each camera was which may differ from my final opinion based on my looking at the detailed data I’ve collected during testing. The cameras are currently listed in the stack ranked order from most favorite to least favorite based on my opinion today, but this list order may change before this article is 100% done – stay tuned.

  1. Fujifilm FinePix x10 (P&S of the Year Review) – While this camera lacks some of the ease of use and creature comforts of the Canon G12, this camera is everything I hoped it would be and more when I reviewed the x100. I loved the image quality of the x100, but I thought it was pretty spendy, quirky, and impractical as a camera for my wife. The x10 sacrifices a little in image quality compared to the x100, but sheds a lot in price. It also works extremely well as a point and shoot for my wife and friends, and lacks most of the quirkiness/bugs of the x100. In short, I love this camera for still photos, ease of use, and excellent video. In fact, I loved this one so much that I bought the copy I reviewed.
  2. Canon G12 (review) – While this camera lacks 1080p HD video, the killer high ISO performance, and dynamic range of the non-Canon cameras in this comparison, it is still a tough camera to beat. It’s hard dials make it super easy to switch to non-full auto modes and dial in the result to get the shot. My wife knows or cares nothing about geeky camera terms, but she quickly learned and loved how she could dial in a higher ISO or do an exposure compensation to get the shot. She couldn’t define or explain either to you, but she knows to rotate those dials to make the blurry images go away or modify the image brightness. She’s also appreciated the durability as this rides in her bottom diaper bag compartment where it takes a beating daily. She’s enjoyed the pivoting display so she can capture herself in photos or videos with the baby. However, the feature she enjoys the most is the speed – in short, when she uses this camera she usually gets the shot about 90% of the time (which is higher than me my DSLR as I’m usually too busy dialing in my settings). Regardless of what I do, my wife may not give up this camera without a fight.
  3. Nikon 1 V1 (review) – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the idea of a “mini-DSLR” to me is just stupid. I say this because you end up with a new proprietary system where you have to buy lenses and ultimately get trapped to stick with the platform. However, these systems offer less quality and cost more than the lower-end DSLR’s by Canon and Nikon. These cameras are also not very light or portable, so they fall into this gray area where they suck as a DSLR and they are too heavy/cumbersome to be a point and shoot. With that gripe out of the way, it is fun having these tiny lenses, a killer LCD on the back, and outstanding video quality in a package this small. However, the thing that really drives me the most insane about this camera is how Nikon buries nearly all of the controls in menus rather than having lots of external buttons (which is effectively their advantage / trademark when comparing with Canon). The exterior is so dumbed down that it can be infuriating at times. The full-manual mode wasn’t too bad once I got used to it, but I’ve just got to be able to have quick access to ISO and exposure compensation. I couldn’t’ do that with this camera and that really annoyed me. This is a good camera, but it really doesn’t belong in this comparison as a comparison against the DMC-GX1 would make more sense. That said, my review will still treat it fairly and tell you what I really think (i.e., it doesn’t suck). I will say right now for Christmas shoppers that it doesn’t have a significant edge in image quality over the cameras in this comparison which I think is due to cheap quality lenses, so don’t rush out to buy this thinking it can be like a mini D3000 – it’s not even close .  (NOTE: I did use the sexier J1 at the Expo in New York and was underwhelmed – I’d definitely go for the V1 over the J1 any day) 
  4. Canon s100 (review) – I really struggled where to place this camera because it’s the most pocketable camera in the bunch and it is statistically so good. Canon has also packed it full of great features like built-in GPS tracking, a huge LCD on the rear for its size, amazingly good high ISO performance up to 6400, and an innovative ring selector on the front that is programmable so you can have your favorite feature readily accessible without going into menus. With that love aside, I don’t think it doesn’t live up to the hype. I’ve been very unimpressed with the build quality and reliability of both the s95 and s100 I’ve tested. I also find that despite how it seems on paper when you compare it to the G12, the reality is that when you are out shooting kids doing activities its shutter lag is annoying and it repeatedly underwhelms me with the images that come out of it. While you can use the High-Speed Burst HQ scene mode to get a fast burst of 8 shots, RAW is not supported and frequently the subject is out of focus. I’d rather have a 3 megapixel version of this camera that had much better dynamic range and faster performance than this dog. Despite its great stats on paper, a car analogy is in order – it’s much like comparing a Ford Mustang GT to a Porsche Cayman S. While the Mustang might fare well on paper, and looks are subjective, when you actually use both you realize there is no comparison. My wife liked the s95 when she compared it to the G12, but we ultimately went with the G12, Now that she’s a seasoned G12 owner, but she lasted 10 minutes with this camera before she handed it back to me in disgust and resumed using the G12. She said she still loved the compact size, but we made the right decision getting the G12. I couldn’t agree more.

