Nikon P600 vs Canon SX50 HS vs Panasonic FZ70 / FZ72 Comparison

June 23, 2014

Panasonic FZ70, Nikon P600 and Canon SX50 HS ultrazoom cameras on a red background

In this article I will compare the Nikon Coolpix P600 versus the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS and Panasonic Lumix FZ70, all three are 1/2.3″ sensor based ultra-zoom cameras and among the most popular ones in 2013/2014. Choosing an ultrazoom cameras might become a bit more complicated when those 1″ superzooms (e.g. Panasonic FZ1000, Sony RX10) entered the market. That being said, with cameras like the P600, SX50 and FZ70, you get much bigger zoom range, it’s like shooting through a telescopic lens, and in some ways, it is.

Ultrazooms Cameras FTW!

So if you are looking for a camera with a huge zoom range and not satisfied with 15x to 30x optical zoom, and you don’t mind having a camera with a small sensor — ultrazoom is your best option.  The thing that you can shoot with an ultrazoom camera is impossible to achieve with almost all camera configuration on the market. If it’s a DSLR camera, you might consider using a 600mm lens with 2x teleconverter, and still you won’t get to the P600 1440mm equivalent focal length. Some say that for most uses, around 400mm focal length is more than enough. Some people just prefer to get as close as they can to the subject. Using a DSLR with a lens configuration that can give you 1200mm or above, will cost you a fortune, and even if you can afford it, it’s very bulky and weigh a lot — not something to take a to a vacation if you know what I mean 🙂

The problem with >50x ultra-zoom cameras is that all of them feature a relatively small sensor. All the three cameras above feature a 1/2.3″ size sensor, which four times smaller than the 1″ sensor found in Panasonic FZ1000 and Sony RX10, and way smaller than Micro Four Thirds, APS-C or a Full Frame sensor.  This means that there is an impact on image quality in some degree, and you shouldn’t expect miracles from anything related to low-light performance or very shallow depth of field. The disadvantages of small sensors applies to any camera, whether it’s an ultrazoom or interchangeable lens camera system.

I think that the pros outweigh the cons on many aspects. After all, most people who buy this camera want to come home with amazing photos that took in their vacation or just in a weekend trip. They want to share those images on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and as long as the image quality for medium size is good, there shouldn’t be any issues with it. I am not saying that you should expect crappy high ISO image, but relatively to large-sensor cameras, the image quality is inferior at high ISO and the shallow DOF effect is much less prominent, just keep that in mind.

OK, enough of the overview, let’s learn more about those three popular superzooms. We’ll start with a short introduction to each camera and continue to the comparison and conclusion section — let’s get started!

Nikon Coolpix P600

Nikon P600The P600 is Nikon’s latest take in the superzoom category as of the time of writing and it brings new enhancements that makes this a very capable ultrazoom camera. At the hear of the camera is a 16.1MP (effective) 1/2.3-in. type CMOS sensor. As I mentioned earlier, the 1/2.3″ sensor is a small sensor, but it’s needed in order to create a compact digital camera with a big zoom lens. The P600 therefore features a 24-1440mm (equivalent) 60x optical zoom lens with Nikon’s VR image stabilization and an active mode (digital stabilization) to compensate for movements in videos (e.g. recording while walking).

Nikon also incorporated a 2x Dynamic Fine Zoom (digital zoom) that gives you 120x zoom but was optimized for best image quality, considering the digital image enlargement that actually hurt image quality. By doing so, you’ll be able to use a total of 120x zoom with less impact on image quality. However, I personally prefer shooting images without any digital zoom, because I don’t want the image quality be degraded, but that’s easier to do if you plan to do it in your computer other way.

60x optical zoom gets you really close to your subject, and makes the P600 an excellent travel/vacation camera and for those of you who need that extra reach to get closer to subjects that are far away from the camera. It’s really like your own telescopic spy camera, and you’ll be able to get images that few can, at least those who don’t have the zoom capability.  The Nikon VR works great to stabilize the lens at longer focal lengths and help you get a sharp image, even when shooting at the maximum 60x optical zoom (1440mm focal length).

