Fujifilm HS50EXR vs SL1000, Panasonic FZ70 / FZ72, Nikon P520 and Sony HX300

November 14, 2013

Monkeys sleeping and superzoom cameras at the bottom

In this article I will compare the Fuji HS50EXR versus Fuji SL1000, Panasonic Lumix FZ70, Nikon Coolpix P520 and Sony Cyber-shot HX300.  For those who are interested in the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, I recommend reading my Fuji HS50EXR vs Canon SX50 HS comparison. So what we have here are five very popular superzoom cameras. If you are reading these lines, I guess that you are slightly confused with the selection and can’t figure out which one to buy. Well. you came to the right place. After you finish reading this article, you’ll better understand the differences between the HS50 EXR, SL100, FZ70, P520 an HX300, and will be able to make a smart buying decision and pick up the camera that best for your needs.

I will start with a short introduction to each camera, so you can get a better understanding what each camera is all about and learn about its cons and pros. Some people have already passed some models in this section, and I recommend reading it thoroughly.

Let’s check out the current prices (as of 11/13/2013) before continuing to the comparison..

  • Sony DSC-HX300: $428.00
  • Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR: $378.70
  • Nikon Coolpix P520: $376.95
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70: $331.00
  • Fujifilm FinePix SL1000: $227.00

Prices via Amazon.com as of 11/13/2013 – visit amazon.com for updated prices.

Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR

Fujifilm HS50EXR superzoom cameraThe Fujifilm HS50EXR is the second most expensive superzoom in our comparison, below the HX300. It was announced on January 7, 2013 and since then it picked up high ratings in many leading camera review websites. At the heart of the camera there is a 16MP 1/2″ (6.4×4.8mm) EXR CMOS II sensor which is slightly larger than 1/2.3″ (6.17×4.55 mm) which can be found in many superzoom cameras. It’s still a relatively tiny sensor, and although the HS50 EXR can produce very high quality photos, it still has a limited capability in that regards due to the small sensor size, and I will talk more about that later on.

The EXR CMOS II sensor also employs an on-sensor high-speed phase-detection AF sensors. The same AF technology that is used in DSLR cameras. The camera can switch between contrast-detect AF and phase-detect AF depends on the scene, promoting a faster AF performance, as well as more accurate and faster locking on a fast moving subject. AF performance is something that lacks on many superzooms, so it’s great to see that Fuji has given some thought on how to improve that with its new generation superzoom.

The EXR CMOS II sensor can automatically detect the scene and select the optimal shooting mode. It also allows you to choose between HR (High Resolution) Mode, DR (dynamic Rang) Mode and SN (High Sensitivity and Low Noise) Mode which utilizes the color array in a different way for best image quality.

The HS50 EXR comes with a 24-1000mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.8-5.6 42x optical zoom lens. It’s behind some other cameras in terms of zoom factor (FZ70: 60x, HX300: 50x), but the difference is not big as you might expect at the tele-end, and nevertheless, this is an enormous zoom lens with a 24mm field of view (wide-angle) and super-macro (1.0cm) — which means that you can use this lens for landscape shots, macro, interiors, sports, travel, it’s a very versatile camera. The lens is coupled with Fuji’s very effective optical image stabilization, which is neccessary feature for such lens, especially when shooting at the tele-end and under low-light conditions.

What 42x optical zoom looks like? — Take a look at this HS50EXR zoom test video

Oh yeah! — That’s what I am talking about :) Mind blowing zoom.. You just can’t get those types of scenes with a 10x or even 20x optical zoom lens, what a reach!

The HS50EXR features Fuji’s latest technological innovation in the imaging department for the consumer category. Some of those features are 84x Intelligent Digital Zoom to create a relatively good looking rendering when enlarging the image by optimizing the image for a crisper and natural digitally-enlarged photo.

Other features include continuous shooting at 11 fps at full resolution (max. 5 sequence shots), 0.5 sec fast camera startup time, 0.5 sec  interval, overlapped continuous shooting for gorgeous night shots (combined several images to one),  The HS50 EXR can record Full HD movies at 60 frames per second with phase-detection AF, 42x optical zoom and you can even capture still photos while you record a movie.  Fuji also added a High Speed Movie mode, which allows you to shoot slow-mo vids at 120, 240 or 480 frames/sec. You have a Ø2. 5mm mic input which you can use to connect an external stereo microphone to enhance the audio quality. The FinePix HS50ER is not just a great stills camera, but also an advanced camcorder all-in-one.

