Panasonic G1 vs Canon EOS 450D / XSi vs PowerShot SX10 IS
High ISO noise
To compare noise levels under real-life conditions we shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, Canon EOS 450D / XSi and the Canon PowerShot SX10 IS within a few moments of each other using each of their ISO settings. The lenses on each camera were adjusted to deliver the same vertical field of view.
The image left was taken with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 at 100 ISO with the VARIO G 14-45mm kit lens at 17mm f8; the original Large Fine JPEG measured 4.37MB. The crops are taken from an area just to the right of the centre and presented here at 100%.
Note the Canon 450D / XSi captures wider 3:2 aspect ratio images, so by matching the vertical field of view, we’re effectively treating the DSLR here as a 10.8 Megapixel camera, delivering 4:3 shaped images.
Our sequence below starts with the Canon PowerShot SX10 IS at its lowest 80 ISO sensitivity. As commented on our review of that camera, the results at 80 ISO are pretty clean and detailed, but not completely without noise if you’re really looking for it. You can see very faint evidence of textures on the flat areas of colour.
The Panasonic Lumix G1 and Canon 450D / XSi kick-off at 100 ISO, where both deliver very clean, detailed results with no evidence of noise as you’d hope. It’s also interesting to compare tonal resolution between the three models, with faint details visible on the middle green leaf on the G1 and 450D / XSi samples, compared to a relatively uniform-looking surface on the SX10 IS crop. More obviously, those background textures on the SX10 IS have now become more apparent.
At 200 ISO, the Panasonic G1 and Canon 450D / XSi remain clean and detailed, while the smaller sensor in the SX10 IS begins to see its image quality suffer.
Increased to 400 ISO, there’s faint evidence of noise and processing artefacts on both the G1 and 450D / XSi, although with a different approach to noise reduction – the G1 has opted for a more hands-off strategy with slightly more visible noise compared to the higher noise reduction on the 450D / XSi which smears a little.
At 800 ISO, these differences become more apparent, and while there’s obviously noise on the G1 and 450D / XSi, both are still quite usable at this sensitivity – compare them to the SX10 IS which is really suffering now.
At 1600 ISO, noise textures have become quite visible on the G1, while the 450D / XSi looks patchy in comparison with greater chroma noise artefacts. Both of these cameras are now suffering, and while there’s a slight loss of saturation on the G1, we’d call it a draw with any preference down to personal choices over processing. The less said about the SX10 IS at 1600 ISO, the better.
The G1 and SX10 IS then go on to offer 3200 ISO options, the latter at a greatly reduced size of 2 Megapixels. The G1’s sample has now become very noisy, but by keeping chroma artefacts to a minimum, it looks relatively natural and analogue grain-like.
This relatively restrained approach to noise reduction on the part of the Lumix G1 also gives enthusiasts better opportunities to apply third-party processing later if desired, and there’s additionally the option to adjust noise reduction by two steps up or down if required.
Ultimately it’s a good result here for the Lumix G1. The Four Thirds sensors are physically smaller than the APS chips in most DSLRs, which often leads to criticism of higher noise levels.
By increasing the resolution by a couple of Megapixels on the G1, the fear of noise becomes even greater, but the results here prove the Lumix G1 can keep up with best-selling models like Canon’s EOS 450D / XSi, and depending on your personal preferences, even deliver slightly better-looking output at higher sensitivities. Now let’s check out some more real-life samples across its sensitivity range in our Lumix G1 Gallery.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
Canon EOS 450D / XSi
Canon PowerShot SX10 IS
80 ISO not available
80 ISO not available
3200 ISO not available
3200 ISO (at 2 Megapixels)