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Nikon COOLPIX L24 Ken McMahon, May 2011
 

Nikon COOLPIX L24 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise


Nikon COOLPIX L24 vs Canon PowerShot A1200 vs Canon PowerShot A800 Real-life resolution

 
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To compare real-life performance when zoomed-out, we shot this scene with the Nikon COOLPIX L24, Canon PowerShot A1200 and Canon PowerShot A800 within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings.

The lenses on each camera were set to approximately the same field of view, the Nikon COOLPIX L24 was set to Auto exposure mode and the PowerShot A1200 and PowerShot A800 were set to Program mode.

The Nikon COOLPIX doesn't allow manual setting of the ISO sensistivity but, in the bright sunny conditions it automatically selected 80 ISO. The ISO sensitivity on the two PowerShot compacts was set to the lowest available setting - 80 ISO on the PowerShot A1200 and 100 ISO on the PowerShot A800.

The above image was taken with the Nikon COOLPIX L24. The lens was set ot its maximum wide angle focal length of 6.7mm (37mm equivalent). The metering selected an exposure of 1/400 at f5.5 with the sensitivity at 80 ISO. The original 4320x3240 pixel image had a file size of 5.86MB. The crops are taken from the areas marked with red rectangles and are presented here at 100%.

Let's start with the positives: the Nikon COOLPIX L24's auto metering has got the exposure spot on and selected an aperture and shutter speed combination that's optimised to get the best from this scene. It's a bright, sunny day allowing a slightly stopped-down aperture while maintaining a fast shutter speed of 1/400. Ordinarily, stopping down slightly would produce the best results from the lens, reducing the chance of Chromatic and other aberrations, however, the manual suggests the L24 uses a neutral density filter, rather than a physical aperture, so this is unlikely to be the case. Even so, the image is nicely exposed with good detail throughout the tonal range and the colours are bright and saturated.

The first 100 percent crop elicited a sharp intake of breath, though. The degree of noise, if not breathtaking, is certainly enough to make you ponder the wisdom of cramming more and more photosites onto small comapct image sensors. In fact if you cast your eye along the top row of crops you see an illuminating example of what happens as the pixel count on an image sensor increases with, left to right, 14, 12 and 10 Megapixel sensors showing progressively less noise and more detail as larger, less densely packed photosites are able to deliver more signal and less noise.

It's a similar story on all the COOLPIX L24 crops, with noise clearly visible and obscuring image detail more or less uniformly. There's also slight spotting and clumping of pixels in some areas, it's particularly noticeable in the sky on the first two crops. This is probably the result of processing to try and reduce the noise; it looks a little like JPEG compression artefacts, but that seems unikely given that these are taken with the mildest compression setting.

Compared with the crops from the PowerShot A1200 and PowerShot A800 the Nikon COOLPIX L24 crops are clearly the noisiest and least detailed of the three. It you make a comparison across the table between any set of crops it looks about the same. The PowerShot A1200 and even the A800 are not, by any means, noise-free, there's just less of it, a lot less in the case of the PowerShot A800 crops which look sharp, crisp and beautifully detailed by comparison with the COOLPIX L24.

We often say it, but it's worth pointing out at reduced magnification on most prints or even screens you'd be hard pressed to see these problems. At 25 percent magnification side by shots from the COOLPIX L24 and PowerShot A800 look very similar. If you make a large print from the COOLPIX L24 or view it on-screen at 100% though, you will see that noise, which to some extent defeats the object of having a larger sensor in the first place.

Now let's see how they compare at higher sensitivities in our High ISO Noise results.

 


Nikon COOLPIX L24
 
Canon PowerShot A1200
 
Canon PowerShot A800
f5.5, 80 ISO
f3.5, 80 ISO
f9, 80 ISO
f5.5, 80 ISO
f3.5, 80 ISO
f9, 80 ISO
f5.5, 80 ISO
f3.5, 80 ISO
f9, 80 ISO
f5.5, 80 ISO
f3.5, 80 ISO
f9, 80 ISO


Nikon COOLPIX L24 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise



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