From here, the Fujifilm FinePix x100 (review) would be next on my list despite all of its quirkiness and lack of a zoom lens. This camera just feels like quality your hands and it draws you in with its cool geeky features (like the innovative optical AND digital viewfinder). I couldn’t justify buying one and my wife could never live with it, but if someone gave me one for Christmas I’d be pretty jazzed. It just has an addicting quality to it much like a super fun but frustratingly hard video game.

The Canon s95 (review) can’t keep up with the s100, so if you’ve got to have a camera that size then go with the s100 – it is better. It does everything the s95 does, but better in my opinion. However, the s95 is dirt cheap this holiday season as the channel tries to sell out their remaining inventory, so if price is your only concern then you probably won’t find a better deal.

Video Comparison (NEW)

Click here to see my article where I compare the video of the s100, x10 and V1 of a subject all recorded at the same time in identical conditions.

Upgrade your Lightroom & Adobe Camera Raw

Photoshop will require Adobe Camera Raw 6.6 and you will need Lightroom 3.6 to use the RAW file format of the Nikon 1 V1 (*.NEF), Fujifilm Finepix x100 (*.RAF), or the Canon s100 (*.CR2). If you don’t have those versions you can still read those image formats using the latest versions of Capture NX2 (2.2.8+), SILKYPIX (3.2.5.0 & up), and DPP (3.11 & up).

The Perfect Case For These Cameras

Nikon wants $60 for their case, but I found the BlackRapid SnapR 35 to be a brilliant choice with the V1. I use the SnapR 20 with my X10 as well, and it would work for the s100 as well. I’ll be posting my review soon, but it’s basically a nice case with a built-in mini BlackRapid strap (see my RS-7 review) that is brilliant for point and shoot cameras. You can see above how there is room for this camera with plenty of extra space. There’s also nice side-pocket storage as shown below to hold your accessories on both sides:

If you aren’t familiar with this case and its unique strap, then check out this cool short video. You can purchase it in various sizes at B&H.

A Simple Portable Tripod

While reviewing these camera I got my hands on a Gary Fong Flip-Cage Pro, so I used it as my tripod when I was out and about. The Pro size is needed for the V1, G12 & X10, but a smaller size flip cage can be used with typical point and shoots like the s100.

Conclusion

None of these cameras are bad cameras. In fact, compared to most consumer products out there they are excellent. The s100 may be my least favorite, but it is a joy to use and comes in the perfect package. The Nikon 1 V1 seems pointless to me, but it can take a decent photo and the interchangeable lenses open up new options. With that said, all are good but only one is great – the Fujifilm X10.

I love the X10 so much that I’ve actually purchased my evaluation unit from B&H. If I was buying for my wife only I'd wish a G12 replacement was out, but she loves the X10 based on our real world experiences at Thanksgiving, in Hawaii, and Christmas (including Christmas lights outdoors). The other cameras are nice and have their benefits, but my money goes to the X10 for the best overall performance.

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Where to Buy

B&H made this comparison possible at a time when it was near impossible to get access these cameras. Please support this blog and their generosity by using the following links when you make your purchase:

Disclosure

While most popular blogs have mechanisms for generating revenue, few disclose it. I believe in transparency so I will disclose that B&H has given me an extended return period to review these cameras, but I returned the s100 and V1 when I was done. I purchased the X10 based on my findings at an open box discounted price.

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16 comments:

Chris said...

