This page contains images that I have made to compare different camera/lens combinations I have been using. The images are corner cut-outs of a larger photo, as this reveals quality issues (on sharpness in particular) better that the center of the image. I find this more useful than camera or lens tests alone, usually accompanied with a lot of analysis, graphs etc. that I find limited use spending time on. It is the camera/lens combination that affects the image quality (in addition to the photographer). In each of the three categories (1. System camera, 2. Fixed lens camera and 3. Mobile phone camera), camreras are listed with better camera/lens combinations as you scroll down. Go to the bottom of this page for a description of my test setup.
Nikon D40x with a 18-135 kit lens set to f8 and a focal length equivalent to 50mm for 35 mm film. I bought this system in 2007 for a long Australia-trip as I wanted something compact and versatile, with better quality than a compact. Clearly - these budget large zoom-range lenses have inferior image quality. The lens came with defects, and this image was recorded after 3 attempts by Nikon on warranty repair. Some obvious defects were fixed, so I assume this is the best one can expect from this lens. This system has been moth-balled after I got my Olympus E-PL2 system as a lightweight system camera.
Olympus E-PL2 with it's kit lens 14-42 mm set to f8 and a focal length equivalent to 50mm for 35 mm film. I bought this system in 2012 because Olympus makes a nice, compact underwater housing for it. Surprized by the good image quality of this camera and lenses (compared to the Nikon D40x), and it's compact size I started using it extensively unless a large system is required or if I need the handling capabilities of an SLR. For me, it was a good replacement for cameras ranging from good compacts to lower-end SLRs. I do prefer the handling of an SLR to the E-PL2. Two of the lenses for the E-PL2 died during weather exposure (which the Sony RX-100 survived) so I don't use it anymore. It was also difficult to get certain important accessories for the Olympus system.
The 12 mp Nikon D3 with a 50mm f1.4 lens stepped down to f8 is the first full format camera I used. This also came out in 2007. Rock solid and a user interface that I found to be excellent. Could use the camera to the full without reading the manual. After 15 minutes, it felt I had it for a lifetime. Fantastic tool to use, but a beast to carry, so didn't go on my long trips. (I also tried a Canon 5D, but didn't like the user interface.)
The 24 mp Nikon D3x with a 50mm f1.4 lens stepped down to f8 was clearly the best system I had tried at the time I borrowed it in 2009, but even more clearly, the most expensive and heavy. It came out in 2008.
In early 2020, there was a sale on the Nikon D750 full format DSLR camera. It could be picked up for USD 1000. Internet search also revaled the Sigma 24-105 f4 to be of reasonable quality (for what it is), and this zoom range covers most of my photographic needs. Having a lot of old Nikon stuff, this package became too tempting. I am surprized how much of the old Nikon stuff (Lenses, remotes, flashes etc) works with the D750. The D750 in my opinion handles great, and have all the features I want, including timelapse and dual card slots. The Sigma is surprizingly sharp, even at the edges, when stopped down to F8. It displays some distortion, but this can pe fixed in post (if needed), something you can't successfully do if it is not sharp (like the terrible kit lens that came with the Nikon D40x - see top of this page)
After aquiring the D750, I also looked for a lens with longer reach on the telephoto end. I considered the Sigma 100 - 400 (not weather sealed) and the Tamron (not as sharp as the Sigma), bus also found both too heavy as I travel a lot, and ended up with the Nikon AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR. At a reasonable price, this lens is very sharp and lightweight on top of having some environmental sealing. I am very happy with this one. It focuses very quich, and because of weight and optical stabilizing, is easily hand-held. I also tested the Nikon D750 with some other lenses, including some old-school manual focus Nikkors. You may find those on this page.
My old, worn Canon S45 set at f8 and a focal length comparable to 50 mm in 35mm format. This may be a bit unfair to Canon, as this camera has shot more than 50 000 frames and taken a beating prior to making the test-shoot. It still works perfectly fine after all these years (new in 2003), but there is a chance it is not longer performing at it's peak. I still think Canon S-series compacts were among the best in the business in their category for many years until 1" sensor compacts came out, starting with Sony RX-100. The S45 certainly has been a reliable companion. It also boosts a few functions usually available on high-end SLRs today, like time-lapse recording.