At the back of the camera you’ll find a 920K-dot high-res Electronic viewfinder with an eye-sensor that turns the LCD off when you put your eye against the EVF. You get a 3-inch fully-articulated 920K-dot LCD display that will help you compose your shot in almost every angle, very useful when shooting videos, but great for stills as well. Among the other features are superb auto mode, raw capture, focus peak highlight, electronic level and tons of software-based effects, filters, motion Panorama 360 and manual controls.

There is a reason why so many online camera review’s websites love this camera so much and gave it a high score, it’s really an amazing camera to shoot with.

Fujifilm FinePix SL1000

Fujifilm Finepix SL1000 superzoom cameraAnnounced on January 7, 2013 — the SL1000 is the cheapest camera among the five cameras that we compare here.  Unlike the SL1000 (the more expensive model), it features a 16MP BSI-CMOS sensor, not Fujifilm’s unique EXR CMOS sensor, so it doesn’t enjoy its advanced functionality of using a different setting from the color array for optimal image quality.  It does however feature a 24-1200 mm 50x optical zoom lens, which provides slightly higher magnification and slightly higher 100x Intelligent Digital Zoom due to its base higher optical zoom. The SL1000 lens also lacks the Super EBC (Electron Beam Coating), which was designed to reduce ghosting and lens flare and promote better image quality.

The camera can shoot at 10 fps up to 9 frames, but it’s less responsive than the SL1000 (0.9 sec start up, 0.2 sec AF speed compared to the HS50EXR 0.5 sec startup and 0.05 sec AF speed).  At the back of the camera you’ll find a 920K-dot electronic viewfinder and a 3-inch 920K-dot LCD tilting display, not a fully articulating one as on the HS50EXR.

The SL1000 has more limited video recording capabilities. It can only shoot in 60i in full HD resolution, although it does offer the same slow-mo video recording functions as the HS50EXR (640×480 120fps, 320×240 240 fps, 240×180 480 fps).

Now let’s check what 50x zoom on the Fuji FinePix SL1000 looks like:

Is it a spy camera or telescope? — No, it’s the Fuji SL1000, and what huge zoom it got!

Although the SL1000 is a cheaper model, it still offers raw shooting functionality, many effects and filters to play with, built-in HDR, zoom bracketing mode and many other functions. It’s a step down from the HS50EXR with a bigger zoom and a slightly smaller sensor, but all in all it’s an excellent superzoom in it own right.

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72

the Panasonic FZ70 was announced on July 18, 2013 and it’s the newest ultrazoom among the five cameras, and it’s the cheapest after the SL1000.  Relatively cheap in price, but this camera is certainly not cheap in features.  With the Panasonic FZ70 / FZ72 it’s all about its amazing lens. Panasonic did spend less on other features in order to give you the biggest zoom lens of any superzoom in the industry.

We are talking about a Lumix DC Vario  60x optical zoom lens. This lens has a focal length of 1200 mm at the tele-end, same as the SL1000 and HX300, but listen to this — it is the only superzoom on the market, and if I am not wrong (correct me if I am), the only zoom camera to offer a 20 mm ultra wide-angle  lens, which provided 140% wider angle of view compared to a 24mm lens, which is what all the other cameras in this comparison has.

Let’s take a look at the numbers:

24mm (35mm equivalent):

Horizontal FOV: 73.7°
Vertical FOV: 53.1°
Diagonal FOV: 84.1°

20mm (35mm equivalent):

Horizontal FOV: 84°
Vertical FOV: 61.9°
Diagonal FOV: 94.5°


20mm vs 24mm FOV comparison illustration

20mm vs 24mm FOV comparison illustration

You can check out Nikkor lens simulator to get a better visual understanding of the differences between various focal lengths. To get the equivalent to 35mm, click the the two FX format buttons and drag the focusing lens slider.

