(This is the last of three articles looking at whether there s any real benefit in replacing that old 4 or 5 megapixel compact camera from yesterday with one of today s many ultra-modern high-megapixel cameras. Part one looks at what matters in a camera, and part two scores each generation of camera in a head-to-head battle.)

To help me answer the question of whether it’s worth upgrading from an older 4 megapixel digital compact camera to one of the latest high-megapixel cameras, I took both my Canon Digital IXUS 400 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33 out to the National Botanical Gardens of Wales for a day’s photography. Every shot was attempted twice – once with each camera – and I’ve spent the last week sorting through the images to decide which ones I prefer, and why.

Looking At The Numbers

When you try to ‘score’ each camera as objectively as you can, it’s a close-run thing. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33 does come out ahead of the older Canon Digital IXUS 400, but only by a whisker (7 points to 5). But those numbers don’t tell the whole story.

I’m comparing the DMC-FX33 against the flagship camera of its time from the leading compact camera manufacturer of the time. Despite its age, the Canon Digital IXUS 400 is still a camera that produces amazing photographs, and it’s extremely difficult to compete against this camera. Still, I believe that it’s a very reasonable test, because a lot of folks are looking to upgrade from a Digital IXUS (it was an insanely popular camera over here in the UK).

Out of the 54 photos that I decided to upload to Flickr, only seven of those photos were taken by the IXUS. Every single one of the IXUS’ photos was chosen either because the Panasonic had focused on the centre when I didn’t want it to, or because the IXUS’ superior dynamic range made for a better photo.

The other 47 were taken by the DMC-FX33. And that’s the number that ultimately counts. I actually prefer the colours from the DMC-FX33 (which I’m still surprised at!), I love the 16:9 aspect ratio, and the extra megapixels do result in images that appear sharper and more like you are there.

Is It Worth Upgrading Your Compact Camera?

Yes, unequivocally.

  • Features like optical image stabilising allow you to take shots that simply aren’t possible with older cameras.
  • Larger screens make it easier to compose your shots.
  • Modern cameras are lighter, making it easier to carry them with you all the time.

If you’re switching brands, beware of any differences in functionality – especially multi-point focus and dynamic range.

The Photographs

Enough of me whittering on 🙂 Here are my choice of photos from the day’s shoot. All the photos have been processed in Aperture. I’ve adjusted sharpness on all the shots, and contrast on a small number, but I’ve left the colours alone in all the shots.

Deep Red The Flowers By The Stones Up Close Outside The Biodome Purple Greenhouse Sunflowers In The School Garden Mr Sunflower Scarecrow Shocking Pink An Explosion of Lines Looking Down At The Roof 2007092912-51-12_IXUS Looking Up At The Roof Feiry Flower! Textured Leaves Orange and Red Macro Joy The Greenhouse Green Grass Shooting Against The Sky The Bench In The Garden Towards The Cafe Red Is The Colour Are You Ready For Your Close-Up? The Apples Are Behind You Lost In The Wild Giant Twisted Stick Biodome Roof Artwork Inside The Biodome Flame From The Green More Biodome Roof Inside The Biodome A Hairy Moment Hidden Detail A Tale Of Two Screens Just Perfect At The Edge Of The Biodome The Colour Purple The Deeper Shade of Purple A Tricky Subject A Feiry Plant Beneath The Biodome Is This Weird Or What? Heading Off Into The Jungle It's A Little Chile In Here A Moment Of Peace Beside The Zen Garden Waterfall Art Rich Colour In The Water The Colour In The Water Three Thousand, Seven Hundred and Nine Flowing Down To The Xen Garden The Spiral Fountain And Biodome

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