Nikon COOLPIX L820 review - Quality

Quality

Nikon COOLPIX L820 vs Canon SX510 HS Quality

 

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

Though both models have a 30x optical zoom, the COOLPIX L820’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 – 675mm on the COOLPIX L820 and 720mm for the SX510 HS.

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

  Nikon COOLPIX L820 results
1 Nikon COOLPIX L820 Quality
2 Nikon COOLPIX L820Noise
3 Nikon COOLPIX L820 images

The image above was taken with the Nikon COOLPIX L820. 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. The COOLPIX L820 metered 1/400 at f6.1 at its base 125 ISO sensitivity and the SX510 HS metered an exposure of 1/640 at f4 with the ISO sensitivity set to 80 ISO. Image stabilisation was turned off for this tripdod mounted test.

The first crop from the COOLPIX L820 looks a little clumpy on the finer detail. There’s no visible noise, but where you might expect to see some detail in the chapel stonework and in the grass and rocks in the foreground there isn’t any. And the door and windows in the chapel aren’t as clean-edged as they could be.

In the second crop you can’t see the lighthouse particularly well, but that could a consequence of the atmospheric haze. In the foreground of this crop the windows are reasonably sharp, but again, there’s a frustrating lack of finer detail in the roof tiles. The third crop from close to the edge of the frame is no softer than elsewhere, it looks like the lens is performing consistently, but the sensor isn’t recording all the detail that it’s capable of delivering.

In the fourth crop from close to the centre of the frame everything looks that little bit sharper, but there’s still very little of the finer detail in the tile and brickwork of the buildings being resolved.

Compared with the 16 Megapixel Nikon COOLPIX L820 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 its sharper than in the COOLPIX L820 crops. I initially thought L820 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 L820 is an electronically controlled ND filter, rather than a physical diaphragm, so diffraction is unlikley to be a concern. The COOLPIX L820’s lens doesn’t suffer from chromatic aberration to the same degree as the PowerShot SX510 HS and the final crops from the middle of the frame are closer in quality terms, though the Canon is still sharper and more detailed. Now check out my Nikon L820 noise results or scroll down to see how they compare at longer focal lengths.

 

Nikon COOLPIX L820
 
Canon PowerShot SX510 HS
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
f4, 80 ISO

Nikon COOLPIX L820 vs Canon SX510 HS Quality at 250mm

 
 

For this next test I zoomed both cameras in to an equivalent focal length of around 250mm. Stil 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 difference 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 reaults 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.

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

Nikon COOLPIX L820 vs Canon SX510 HS 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 the maximum available aperture 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 Nikon L820 Noise results.

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


Nikon COOLPIX L820
results : Quality / Noise

Nikon COOLPIX L820 vs Canon SX510 HS Noise

 
  Nikon COOLPIX L820 results
1 Nikon COOLPIX L820 Quality
2 Nikon COOLPIX L820 Noise
3 Nikon COOLPIX L820 images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Nikon COOLPIX L820 and the Canon PowerShot SX510 HS, 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 Nikon COOLPIX L820. Thee COOLPIX L820’s lens was zoomed in slightly to provide an equivalent field of view to the Canon PowerShot SX510 HS at its 24mm maximum wide angle setting. In auto mode at its base 125 ISO sensitivity setting the COOLPIX L820 metered an exposure of 1/15 at f3.1. The PowerShot SX510 HS chose an exposure of 1/8s at f3.4 at its base 80 ISO sensitivity setting. Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test.

Like the outdoor test crops, the Nikon COOLPIX L820 crops at the lower end of the sensitivity range are characterised by low noise levels but also an absence of fine detail. There’s very little texture in the background wall of the base 125 ISO crop, but the text isn’t as detailed and readable as it is in the 80 ISO crop from the PowerShot SX510 HS. There is some noise texture in the 200 ISO crop, but it’s being kept well under control by noise processing which looks like it might also be behind the lack of finer detail in the COOLPIX L820’s images. This is probably a good point at which to mention the usual caveat that, while these shortcomings are obvious when pixel-peeping 100 percent crops, you’re unlikely to notice at smaller sizes.

At 400 ISO the test in the memorial panel is beginning to suffer quite badly, is smeared in places and is beyond legibility. And by 1600 ISO we’re already well into ‘for emergency use only’ territory. And, while it’s always good to have a 3200 ISO option for grabbing shots that would otherwise never see the light of day, just don’t expect much in terms of quality, even viewed at smaller 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 L820 alongside the 100 ISO crop from the PowerShot SX50 HS but you should be comparing it with the latter’s base 80 ISO crop. 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 L820 crop are less textured. But, as I mentioned earlier, there’s less fine detail in the L820 crops too and they look softer. What we’re seeing here is more aggressive noise processing on the COOPIX L820. If you compare the 800 ISO crops, there’s a lot less noise and none of the bittiness in the COOLPIX L820 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 Nikon COOLPIX L820 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions, or head straight for my verdict.

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

Nikon COOLPIX L820 results : Quality / Noise

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