A wider lens allows you to get more of the scene into the frame, which is great for indoor, architectural, landscape and group shots. This is something that is missing on many point-and-shoot camera, and finally we get to enjoy it on the FZ70. That’s a big plus in my opinion and something that you need to take into consideration, although it depends on your personal shooting style. I can tell you from my own experience, that for a travel camera, this is a big advantage and you will come home with better photos and unique shots that you won’t get with a 24mm lens.

So what 60x optical zoom looks like? — Take a look at this FZ70 / FZ72 zoom test shot handheld and observe the WOW-factor!

That video was shot handheld, and you can see as well that the Power O.I.S. Image stabilization is very effective in reducing camera shake and promoting a less-shaky video.

For those of you who still can’t understand what 60x means. A 60x is the division between the longest focal length to the smallest one. So if you divide 1200 (mm) by 20 (mm) you get 60 (x), and that’s the optical zoom factor. This also means that the FZ70 will give you the same exact field of view at the tele-end as the HX300 and SL1000, it’s just that with the FZ70 you get a wider field of view at the wide-angle.

Other features include 1080i60 video recording (interlaced, not progressive frames — which means lower quality than 1080p60) or 1080p30 (progressive frames). The FZ70 enjoys a superb sound recording with windshield zoom microphone that minimizes wind noise by ~70% compare to the FZ60, the FZ70 predecessor.

The FZ70 is less impressive when we look at the back of the camera, featuring a 3.0 460K-dot fixed LCD monitor and a low-resolution 202K-dot EVF, but Panasonic did improved the frame rate from 30 fps to 60 fps (max.) and reduced the image lag time.

As you can see, Panasonic did cut some corners here and there, and the most attractive feature in this camera is in no doubt, it’s 60x optical zoom lens with its ultra-wide angle lens.

Nikon Coolpix P520

Nikon Coolpix P520 cameraAnnounced on January 29, 2013 — the P520 third is the most expensive superzoom in our comparison, but costs around the same as the HS50 EXR. So with around the same price as the HS50EXR, you will probably have stronger debate between these two cameras if those two falls within your budget.

The Nikon Coolpix P520 has gotten some mixed reviews and was negatively criticized for its image quality compared to the competition, poor battery life, the lack of raw image format capture and slow performance. For many reviewers it felt that the P520 is too expensive for what it has to offer. It’s not a bad camera, but a modest one with a relatively high price tag. The lack of RAW  and the simplistic design that lacks direct access to frequently camera settings certainly left something to be desired.

Let’s look what the P520 does have.  The P520 has a 1/2.3″ (6.16×4.62 mm) 18.1MP CMOS sensor, and that resolution is certainly very high for such a tiny sensor — and that might explain what the image quality wasn’t on par with other cameras in this price range. The P520 is coupled with a 42x optical zoom Nikkor lens with a lens-shift optical image stabilization. This lens will give you the same magnification and field of view that you get with the FinePix HS50 EXR, both have a 24-1000 mm 42x optical zoom lens. The optical zoom is actually 41.7x to be exact, but it’s rounded to 42x, even on Nikon’s official website.

How 42x optical zoom looks like on the P520, let’s take a look..


The P520 however is the only camera in the group that feature a built-in GPS receiver, which automatically geotag images by embedding location data inside the photo metadata.  Other cameras need to use a Wi-Fi (whether built-in or via an adapter) to connect to an external mobile phone or tablet to get the geo-location data from, with the P520 you don’t have to do that. The P520 doesn’t have a built-in Wi-Fi, but it’s compatible with the WU-1a wireless mobile adapter ($46 on Amazon.com the last time I checked) that provided the WiFi connectivity and allows remote control and easy image sharing  (you’ll also need to install an Android or iOS Wireless Mobile Utility app for the camera to utilize its advanced remote functionality).

At the back of the camera you’ll find a 3.2-inch 921K-dot fully articulated display and a low-resolution 201K-dot electronic viewfinder with diopter adjustment wheel. The P520 can shoot at 7 fps at full resolution and record Full HD movies at 30p and 60i. You can buy the camera in black, dark gray or red colors.

If you read customers’ user opinions on Amazon, you can see that most of the customers are satisfied with their purchase but didn’t like the lack of RAW, lack of hot-shoe to connect an external flash, slow autofocus speed and a design that is more tailored towards beginners, less than towards the advanced photographer. All in all, a modest camera without anything particularly shiny to talk about.. except the big zoom of course.