Gopro's fist action camera from 2005 - Hero H1 was a new class of camera. The photo is taken without it's small UV housing. The camera is auto-everything, in this case it selected f3.6 and 1/25 sec, ISO 350. As you can see, the lens has extreme barrel-distortion, aka "fisheye". This fixed super wideangle is the most suitable for most of the uses for this type of camera. It is propably more geared towards video, and does not have a monitor to view what you are shooting or the results on the camera. This camera doesn't shoot RAW.
Intova SD1 is a very compact water proof action camera in direct competition with the Hero H1. Main differences are in how it is used. This camera resembles more a regular compact camera, has a small monitor, and a standard tripod mount. It uses MicroSD cards. It can not be taken out of the water-proof housing. As the Gopro, it's auto everything, has time-lapse recording and other functions suitable for action photo. Yes, it also does full HD video. The Intova is a 5 MP camera like the Hero H1, but can interpolate up to 12 MP, that's why the picture is physically larger. Similar extreme barrel distortion, and in the same setup as the Hero, it chose f3.6, 1/12 sec and ISO 219. With sharpness set to standard, it seems to apply more noise reduction to the image than the Hero does. Personally, I like the Hero approach better on this. Except for this, image quality is not dramatically different. On handling, the Intova wins hands down due to it's monitor. This camera doesn't shoot RAW.
All three images above are made with the Gopro 7 black released in 2018. A tiny action camera that has a lot of shooting options. In a few options, it also allows RAW, but not during bursts, tame-lapses with intervals less than 5 seconds and in linear mode. In Linear mode, it automatically corrects the fish-eye distortion typical for many action cameras. At the bottom image, I adjusted ISO to 800. My impression is that Gopro is geared more towards video than stills, but this little marvel can shoot im many situations that cannot be handled by other cameras. This, and having RAW, are the main reasons for having it. It also has an extensive feature set, inluding good time-lapse implementations.
The Sony RX100 was a sensation when it came out in 2012, and provided high quality pictures in a small package with RAW format files and full manual control if desired. It has been my favourite for years, and Sony has released new models without discontinuing the older. This is the original RX100 and is still available at a reasonable price (in 2021). Mine has seen a lot of use, also in rough conditions, and has never failed, even if the specs says it is not weather sealed. I wish it had time-lapse... (I wonder why Sony discontinued the option to purchase apps to add functionality with their cameras, including newer RX 100s.). The Sony RX 100 is still my favourite camera for trips where photography is not a focus justifying carrying a system camera. For the next version (after mark VII) I could wish for an improved quality lens if that can be achieved by reducing range to something like 24 - 120 mm. Weather-sealing would also be nice.
Many consider the SonyEricsson K750i to be the first proper cameraphone that came out. It was considered high-end when it came in 2005. A very robust phone, mine is still working, even if it now only serves as a back-up phone. Image quality is certainly yesterday, but I liked using this as a camera, the telephone was designed to operate like a camera when you took pictures. It even had a sliding lens cover.
One of the Nokias that came out just after the iPhone defined the future look of high-end phones. The C6 was a smartphone with Symbian operating system, but it was not a high-end phone when purchased in 2011. It came out in 2010. I used it for 7 years, it then failed in the sliding keyboard connection.
The Motorola Moto G6 Plus came out and was was purchased in 2018, and it shows how significant the image qualities of telephone cameras have improved. I think this suits the needs for many users, I see no need to spend 3 - 4 times the price of the top of the line iPhone or Samsung. In genral, I am very happy with this phone. With image quality brought to this level, I would require my next phone to shoot RAW if the improvement in image quality of camera phones continue at the current pace (as of 2018). I just wish they could handle like a camera, having the trigger on the screen is something I dislike. I have pushed the phone out of my hands a few times because of this. It also makes it difficult to hold it still. Phone cameras do have some features I would like to see in regular cameras.
This page is created as a reference I use in discussions on camera reproduction capabilities. Feedbacks may encourage me to upload more camera/lens images of the same set-up. I am mor than happy to borrow interesting camera/lens cominations for more tests.
