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DxOMark logo. Click to visit the dxomark.com website! DxO Labs compares sensors of latest advanced compacts to SLRs
(Friday, December 11, 2009 - 13:12 EST)

In addition to adding six new DSLRs to their database (Canon EOS 7D; Nikon D300s & D3000; Pentax K-7; and Sony A500 & A550), DxOMark has looked at a couple of compact enthusiast cameras, the Canon G11 and S90, as well as the Olympus E-P1, to see just how they stack up at a sensor level vs current DSLRs.

With their larger sensors, DSLRs have it all over pocket cameras when it comes to image quality. Over the long haul, they always will, too: There's no getting around basic physics.

Advances do continue to be made, though, and it's impressive just how good recent digicam sensors have become. How good? - DxO has just published an article comparing performance of the recent Canon PowerShot G11 and S90 models (which share the same sensor) with that of other cameras, including DSLRs. They've also added results for the Olympus E-P1, which contends in the "enthusiast pocket camera" market space, albeit at a somewhat larger size, and with a larger Four-Thirds format sensor.

Based on their DxOMark sensor metric, DxO notes that compact-camera sensor performance generally is now "only only 1 to 2 stops away from entry-level DSLRs." DxO also tried normalizing their DxOMark Sensor data to factor out the effect of differences in sensor size, to produce a "performance per unit of surface" figure of merit. In what's sure to be a controversial note, they claim that the G11 and S90 do better on a per-area basis than the current top-performing 35mm-format DSLR, the Nikon D3x.

It's of course critical to note here that DxO isn't (remotely) saying that images from the S90/G11 are as good as those from the D3x. They're not; the D3x blows them into the long weeds by pretty much any measure: It apparently just doesn't blow them quite as far as one might expect, given the huge difference in sensor size. It also has to be pointed out that the DxOMark Sensor figure of merit is a composite one, computed from separate scores for Color Depth, Dynamic Range and High-ISO performance, and the specific weighting between these isn't stated. Make no mistake, there's a vast difference in high-ISO performance between large sensors and small ones, and some will surely argue that the particular weighting used by DxO in developing their Sensor Mark metric pays too little attention to this. Interesting fodder for discussion, nonetheless.

Of course, as the old saying goes, what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander: As technology continues to advance, the things Canon is doing on the S90/G11 sensor are bound to appear in other makers' sensors as well, including large-area models for DSLRs. Also, the S90/G11 just happen to be the best-performing compacts DxO has tested to date: It would be very interesting to see how Sony's back-illuminated Exmor-R technology plays out on this scale, as that takes an entirely different approach to increased light sensitivity.

One thing is certain, though: Compact cameras have come a long ways over the last few years. Remember when usable ISO 400 and truly great color from a compact digicam seemed like an unreachable dream? Will we one day look back and say the same about usable ISO 6,400, or shake our heads in disbelief that anyone ever put up with the limitations of sRGB? It's hard to say at this point, but certainly exciting to contemplate...

For all the details, see DxO Labs' "Are top compact cameras catching up with DSLRs?" article.

Original Source Press Release:

New dxomark.com camera sensor performance analysis compares latest Advanced Compacts vs. DSLRs RAW image quality

DxO Labs also adds detailed RAW image quality measurements on dxomark.com for Canon PowerShot G11, S90 and EOS 7D; Sony A500 and A550; Pentax K7; and Nikon D300s and D3000

December 11, 2009 - DxO Labs announces today the publication of detailed RAW-based image quality data and DxOMark Sensor rankings on its popular www.dxomark.com website for a range of Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony digital cameras, including some of the latest models in the advanced compact and DSLR categories.

"A new compact camera category, sometimes referred to as Advanced Compacts, has emerged, bringing to photographers many advanced features, in particular being able to shoot in RAW," said Nicolas Touchard, Vice President of Marketing, DxO Labs Image Quality Evaluation. "Since these compact-style models, such as the Canon G11 and S90 or the Olympus EP1, are targeting demanding amateurs, we found interesting to analyze their sensor performances in comparison with entry-level DSLRs such as the Nikon D3000, Sony A230, or Canon 1000D. Such comparison is particularly relevant given that the two categories have overlapping price ranges."

dxomark.com results indicated that the best Advanced Compacts demonstrate remarkable image quality performance, especially considering their very compact form factor: overall, the difference between the top models from the Advanced Compact category and the entry-level DSLRs is only about 1 to 2 stops. And as these new compact cameras can shoot in RAW, demanding photographers can match the JPEG image quality of entry-level DSLRs by using the most advanced PC or Mac RAW conversion software solutions, which can recover the one to two stops of dynamic range that these compacts are missing.

In addition to the advanced compact model data, DxO Labs has also published the performance results on dxomark.com for some of the latest DSLR models featuring APS-C size sensors from various manufacturers: Sony (the A500 and A550); Nikon's new D300s model (clearly showing improvement over the D300); the results of the long-awaited EOS 7D from Canon; and lastly, the ranking for the Pentax K7.

About dxomark.com
Sponsored by DxO Labs, a company focusing on image processing technologies, www.dxomark.com is a free online resource that delivers key objective sensor performance metrics measured directly on the RAW image for a variety of cameras. As a result, dxomark.com makes it possible for the first time to assess the intrinsic quality of a camera before the impact of any RAW conversion and independent of its optics.

The site also features a simple scale, DxOMark Sensor, for analyzing and comparing RAW image quality. The DxOMark Sensor scale is mapped to real-world photographic scenarios such as portrait, landscape, and action photography, ensuring that the scale is relevant to photographers.

dxomark.com's goal is to serve the imaging community, particularly the photo press. Photography journalists and experts can now complement their analyses and reviews with an objective evaluation of intrinsic camera performance, regardless of optics or processing considerations.

For more information, visit www.dxomark.com.

About DxO Labs
DxO Labs offers products and solutions that provide excellence in digital imaging. In addition to its DxO Optics Pro and DxO FilmPack products for Mac and Windows, designed for serious and demanding photographers, the company also licenses patented intellectual property serving the entire digital imaging chain:

  • Embedded software and silicon architectures for real-time still and video image processing, for consumer electronics OEM/ODM (such as digital camera and camera phone vendors);
  • Image quality evaluation and measurement tools, for imaging component suppliers (camera module manufacturers, sensor vendors, and processor vendors) as well as for photography journalists and imaging experts.

For more information, visit DxO Labs website at www.dxo.com

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