Canon PowerShot D30 vs Nikon S33 vs Nikon AW130 quality results
To compare real-life performance, I shot this scene with the Canon PowerShot D30, the Nikon COOLPIX S33 and the Nikon COOLPIX AW130 within a few moments of each other, using their best quality JPEG settings and at their base sensitivity settings. For this test the cameras were mounted on a tripod and image stabilisation was disabled. The cameras were zoomed in to provide the same field of view, the ISO sensitivity was manually set to the lowest available setting and Auto mode was selected for the exposure. On the COOLPIX S33 the ISO sensitivity can’t be set manually and the camera selected 125 ISO. All other settings were left on the defaults.
A quick glance down the row of crops from the Canon PowerShot D30 reveals nothing that’s much of a cause for concern, overall it’s a good set of crops with a reasonable level of image detail. The first crop from quite close to the left edge of the frame is a tiny bit soft and there’s also a hint of purple fringing, but other than when forensically examining 100 percent crops like this, it’s not something you’d be likely to notice.
The next two crops are from close to the middle of the frame and there’s a good level of detail here, though you can’t see the time on the church clock, there’s not too much detail in the stonework of the church tower and you can’t make out the individual tiles on the rooftops. If that all sounds a bit negative, bear in mind that there aren’t many compact models that would be able to resolve that kind of detail.
Finally the fourth crop shows the lighthouse as a cleanly defined white cylinder and you can even make out the lamphouse at the top – just about. So a very good overal result from the Canon D30 that demonstrates it can produce image quality on a par with its non-waterproof competitors.
Compared with the other two waterproof models on test here I think the D30 also gives a very good account of itself. It’s hard to see a lot of difference between the three models from the first two rows of crops which look very similar. But in the final two there’s clearly more detail in the D30 crops.
One final thing I should point out is that the Nikon COOLPIX AW130 has a 16 Megapixel sensor which would ordinarily produce crops with a smaller area and bigger detail than the Canon D30, but I slightly under-zoomed the AW130 to 26mm producing a wider field of view which has effectively compensated and produced equivalent sized crops. The other thing to note here is the the COOLPIX S33’s 13 Megapixel 1/3.1 inch sensor is physically smaller than the 1/2.3in sensors employed in the other two models. So with the same number of photo sites packed into a smaller physical area, the image quality isn’t likely to be as good.
Canon PowerShot D30 vs Nikon S33 vs Nikon AW130 noise results
To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Canon PowerShot D30, the Nikon COOLPIX S33 and the Nikon COOLPIX AW130 within a few moments of each other at each of their ISO settings. All three cameras were set to their best quality JPEG modes and mounted on a tripod and stabilisation was disabled.
The cameras were zoomed in to provide the same field of view, the ISO sensitivity was manually set to the lowest available setting and Auto mode was selected for the exposure.
The Nikon COOLPIX S33 doesn’t provide manual selection of the ISO sensitivity and for the test scene selected an exposure of 1/25 at f3.3 at 400 ISO. Consequently only a 400 ISO crop is available for comparison.
With the sensitivity manually set to 100 ISO the Canon D30 set an exposure of 1/5 at f3.9 and at 125 ISO the COOLPIX AW130 selected 1/6 at f4.2. The crops below are selected from the area marked in red above.
Casting your eye down the column of crops from the Canon D30 you see the familiar progression of noise as the ISO sensitivity increases. At the lower settings the D30 manages the noise output from the sensor extremely well. At the 100 ISO base setting – that will be in use for most shots you take outdoors in good light – there’s visible noise but you’d only ever see it pixel peeping 100 percent crops like this. And though the noise increases a little as you step up to 200 and 400 ISO, it’s not interfering too much with image detail. The 400-1600 ISO range is important on water-proof cameras as this is what you’ll be using if you’re shooting, for example, when snorkelling, even if it’s sunny up above.
At 800 ISO things take a downward turn again, but this time the D30’s noise suppression is really struggling and the image is looking very grainy. At 1600 ISO the fine and medium sized details are beginning to suffer. But though 1600 ISO looks a little gruesome at 100 percent, at smaller viewing sizes it’s more than acceptable. 3200 ISO is good to have for low-light emergencies, but definitely best avoided if possible.
Because the Nikon COOLPIX S33 doesn’t allow you to set the sensitivity manually, there’s only crop to compare and that’s at the 400 ISO setting that the S33 selected automatically. The COOLPIX S33 400 ISO crop looks a fair bit noisier that the equivalent crop from the D33 and I think it would be fair to assume that would be the case at other sensitivity settings. The S33’s 13 Megapixel 1/3.1 inch sensor is physically smaller than the 1/2.3in sensors employed in the D30. With roughly the same number of photo sites packed into a smaller physical area, images are likey to be more noisy throughout the sensitivity range.
In terms of the physics, it’s a similar story for the 16 Megapixel AW130 which has the same physical size sensor as the D30 with an extra 4 million photosites squeezed onto it. As with the COOLPIX S33 I think the COOLPIX AW130 crops are noisier, or less detailed than those from the D30 as a consequence of noise suppression. So For noise performance throughout the sensitivity range the Canon D30 is a clear winner here.