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Canon PowerShot A800 Ken McMahon, April 2011

Canon PowerShot A800 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise


Canon PowerShot A800 vs Canon PowerShot A1200 vs Nikon COOLPIX L24 High ISO Noise

 
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To compare noise levels under real-life conditions we shot this scene with the Canon PowerShot A800, A1200 and Nikon COOLPIX L24 within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings, and where possible, at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

The PowerShot A800 and A1200 were set to Program mode and the COOLPIX L24 was set to auto mode. The lenses were set to approximate the same field of view.


The ISO was manually set on the PowerShot A800 and the PowerShot A1200. ISO sensitivity can't be set manually on the Nikon COOLPIX L24, but a series of shots taken in auto mode yielded results at ISO settings of 80 and 400 which we've shown here for comparison purposes.

The above shot was taken with the the Canon PowerShot A800 in Program mode with the lens at its widest angle setting of 6.6mm (37mm equivalent). The ISO sensitivity was set to 100 ISO and the exposure was quarter of a second at f3. The crops are taken from the area marked with the red square and presented below at 100%.

If you were worried that high ISO noise performance from a budget 10 Megapixel compact might not be up to the standard of more expensive models, these crops will do a lot to put your mind at rest. At the base 100 ISO sensitivity setting the PowerShot A800 turns in a very clean looking result, you'd have to look very hard indeed to find any evidence of noise in this crop. In places it does look a little smoothed and if this is the result of processing to remove noisy pixels it's a slightly more agressive approach than we're used to seeing on Canon compacts.

At 200 ISO the picture is still looking very promising. There's not quite as much detail as in the first crop, but the deterioration is marginal, so you can use the 200 ISO sensitivity setting to get a faster shutter speed when you need it without worrying too much about quality loss - a useful option on a camera with no image stabilisation.

At 400 ISO, as you'd expect, the noise is starting to become intrusive. Canon's noise suppression algorithm strikes a good balance though and despite increasing softness this is still a very useable ISO sensitivity setting. At 800 things get grainier and clumpier still, but the edge of the stone column is intact and you can see pretty good detail in the wood panelling. It's not until you get to the final 1600 ISO setting that things start to look really grim. Both the PowerShot A800 and PowerShot A1200 have a low light scene mode that shoots 1200 x 1600 (2M) images at sensitivities of up to 3200 ISO. For our test interior both models chose 1600 ISO. If image size isn't your main concern the Low light scene mode produces a better quality image with less noise and is well worth considering.

As was the case in our outdoors test, the crops from the Canon PowerShot A1200 show less detail than those from the PowerShot A800. The 100 ISO crop from the the PowerShot A800 looks cleaner, sharper and more detailed than the 80 ISO crop from the PowerShot A1200 which looks soft and processed by comparison. This quality disparity continues all the way up the sensitivity range and the result is that by 400 ISO the Powershot A1200 crop is both soft and grainy with the loss of moderately fine detail, while the A800 is stil producing great results. In the absence of image stabilisation, you'll still be able to get good shots at 400 ISO with the PowerShot A800, but we're not sure you can say the same for the PowerShot A1200.

With only two crops to compare, at 80 and 400 ISO it's harder to make comparison with the Nikon COOLPIX L24. The 80 ISO crop shows pretty good image detail, though it's less well exposed than the Canon crops and the colour balance has gone awry. At 400 ISO the white balance has recovered, but the noise and processing artifacts have combined to produce a poor result that could easily be mistaken for a 1600 ISO crop.

Now head over to our Canon PowerShot A800 gallery to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.


Canon PowerShot A800
 
Canon PowerShot A1200
 
Nikon COOLPIX L24
80 ISO Not available
80 ISO
80 ISO
100 ISO
100 ISO
100 ISO not available at time of testing
200 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO not available at time of testing
400 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO not available at time of testing
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO not available at time of testing
1600 ISO Low light (2M)
1600 ISO Low light (2M)
1600 ISO not available at time of testing


Canon PowerShot A800 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise



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