So what 60x zoom looks like? — take a look at this P600 zoom test video, a good example what the P600 60x zoom look like in practice..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDWFKBAjJfU

At the back of the camera you get a 3.0″ 921K-dot fully articulated LCD display that makes it easy to shoot low and high-angle shots without needing to bend over or miss a photo when shooting with your camera above your head. It’s also useful for movie recording, and the P600 can shoot 1080p30 and 1080i60 (interlaces frames) Full HD videorecording.

Among its other features are advanced focus peaking for manual focus so you can get a sharp image while focusing on the fine focus area of the subject. The P600 also has a target Finding AF that automatically identified the subject and focuses on it. It has a built-in electronic viewfinder, auto HDR mode, Easy 360°/180° panorama shooting, built-in WiFi, 7fps burst, 1cm macro shooting and both auto and manual exposure modes, as well as 21 scene modes for beginners to use.

The P600 didn’t overwhelm me with its features and overall performance, but it’s a good choice for the family photographers and beginners looking for a camera with a huge optical zoom, wireless capabilities and for under $500. If I buy this camera, it will be for its incredible big zoom, not for its high-ISO performance or fast performance — a very good ultra-zoom camera, but has its cons (more in the comparison section below).

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS cameraThe Canon SX50 HS was my personal favorite ultra-zoom digital camera before the Sony RX10 and Panasonic FZ1000 arrived. The RX10 and FZ1000 are not ultrazoom, but their large sensor and fast aperture actually quite convinced me to give up on that huge zoom.  That said, they cost almost twice as much, and you don’t get to have an incredible big zoom lens like the one you get with either of the three ultra-zooms I am comparing here.

The SX50 HS features a 12.1MP (effective) 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor. Canon has chosen to go with a relatively low resolution in order to maintain better image quality, and indeed, the SX50 HS image quality and high ISO performance are impressive for this type of camera.

The camera features a 24-1200 mm 50x optical zoom lens with Canon’s IS optical image stabilization and Canon’s Intelligent IS that automatically switches between 6 different IS modes based on the scene (e.g.  turns off the IS when the camera is mounted on a tripod).  This lens is slightly slower than the previous model (SX50: f/2.7-5.8), but I assume that Canon did that to keep the camera small and the price low.

What 50x zoom looks like? – check this SX50 HS 50x Zoom test videos

Impressive zoom, wow!

The SX50 HS is also backed up by a Dynamic IS for videos recording, which minimizes the shake effect that occurs while walking and shooting at the same time. The SX50 HS can record Full HD videos at 24 frames per second with stereo sound and also has miniature effect video recording and super slow motion movies at 120 fps or 240 fps at further reduces resolution. In my test the video quality proven to be excellent, which is due to the relatively larger pixels, great sensor design and image processing that result in great color reproduction and sharp videos.

At the back of the camera you get a 2.8-inch Fully articulated 461K-dot display, which although small compared to the competition, it’s larger and has twice the resolution of the SX40. You also get a 202K-dots electronic viewfinder. It’s a very small viewfinder, and I personally found myself composing my shots only through the viewfinder, but there are times that the screen brightness doesn’t catch up with the ambient brightness, so in that situations, you get better visibility using the EVF instead of the rear LCD.

Advanced photographers will appreciate the manual exposure controls and RAW + JPEG shooting options (inc, multi aspect raw), while beginners will certainly appreciate the “Smart Auto” mode (58 scenes), framing assist lock and framing assist seek features that helps the photographer keeping track and low on the subject. It’s especially useful when shooting at the tele-end.

With the framing assist seek function you simply press a button and that tells the camera to remember the previous zoom position. You can now zoom out and relocate the lost subject and click the button again to zoom back to the same previous zooming position.

The framing assist lock function tells the camera to lock onto a subject and automatically track it and keep the subject at the center of the frame, until you are ready to capture the shot. These two buttons for the framing assist and lock functions are at the left side of the lens, closer to the camera body. So it’s easy to hold the camera and click the button while still maintaining an eye contact with the subject.

