14.7-megapixel face-off: Canon's 980 IS vs. Samsung's NV100HD

Does bigger equal better? We pit two 14.7-megapixel compact cameras against each other to see which one comes out on top.

Lexy Savvides Principal Video Producer
Lexy is an on-air presenter and award-winning producer who covers consumer tech, including the latest smartphones, wearables and emerging trends like assistive robotics. She's won two Gold Telly Awards for her video series Beta Test. Prior to her career at CNET, she was a magazine editor, radio announcer and DJ. Lexy is based in San Francisco.
Expertise Wearables, smartwatches, mobile phones, photography, health tech, assistive robotics Credentials
  • Webby Award honoree, 2x Gold Telly Award winner
Lexy Savvides
4 min read
Boxing gloves image by vierdrie, royalty free

With manufacturers pushing for even more pixels in compact point-and-shoots, 14.7 seems to be the magic number in the megapixel race.

Having recently reviewed some of these 14-megapixel monsters we decided to see how they fared when pitted against each other, round for round in the ring. Why have such a large number of pixels? Well, for starters, it means you can print larger images.

We tested the Samsung NV100HD and Canon 980 IS across three different areas. So which one comes out on top?

Design & features
Sitting the two side by side, it's clear that neither camera is going to win any competitions for best dressed at the school social. The Samsung is resplendent with its bulging lens and chunky outer casing, while the Canon makes lumps and bumps almost seem appealing, clad in a slick black exterior.

The Canon 980 IS (top) and Samsung NV100HD (bottom).(Credit: CNET Australia)

The Samsung also has that awkwardly positioned flash we mentioned in our review that pops up underneath your index finger when holding the camera, whereas Canon has its unit built into the body.

Unlike the Canon, the Samsung has a touchscreen where most of the shooting settings can be assigned (such as ISO, white balance and scene selections). Both share a rotating mode dial used to toggle between modes.

The main point of difference between these two cameras is really the Samsung's HD video capabilities (720p). The Canon seems pretty lacking in comparison, managing a measly 640x480 (VGA) output. For a full discussion of the Samsung's video capabilities, see our review of the Samsung NV100HD here.

Let's have a look at some of the key specs side by side:

Samsung Canon
Screen 3-inch touchscreen 2.5-inch
Image Sensor CCD CCD
Face detection Yes Yes
Lens width (maximum) 28mm 36mm
Zoom length 3.6x optical 3.7x optical
Manual controls Yes, but limited aperture Yes, but limited aperture
Optical viewfinder No Yes
Weight 138g 160g

From specs alone, it seems like the Samsung should be the clear winner. If only all the features that were so talked up (like the touchscreen and HD video) actually performed as spectacularly as they were supposed to, the Samsung would be ahead by a country mile. In this case though, it only sneaks through by a whisper.

While there wasn't much difference between the two cameras, the Samsung did start marginally faster than the Canon — around 1.5 seconds between button press and the camera being ready, compared to the Canon's 1.7 seconds. Though the numbers won't make much of a difference in terms of any real-world application, the Samsung grabs another tick here.

Shot-to-shot time is also incredibly similar, though when we compare the two and took multiple frames the Canon did sneak ahead.

Winner: It's a tie

Image quality
Round 1: ISO performance

This test is designed to show how each camera copes with noise, which usually demonstrates itself in high ISO-rated shots. Here, we took each camera to the same location and shot the same picture on similar settings (P mode, automatic white balance, and increased ISO from 80 to 1,600).

Here are two samples from the Canon and Samsung, at ISO 100 and ISO 1,600. In both samples, the Canon is on the left, and the Samsung is on the right. Click for larger images.

ISO 100
(Credit: CNET Australia)
ISO 1,600
(Credit: CNET Australia)

As can be seen from the comparison, both cameras deliver similar results at ISO 100, but ramp up sensitivity to ISO 1,600 and it's clear that the Samsung loses significant amounts of detail, looking smudgy with blurring at 100 per cent magnification.

Round 2: Colour
This test is designed to show how each camera copes with (arguably) the most important element in its picture-taking arsenal; how the pictures compare to reality.

In this shot below, the Canon produces a clear and vibrant tone throughout the image, with accurate colour rendition. The purple flower, white gate and shadowed, dark background look the same in reality. The Samsung by comparison looks washed out and simply doesn't represent the actual scene as well. Perhaps, on its own, the Samsung's image would look acceptable, but sitting side by side with the punchy colours of the Canon, it pales in comparison.

The Canon (left) and Samsung (right). Click for larger.
(Credit: CNET Australia)

The winner is...
In terms of features alone, the Samsung is the clear winner here. However, bringing image quality into the equation, the Canon wins by a substantial margin.

So, it really depends on what your priorities are when looking for a camera. If you are adamant your new camera needs HD recording to avoid lugging around a separate camcorder, the Samsung is the one to buy. If you value image quality over fancy bells and whistles, the Canon is the clear choice here.