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Canon PowerShot S95 Gordon Laing, November 2010
 

Canon PowerShot S95 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise


Canon PowerShot S95 vs Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 Real-life resolution (default Program settings)

 
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To compare real-life performance we shot the same scene with the Canon PowerShot S95 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings and lowest sensitivities.

The lenses were adjusted to deliver as close a field-of-view as possible. Each camera was set to Program mode without intervention to see how they performed with default settings, although we also tested both at every aperture value for reference.

The image above was taken with the Canon PowerShot S95 at 80 ISO with an exposure of 1/640 and the lens set to 7mm f4; the original file measured 3.10MB. As stated above, we allowed each camera to automatically select its own exposure in Program mode, in order to compare how they performed under default settings. Coincidentally both models selected f4 with an identical exposure of 1/640 at 80 ISO allowing a direct comparison; the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 JPEG measured 4.38MB.

Both cameras share the same 10 Megapixel resolution (so long as the LX5 is set to capture 4:3 shaped images), but the relatively coarse zoom increments on the S95 prevented us from perfectly matching the coverage on this test shot. The S95 sample captured a fractionally wider view and hence its crops show a slightly larger area than those from the LX5, but they're still sufficiently close for a meaningful comparison.

Before starting though, a quick note about apertures. We additionally tested each camera at a variety of focal lengths with each of their available aperture settings to determine the optimum settings. Both cameras performed respectably at their maximum apertures, but enjoyed a boost in contrast and sharpness across the frame with their apertures closed by a stop. We'd say the optimum settings for each were between f2.8 and f4.0, so are satisfied to use the samples taken in Program at f4 as a fair comparison. Both cameras did however suffer from softening due to diffraction at f5.6 or smaller apertures though, so we'd only recommend using them if you absolutely need the largest depth of field.

Now on with the comparison. Starting with the first row of crops, the Lumix LX5 is clearly delivering a superior result from the mountain ridge with crisper details. Looking beyond this cropped area, the LX5 image also contained a little more tonal detail in the bright sky and snow at times when the S95 image was completely saturated. Since both images were taken within moments of each other and shared the same exposure, this certainly seems to confirm Panasonic's claims of an improved dynamic range. Don't get us wrong, it's not a huge difference, but it is visible and also gives you more margin for highlight recovery on RAW files.

Looking at the rest of the crops, the Lumix LX5 enjoys slightly crisper and more detailed results, which are most apparent on the roads and buildings. Viewed in isolation, the Canon PowerShot S95 image looks very good, but side-by-side with the Lumix LX5, it looks a little soft at times and lacks the ultimate detail of its rival. To be fair, the S95 image below captured a slightly larger area, giving the LX5 a small resolution advantage, but even with this taken into consideration, the LX5 is a little crisper.

It should however be noted the Canon PowerShot S95 suffered from less corner softening at maximum apertures than the Lumix LX5, so it's not a totally one-sided argument. But in this particular test, the Lumix LX5 enjoys the edge over its rival.

Scroll down to see a RAW versus JPEG comparison, or to check out the performance across its sensitivity range, head straight to our Canon PowerShot S95 High ISO Noise results. Or if you've seen enough, head straight to our Verdict.


Canon PowerShot S95
 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
     
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
     
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
     
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO





Canon PowerShot S95: JPEG versus RAW


We photographed the scene pictured above using the S95's RAW plus Large Fine JPEG mode, allowing us to directly compare images created from exactly the same data. Below are 100% crops taken from the original JPEG file alongside the RAW version, processed with Canon's Digital Photo Professional 3.9 software; we used the default settings, choosing to apply the Unsharp Mask rather than the basic Sharpness. By default, DPP applied Strength, Fineness and Threshold values of 7, 5 and 2 for the S95's RAW image. We initially wanted to boost the sharpness to match the crispness of the LX5 sample above, but found increasing any of the Unsharp Mask settings from their defaults produced an artificial-looking image. As such what you see below is as sharp as you can get without beginning to look unnatural.

At first glance the results look quite similar with the default settings, but look closely and you'll spot the in-camera JPEG is a tad sharper with the default settings. That said, there's fractionally more noise visible on the JPEG, which has been smoothed out on the processed RAW version. Which is better is down to personal preference, but once again applying more sharpening to the RAW file produced a less desirable result in our view.

We should also note the saturated sky and snowy areas seen in the image above were completely blown-out, and no amount of adjustment to the RAW file retrieved any of this lost highlight detail. This is a disappointment compared to the Panasonic Lumix LX5, which managed to retrieve a fair amount of previously lost highlight detail from its RAW file, given the same composition and exposure. Of course shooting in RAW on the S95 does give you the benefit of easy adjustment of things like the White Balance, not to mention applying Chromatic Aberration correction, but as far as this particular image was concerned, we saw no real improvement in image quality over the in-camera JPEG.

As always though, you may enjoy greater success with different images, settings or even actual RAW converters; the bottom line is while we didn't see a quality benefit to shooting in RAW for this particular composition, it remains a valuable feature to have at your disposal. Now let's look at how the camera performs across its sensitivity range in our Canon PowerShot S95 High ISO Noise results.


Canon PowerShot S95: JPEG
 
Canon PowerShot S95: RAW
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO


Canon PowerShot S95 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise



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