 Sony Cyber-shot HX300

Sony cyber-shot HX300 superzoom cameraThe last in our list but not least is the Sony Cyber-shot HX300. The Sony DSC-HX300 was announced on February 20, 2013 and it’s the most expensive camera in our group as of the time of writing. This ultrazoom camera was praised by many online camera review’s web sites with positive feedback on its excellent image quality, very effective image stabilization, external design, fast burst and 1080p60 video recording, but was negatively criticized for being less feature-rich than the competition considering its high price tag. The HX300 lacks GPS, Wi-Fi, hot-shoe and can’t shoot in the RAW image format, which is quite ashamed considering its premium price.

Having said that, I think that most people who buy this camera don’t really care that much that the camera lacks a hot-shoe or raw capabilities, but GPS or/and Wi-Fi would have been a nice addition.

The HX300V features 1/2.3-inch 20.4 MP Exmor R CMOS sensor that according to Sony it a good match for the camera’s Carl Zeiss lens. However many reviewers have stated that this is maybe a resolution too high for such a tiny sensor, and I can’t agree more. This means that having such a high pixel count on such a tiny sensor won’t help to promote a more detailed image in practice due to the lens ability to resolve such high resolution.

The HX300 has a Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T* 24-1200 mm (equivalent) 50x optical zoom lens; The same optical zoom as the Fujifilm SL1000 for both the wide-angle and tele-end. Sony uses an effective 3-way optical image stabilization that has proven to be very effective, as well as an Active Stead Shot mode for smoother videos like when shooting video while walking.

What the Sony Cybershot DSC-HX300 zoom looks like? — Take a look at this test video (digital zoom off)..

You can clearly see that the amazing reach of this lens, WOW!

At the back of the camera you’ll find a 3.0-inch 921K-dots tilting LCD display and a 0.2 inch 201.6K-dots electronic viewfinder. Nothing exciting considering its price and I was expecting at least a high-resolution viewfinder, which would have been an excellent addition to the target audience that this camera is aimed for.

Customers who bought this camera love it for its excellent image quality and effective image stabilization for both stills and videos, manual focus ability, big zoom, accurate and fast autofocus. A great camera for wildlife photography, bird photography, as a travel camera for your next vacation, family pictures, etc.


Now that you’ve got a good understanding about the key features of each camera, it’s time to dig a bit deeper underground and better understand the differences between those five cameras in more details. In this section you’ll find a side by side specs comparison table which you can use to compare the Fuji HS50EXR specification and features against the Panasonic FZ70 / FZ72, Nikon P520 and Sony HX300 and see which one better fits your personal shooting style better.

Let’s take a look at a side by side comparison table where I compare the key specs of the HS50 EXR vs SL100, FZ70/FZ72, P520 and HX300.

Five cameras side by side size comparison

HS50EXR, SL1000, FZ70 / FZ72, P520 and HX300 side by side (click to view on camerasize.com)

HS50EXRSL1000FZ70 / FZ72P520HX300
AnnouncedJanuary 7, 2013January 7, 2013July 18, 2013January 29, 2013February 20, 2013
Dimensions134.9×101.3×145.9 mm
5.3×4.0×5.7 in.
122.7×88.6×122.6 mm
4.8×3.4×4.8 in.
130.2×97.0×118.2 mm
5.13×3.82×4.65 in.
125.2×84.1×101.6 mm
5.0×3.4×4.0 in.
129.6×93.2×103.2 mm
5.1×3.8×4.1 in.
(inc. battery and card)
808 g / 28.5 oz.659 g / 23.2 oz.606 g / 21.44 oz.550 g / 19.4 oz.650 g / 22.9 oz.
Build QualityPlasticPlasticPlasticPlastichigh-quality recycled plastic
The HS50EXR is the largest and also the heaviest camera of the five, but some of you might find it an advantage that improved handling and stabilization of the camera. The P520 is the smallest and lightest in the group. When viewing the cameras from the top and with the lens retracted, the HS50EXR is the longest long, SL1000 second and the others are pretty close in size. I wouldn't worry about that because non of them are pocketable anyways.

