Canon PowerShot SX510 HS Ken McMahon, October 2013

Canon SX510 HS vs Nikon COOLPIX L820 Noise

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  Canon PowerShot SX510 HS results
1 Canon SX510 HS Quality
2 Canon SX510 HS Noise
3 Canon SX510 HS sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Canon PowerShot SX510 HS and the Nikon COOLPIX L820, within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

Though both models have a 30x optical zoom, the COOLPIX L810's lens starts at a slightly wider 22.5mm wide-angle equivalent, so I zoomed it in a tad to match the 24mm maximum wide angle on the PowerShot SX510 HS.

For this test both cameras were set to Program auto and all camera settings were left on the defaults.

The above shot was taken with the Canon PowerShot SX510 HS. The lens was set to the maximum 24mm wide angle position and the Nikon COOLPIX L820, with which I've compared it here, was zoomed in slightly to give an equivalent field of view. Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test. In Program Auto mode the PowerShot SX510 HS chose an exposure of 1/8s at f3.4 at 80 ISO and at its base 125 ISO sensitivity the Nikon COOLPIX L820 metered 1/15 at f3.1

At its base 80 ISO setting the CMOS sensor in the PowerShot SX510 HS produces reasonably clean and detailed results, but they're not noise-free and at 100 percent view you can make out textures in the flat wall. The noise is more visible in the 100 ISO crop so it's worth sticking with the base 80 ISO setting for best quality results, particularly if you plan on making big prints. At 200 ISO there's another visible jump in the noise levels with purple and green patches appearing as the colour noise increases. At 400 ISO the noise and the processing to minimise it is making the image look bitty and the 800 ISO crop has the typical salt and pepper appearance of high ISO noise. But while a full size print at 800 ISO won't look great, at smaller sizes it'll be perfectly passable.

By 1600 ISO the noise really is gaining the upper hand, though, and even medium sized detail is losing out to it. 3200 ISO is a worthwhile bet for must have low-light shots, but looks fairly grotty, even at smaller screen sizes.

Ignoring the warm white balance of the COOLPIX L820 crops, the PowerShot SX510 HS crops actually look noisier. I've put the base 125 ISO crop from the COOLPIX L810 alongside the 100 ISO crop from the PowerShot SX50 HS but you should be comparing it with the latter's base 80 ISO crop as these are their respective base sensitivities. Even so, there's less texture in the wall in the Nikon crop and if you compare the 200 ISO crops, here too the flat areas of colour in the COOLPIX L810 crop are less textured. But there's less fine detail in the L820 crops too and they look softer. I think what we're seeing here is more aggressive noise processing on the COOPIX L810. If you compare the 800 ISO crops, there's a lot less noise and none of the bittiness in the COOLPIX L810 crop, but the detail is clumped and you can't make out anywhere as much detail in the text panel as in the PowerShot SX510 HS crop.

On balance, I'd say the PowerShot SX510 HS, with more noise, but more detail too, is a better result. That certainly proved to be the case in the outdoor test and I think it also applies higher up the senstitvity range.

Now head over to my Canon SX510 HS sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions, or head straight for my verdict.

Canon PowerShot SX510 HS
Nikon COOLPIX L820
80 ISO
80 ISO Not Available
100 ISO
125 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
3200 ISO
3200 ISO

Canon PowerShot SX510 HS results : Quality / Noise

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