The SX50 HS has obtained many high rating from the leading camera review’s websites, and it’s one of the most best ultra-zoom cameras currently on the market, even considering the fact that it was announced on September 17, 2012. The are already rumors talking about a replacement (SX60 HS) that will be announced soon.  If you have time and you aren’t in a hurry to buy a camera, you might want to check out those Canon rumors and predictions websites to see when the SX60 HS should arrive.  If you need your camera now, you won’t be disappointed with the SX50 HS, it’s an all-around excellent performer.

Panasonic Lumix FZ70/FZ72

The Lumix FZ70 is Panasonic is Panasonic’s take versus the Canon SX50 HS and other of its kind.  The first thing you notice about this ultra-zoom camera is that it’s bigger than most of the ultra-zooms out there and bigger than the SX50 HS and the P600. It’s also looks very similar to a DSLR camera, more than SX50 HS and P600 in terms of size, external design and button layout.

Canon SX50 HS vs Panasonic Lumia FZ70 size comparison

Canon SX50 HS vs Panasonic Lumia FZ70 size comparison (via camerasize.com)

In order to make the FZ70 attractive in this competitive market, Panasonic had to come up with some unique features that will make the FZ70/FZ72 stand apart.  The FZ70 uses a 16.1MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, but it’s main attraction is its lens. The FZ70 boats a 20-1200mm (equivalent) f/2.8-5.9 60x optical zoom lens.  Yes, it had the same optical zoom magnification, but there is a small but big difference that you might have missed. The FZ70 lens is shorter than the P600 at the tele-end (1200mm vs 1440mm), but it features an 20mm ultra-wide angle focal length, which is the widest in its class.

This ultra-wide angle lens has 140% wider angle of view compared to the P600 and SX50HS 24mm lens. This allows you to capture much more horizontal and vertical parts of the scenes into your photos. It excellent for landscape, nature, indoors and architectural capture. It will allow you to come home with more unique and artistic photos, because it shows the subject in a field of view that is much wider than the eye sees. In fact the equivalent human eye focal length is around 22mm, but some parts of what the eye sees are not in focus, and therefore the part of the view that is in focus is equivalent to around 43mm on a full frame camera. So the FZ70 can capture a photo that has a wider angle of view than what the both your eye see (your eyes angle of view is around 130° – source).   The optical zoom can be further increased to 102x optical zoom using the 1.7x tele conversion lens (DMW-LT55).

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70 vs FZ60 size comparison

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70 (right) vs FZ60 (previous model) size comparison (via camerasize.com)

The FZ70 certainly for my attention when I first read about the lens specs, and it really opened a new world of photographic possibilities for those who love shooting with the wide-angle and those who are just exploring it for the first time.

Check out this Panasonic FZ70/FZ72 60x zoom test video by MultiTechnopark.. get ready to be amazed!

It’s just ridiculous how close you can get to far away objects — perfect as a travel camera if you ask me 🙂

The FZ70 uses Power O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer) to reduce blurriness in images caused by hand-shake, and also incorporates an Active Mode (aka electronic/digital stabilization) that further promote stable capture but only works in video mode. Speaking about video, the FZ70 can record 1080i60 (interlaced) / 1080p30 Full HD videos  and 720p60 HD videos as well.  There isn’t any high speed video recording available. The videos are captured using a uniquely designed Clear Zoom microphone with Dolby Digital Audio quality. This microphone has a Wind Shield protector that helps minimize wind noise by around 70% compared to prior models.

Among its other key featyres are: creative Panorama mode and 15 other creative effects that you can apply to stills and videos, 5 fps burst shooting (2 fps with AF tracking), iA (intelligent Auto) and iA Plus mode for beginners, Light Speed AF, full manual control over the exposure, 202K-dots Electronic Viewfinder, 3.0 460K dots (with Anti-Reflection coating) LCD and many other built-in camera settings and functions.

No doubt that the FZ70 is a fully-featured excellent multimedia machine as it is a camera. Panasonic loves making its cameras with lots of features and no doubt that its ultra-wide angle lens makes a different and will have an effect on some people’s buying decision.

