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Nikon COOLPIX P520 Ken McMahon, November 2013
 
 

Nikon COOLPIX P520 vs Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 vs Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Noise JPEG

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  Nikon COOLPIX P520 results
1 Nikon P520 Quality JPEG
2 Nikon P520 Noise JPEG
3 Nikon P520 Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Nikon COOLPIX P520, the Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72, and the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

The COOLPIX P520 and PowerShot SX50 HS were set to their 24mm equivalent maximum wide angle and the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 was zoomed in to 24mm to provide the same field of view.

The cameras were set to Aperture Priority exposure mode with the ISO sensitivity set manually.



The above shot was taken with the Nikon COOLPIX P520 in Aperture priority mode. The camera was mounted on a tripod and tonal enhancement features were left on their default settings. The COOLPIX P520 JPEG file measured 6.23MB and, as usual, the crops are taken from the areas marked by the red rectangle.

The aperture on the COOLPIX P520 was set to f4.2, previously determined to produce the best results, and at its base 80 ISO sensitivity setting it metered an exposure of 0.6s. If you're wondering why f4.2 and not f4, at its 24mm wide angle setting, the COOLPIX P520 has a maximum aperture of f3 and in Aperture priority mode increments in 1/3EV steps. It's therefore not possible to set f4 and the closest alternative is f4.2. Also set to f4 the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 selected 1/2s at 100 ISO and, at f4 and 80 ISO, the Powershot SX50 HS metered 0.8s.

The base 80 ISO crop from the COOLPIX P520 looks visibly noisy. You can see the noise texture in the flat colour background wall and it's obscuring the finer detail in the text panel. But the 80 ISO crop is a little better than the 100 ISO one, where there is a slight, but visible increase in the the texture. That said, you'd have to be pixel-peeing at 100% view to spot it.

At 200 ISO the noise processing changes up a gear with the result that the graininess doesn't increase, instead there's an overall slight softening of the detail, which is probably preferable. Then at 400 ISO there's still the softness, but the texture is punching through it. Despite that, there's still a good level of detail in the 400 ISO crop and I'd have no qualms about using it for everyday low-light situations.

At 800 ISO things are becoming very mottled-looking and the noise has now reached a level where it's beyond the capabilities of the processing and visible at smaller magnifications. 1600 ISO is more noise than image, and this is the watershed for the COOLPIX P520 and the point at which you have to think twice before committing to a shot that you're really only going to be happy with at smaller sizes.

Given that 1600 ISO provides a borderline level of quality, you might be surprised that COOLPIX carries on up the sensitivity scale all the way to 6400 ISO and even offers a 12800 ISO High ISO monochrome effect, shown last in the table below. But while these higher sensitivity settings may look dreadful in the 100 percent crops below, and even look a bit grotty at smaller screen sizes, they're certainly worth having for capturing shots that would otherwise never see the light of day.

So how does the base 100 ISO crop from the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 compare with the 80 ISO crop from the COOLPIX P520? It looks to me like the COOLPIX P520 has lover levels of noise at 80 ISO. That, plus the larger detail produces a better result than the 100 ISO crop from the FZ70 / FZ72. At 100 ISO the noise levels are similar and in fact there's not much to choose between these two all the way up the sensitivity range. The COOLPIX P520 has the advantage of a 6400 ISO and even a mono 12800 ISO setting which is useful for very low light shooting, just don't expect too much in terms of detail.

Compared with the PowerShot SX50 HS there's less noise in the SX50 HS's 80 ISO crop, and 100 ISO crop also looks cleaner. In fact in the 100 to 400 ISO range the PowerShot SX50 HS produces visibly less noisy images with clearer detail. Beyond that it maintains an advantage but, as with the COOLPIX P520, the noise makes these settings unsuitable for full-sized reproduction.

Now head over to my COOLPIX P520 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.


Nikon COOLPIX P520
 
Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72
 
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS

80 ISO

80 ISO Not available
80 ISO
100 ISO
100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
6400
6400 ISO Not available
6400 ISO
12800 ISO
12800 ISO Not available
12800 ISO Not available
Handheld Night Shot 400 ISO
Handheld NightScene 1600 ISO

Nikon COOLPIX P520 results : Quality / Noise


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