I personally prefer the SL1000 and HS50EXR grip and found it more comfortable for my big hands compared to the other cameras, with the P520 being the least comfortable one, but people with small hands will find the P520 to be quite comfortable, it's a personal preference.

The HS50EXR is the most robust when it comes to its buttons and dials, whether the SL1000 is the least sophisticated one. Both the HX300 and the P520 have a top custmomizable function button which you can setup to gain fast access to your preferred camera settings.
1/2" (6.4x4.8mm)
1/2.3" (6.17x4.55mm)
1/2.3" (6.17x4.55mm)
1/2.3" (6.16x4.62 mm)
1/2.3" (6.16x4.62 mm)
Max. Image Size4608 x 3456 pixels4608 x 3456 pixels4608 x 3456 pixels4896 x 3672 pixels5184 x 3888 pixels
Pixel Size~1.39μ~1.34μ~1.34μ~1.26μ~1.19μ
The most important spec to understand here is the pixel size. It doesn't necessarily means that the camera with the largest sensor is better, it also depends on the sensor's resolution. The bigger the pixel is the better, although the sensor technology and image processing have an impact on the image quality, regardless of the lens used.

The HS50EXR features the largest sensor and the biggest pixels. Sony criticized by many people for choosing to go with such a high-megapixel resolution and had them wonder how good this camera would have been if Sony decided to use 16MP instead of 20.4MP (I wonder too..).

The HS50EXR is the only sensor that takes advantage of Fujifilm's unique EXR CMOS technology (more info here) with a unique color filter array to maximize the image quality potential of the given sensor space. It's not a gimmick, and this sensor has proven to produce excellent results for various shooting conditions, whether you shoot high resolution images, you want an image with higher dynamic range of want the image with low-noise for low-light shots.
ISO100 - 12800*

ISO6400: image size M or lower
ISO12800: image size S
100 - 12800*

ISO6400: image size M or S
ISO12800: image size S
100 - 3200
(6400 with boost)
80 - 320080 - 3200 (400 - 12800 with boost)
Lens24-1000 mm f/2.8-5.6 (equiv.)
Fujinon lens
42x optical zoom

Aspherical lenses
ED lens
Multilayer Super EBC coating

Lens-shift image stabilization
24-1200 mm f/2.9-6.5 (equiv.)
Fujinon lens
50x optical zoom

Lens-shift image stabilization

Aspherical lenses
ED lens
20-1200 mm f/2.8-5.9 (equiv.)
Lumix DC Vario lens
60x optical zoom

6 aspherical lenses
8 aspherical surfaces
3 ED lenses

Lens-shift image stabilization
24-1000 mm f/3-5.9 (equiv.)
Nikkor lens
42x optical zoom

4 ED lens element

Lens-shift image stabilization

24-1200 mm f/2.8-6.3
Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T lens
50x optical zoom

1 superED glass element
2 ED glass elements
3 aspheric elements

Lens-shift image stabilization
(3-way Optical SteadyShot with Active mode)
FZ70 / FZ72 hs the biggest zoom among the five ultrazooms. Both the HX300 and SL1000 has the same reach at the tele-end, but the FZ70 is the only one here to offer an ultra-wide angle 20mm (35mm equivalent) field of view. A superb feature for travelers who want to capture great landscape and cityscape scenery views, great for interiors and architectural snaps. You'll come home with more unique photos and this is by far the most versatile lens on any ultrazoom on the market.

Considering it's sensor size, the HS50 EXR has the largest aperture area in 35mm terms at the wide-angle. The SL1000 has the slowest aperture at the tele compare to the HX300 and FZ70 which both have 1200mm reach.

Optic-wise, I am more impressed with the HX300, FZ70 and HS50EXR offering.

If you want the camera with the biggest zoom, the FZ70 offers toe most versatile zoom I've seen in any ultrazoom. Having said that, the image quality at the tele-end does play a significant role for many photographers, so keep that in mind.
Shutter Speed30 - 1/4000 sec.30 - 1/1700 sec.60 - 1/2000 sec.

