Canon PowerShot S120 Gordon Laing, October 2013

Canon S120 vs Sony RX100 II Noise JPEG

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  Canon PowerShot S120 results
1 Canon S120 Quality JPEG
2 Canon S120 Quality RAW
3 Canon S120 Noise JPEG
4 Canon S120 Noise RAW
5 Canon S120 Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Canon PowerShot G16 and the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II, within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings; my S120 RAW noise results follow on the next page.

The Canon S120 was set to 30mm equivalent and the Sony RX100 II adjusted until it matched the vertical field of view; since the Sony captures a slightly wider 3:2 shaped image there are thin vertical strips down the side of its test shot here which are effectively ignored in this comparison.

Both cameras were set to f4 in Aperture priority mode and all camera settings were left on the defaults. Stabilisation was however disabled for this tripod-mounted comparison.

The image above was taken with the Canon PowerShot S120. From my outdoor test I'd discovered that the both the S120 and the RX100 II produced their best results with the aperture set to f4, so both were set to f4 in Aperture priority mode. At its base sensitivity of 80 ISO, the S120 metered an exposure of 0.5 seconds at f4, and at its base sensitivity of 160 ISO the Sony RX100 II metered 1/4 at f4. The S120 JPEG file measured 3.17MB and, as usual, the crops are taken from the area marked by the red square.

It's worth reminding ourselves about the respective sensors in each camera: both employ back-illuminated CMOS technology, but they're different sizes and different resolutions. The Canon S120 employs a 1/1.7in type sensor measuring 7.4x5.6mm with 12 Megapixels, while the Sony RX100 II employs a 1in type sensor measuring 13.2x8.8mm with 20 Megapixels. As such the RX100 II sensor has 2.8 times the surface area of the S120's sensor, but also packs more pixels into it. That said each pixel on the Sony remains larger than those on the Canon so it should enjoy a resolution and noise benefit.

If we're judging the crops below purely on visible noise levels, then the Sony certainly wins. The Canon S120 is only really noise-free at 80 ISO with faint speckles beginning to appear even at 100 ISO, whereas the RX100 II remains cleaner at higher sensitivities. But these images are in-camera JPEGs taken with the default settings and I'd say the Sony is applying slightly higher noise reduction to minimize visible speckles.

It's more revealing to look at the actual real-life detail in the images and what happens to it as the ISO increases. As we saw on my outdoor results, the RX100 II is definitely capturing a little more fine detail, but perhaps not as much more as you'd expect given the bigger sensor and higher resolution. Most of the differences here are to be found in the cloth draped over the stand in the lower right of the crops - look closely at the patterns and the golden tassels. I'd say the S120 does pretty well up to 200 ISO and only begins to lose detail in these areas from 400 ISO upwards. Indeed at 800 ISO the S120 is beginning to look mushy while the RX100 II is managing to retain many of the fine details even though it too is beginning to suffer.

The S120 really begins to fall apart at 3200 ISO where the difference between it and the RX100 II becomes very apparent. Yes there's lots of noise and processing artefacts on the RX100 II at this point, but the image remains cleaner, more details and better saturated than the Canon S120. Neither camera looks great beyond this point, but the Sony enjoys a firm lead.

So if you mostly shoot at 200 ISO or below there's not much between the cameras, and even at 400 ISO the S120 remains usable. But at 800 ISO and above the Sony RX100 II takes a noticeable lead in detail and saturation, and this becomes particularly apparent beyond 3200 ISO. Your choice then depends on which ISOs you're most likely to shoot at. If you're shooting interiors or in dim conditions, the RX100 II's superior high ISO performance will definitely help, but if you're mostly an outdoors daylight shooter, then the S120 will be fine.

But how much noise is there behind the scenes? Find out in my Canon S120 RAW noise results, or if you've seen enough, skip to my Canon S120 sample images or my final verdict.

Canon PowerShot S120 JPEG
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II JPEG
f4 80 ISO
Not available
f4 100 ISO
f4 160 ISO
f4 200 ISO
f4 200 ISO
f4 400 ISO
f4 400 ISO
f4 800 ISO
f4 800 ISO
f4 1600 ISO
f4 1600 ISO
f4 3200 ISO
f4 3200 ISO
f4 6400 ISO
f4 6400 ISO
f4 12800 ISO
12800 ISO

Canon PowerShot S120 results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

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