P600 vs SX50 HS vs FZ70

All the three cameras feature a 1/2.3″ sensor, although 4 times smaller than the 1″ sensor of the FZ1000 and RX10, you get to enjoy a much bigger zoom that you won’t get with any other large-sensor superzoom. You alternative is to buy an interchangeable lens camera (mirrorless or DSLR) and use a telephoto-zoom lens or telephoto prime lens with a teleconverter. This of course will cost a lot and it’s very heavy gear to carry. In fact, you can achieve much bigger magnification with the Canon EF 1200mm + teleconverter or using some other lens+tele conversion lens combination, but as I said, heavy and expensive.

All three cameras are among the most popular ultra-zooms but there are differences that you should be aware of, before deciding which camera to buy. In this section you’ll get familiar with the core differences between those three cameras, and it will help you understand the cons and pros of each camera vs the other models. After reading this section, you’ll have a good idea what each camera is capable of and which camera will be you next camera — Let’s begin!

P600 vs SX50 HS vs FZ70 camera size comparison

P600 vs SX50 HS vs FZ70 camera size comparison (via camerasize.com)

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Now let’s take a look at some sample videos shall we?

Nikon P600 sample video

Canon SX50 HS sample video

Wow, love the image quality coming from the SX50 HS, very impressive in both daylight and at night time, and the color reproduction is superb!

Panasonic FZ70 sample video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqrS8nnSyBk

Love the colors and the sharpness, don’t you?

Conclusion

The above side by side specs comparison table draws a good picture of the differences between those three cameras.  The SX50 HS is the oldest of the three but Canon made it to hold on well until a new model is released. We can see that the SX50 HS easily takes the crown in the high ISO test and certainly the camera to beat when it comes to low-light performance. Choosing to go with a smaller sensor’s resolution was a smart idea in my opinion.

That said, the Panasonic FZ70 might impress enthusiasts more for its more advanced camera controls,fastest burst among the three, improved ergonomics, great overall image quality, very good battery life, RAW option, 20mm wide-angle, better AF system and better battery life.  The FZ70 is on the short side when it comes to video shooting ad it lacks an articulating LCD type and shoot full HD videos only at 60i (interlaced, not progressive). The FZ70 is aimed towards stills enthusiast, and it does an amazing job at that. Image quality is great and the zoom is superb with an ultra-wide angle lens that will help you come home with unique shots. It’s lens is also faster than the other two cameras, but as I mentioned, it doesn’t beat the SX50 HS in the low light game due to its inferior high ISO performance which gives around 1-stop advantage overall in low-light shooting in favor of the SX50 HS.

The Nikon P600 is kind of a mixed bag and I find it less appealing than the other two. It has the longest zoom among the three (longest focal length), so you can get even closer to your subject, best rear display, 1/4000 sec shutter speed, has wireless connectivity, the video is good but not as impressive as the SX50 HS, but it lacks RAW and hot-shoe, has the least impressive high ISO performance in the group (quite disappointing to be honest). So it differentiate itself from the competition in some points and it’s all-around very good superzoom, but we can’t ignore the fact that the competition has something better to offer.

If I had to choose one, I would focus my choice on the SX50 HS and the FZ70. I really loved the SX50 HS image quality for both stills and videos, but I think that the FZ70 did incredibly well too and not behind the SX50 HS in that aspect. Having 20mm and faster lens,better battery life, faster burst and better AF is, for me, better than the having an articulating display or having better video options and I don’t mind the extra size. If you are looking for a good hybrid, I would probably be going with the SX50 HS because of its superb video quality, 24p and super slow motion option. The SX50 HS image stabilization does wonders and is very effective at the tele-end, which is very important for long-zoom cameras.

If you are concerning about low-light performance, both the FZ70 and SX50 HS are good choices. The FZ70 has a faster lens and therefore at a given ISO will give you higher exposure, but the SX50 HS has better high ISO performance. The better high ISO performance compensates for the slower lens, but some people do prefer shooting at low ISO for the cleanest image, and that in mind, the FZ70 has a slight advantage.

So my top recommendation goes for the FZ70, followed by the SX50 HS and P600 at the third place.

Now it’s time for you to make up your mind? — which camera you prefer, share your opinion and questions in the comment’s section below. Thanks for reading and please don’t forget to share this comparison review if you find it useful.



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