Video: 1/20,000 sec
1 - 1/4000 sec

8 sec only at ISO 80/100 in P,S,A or M mode
30 - 1/4000 sec
Popup FlashYes
Continuous Shooting11 fps

(max. 5 frames)
10 fps

(max. 9 frames)
9 fps (max. 3 frames)

11 fps in 3MP (4:3)
7 fps (max. 7 frames)10 fps (max. 10 frames)
The HX50EXR has the fastest burst speed but a small buffer, therefore the SL1000 and HX300 is better -- you get a slightly slower speed but can shoot more sequence shots.
Video Recording
(max res; NTSC)



Stereo (Wind Shield Zoom minimizes wind noise by approx. 70%)
1080p15 (HS)


Slow-mo Videos640x480 120fps
320x240 240 fps
240x180 480 fps
640x480 120fps
320x240 240 fps
240x180 480 fps
N/A640x480 120fpsN/A
Mic InputØ2.5mmN/AN/AN/AN/A
The HX300 is the only one to offer 1080p60 (progressive) video recording, all the other shoot at 60i (interlaced frames), which means lower image quality at 60 fps.

The FZ70 shoot at 30p also and has the best mic in the group with its wind shield, but it lacks slow-mo and mic input.
WiFivia Eye-Fi cardvia Eye-Fi cardvia Eye-Fi cardcompatible with the WU-1a wireless mobile adaptervia Eye-Fi card
(geotagging images)
Battery Life
500 shots350 shots400 shots200 shots310 shots
LCD3.0 inches

Fully articulated
3.0 inches

3.0 inches

3.2 inches

Fully articulated

100% coverage
97% coverage
100% coverage
100% coverage
The HS50EXR and SL1000 have the highest resolution eye-level viewfinders -- but the HS50EXR also comes with a fully articulated LCD. The FZ70 is the least impressive with a fixed low-res LCD and a low-res eye-level viewfinder as well.

If you don't like shooting via the rear monitor, I recommend paying a good deal of attention to this feature. I personally dislike composing my shots via the rear LCD, and for me a high quality viewfinder is a must, and unfortunately it's rare to find a superzoom with an EVF with good / usable resolution.
AutofocusHybrid AF system

System can choose between Phase detection AF or Contrast AF depends on the shooting conditions.

0.05 sec. (super fast!)
Contrast AF

0.2 sec.
Contrast AFContrast AFContrast AF
AF Performance
FastAbove AverageAbove AverageBelow AverageFast

So how the HS50EXR fits into all this?

Well, the HS50EXR turned out to be an excellent choice for advanced photographers and family photographers looking for a travel ultrazoom. The HS50EXR is large and on heaviest in the group, and if this is not a problem, in return you gain a camera with a unique sensor design and large pixels, great zoom range with fast aperture at the wide-angle, fast 1/4000 sec shutter speed, fast burst (although limited frame buffer), slow-mo videos, high quality LCD and viewfinder, fast AF performance and well-designed body with very nice ergonomics — oh, and the battery life is very good as well!

On the negative side,  it doesn’t feature the same ultra-wide angle as the FZ70, same large bugger as the FZ70 and HX300, nor it has 1080p60 (progressive frames) or 1080p30 video recording or GPS. I think that the HS50EXR is overall the most attractive camera when it comes to stills photography, but behind others in the video department.

I really like the Panasonic FZ70 for its ultra-wide angle lens (20mm) and find this to be a very important feature for both outdoor and indoor photography, as well as for those who want to come home with photos that look a bit different, because 20mm gives a different perspective to view things.  We get a very big zoom, but the FZ70 lacks some features that some of you might want in your new camera, like 1/4000 sec shutter speed, larger buffer in burst mode, slow-mo video recording, mic input, built-in GPS, high-res viewfinder, high-res articulating LCD — all of those are missing on the FZ70. I think that if the FZ70 lacked the 20mm, it wasn’t such an attractive camera as it is with its 60x optical zoom, but let’s not forget that it’s cheaper than the HX300 and the HS50EXR as well.

It’s a good practice to spot the features that you must have in your next camera and follow that path, then moving into the features that you want to have and that will lead you to the final decision.  The specs comparison table above is a good way to spot those features and eliminate those cameras that doesn’t suit your personal shooting style or professional needs — depends on what the camera is used for.

