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ISO Sensitivity / Noise levels

ISO equivalence on a digital camera is the ability to increase the sensitivity of the sensor. The works by turning up the "volume" (gain) on the sensor's signal amplifiers (remember the sensor is an analogue device). By amplifying the signal you also amplify the noise which becomes more visible at higher ISO's. Many modern cameras also employ noise reduction and / or sharpness reduction at higher sensitivities.


To measure noise levels we take a sequence of images of a GretagMacBeth ColorChecker chart (controlled artificial daylight lighting). The exposure is matched to the ISO (ie. ISO 200, 1/200 sec for consistency of exposure between cameras). The image sequence is run through our own proprietary noise measurement tool (version 1.4 in this review). Click here for more information. (Note that noise values indicated on the graphs here can not be compared to those in other reviews.)

Fuji FinePix F30 vs FinePix F10 vs Canon SD 700 IS

Fuji FinePix F30
n/a
Fuji FinePix F10
ISO 80
Canon SD 700 IS
ISO 80
 
Fuji FinePix F30
ISO 100
Fuji FinePix F10
ISO 100
Canon SD 700 IS
ISO 100
Fuji FinePix F30
ISO 200
Fuji FinePix F10
ISO 200

Canon SD 700 IS
ISO 200

Fuji FinePix F30
ISO 400
Fuji FinePix F10
ISO 400

Canon SD 700 IS
ISO 400

Fuji FinePix F30
ISO 800
Fuji FinePix F10
ISO 800

Canon SD 700 IS
ISO 800

Fuji FinePix F30
ISO 1600
Fuji FinePix F10
ISO 1600

Canon SD 700 IS
n/a

 
Fuji FinePix F30
ISO 3200
Fuji FinePix F30
n/a
Canon SD 700 IS
n/a
   

Compared to the F10 the F30 would appear to have a good two stop advantage at ISO 200-800, compared to the best you can get from a conventional CCD (the Canon SD 700 IS) it is nothing short of astounding. For the first time you have a compact digital camera that offers perfectly usable output from ISO 100-800, with only the slightest loss of fine detail due to noise reduction. ISO 1600 is where noise reduction really starts to take its toll, but is a big improvement on the F10 (and is better than any competitor by a wide margin). ISO 3200 - though fairly low in measurable noise, is best avoided thanks to degrading effect of very heavy noise reduction.

Luminance noise graph

Cameras compared:
Fujifilm FinePix F30, Fujifilm FinePix F10, Canon SD 700 IS

Indicated ISO sensitivity is on the horizontal axis of this graph, standard deviation of luminosity is on the vertical axis.

As seen in our real-world tests, the F30 has measurably lower noise than the F10 at all ISO settings, though the difference is only really significant once you get over ISO 200. Compared to the Canon SD 700 IS (and thus the majority of its other 6MP standard CCD competitors) the F30 has significantly lower noise across the range, and once you get to ISO 200 and above it is quite simply in a different class altogether.

RGB noise graph

Indicated ISO sensitivity is on the horizontal axis of this graph, standard deviation of each of the red, green and blue channels is on the vertical axis.

No surprises here; the SD 700 IS (one of the best cameras in its class in noise terms) has chroma noise at ISO 80 that is roughly the same as the F30 at ISO 400. This is made all the more impressive by the fact that the F30's low noise is not achieved at the cost of image detail; at ISO 200-800 the F30 actually preserves more detail than the Canon, with considerably lower noise. Kudos to Fuji.

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