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Sony Alpha DSLR-A230 Gordon Laing, November 2009

Sony Alpha DSLR-A230 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise

Sony Alpha A230 vs Canon EOS 1000D / XS vs Nikon D3000 High ISO Noise

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To compare noise levels under real-life conditions we shot this scene with the Sony Alpha A230, Canon EOS 1000D / XS and Nikon D3000 within a few moments of each other using each of their ISO settings.

Each camera was fitted with its respective kit zoom, adjusted to deliver the same field of view. The lenses were set to f8 in Aperture Priority mode.

Noise Reduction was set to the default options on each camera, although we disabled any automatic contrast-enhancing modes as these can artificially introduce noise. As such, Auto Lighting Optimizer on the Canon, Active D-Lighting on the Nikon and Dynamic Range Optimizer on the Sony were all disabled. The image above was taken with the Sony Alpha A230 at 100 ISO with an exposure of 2 seconds and with the lens set to 22mm f8; the original L:10 JPEG measured 2.93MB. The crops below are taken from the area marked with a red square and presented here at 100%.

Between 100 and 200 ISO, all three models are delivering clean and detailed results. If you look closely at 400 ISO, you’ll spot noise textures just beginning to creep-in, but they’re certainly subtle and nothing to really worry about yet.

Interestingly though you can already see evidence of each camera’s respective noise reduction strategies at this point, with noise-averse Canon and Sony applying more noise reduction than Nikon, which is comparatively happy to reveal speckles and retain detail. You’ll see this more obviously as the sequence continues.

With the sensitivity increased to 800 ISO, there’s a noticeable increase in noise levels and the respective processing of each camera. Both Canon and Sony have turned-up their noise reduction, although the EOS 1000D / XS has just about got away with it, whereas the Alpha A230 has already become quite soft in comparison. In the meantime, the Nikon D3000 is content not to hide noise speckles, and while they’re the most visible of the three cameras here, it’s arguably retaining the most detail.

At 1600 ISO, the story’s the same, just louder. The Nikon D3000 has the most visible noise, Canon continues to smear most of its speckles away albeit with some chroma artefacts now becoming apparent, while Sony’s A230 becomes increasingly soft.

The Canon EOS 1000D / XS bows out at this point, leaving the Nikon and Sony to offer a 3200 ISO option. At this point the Nikon D3000 has become very noisy indeed, but it’s significantly better than the mushiness of the Sony A230. Sure, Sony’s managed to suppress almost all visible speckles – although some chroma artefacts are now apparent – but the resulting splotchiness doesn’t do the camera any favours. Neither model looks good at 3200 ISO, but most would prefer the output from the Nikon D3000 here.

So from 100 to 400 ISO, there’s not a great deal to choose between the three entry-level DSLRs, but at 800 ISO and above you’ll notice quite different approaches to noise. Sony smears it out and quickly becomes the softest of the group. Canon also applies noise reduction, but manages to keep hold of a decent degree of detail, albeit with the company’s unfortunate tendency to suffer chroma artefacts at higher sensitivities. In stark contrast to its rivals, Nikon’s gone for a relatively hands-off approach, with quite visible noise at higher sensitivities, but has managed to avoid smearing fine details as a result.

If you regularly shoot at 800 ISO or above though, we’d say the Canon EOS 1000D / XS and Nikon D3000 enjoy a comfortable edge over the Sony Alpha A230, but the choice between the Canon and Nikon really boils down to which noise handling strategy you prefer. At Camera Labs we favour a hands-off approach which retains detail and gives you the opportunity to apply noise reduction later if desired, and as such the Nikon delivers the best result of the three in our view. But you may prefer the look of the Canon – it’s all about comparing the output from each camera and seeing which suits you best.

Now let’s see more examples throughout its sensitivity range in our Sony Alpha A230 Sample Images Gallery.

Sony Alpha DSLR-A230
with Sony DT 18-55mm SAM
Canon EOS 1000D / Rebel XS
with Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS
Nikon D3000
with Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR
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 not available
Hi 1 (3200 ISO)

Sony Alpha DSLR-A230 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise

All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2017 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

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