Canon PowerShot SX510 HS review - Quality

Quality

Canon SX510 HS vs Nikon COOLPIX L820 Quality

 

To compare real-life performance I shot this scene with the Canon Powershot SX510 HS and the Nikon COOLPIX L820, within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings.

Though both models have a 30x optical zom, the COOLPIX L810’s lens starts at a slightly wider 22.5mm wide-angle equivalent, so I zoomed it in a tad to match the 24mm maximum wide angle on the PowerShot SX510 HS. Further down the page you can see results at around 250mm and the maximum zoom – 720mm for the SX510 HS and 675mm on the COOLPIX L820

For this test both cameras were set to Program auto and all camera settings were left on the defaults.

  Canon PowerShot SX510 HS results
1 Canon SX510 HS Quality
2 Canon SX510 HSNoise
3 Canon SX510 HS sample images

The image above was taken with the Canon PowerShot SX510 HS. Although the SX510 HS has PASM exposure modes, the Nikon COOLPIX L820 doesn’t, so for a fair comparison both cameras were set to Program auto mode where the SX510 HS metered an exposure of 1/640 at f4 with the ISO set to the base of 80 ISO. The COOLPIX L820 metered 1/400 at f6.1 at its base 125 ISO sensitivity. Image stabilisation was turned off for this tripod mounted test.

The first thing to note is that these results are a considerable improvement on the 16 Megapixel CCD sensor in the earlier PowerShot SX500 IS. A proper comparison shot under the same conditions would make interesting viewing, but comparing these crops with my test results form the older model a year ago, the improvement in image quality is clear to see.

Overall, the PowerShot SX510 HS crops show a good level of detail with little visible noise. There’s a bit of atmospheric haze about, on a clear day you can see the cliffs behind the lighthouse in the second crop but, despite that, you can make out the distinct white column of the lighthouse. The window frames in the lighthouse crop are nice and sharp, but there’s a hint of colour fringing in this crop and it gets worse in the third crop from close to edge of the frame, so Canon hasn’t managed to put the chromatic aberration problems of the SX500 IS’s lens behind it. Finally, the fourth crop, from close to the middle of the frame is nice and clean with a good level of detail and crisp edges.

Compared with the 16 Megapixel Nikon COOLPIX L810 the crops from the 12 Megapixel sensor in the SX510 HS show a slightly larger area with smaller detail. But I think that, without exception, they show more detail and it’s sharper than in the COOLPIX L820 crops. I initially thought the L810 hadn’t done itself any favours by selecting a small aperture when its Auto program could have opted to open it up a little and choose a faster shutter speed, avoiding any diffraction issues. However, it turns out that the aperture on the COOLPIX L810 is an electronically controlled ND filter, rather than a physical diaphragm, so diffraction is unlikley to be a concern. The COOLPIX L810’s lens doesn’t suffer from chromatic aberration to the same degree as the PowerShot SX510 HS (most likely it’s digitally corrected) and the final crops from the middle of the frame are closer in quality terms, though the Canon is still sharper and more detailed. Scroll down for more results at the mid-way and longest focal lengths, or head over to my Canon SX510 HS noise results.

Canon PowerShot SX510 HS
 
Nikon COOLPIX L820
f4, 80 ISO
f6.1, 125 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f6.1, 125 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f6.1, 125 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f6.1, 125 ISO

Canon PowerShot SX510 HS vs Nikon COOLPIX L820 quality at around 250mm

 
 

For this next test I zoomed both cameras in to an equivalent focal length of around 250mm. Still in Program auto mode at the base 80 ISO setting, the PowerShot SX510 HS selected 1/500 at f5.6. The COOLPIX L820 chose an exposure of 1/1000 at f5.6 at 125 ISO. As usual, the crops are taken from the areas marked by the red rectangles.

At this focal length, about a third of the way into the zoom range, the first three crops are taken from close to the edge of the frame. The most noticeable diffeence between these and the wide angle crops is that the lens doesn’t have nearly as much of a problem with chromatic aberration when zoomed in. There’s no evidence of colour fringing and even the detail in crops one and three from the very corners of the frame is reasonably sharp. The final crop from closer to the middle of the frame is a tiny bit sharper, but overall the 24-720mm lens produces very consistent results at this focal length.

By comparison, the crops from the Nikon COOLPIX L820 look a little soft and the detail looks clumpy. Possibly the 16 Megapixel sensor in the COOLPIX L820 is producing a little more noise, or possibly it’s to do with compression, whatever the reason, you can see more detail in all of the PowerShot SX510 HS crops.

Scroll down for more results at the longest focal lengths, or head over to my Canon SX510 HS noise results.

Canon PowerShot SX510 HS
 
Nikon COOLPIX L820
f5.6, 80 ISO
f5.6, 125 ISO
f5.6, 80 ISO
f5.6, 125 ISO
f5.6, 80 ISO
f5.6, 125 ISO
f5.6, 80 ISO
f5.6, 125 ISO

Canon PowerShot SX510 HS vs Nikon COOLPIX L820 quality at maximum zoom

 
 

For this final test I zoomed both cameras in to their maximum focal length. Again, the exposure was left in Program auto mode with both models using their maximum available apertures of f5.8. As usual, the crops are taken from the areas marked by the red rectangles.

