Canon PowerShot SX500 IS review - Quality

Quality

Canon SX500 IS vs Nikon L810

 
To compare real-life performance when zoomed-out, I shot this scene with the the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS and Nikon COOLPIX L810 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 100 ISO on the PowerShot SX500 IS and 80 ISO on the COOLPIX L810.

  Canon PowerShot SX500 IS results
1 Canon SX500 IS Quality
3 Canon SX500 IS Noise
5 Canon SX500 IS Sample images

The image above was taken with the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS. The lens was set to the maximum 24mm wide angle position and the Nikon COOLPIX L800 with which I’ve compared it here was zoomed in slightly to give an equivalent field of view. In Program auto mode the camera metered an exposure of 1/1000 at f5. The original Superfine JPEG image size was 7.66MB. 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.

On the whole the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS has produced a good result from this high contrast sunny scene. The evaluative metering has produced an accurate exposure with good detail in the shadows and just a tiny bit of clipping of the brightest highlights. The white balance is good and the colours are saturated and natural-looking.

The crops all look a little bit noisy. In areas of low detail like the sea and sky there’s a stippling effect – it’s most visible in the second crop in the three bands of blue that form the sea, cliffs and sky. In areas of fine detail, like the middle ground in the second crop, the noise is obscuring the detail to a degree.

Then there’s the chromatic aberration problem. This test scene doesn’t usually bring out the worst in lenses where chromatic aberration is concerned, usually if there is a problem it’s confined to the edge of the frame shown in the third crop. There’s no mistaking the severe colour fringing here, but more worryingly, there’s evidence of the same problem, albeit to a lesser degree in every single one of these crops, even the one from close to the centre of the frame.

To sum up then, the quality performance of the PowerShot SX500 IS is let down a little by noise at the base ISO sensitivity and chromatic abberation at the wide angle angle lens setting. To put that in context, these problems aren’t likely to trouble you unless you’re viewing or printing images at 100 percent. Also, the lens performance improves considerably towards the centre of the frame where the colour fringing is minimal edges are sharp and fine detail is well resolved.

To see how these models compare at higher sensitivities check out the Canon SX500 noise results.

 
Canon PowerShot SX500 IS
 
Nikon COOLPIX L810
f5, 100 ISO
f3.1, 80 ISO
f5, 100 ISO
f3.1, 80 ISO
f5, 100 ISO
f3.1, 80 ISO
f5, 100 ISO
f3.1, 80 ISO


Canon PowerShot SX500 IS results : Quality / Noise

Canon SX500 IS vs Nikon L810 Noise

 
  Canon PowerShot SX500 IS results
1 Canon SX500 IS Quality
3 Canon SX500 IS Noise
5 Canon SX500 IS Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions I shot this scene with the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS and Nikon COOLPIX L810 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 Canon PowerShot SX500 IS. The lens was set to the maximum 24mm wide angle position and the Nikon COOLPIX L810, with which I’ve compared it here, was zoomed in slightly to give an equivalent field of view. Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test. In Program Auto mode the PowerShot SX500 IS chose an exposure of 1/8s at f3.4 at 100 ISO.

As with the outdoor test results, the base 100 ISO crop from the PowerShot SX500 IS shows some evidence of noise, though it doesn’t look quite so intrisuve on this longer exposure. There’s a fine graininess to this crop which adds texture where there shouldn’t be any and slightly impacts on the clarity of the text in the memorial panel.

In the 200 ISO crop the noise has increased both quantitatively and qualitatively with some colour noise now making an appearance. And by 400 ISO the noise increase and pixel clumping between them are making the text virtually illegible. Generally though, the 100 – 400 ISO range produces good quality results that at smaller sizes you’d have to look closely at to tell apart.

The 800 ISO setting is the watershed. It’s not that the quality takes a dive at this point, rather the cumulative effect of increasing the ISO sensitivity has reached a tipping point and the noise is winning out over image data. The 1600 ISO setting is useful to have for low-light emergency shots, but a lot of the detail is obscured in a noisy haze and this is really only going to be of value for must-have shots at smaller sizes.

The PowerShot SX500 IS has a Low light scene mode which automatically sets the sensitivity up to a maximum 6400 ISO at reduced M (2304 x 1728) resolution. I haven’t included an example here because I wasn’t able to encourage it above 1600 ISO, but it could prove a worthwhile alternative for night shooting.

Compared with the results form the Nikon COOLPIX L810, 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.

Now head over to my Canon SX500 IS sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS
 
Nikon COOLPIX L810
80 ISO Not available
80 ISO
100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
     
1600 ISO
1600 ISO

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS results : Quality / Noise

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