If you are a total beginner, and have no experience in operating an advanced digital camera, I think that the HX300 and SL1000 will be the easiest to use. If you are buying a camera for others in your family to use, I recommend buying a camera that has more advanced controls, so those who want to have more control and fast access to camera settings, will have the option to improve their skills and get more control over the final image. For that, I recommend buying the HS50 EXR.

Image Quality

magnifying glass on imageIf you read the whole article, you already have a good understanding of the differences between those five cameras. You probably already eliminated some cameras that doesn’t answer your specific needs. However, we haven’t talked about the image quality yet. The IQ plays a significant role for many photographers who are looking not just to get a well-suited camera body for their needs, but also one that can produce high-quality photos, especially when shooting in low-light.

None of these cameras has a large sensor, all of them regardless the size differences feature a relatively very small sensor. For comparison, the Sony Cyber-shot RX10 has a 1″ (13.2 x 8.8 mm) BSI-CMOS sensor which is much larger than the 1/2″ (6.4×4.8mm) of the HS50EXR, which has the largest sensor among the five cameras we compare here. On the other side, the RX10 features only 8.3x 24-200mm lens, and in almost all cases, if you want a camera with a large sensor, you will trade it by giving up optical zoom. It depends on the lens optics and design, but that’s something that you need to understand up front.

You need to except that none of these cameras will give you image quality that is on par with what you get with 1″, Micro Four Thirds or APS-C sensor, nor the shallow depth of field effect will be that pronounced.  Having said that, image sensors have come a long way since the release of the first superzooms and the sensor technology has improved a lot, so does the image quality.

This is my summary of each camera high ISO performance after viewing and inspecting sample images, including identical scene photos in leading camera review websites.

Fujifilm HS50EXR High ISO Performance - Punchy colors but images have a natural look. Up to ISO 400 image is relatively clean, although noise is apparent in base ISO as well if you look closely. At ISO400 we can see that the camera uses very strong noise reduction that causes the images to get softer. At ISO 800 image noise is definitely more visible and image looks soft when looking at 100% scale.  ISO 1600 is also usable but for small prints after noise reduction. ISO 3200 and above is very noisy. Image noise is more visible in dark areas, and you can spot it at ISO 100. I also sport some jaggies in one image on photographyblog (here – around the windows of the bus), which tells me that the camera does employ strong image sharpening by default.

Fujifilm SL1000 High ISO Performancevery sharp lens. The results are close to what I saw with the HS50EXR more or less — which is a good thing. Up to ISO 400 image look very good, clean and sharp.  ISO 800 still looks pretty good although noise is very apparent in the dark areas and mid-tones.  ISO 1600 can be used for small prints, but I would run them through noise reduction software. ISO 3200 and above image is very noisy, although you get nice shots for the web.

Panasonic FZ70 / FZ72 High ISO High ISO Performance – very sharp lens, however I was less impressed with the high ISO performance of this  camera. Even at ISO 200 you start to see patchy color noise patterns (yellowish) in various areas, which are becoming much more prominent when you climb up the ISO scale (check this ISO 800 image on photographyblog.com).  I personally won’t be shooting over ISO 400 with this camera, and for me it’s kind of a let down. This yellowish color noise patterns are also visible on the SL1000, but they are much less visible.

Nikon P520 High ISO Performance - Wasn’t impressed with the image quality I have to say. Image is a bit on the soft side, not sharp as the Fuji and Panasonic and noise start kicking in strong at ISO 400. In my observation, the P520  is 1EV to 1.5EV behind the SL1000 and HS50EXR .

Sony HX300 High ISO Performance – high ISO up to 200 images look good but even at ISO 200 you can see noise in mid-tones and bright areas.  Image sharpness is very good, but in my observation the Fujifilm HS50EXR is sharper. The noise patterns are not dotty as the Fuji, and might be harder to remove using noise reduction software. I would recommend shooting below ISO 400 for sharpest results, as at ISO 400 and above image becomes softer.

It’s worth mentioning that none of those cameras impressed me with its high ISO performance. I would give my top score top the HS50EXR,  SL1000 2nd, FZ70 in the 3rd,  HX300 in 4th place P520 in the 5th.   If you care about image noise and don’t like seeing noise in images in ISO100/ISO200, I recommend also looking at the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, which is my favorite among the superzooms when it comes to image quality. If you look at HX300 base ISO images in full-scale, you can still see noise, whether the base ISO of the SX50 HS looks crystal clear.