Ron what about the Nikon Coolpix P7100. That runs side by side with the Canon G12. What's your take between the two? Nikon definitely outshines it with the zoom.

Ron Martinsen said...

Hi Chris,

Thanks for your comment about the P7100. To be honest I haven't had a chance to look at it yet. There's so many cameras in this class that I've only focused on the ones that are getting the most buzz from the people in my circles. In the past I was always very dissapointed with the Coolpix cameras, so I went with Canon. Even many of my pro colleagues who shoot with Nikon use the Canon G-series cameras so I don't think I was the only one. Times change and new products are introduced which is why I decided to test the Nikon 1 V1, but it is the only one I have time to test for now.

If things change I'll be sure to update the article. Thanks for your suggestion!

Ron

Patrick Dinneen said...

Hi,
Very nice article.
There are a load of cameras in this group, including the Samsung TL500, Olympux ZX-1.
But you're right, it'd take too long to review them all, let alone get your hands on them.

I like your review, not techincal slanted, more a general feel & thoguhts on them.

The X10 does look lovely and the fact that the viewfinder is meant to be 1/2 decent helps...

figeloal said...

I like your comparisons, but I do think it is a little unfair to add the S100 here. My reason being that the S100 is pocketable where none of the others are (unless you have big pockets which my wife doesn't).
Having to sacrifice size versus picture quality we thought that the S100 was the one worth getting :)

Ron Martinsen said...

Fair argument, but I am really looking at this from the perspective of DSLR alternatives (i.e., the camera a photographer would bring to a family dinner, Disney vacation, etc...). I do point out the pocketabilty of the s100 and in the review I point out its strengths.

This article is much more meaningful when you read the reviews for each camera. I'm a little easier on the Nikon and Canon in those reviews.

Ron

Tofuphotography said...

I bought the Nikon Coolpix 7100 and was very disappointed with the image quality and the zoom at extended distances was hard to focus on and get shatrp pictures. I have the S100 and am very happy with it. As you rightly point out, it is not a DSLR alternative. But as a genuine compact it is hard to beat :-)

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of the Fuji X10 but 28mm equivalent is just not wide enough. I bought the panasonic LX5 for the 24 wide end and it is one fine camera to carry around. Works flawlessly and the image quality is good enough for newspaper work any day.

If they make a wider angle on the next iteration I'll be very interested.

Ron Martinsen said...

Thanks for the feedback!

The brilliant pano mode addresses any wide concerns I might have had, but it's actually not been an issue in my real world use.

InSitu said...

Hi Ron. Thanks for the great comparison review. So refreshing to see such a comprehensive "everyday use" review!

I've been agonising over the X100 after finally deciding that either the X10 or S100 were actually more suitable for what I shoot most of the time. I had pretty much decided on the X10 (because of the superior IQ) but subsequently have heard about the white disc" or "blooming" issue that some X10 owners have experienced when shooting at bright light sources. Have you yourself had any experience or problems with these white discs? Would really appreciate your advice.

So frustrating! If Fuji don't release a firmware update by end of Jan I might just go with the S100.

Ingar Hesleskaug said...

After an intense search and reading of tests for the purpose of buying a compact which let me the Nikon D300 with 16-85 zoom stay at home while I travel in Europe this summer, my "top three" coclusion is:
1) Fujifilm X-10
2) Canon G-1X
3) Nikon Coolpix P7000/7100
.....because I agree with Ron: system compacts is rubbish!
Any comments out there? :-)

IngarH

Ingar Hesleskaug said...

....and taken the price into consideration, Canon is "out". Now I feel that Nikon doesn't really have an adequate camera in the "advanced retro" family, but Fujifilm have a really nice X-serie which flirts with the Leica-design in a perfect way. Nikon Coolpix P7xxx is a start in the same direction, so I hope they give us a Nikon coolpix P7200 with

- Fujifilm X100 design incl brown bag
- at least Fujifilm X10 features
- nanocoated lenses
- X100 viewfinder
- Aps-c cmos sensor

And, may be difficult, but I would like to see a combination of the manual shutter speed control wheel AND the P, S, A, C1,C2 +++options as well the aperture control ring on the lens.

