Check out an examination of photo quality from a budget-conscious megazoom, the 14-megapixel X5.
Though the photo quality from the GE X5 isn't spectacular, it is good for a point-and-shoot and actually a bit better than expected given its specs and price. Like most in its class, it's good up through ISO 200; above that you get more noise, softness, and off colors, making photos only suitable for small prints and Web use. Even still, you probably won't want to go above ISO 800. So despite the availability of ISO 1,600 and ISO 3,200 settings, I wouldn't use them. The Auto ISO setting actually goes down to ISO 64, which resulted in some very nice photos suitable for 8x10-inch prints or slightly larger. Basically, the more light you have, the better off you'll be. If you do a lot of indoor shooting in dim lighting and don't want to use the flash, I would not buy the X5.
The X5, like a lot of megazooms, is very good for macro shots. It can focus as close as 2 inches from a subject and produces nice fine detail if you have plenty of light. This is a 100 percent crop of the inset image taken at ISO 64.
One of the best parts of the X5 is the availability of aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual shooting modes. That's extremely rare in a camera at this price. At the wide end, the apertures are: f3, f3.3, f3.8, f4.6, f5.8, and f7.3; in telephoto you have a choice of f5.2 or f6.6. Shutter speeds go from 1/2,000 second to 30 seconds. What's nice is that the X5 has graphics on the aperture and shutter speed onscreen controls, giving you an idea of what setting to use for a subject (e.g. fireworks at the 30-second shutter speed position).
You can certainly find more compact cameras with the X5's zoom range, but you'd lose other features like the electronic viewfinder and AA batteries. Still, for a 15x camera, its size is reasonably small with a lens that starts at a wide-angle 27mm and goes out to 405mm (35mm equivalent).
There is some visible barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens (top) and some very slight pincushioning when then lens is extended (bottom). Center sharpness is fairly good and the lens is consistent for the most part, softening slightly out at the edges and in the corners. I've seen far worse on more-expensive cameras, though.
Fringing can be very bad on high-contrast subjects. This is an extreme case, and when it's this bad it can actually change the overall color of the photo. Most of the time it was faint enough where it didn't pose a problem and was only visible when photos were viewed at 100 percent on a computer screen.
Color was very good to excellent from the X5 at or below ISO 200. Above that, colors get washed out and dull looking. White balance outside was spot on, but indoors both the auto and presets were off. There is a manual option that's easy to set, and I recommend using that whenever possible under unnatural light. Exposure is inconsistent, or at least it was on my review sample. One shot would be correct, but then I would get a string of shots that were black or severely underexposed. However, this only seemed to occur when using the camera's aperture priority and auto scene recognition modes. As I could not regularly reproduce the issue and could find no user complaints expressing a similar issue, my guess is it was just an issue with my review camera.
If the exposure of one of your shots just isn't quite right, the X5 has a high dynamic range (HDR) feature available in playback. It helps bring out details that may be lost in highlights or shadows, such as in this example. On the right is the photo from the left processed with the in-camera HDR.