What’s interesting here is that the chromatic aberration is back with a vengeance on the PowerShot SX510 HS at the 720mm maximum telephoto focal length. With the exception of the second crop, there’s colour fringing everywhere, though it’s worse on the two crops from closer to the frame edge. That aside, the lens peforms very well and here, as in the crops at the other focal lengths the fine detail is well resolved and the edges are nice and sharp. Overall, I’d say this is a great result for the SX510 HS, particularly the sensor, slightly let down by the chromatic aberration at the extremes of the zoom range.

The Nikon COOLPIX L820 has a maximum telephoto focal length that, at 675mm is slightly shorter then the PowerShot SX510 HS. That compensates for the higher resolution of the sensor, so in these comparisons the crop area is roughly the same. The COOLPIX L820’s lens is a little better behaved than the PowerShot SX510 HS’s and there’s no evidence of chromatic aberration. But the sensor performance isn’t going to change with the focal length of the lens and there’s the same clumpiness to the pixels which is obscuring the finer detail.

Now see how these models compare at higher sensitivities in my Canon SX510 HS Noise results.

Canon PowerShot SX510 HS
 
Nikon COOLPIX L820
f5.8, 80 ISO
f5.8, 125 ISO
f5.8, 80 ISO
f5.8, 125 ISO
f5.8, 80 ISO
f5.8, 125 ISO
f5.8, 80 ISO
f5.8, 125 ISO


Canon PowerShot SX510 HS
results : Quality / Noise

Canon SX510 HS vs Nikon COOLPIX L820 Noise

 
  Canon PowerShot SX510 HS results
1 Canon SX510 HS Quality
2 Canon SX510 HS Noise
3 Canon SX510 HS sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Canon PowerShot SX510 HS and the Nikon COOLPIX L820, within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

Though both models have a 30x optical zoom, the COOLPIX L810’s lens starts at a slightly wider 22.5mm wide-angle equivalent, so I zoomed it in a tad to match the 24mm maximum wide angle on the PowerShot SX510 HS.

For this test both cameras were set to Program auto and all camera settings were left on the defaults.

The above shot was taken with the Canon PowerShot SX510 HS. The lens was set to the maximum 24mm wide angle position and the Nikon COOLPIX L820, 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 SX510 HS chose an exposure of 1/8s at f3.4 at 80 ISO and at its base 125 ISO sensitivity the Nikon COOLPIX L820 metered 1/15 at f3.1

At its base 80 ISO setting the CMOS sensor in the PowerShot SX510 HS produces reasonably clean and detailed results, but they’re not noise-free and at 100 percent view you can make out textures in the flat wall. The noise is more visible in the 100 ISO crop so it’s worth sticking with the base 80 ISO setting for best quality results, particularly if you plan on making big prints. At 200 ISO there’s another visible jump in the noise levels with purple and green patches appearing as the colour noise increases. At 400 ISO the noise and the processing to minimise it is making the image look bitty and the 800 ISO crop has the typical salt and pepper appearance of high ISO noise. But while a full size print at 800 ISO won’t look great, at smaller sizes it’ll be perfectly passable.

By 1600 ISO the noise really is gaining the upper hand, though, and even medium sized detail is losing out to it. 3200 ISO is a worthwhile bet for must have low-light shots, but looks fairly grotty, even at smaller screen sizes.

Ignoring the warm white balance of the COOLPIX L820 crops, the PowerShot SX510 HS crops actually look noisier. I’ve put the base 125 ISO crop from the COOLPIX L810 alongside the 100 ISO crop from the PowerShot SX50 HS but you should be comparing it with the latter’s base 80 ISO crop as these are their respective base sensitivities. Even so, there’s less texture in the wall in the Nikon crop and if you compare the 200 ISO crops, here too the flat areas of colour in the COOLPIX L810 crop are less textured. But there’s less fine detail in the L820 crops too and they look softer. I think what we’re seeing here is more aggressive noise processing on the COOPIX L810. If you compare the 800 ISO crops, there’s a lot less noise and none of the bittiness in the COOLPIX L810 crop, but the detail is clumped and you can’t make out anywhere as much detail in the text panel as in the PowerShot SX510 HS crop.

On balance, I’d say the PowerShot SX510 HS, with more noise, but more detail too, is a better result. That certainly proved to be the case in the outdoor test and I think it also applies higher up the senstitvity range.

Now head over to my Canon SX510 HS sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions, or head straight for my verdict.

Canon PowerShot SX510 HS
 
Nikon COOLPIX L820
80 ISO
80 ISO Not Available
100 ISO
125 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
     
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
     
3200 ISO
3200 ISO

Canon PowerShot SX510 HS results : Quality / Noise

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