Cheap Digicam Showdown

I got a job lot of cheap digital cameras and thought I’d try them out against each other.  By cheap I mean 99p.  For seven cameras.  Okay, there was a fiver postage, and I’ve since bought chargers for them once I had determined that they could hold a charge, but we are talking a few quid on average.  I’d have happily paid £5 for the film camera that came in the box with them.

Buying cameras this way is always a bit of a risk, if none of them work you’re getting nothing.  None of them had chargers and they all had flat or missing batteries, and because they are from the modern era they each have their own, specific battery.  The seller sold them as untested, appearing to not work, and that’s why they were so cheap.

You can charge a battery with anything the correct voltage, some wires and a bit of tape, which is what I did.  I’m no expert at repairing things, infact I’m pretty clumsy at taking apart tiny devices, but if something’s not working then undoing a few screws and having a poke around isn’t going to make it any worse.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS35

The main reason I wanted one of these camera was the Leica lens.  If you look on any websites with the word ‘Leica’ on, then you’ll see some very expensive things.  Well, except this website.  Obviously this camera is unlikely to compete with the more expensive products bearing that name, but compared to other cameras of this type: it has a very good lens.

The lens was stuck closed when I first got this camera, but figuring I had nothing to lose, I gave it a bit of encouragement with a tiny screwdriver.  It still sounds a bit gritty and bears the scars, but I got a nice, functioning camera for a lot less than you’d usually pay for one of these.

The Lumix has 16 megapixels, the highest being tested here, but that isn’t really what is important.  If that was all we were testing then it would have won already.  I take pictures primarily for display on a screen, which I prefer over having prints as they are automatically backlit and look brighter.  A typical screen resolution is about…2 megapixels.

Fuji Finepix Z20fd

The Fuji is the most compact camera on show here, and is certainly the pinkest.  The sliding cover for the lens works as an on/off switch and keeps its size down.  It has 10 megapixels and lacks the pop-out zoom of the other cameras.

Sony Cybershot DSC-W110

The Sony has a Carl Zeiss lens, which is another well-though-of brand.  It only has 7.2 megapixels making it the lowest being tested.

Samsung L310W

The Samsung was not part of the job lot – it’s one I have owned for years, since about 2008.  It was around £100 when new, but I don’t think I paid anything like that much for it, although I guess the other cameras would have cost around the same.  It has 13.6 megapixels, which I thought made it a good match for testing with the other cameras.

Wrecked cars, daylight

So this was just a normal photo, in daylight, no zoom, with a range of colours, range of distances and range of brightnesses.  A good test.

The Lumix produced the most vibrant colours, although that isn’t always what you want but works well here.  The Sony and Samsung both show a good sharpness of colour and good depth which usually is what you want, while the Fuji looks a little flat.

Rather alarmingly the Sony shows quite a lot of lens distortion, with the green bars looking bent out of shape, and the Samsung has this a little at the edges too.  The Lumix and particularly the Fuji don’t show any distortion.

Bear, close-up, no flash

This is an unzoomed close-up of a detailed object with no flash – a good test of colour reproduction and image stabilisation.

The Sony is the clear winner here, with the warmest colours and excellent detail captured.  The Samsung has good detail, but the colours feel a little washed out.  The Lumix has good colour but doesn’t have good focus across the whole image.  The Fuji has poor focus and the colour is a little faded.

Dark Flats

A challenging scene for any camera, lights in the dark.

The Samsung wins this one with great definition and none of the graining found on the other cameras.  The Lumix manages to capture a bit of detail around the bright areas but struggles in the low light parts.  The Sony is over-dark which almost manages to hide the grain and the Fuji is just indistinct.

Close-up macro

A test to find out how close the cameras can focus, made a little easier by using an illuminated screen.

Easy to call this one, the Fuji gets way closer than anything else and we can clearly see each pixel.  The Sony is second and the other two trailing, the Lumix showing a little more detail across the whole frame with the Samsung getting a bit blurry towards the edges.

Outside Wide-Angle

A test of how wide a wide-angle shot is, with the more houses showing, the wider the angle.

The winner is pretty clear here, the Lumix over the Samsung and the Fuji coming last.  The Sony, while coming a close third managed to take a terrible blurry picture, so I don’t know what happened with the focus.

Full Zoom with flash

A test of the camera, fully zoomed-in with the flash active.  It’s a sort of double test about which camera can zoom in the most, while still managing to illuminate what it is zoomed-in on.

The Lumix is the clear winner, with the most-zoomed-in and well-lit picture.  The Fuji is perhaps too bright, but certainly lights the scene with the Samsung about the same but more pleasingly lit.  The Sony’s flash doesn’t quite reach as far as it’s zoom, so it fails a bit here.

Black and White

This is a simple test using the black and white option built into the the cameras.

The Sony edges this one, it’s slightly sharper and more contrasty, then the Lumix has slightly more depth than the Samsung.  I don’t know what went wrong with the Fuji, it’s just taken a bad blurry picture.

the winners

Well there’s no clear best camera in every situation.  For landscapes I’d take the Lumix, for close-up work I’d grab the Fuji, the Samsung is best in the dark and the Sony works best at still life.

All in all a pretty good bargain, and proof that megapixels alone don’t matter.

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