To compare real-life performance when zoomed-out, I shot this scene with the the Nikon COOLPIX L810 and the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings.
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 set manually on each camera – to the base ISO sensitivity settings of 80 ISO on the COOLPIX L810 and 100 ISO on the PowerShot SX500 IS.
The image above was taken with the Nikon COOLPIX L810. The lens was zoomed in slightly to 4.3mm (24mm equivalent) to provide an equivalent field of view to the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS. The COOLPIX L810 has two aperture settings at this focal length – f3.1 and f9.9 and slight changes to the viewing angle would cause the camera to switch from one to the other, eventually settling on f3.1, closer to the f5 selected by the SX500 IS. As the L810’s aperture is set with an electronically controlled neutral density filter, rather than a physical diaphragm it actually makes no difference in terms of diffraction or depth of field.
The camera metered an exposure of 1/1500 at f3.1. The original JPEG image size was 7.04MB. The crops are taken from the areas marked with red rectangles and presented here at 100%. Image stabilisation was disabled for these tripod-based tests.
Overall, the COOLPIX L810 has produced a good result from the outdoor test scene. The exposure and white balance are good and the result looks pleasing with natural colours. There’s a good level of detail in the crops, though, like the PowerShot SX500 IS, there’s also a visible level of noise which you can see as a stippled texture in areas of flat colour. In the first crop the stippling is most apparent on the left hand side on the boundaries between the hill and sea and the sea and sky. But despite that there’s still plenty of fine detail in the chapel and the rocky foreground.
In the second crop the stippling is a little more visible, but the lighthouse is a distinct white column and the roofs and windows in the middle ground are quite well resolved with good clean edge detail. The detail in the third crop from the edge of the frame looks a little clumpy and there’s the merest hint of colour fringing. As is often the case the final crop from the centre of the frame shows the highest level of detail with edges that are nice and sharp. There’s still that stippling though, which is why you can’t see more detail in the roof tiles and the distant buildings.
Compared with the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS the Nikon COOLPIX L810 has a clear lead in terms of overall quality. First, there’s the quite severe chromatic aberration on the SX500 IS which is present in all of the crops to a greater or lesser degree. Then there’s the noise issue which manifests itself in a similar fashion, but to a greater degree in the PowerShot SX500 IS crops. The COOLPIX L810 lens doesn’t suffer from chromatic aberration to anything like the extent the PowerShot SX500 does and its sensor is a little less prone to noise at the base ISO setting. These two factors combine to give the COOLPIX L810 a small, but significant quality lead, at least for full sized images displayed at 100 percent viewing sizes.
To see how these models compare at higher sensitivities check out my Nikon L810 noise results.
To compare noise levels under real-life conditions I shot this scene with the Nikon COOLPIX L810 and the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS within a few moments of each other using their highest resolution JPEG mode 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 Nikon COOLPIX L810. The lens was zoomed in to 4.3mm to provide an equivalent field of view to the PowerShot SX500 IS. Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test. In Program Auto mode the Nikon COOLPIX L810 chose an exposure of 1/8 at f3.1 and 80 ISO.
The base 80 ISO crop from the COOLPIX L810 is quite impressive. There’s a very good level of detail, the text in the memorial panel is very legible and there’s little evidence of noise. In the areas of flat colour some of the edge detail looks a little bit squiffy but, overall, this is very good. At 100 ISO the L810’s automatic white balance ran into difficulty but the exposure is good. Interestingly, there’s visibly more noise at 100 ISO than at 80 ISO, you can now cleary see texture in the flat colour areas, so if you’re setting the sensitivity manually it’s worth leaving the L810 on 80 ISO as your ‘default’. There’s another marginal hike in noise levels at 200 ISO, but the first three sensitivity settings all provide results good enough for 100 percent viewing and printing.
At 400 ISO all but the largest text on the memorial is now illegible, so fine detail is beginning to lose out to noise. I’d still be happy with a full size print at 400 ISO, it just won’t look nearly as good as an 80 ISO one and, of course, at smaller sizes 400 ISO looks perfectly fine. Even 800 ISO is satisfactory for reproduction at small sizes, but now the noise is very definitely gaining the upper hand and there’s also a drop in contrast and saturation. 1600 ISO is the ‘must have at all costs and never mind the quality’ setting on the COOLPIX L810.
Compared with the results form the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS, overall, there’s not a lot between these two 16 Megapixel CCD sensors. The COOLPIX L810 starts at a slightly lower base setting of 80 ISO and this crop looks cleaner than the 100 ISO crop from the PowerShot SX500 IS with less noise and improved fine detail as a result. The colour balance has gone a bit awry with the COOLPIX L810 100 ISO shot, but despite that, in noise terms the gap has closed and the PowerShot may even be slightly ahead here with cleaner edges. The 400 ISO crops look qualitatively different, but I couldn’t say one was better than the other either way. In conclusion, I’d say the Nikon COOLPIX L810 has a clear advantage at the base ISO sensitivity, but above that, there’s little to choose betwen these two models.