For those of you who were debating whether the Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR is a good offering compared to the other superzooms we compared here, their answer is yes. I find the HS50EXR to be a well-designed camera that offers high image quality, the best in the group in my observation, excellent manual focusing control, great button and dial layout and better ergonomics compared to the other cameras. It has fully articulated display and high-res EVF are are two great features to have both stills and video shooter. The HS50EXR battery life is also very good, best in the group and it’s AF performance is fast and accurate. The HS50 EXR unique sensor design gives the camera better flexibility and control over the way it uses the sensor for particular lighting conditions and to give the user a great image. It’s more expensive than the P520, but certainly worth the extra money you pay for it.  On the downside, it’s heavier and larger than the other cameras, heave limited video frame rates and limited buffer considering it’s faster burst speed (fastest in the group).

I found the SL1000 to offer excellent image quality with very good high ISO performance. This is the cheapest camera in the group, much cheaper than all the other models. That in mind, I give the biggest value in return for your money.  It features a big 50x optical zoom, fast burst and relatively large buffer, slow-mo recording, tiltable LCD and high-res EVF. On the other hand it has lower battery life, less impressive AF performance than the HS50EXR and a more simplistic design that is aimed towards novice photographers who want a simple superzoom that can take great pictures without any prior knowledge.

The Panasonic FZ70 has the biggest zoom in the group and lots of controls for fast access to favorite used camera settings. It has the best built-in mic with wind noise reduction mechanism,  an amazing 20mm ultra wide angle lens (only one in the group to offer it), excellent image stabilization for both stills and videos, 30p video recording and good battery life. On the other hand, I was disappointed with the low-res fixed rear LCD and EVF, as well with its high ISO performance. I think that if the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 has a high-res EVF and better high ISO performance, it would be a clear winner in my comparison. The FZ72 / FZ70 will perform best when there is enough light, and I think it’s well worth your money mainly due to its superb optics and wide-angle lens. If the cons don’t bother you, this is a good camera, but overshadowed by the other models in performance department.

Nikon P520 cost around the same price as the HS50EXR. It has a big zoom,the only one to offer built-in GPS, useful rotating LCD and it’s compatible with Nikon’s Wi-Fi adapter. On the other hand, it has a low-res EVF, poor battery life (lowest in the group), slowest burst and disappointing high ISO performance (came last in my high ISO performance inspections). I think that Nikon made a mistake going with such a high sensor resolution and it’s certainly overrun by the HS50EXR, although I believe that it’s smaller size and simplistic design will attract novice photographers, as the HS50EXR looks like a DSLR alternative, whether the P520 looks like a superzoom point-and-shoot. I even find the SL1000 and FZ70 to offer a better spec and those two are cheaper than the P520.

Sony HX300 is a very good superzoom overall. It’s the most expensive camera in our comparison, and unfortunately I was expecting more for this price.  I think Sony made a mistake going with such a high sensor resolution for such a tiny sensor and that has an impact on the image quality, even low-ISO samples have visible noise which is more prominent than the other cameras we compared here. The lens performance is excellent, but it loses that that shperness fast as you climb up the ISO scale which limits this camera performance to low ISO. The HX300 is very easy to hold and manage, but has a clumsy user interface that makes the camera a bit awkward to operate. It lacks the RAW file format, there is no eye-sensor for the EVF and has low-res viewfinder. Don’t get me wrong, the HX300 is a great camera overall and a great camera for video shooters with its 1080p60 video recording feature, but I find its price to be a bit too high and that puts the HX300 in an uncomfortable position compare to the competition. If you want 1080p60 video recording, fast burst, fast shutter speed, fast autofocus speed but don’t mind the high ISO limitations, lack of RAW and obviously the price — the HX300 might be a good choice.

If you want my opinion, I would probably go with the HS50EXR. I find it to be a great camera overall: fast AF performance, very good optics, very good ergonomics, lots of manual controls, high-res EVF and good low-light performance. It’s a good all-around performer (I still want that 20mm ultra-wide angle from the FZ70/FZ72 :) )

Which camera you prefer? — Share your opinion in the comment section below. Thanks for reading.

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