Canon ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS review - Quality

Quality

Canon ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS vs ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS quality

 
To compare real-life performance when zoomed-out, I shot this scene with the the Canon ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS and the Canon ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS 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 manually set to 100 ISO on each camera.

  ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS results
1 ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS Quality
3 ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS Noise
5 ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS Sample images

The image above was taken with the Canon ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS. The lens was set to the maximum 28mm wide angle position and the Canon ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS with which I’ve compared it here was zoomed in slightly to give an equivalent vertical field of view. In Program auto mode the camera metered an exposure of 1/1600 at f3.4. The original Superfine JPEG image size was 4.69MB. 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 and i-Contrast was left in the default off position on both cameras.

In contrast to the ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS, the ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS has picked the widest available aperture for this bright sunny subject. The exposure is good and the histogram extends to both edges of the chart with no clipping. The result is a nicely exposed image with good contrast, accurate white balance, and vibrant natural colours.

Turning to the crops, there’s a good level of detail, but some visible noise too. The HS suffix on the ELPH / IXUS range stands for High Sensitivity and highlights the low noise capabilities of their back-illuminated CMOS sensors, but even outdoors in bright light they’re not completely noise-free and if you look closely you can see that the areas of flat colour have a noticeable texture to them.

The first crop actually shows a good deal of detail in the chapel and grassy foreground, but take a good look at the horizon line on the left of the crop where the sea meets the sky and it’s quite clumpy. If you look closely at the chapel it’s clear that the noise in this crop is obscuring the finer detail in the stonework.

The lighthouse is a clear and distinct column with well defined edges and the foreground roofs and window frames also showing a good level of detail. But again, there’s visible clumping of the pixels with the sea and the background cliffs looking (in)distinctly impressionistic.

The lens softness in the third crop from the frame edge is taking the edge off the noisiness, but the edges are still not as clean and sharp as they could be. Finally in the fourth crop from the centre of the frame edge detail is reasonably crisp, but there’s still that clumpiness texturing flat colour areas. Overall I think it’s fair to say that these results are slightly marred by the persistent presence of low ISO noise.

The crops from the ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS make for an interesting comparison with those from the ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS. You might think that with a 10 Megapixel sensor the ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS stands a good chance of producing better results than the 16.1 Megapixel ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS, but in fact the sensor in the ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS has a total pixel count of 16.8 Megapixels and is in all likelihood the same sensor as in the ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS. Only the central portion of the sensor is used, giving an effective count of 10.1 Megapixels.

What does this mean in practice? Well, the results speak for themselves. The ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS suffers from visible noise at the base 100 ISO sensitivity. The crops from the ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS are actually very similar, but because (more or less) the full sensor area is used, image detail is larger and less prone to the effects of noise. Side-by-side at screen resolutions you can’t really see the difference, but these 100 percent crops tell a different story. Unless you plan to make big prints this may not be a big concern for you, but it’s worth knowing that 12x zoom of the ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS comes at the cost of smaller, noisier images than other ELPH / IXUS models like the ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS that use the full sensor area.

To see how these models compare at higher sensitivities check out my ELPH 520 HS/ IXUS 500 HS Noise results.

 
Canon ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS
 
Canon ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS
f3.4, 100 ISO
f10, 100 ISO
f3.4, 100 ISO
f10, 100 ISO
f3.4, 100 ISO
f10, 100 ISO
f3.4, 100 ISO
f10, 100 ISO


Canon ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS results : Quality / Noise

Canon ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS vs ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS Noise

 
  Canon ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS results
1 ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS Quality
3 ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS Noise
5 ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions I shot this scene with the Canon ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS and the Canon ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS within a few moments of each other using their highest resolution Superfine 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 Canon ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS. The lens was set to the maximum 28mm wide angle position and the Canon ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS with which I’ve compared it here was zoomed in slightly to give an equivalent vertical field of view. Image stabilisation was disabled and i-Contrast was left in the default Off position. In Program Auto mode the ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS chose an exposure of 0.3s at f3.4 at 100 ISO.

Looking at the first crop, there’s already visible evidence of noise as we saw on the outdoor test crops at 100 ISO. To be fair it’s pretty unobtrusive and you have to be pixel-peeping these 100 percent crops to spot it. At 200 ISO the noise is a little more evident, but it’s still nothing to be too concerned about. At 400 ISO it takes another step upwards and this is the point at which I’d start to think twice if I was intending to make a big print, even so, you’d have to look hard at a screen-sized version of this to tell it apart from the 100 ISO shot.

400 ISO is the point at which the noise reaches a level where it is visible at less than 100 percent. At 800 ISO the text on the memorial panel is looking very broken up with the edges looking quite fuzzy and at 1600 ISO the noise really is gaining the upper hand, reaching a level where it is visible at less than 100 percent. At this sensitivity setting you’d be better off switching to the Handheld Nightscene mode which shoots three frames and combines them to produce the result you can see in the final crop. The ISO sensitivity in this mode is automatically selected, in this case at 1600 ISO. Though the smoothing is quite visible and has removed a fair bit of detail, this is without doubt a better result than the single frame 1600 ISO crop.

Compared with the crops from the 16.1 Megapixel ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS, the ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS look noisier and less detailed. As I noted in the outdoor resolution test, the ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS uses the central 10 Megapixel portion of a 16.8 megapixel sensor that may well be the same one used in the ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS. It’s therefore no surprise that its crops, although showing smaller detail than the ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS, look similar in terms of noise characteristics.

The full-size sensor in the ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS does have its advantages. As well as being able to produce larger prints the larger detail is less prone to noise damage. It also looks like the noise suppression in the ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS is a little more effective.

Now head over to my ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

Canon ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS
 
Canon ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS
100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
     
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
     
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
     
1600 ISO Handheld NightScene
1600 ISO Handheld NightScene

Canon ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS results : Quality / Noise

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