Then I pay €800 with a smile, and may be, € 1000 with a not so nice smile, but it would be a "must have!".

Have a nice weekend, folks!

//IngarH

Anonymous said...

Hi, compliment for your blog.
And great comparision!!!

I have a question: in the common use you can confirm that the canon s100 have little bit better image quality than G12? I have seen your gallery and this is my impression...also flickr is another example, but both not scientific. While experience for me is the best judge! In this case your..=)

P.S.: I tell only about IQ (sharpness first) of this two cameras, without considering other parameters.

Sorry for my bad english.
Thanks a lot

Lorenzo

Ron Martinsen said...

Lorenzo,

The s100 has better in-camera processing of its images than the G12. If you process your own RAW files then you can get roughly the same results from the G12 as the s100.

The X10 blows away both the s100 and G12 in terms of image quality.

Ron

Anonymous said...

Thank you Ron for your rapid response.
Now I understand what you mean with "same image quality" for these two cameras.
In your opinion, it's now that enter other characteristics?

For G12: better manual control, building, flip out lcd, quality of lens, zoom 140 f4.5, battery..
And for S100: better quality in low light (CMOS sensor digic V= high ISO performance), wide angle 24 f2.0, pocket ability..
(I don't consider Gps and video performance in this comparision. I think that more important the quality of image produced). Ok for GPS and Video but not primary.

Therefore, in day light have parity IQ, but in low light you think S100 won?
From what I could see on internet, G12 is usable up to ISO 800, after noise is too high. S100 takes I lot of advantage in this condition? This advantage is appreciable in your experience? Or is still the post-production to give same results.
I would prefer an object with both features ....eheh! But, for now, I'll have to make a choice. Because I want to go in Paris in March (I already have DSLR EOS 550d) and I don't think Canon release a substitute g12 soon, there is G1X now(much expensive)!
It 'hard to keep up with technology, especially when factories increase an improvement at a time (my critical opinion).

About Fuji X10....great camera! Indeed, it would be my choice, but I'm afraid for "WHITE DISC".
If you want to express an opinion on this I will be very happy!

(Sorry for my bad english)
Best regards

Lorenzo

Ron Martinsen said...

Lorenzo,

The white disc issue with the X10 is blown WAY out of proportion. Some people just have too much time on their hands to pixel peep. Go check out http://ronmart.smugmug.com/blog/pointandshoot/x10 where I randomly posted 125 photos and http://ronmart.smugmug.com/travel/hawaii where I have a bunch more X10 shots. All of these X10 shots are straight out of the camera without processing (some in Hawaii gallery have editing and some come from 1DM4) and I don't see any white discs. In fact, after taking thousands of shots with my X10 I've never seen this issue. The examples I see on the web just look like typical flare issues to me.

The quality of the X10 blows away the Canon cameras. It's no comparison. In fact, the dynamic range in extreme mixed light conditions favors my X10 over my 1D Mark IV and 5D Mark II.

Go look at my G11 article. I regularly shot at ISO 800 to 1000 with my G12 and it did better than the excellent performance I got from the G11.

If your primary goal is that you want a super small camera then get the s100. If image quality is most important than get the X10. If camera features and easy of access to the manual controls is important then get the G12.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ron,

I searched informations and examples about white disc; I totally agree with you. It's attributable/comparable at normal lens flare. Only if you enlarge photo you can see circular form, that yes, it's maybe circular more than other...but in a normal print dimension I think that's ok.

I've seen also your X10 gallery....fantastic..really fantastic...! Especially range of colour, sharpness and ISO performance!

You have illumineted me on my choise. I hope that article can help other people like me.

I think that portability is too important for be in condition to shot much time as possible with our equipement, and I know that this concept includes also "portability".
But I know the results are important too. When you arrived at home and download photographs if you aren't satisfied of results I tell: yes I have with me my camera, but "bleaaaa"..... X10 is not S100, that you can insert on a jeans pocket but into a small bag yes..I don't see this an enormous sacrifice!!!
To conclude I prefer be inclined to IQ....much more satisfaction at the end...this is my opinion.

Thank you so much for your answers.

Lorenzo