Below you see a photo of my test setup. Studio lighting is very home-made, but suitable for test of sharpness. Camera is alway on a tripod and using a shutter release timer (if available on the photographic device being tested) to minimize vibrations. Sharpness is the most difficult problem to fix in post processing, so this is important in my evaluation and the reason for my chosen test-setup. I don't emphasize much on color balance and distortion of horizontal and vertical lines.
All the above images are cut-outs of the upper right corner (small red rectangle seen in the picture of my set-up below) photographed in RAW and converted to JPG. For lenses with different focal length, the distance to the test target is adjusted so that the same area is covered by the entire sensor (large red rectangle) Cameras that does not use RAW, are of no interest to me. (The exception being the early Gopro Hero, the Intova and mobile phone cameras up to now.) Video is of limited interest to me, and not evaluated. I have not reduced the pixel size, each image is approx. the same cut-out portion of an image covering the same captured area. The difference in pixel count in the images (and the sizes they have on your screen) reflects the total pixel quantity in each cameras sensor, but also somehwat affected by the width-height ratio of the sensor.
Zoom lenses are set to a focal with of 50 mm equivalent if possible, or as close as possible. Aperture is set to f8, the aperture assumed to produce the sharpest image from most lenses. Some zoom lenses have also been tested at other focal lengths
The camera is placed in a distance so that the frame is filled with the part I have highlighted with the large red rectange you see in the middle of the picture above. The smaller red rectancle in the upper right corner of the large one, is the part seen in my photographic test-samples on this page.
It's a camera-phone with a properly located shutter release button, with a 24 - 200 mm equivalent zoom, uncompressed RAW file format and the quality of a Nikon D850 with a good prime lens on it. As such a super-device is not going to show up in my lifetime, I do have to make some compromises:
For taking the shot that suddely appears during daily life: A mobile phone with a good camera, as I don't carry another camera on a daily basis. Mobile phone camers have become good enough for such use.
For travel and trips where photography is not the primary, but you want to take som photos, and there is a chance an interesting subject may appear: Sony RX-100. (several models to choose from) Pocketable, unless you have tight jeans.
Something that doesn't exist yet: A larger compact with an APS or similar sized sensor, good 24 - 105 mm lens, water and shock-proof, 4K video and control features like my Nikon D-750. For when I don't know if to take the Sony RX-100 or the Nikon D-750.
When you want to photograph seriosly, but without carrying a full system: Nikon D750 with Nikkor 24-120 mm lens, but I have read many reviews complaining about its sharpness. (In 2020, I decided for a Sigma 24-105 f4 instead of the Nikkor for my D750, and I am happy with this, except that it is a quite big and heavy lens. It is very sharp on my D750.) Later, I bought a Nikkor 70-300mm f4.5 - 5.6 zoom taht also proved to be very sharp on my D750. For me, this appears an excellent combination, I like the extra reach compared to a 70 - 200, and having two lenses covering the 70 - 105 is convenient in a hurry. This is what I normally carry.
For high quality photography in a studio or where carrying a lot of gear is acceptable: Nikon D850 with primes: 24mm and 105mm macro lens would be my two first choices, followed by a 50 mm, a good 85 mm for portraits etc. and a long telephoto for wildlife. May be a super-wide for landscapes (16 - 18 mm). I prefer a 24 mm, as I often find a 28 mm not to be wide enough. If you need more reach than the 105, I find that I need much more, and I do like the macro option of a lens around 100mm. The only zoom I would consider, is an 80 - 200 or 300. I did use a 24-70 mm f2.8, but found I took most photos at 24 mm, or wanted more reach than 70 mm. It was also large and heavy. Sony also have some good mirrorless offerings in this category, like some of their A7 cameras. The Nikon Z series also offer interesting mirrorless options.
For extra high quality photography in a studio or where carrying a lot of gear is acceptable: Fujifilm GFX 100S medium format camera with primes: The equivalent of full format 20mm to 24mm and 85mm to 105 mm lenses would be my two first choices, followed by a telephoto and may be a super-wide for landscapes.