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Sony Cyber-shot HX300 Ken McMahon, June 2013
 
 

Sony HX300 vs Canon SX50 HS Noise

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  Sony Cyber-shot HX300 results
1 Sony HX300 Quality
2 Sony HX300 Noise
3 Sony HX300 Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Sony Cyber-shot HX300 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.

Both cameras were mounted on a tripod and set to their maximum 24mm wide angle focal length. Stabilisation was disabled on the SX50 HS, but can't be turned off on the HX300.

For this test both models were set to Aperture priority mode; all camera settings were left on the defaults.



The image above was taken with the Sony Cyber-shot HX300. From my outdoor test I'd discovered that the both the HX300 and the SX50 HS produced their best results with the aperture set to f4, so both were set to f4 in Aperture priority mode. At its base sensitivity of 80 ISO, the HX300 metered an exposure of 1/5 at f4, the Canon SX50 HS metered 1/4 at f4.

At its base 80 ISO sensitivity, the 20.4 Megapixel sensor of the sony Cyber-shot HX300 produces reasonably noise-free images with a good level of detail, as you can see in the first crop below. There is some visible noise, you can see a slight texture in the dark wood of the memorial panel as well as the flat area of the wall and the moulding on the right. It's also visible in the test panel but, though the text would be clearer without it, it's perfectly readable.

At 100 ISO the texture is a lttle more pronounced, but there's very little in it and it's certainly not something you'd notice other than at 100 percent viewing. Increasing to 200 ISO shows a more pronounced rise in the noise levels, though, the differences are most obvious if you look at the centre section of the crop running from the text panel through the wooden surround to the wall on the right with its shadow. Pay particular attention to the edges - between the wooden memorial panel and the wall and the edge of the shadow. In the 200 ISO crop these edges are already looking less distinct than in the 100 ISO crop, but by 400 ISO there's less of a clean edge than a fuzzy transition.

By 800 ISO the detail really is beginning to suffer and the text in the panel is no longer legible. Noise processing is now straining to retain image detail and there's a good deal of smearing of the text too. At 800 ISO it's no longer the case that you need to be pixel-peeping 100 percent crops to see the effects of noise, which will be visible even at screen sizes.

1600 ISO is as much, if not more noise than image data, but still looks fair at smaller sizes and is definitely worth a shot. And although 3200 ISO looks pretty scrappy at 100 percent, at smaller sizes, though a little peppery and desaturated, it's better than no shot at all.

Beyond that the HX300 automatically produces a multi-shot composite at 6400 ISO and above, though, like 3200 ISO, they're more of a crude impression than a photographic record. Where a very high ISO sensitivity is needed, you're often better off with the HX300's Hand-held Twilight scene mode, which sets the ISO and exposure automatically and fires a series of shots in quick succession to produce a composite image. Here it selected 80 ISO, which makes an evaluation difficult, but past testing has revealed that it does produce a better result than a single shot at the same ISO sensitivity. The only drawback with Hand-held Twilight is you can't select the sensitivity manually. It seems likely that Sony is using the same process, or something similar for the 6400 and 12800 ISO settings. A less marketable, but more useful approach would have been to offer it at all ISO settings, similar to Multi Frame Noise Reduction on its NEX and SLT ranges.

Compared with the Canon SX50 HS, the higher resolution sensor in the Sony HX300, as you'd expect, produces noisier results throughout the sensitivity range. From these 100 percent crops, you can see a difference at the base 80 ISO sensitivity, the Canon crop is cleaner with less visible texture. I'd say the SX50 HS is significantly less noisy right the way up to 1600 ISO, beyond which both sensors are producing so much noise (or the noise reduction is having such a detrimental effect on quality) that it makes little difference. Like the HX300, the SX50 HS has a stacking Handheld Night Scene mode, which in this instance chose 1000 ISO making a comparison impossible. Like the Sony's Hand-held Twilight Mode, though, Handheld Night scene can be relied upon to produce a better result than a single-shot exposure mode at the same ISO sensitivity.

Now head over to my Sony HX300 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions, or head straight for my verdict.


Sony HX300
 
Canon SX50 HS
f4 80 ISO
f4 80 ISO
f4 100 ISO
f4 100 ISO
f4 200 ISO
f4 200 ISO
f4 400 ISO
f4 400 ISO
f4 800 ISO
f4 800 ISO
     
f4 1600 ISO
f4 1600 ISO
     
f4 3200 ISO
f4 3200 ISO
     
f4 6400 ISO
f4 6400 ISO
     
f4 12800 ISO
12800 ISO Not available
     
Hand-held Twilight f2.8 80 ISO
Handheld NightScene f3.4 1000 ISO
 

Sony Cyber-shot HX300 results : Quality / Noise


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