Color depth refers to how many variations of color the camera can capture, it is expressed in bits, with large values like 24 bits being excellent, and small values like 16bits being poor. A typical JPEG image can store up to 24bits of color variation (8 bits for each of red, green and blue), which is 16.7 million different colors (2^24).

Its important for a camera to have good color depth to get the richest possible color rendition in your images, which is often important for portraits or shooting products.

Snapsort uses measurements from DxOMark for color depth. DxOMark refers to the color depth score as color sensitivity. These measurements are only available for cameras that shoot RAW which includes all DSLRs and a few high-end point and shoots.

Great color depth
A beautiful macro photograph taken by liber with a Nikon D3X A beautiful macro shot captured using a Nikon D3X DSLR. Photography by liber via Flickr. f/5.6, 1/160s, ISO 800, 50mm.

RAW Measurements

DXOMark logo

Color depth is measured by DxOMark based on the RAW images produced by the camera, not the final JPEG images. If you normally shoot in RAW, then you can be confident that these measurements will affect the color depth you'll see in your images. If you shoot JPEG though, there is further processing done by the camera once the image has been captured, which is not measured by these numbers, which may mean some cameras JPEG images are slightly worse or better than you'd expect.

12 bit and 14 bit RAW

Cameras are often advertised as capturing 12 bit or 14 bit RAW images. You might wonder how do these values correlate with the color depth of a camera. The 12 bit and 14 bit values are per-color values, e.g. 12 bits for each of red, green and blue, resulting in a possible 36 bits total, whereas color depth is measured in bits for each pixel (made up of the three colors). According to DxOMark's measurements though, even the best cameras only capture about 22 bits out of the possible 36 or 48 bits.

Comparing Color Depths

When Snapsort compares the color depth of two cameras it compares the number of colors captured, not the bits. Each additional bit doubles the number of colors.

BitsColors
2416,777,216
238,388,608
224,194,304
212,097,152
201,048,576
1665,536
8256

Digital Cameras with Great Color Depth

Compact Cameras

The following compact cameras the best color depth we've seen, keep in mind that only a few compact cameras are measured.

Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II
Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II
from $679
Aperture Wide aperture Help
f/1.8
Supports 24p 24p movies Help
For that film look
Overall image quality Great image quality Help
71.0

Learn more about the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV
from $836
Movie format Shoots UHD movies Help
UHD @ 30fps
High-speed framerate High speed movies Help
120 fps
Aperture Wide aperture Help
f/1.8

Learn more about the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III
from $1,598
High-speed framerate High speed movies Help
120 fps
Movie format Shoots UHD movies Help
UHD @ 30fps
Supports 24p 24p movies Help
For that film look

Learn more about the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 II
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 II
from $1,398
High-speed framerate High speed movies Help
120 fps
Movie format Shoots UHD movies Help
UHD @ 30fps
Supports 24p 24p movies Help
For that film look

Learn more about the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 II

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Mirrorless Interchangeable-lens Cameras

The following mirrorless interchangable lens cameras have the best color depth we've seen.

Samsung NX500
Samsung NX500
from $1,799
Low light performance Low noise at high ISO Help
1,379 ISO
Movie format Shoots 4K movies Help
4K @ 24fps
Overall image quality Great image quality Help
87.0

Learn more about the Samsung NX500

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8
from $700
Movie format Shoots UHD movies Help
UHD @ 30fps
Screen type OLED Screen Help
Bright and vivid
Viewfinder size Large viewfinder Help
0.74x

Learn more about the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8

Canon EOS M3
Canon EOS M3
from $419
Low light performance Low noise at high ISO Help
1,169 ISO
External mic jack External mic jack Help
Record higher quality audio with a microphone
Touch screen Touch screen Help
Fewer buttons

Learn more about the Canon EOS M3

Canon EOS M10
Canon EOS M10
from $449
Touch screen Touch screen Help
Fewer buttons
Autofocus Phase detection autofocus Help
fast and accurate
Supports 24p 24p movies Help
For that film look

Learn more about the Canon EOS M10

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Entry Level DSLRs

The following entry level SLRs have the best color depth.

Nikon D7200
Nikon D7200
from $788
Screen resolution High resolution screen Help
1,228k dots
Overall image quality Great image quality Help
87.0
Low light performance Low noise at high ISO Help
1,333 ISO

Learn more about the Nikon D7200

Nikon D5500
Nikon D5500
from $422
Low light performance Low noise at high ISO Help
1,438 ISO
Overall image quality Great image quality Help
84.0
Screen size Large screen Help
3.2"

Learn more about the Nikon D5500

Pentax K-3 II
Pentax K-3 II
from $404
Screen size Large screen Help
3.2"
Continuous shooting Rapid fire Help
8.3 fps
Movie format Full HD Help
1080p @ 60fps

Learn more about the Pentax K-3 II

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Pro DSLRs

The following Pro SLRs have the best color depth.

Green arrow See more of the top Pro DSLRs with great color depth

Related links

Discussion

Showing 4 comments

Avatar for Duke Sweden Duke Sweden (10:29 PM, January 28, 2016)
This is all so confusing...burp..
 
Avatar for Diamond Tiara Diamond Tiara (1:29 PM, September 15, 2013)
>any camera advertised with more than 24 bit per pixel
>any camera or electronic device with a bit count that features a decimal.
>implying the low-light ISO is relevant following the different sensors. you'll get your snow.
 
Avatar for Vlad Ivostok Vlad Ivostok (1:40 PM, May 03, 2013)
what's with the 753 bits color depth on the sony slt a58?
 
Avatar for Justin Ji Justin Ji (4:00 AM, March 24, 2011)
What is the colour depth like on the p100?