Nikon COOLPIX P600 Ken McMahon, June 2014

Nikon P600 vs Sony HX400V Noise

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  Nikon COOLPIX P600 results
1 COOLPIX P600 Quality
2 COOLPIX P600 Noise
3 COOLPIX P600 Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Nikon COOLPIX P600 and Sony Cyber-shot HX400V within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

Both cameras were set to their maximum wide angle 24mm equivalent focal length.

I'd previously determined that the best results on both cameras were produced with the aperture at its widest setting, so for this test I set the COOLPIX P600 to f3.3 in Aperture priority mode. The Sony HX400V was set to its maximum aperture of f2.8. For this test the cameras were mounted on a tripod. Image stabilisation can't be disabled on the HX400V, so was left on the default intelligent Active setting, but was disabled on the COOLPIX P600.

The image above was taken with the Nikon COOLPIX P600. The P600 was set to f3.3 in Aperture priority mode and at its base 100 ISO sensitivity setting, selected a shuter speed of 1/4s. At its base 80 ISO sensitivity setting the Sony HX400V metered an exposure of 1/4s at f2.8.

At its base 100 ISO sensitivity setting the crop from the COOLPIX P600 isn't noise free. You can see noise texture very clearly in the 'Eucharistic Prayer' label at the top of the hymn board and noise is also visible in the hymn numbers as well as in the wall to the left.

The step up to 200 ISO sees a quite visible increase in the noise levels, as does the next increase to 400 ISO and already the text is becoming much less legible and edges are looking pretty grungy. At this point, a little earlier in the process than usual, I'll point out that you need to be pixel peeping 100 percent crops to see these shortcomings, at smaller sizes the COOLPIX P600 results look perfectly fine at these lower ISO sensitivity settings.

By the time we get to 1600 ISO though, we're on the brink and possibly even past what might be deemed acceptable from a noise quality point of view. You can no longer read the smaller text and even the big numbers are looking ropey. Regardless of the fact the COOLPIX P600 extends to 6400 ISO anything above 1600 is strictly for those must have at any cost shots.

Compared with the HX400V, the COOLPIX P600 gets off to a good start. Just a reminder that the 16.1 Megapixel sensor in the COOLPIX P600 produces crops with a larger area and smaller detail than those from the 20.4 Megapixel HX400V. At its base 100 ISO sensitivity setting the COOLPIX P600 crop compares very favourably with the 100 ISO crop from the HX400V, but I'd say it's marginally noisier with visible texture in the white label as well as the numbers on the board.

As with the Sony HX400V, as you progress up the sensitivity scale the noise increases very visibly with each 1EV step, but the margin is bigger on the P600 with the result that by 800 ISO there's a clear gap opening up. Though the P600 has a top setting of 6400 ISO compared with 3200 ISO on the HX400V, beyond the base 100 ISO setting, at each step up the sensitivity scale its results are noisier than the equivalent on the HX400V.

Apart from its superior high ISO noise performance the HX400V has a couple of other tricks up it's sleeve. Firstly, at the wide angle setting its maximum aperure is a little wider than the P600, so you can shoot with a lower ISO using the same shutter speed in similar lighting conditions. In my test, for example, I was able to shoot at 80 ISO on the HX400V compared with 100 ISO on the P600 using the same shutter speed (even then, the P600 crops are slightly darker).

Secondly, the HX400V has a raft of composite modes that produce lower noise results at high ISO settings. The most useful of these is Multi Frame Noise Reduction which allows you to set the ISO manually from 100 to 12800. For comparison purposes I've shown a crop at the end of the table using MFNR at 3200 ISO as well as the HX400V's Hand held Twilight mode which sets the ISO automatically. Maybe Nikon should consider extending the P600's composite Backlight mode to provide a low noise composite option like Sony's.

Now head over to my Nikon COOLPIX P600 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions, or head straight for my verdict.

Nikon P600 JPEG
Sony HX400V JPEG
80 ISO Not available
80 ISO
100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
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1600 ISO
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3200 ISO
3200 ISO
6400 ISO
6400 ISO Not available
Not available
Hand held Twilight 320 ISO
Not available

Nikon COOLPIX P600 results : Quality / Noise

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