Canon PowerShot A3400 IS review - Quality

Quality

Canon PowerShot A3400 IS vs Canon PowerShot A2300 image quality

 
To compare real-life performance when zoomed-out, I shot this scene with the Canon PowerShot A3400 IS and the Canon PowerShot A2300 within a few moments of each other using their best quality 16 Megapixel resolution.

The lenses on both cameras were set to an equivalent field of view and both were set to Program auto exposure mode.

The ISO sensitivity was manually set to 100 ISO on each camera.

  PowerShot A3400 IS results
1 PowerShot A3400 IS Quality
3 PowerShot A3400 IS Noise
5 PowerShot A3400 IS Sample images

The image above was taken with the Canon PowerShot A3400 IS. The lens was set to its maximum wide angle position at 5mm to provide an equivalent field of view to the 5-25mm lens on the PowerShot A2300. In Program auto mode the camera metered an exposure of 1/200 at f7.9. The original JPEG image size was 4.42MB. The crops are taken from the areas marked with red rectangles and presented here at 100%.

Image stabilisation on the A3400 IS was disabled and i-Contrast was left in the default off position on both cameras. Before I analyse the 100 percent crops I just want to briefly talk about the aperture selected by both cameras and its effect on image quality. Both the A2300 and the A3400 IS selected an aperture of f7.9 in Program auto mode. An initial test shot I made with the A2300 selected an aperture of f2.8, but subsequently the A2300 steadfastly refused to budge from f7.9 (implying the choice of just two aperture settings). The A3400 IS selected f7.9 for every shot, so lacking a pair of f2.8 shots for comparison and with no aperture priority mode to force a wider aperture, for a fair comparison I’ve compared crops from the f7.9 exposures. But it’s also only fair to point out that the quality of the single f2.8 exposure from the A2300 is visibly better than these f7.9 crops which suffer noticeably from diffraction.

Aside from the diffraction issue the most noticeable thing about these crops is the low level of detail and the clumpiness of the pixels. All of these crops look quite heavily processed and there’s quite a noticeable degree of texture in areas of flat colour. In the first crop a lot of the fine detail in the chapel walls and the foregound has been obscured by this clumpiness.

The second crop looks a little better. The lighthouse is discernible as a white column and the edges of the window frames are reasonably well defined. But the processed look persists, and there’s stiill a lot of texture in the top half of this crop where there shouldn’t be any. I would expect to see more detail in the foreground roofs. The detail in the third crop from the edge of the frame fares no worse, but there’s a hint of a red fringe along the vertical edge of the window frames.

The last crop from close to centre of the frame is the best in terms of definition with reasonably well defined edge detail, I’d hesitate to call it sharp, though, as once again the clumpiness makes everthing appear as it was viewed through a dirty window. It’s worth pointing out that at typical screen sizes you’re unlikely to notice this pixel clumping and loss of detail, but if you plan on making large prints, or radically cropping your shots it could become an issue.

Interestingly, the PowerShot A3400 IS crops compare quite favourably with the PowerShot A2300 which shares the same sensor and lens (though it isn’t stabilised). Unless the unstabilised optics of the A2300 are poorer in some regard, this implies a difference in the processing. There’s no question, though, that the clumping in evidence in both sets of crops isn’t so bad on the A3400 IS ones. The areas where the difference is most clear are the chapel in the first crop, the lighthouse and the foreground roofs in the second one everywhere in the final crop.

To see how these models compare at higher sensitivities check out my PowerShot A3400 IS Noise results.

 
CanonPowerShot A3400 IS
 
Canon PowerShot A2300
f7.9, 100 ISO
f7.9, 100 ISO
f7.9, 100 ISO
f7.9, 100 ISO
f7.9, 100 ISO
f7.9, 100 ISO
f7.9, 100 ISO
f7.9, 100 ISO


Canon PowerShot A3400 IS results : Quality / Noise

Canon PowerShot A3400 IS vs Canon PowerShot A2300 Noise

 
  PowerShot A3400 IS results
1 PowerShot A3400 IS Quality
3 PowerShot A3400 IS Noise
5 PowerShot A3400 IS Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions I shot this scene with the Canon PowerShot A3400 IS and PowerShot A2300 within a few moments of each other using their best 16 Megapixel resolution at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

The cameras were set to Program auto exposure mode, the lenses were set to the same field of view and the ISO sensitivity was set manually.

The above shot was taken with the Canon PowerShot A3400 IS. The lens was set to its maximum 5mm wide angle position which provides a similar field of view to the 5-25mm lens on the PowerShot A2300. For these tests the camera was placed on a tripod. Image stabilisation was disabled on the A3400 IS and i-Contrast was left in the default off position on both cameras. In Program auto mode the A3400 IS chose an exposure of 1/5 at f2.8 at 100 ISO

As we saw in the outdoors test, even at the base 100 ISO sensitivity setting there’s visible noise in the 100 percent crop from the PowerShot A2300. As a result the edges of the memorial frame already look a bit indistinct and there’s a coarse granularity to the flat colour of the cream wall. There’s also a distinct purple patchiness to parts of the image which varies from crop to crop.

At 200 ISO, there’s a quite distinct increase in the noise levels and at 400 ISO detail is beginning to break up and edges that should be crisp and straight are already looking quite bitty and broken up. At 800 ISO things take a dramatic downturn. Both the noise and processing to reduce it have ratcheted up and the result is a corresponding worsening in image quality with all but the coarsest detail losing out in consequence. There isn’t a clean edge anywhere in this crop.

You don’t have to be pixel peeping at 100 percent view to see a difference in quality between the 100 and 800 ISO images, though this and the 1600 ISO shot are fine for web viewing at small sizes, they’re not suitable for everyday shooting and are best reserved for ‘must have’ low light shooting. The Low light scene mode produces slightly better results at automatically selected high ISO settings, but at a reduced 4 Megapixel resolution.

Once again, it’s curious that there’s a difference in the noise characteristics of the PowerShot A3400 IS and the A2300, both of which use the same 16 Megapixel CCD sensor, but there you are. Both cameras start with significant noise at the 100 ISO base setting and it increases fairly linearly with the result that, at 800 ISO a lot of even the coarsest detail is lost. The degree of noise and processing is similar in both cases, it just looks a bit different.

So, while the difference in processing gives the A3400 IS a slight advantage at 100 ISO, at the higher sensitivity settings neither camera shines and there’s not much to choose between them.

Now head over to my PowerShot A3400 IS sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

Canon PowerShot A3400 IS
 
Canon PowerShot A2300
100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
     
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
     
     
Low light 1000 ISO
Low light 1250 ISO

Canon PowerShot A3400 IS results : Quality / Noise

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