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Compact zoom camera group: Noise reduction

Low contrast detail

Noise tends to build up in digital images, particularly during long exposures or high-ISO shots and noise reduction algorithms are used to identify spurious data and attempt to correct it. However, these algorithms can also tend to blur away fine detail, particularly in areas of low-contrast detail where it is difficult to distinguish between slight differences in brightness and aberrant luminance noise.

This test, shot under low light (approximately 8 EV), shows an example of fine, irregular low-contrast detail to mimic the effects of each camera's noise reduction on subjects such as hair, grass or chain link fences some distance yonder.

Canon SX 200
ISO 80
Canon SX 200
ISO 400
Canon SX 200
ISO 1600
Olympus Stylus 9000
ISO 64
Olympus Stylus 9000
ISO 400
Olympus Stylus 9000
ISO 1600
Panasonic DMC ZS1
ISO 80
Panasonic DMC ZS1
ISO 400
Panasonic DMC ZS1
ISO 1600
Panasonic DMC ZS3
ISO 100
Panasonic DMC ZS3
ISO 400
Panasonic DMC ZS3
ISO 1600
Samsung HZ10W
ISO 80
Samsung HZ10W
ISO 400
Samsung HZ10W
ISO 1600
Sony DSC-H20
ISO 80
Sony DSC-H20
ISO 400
Sony DSC-H20
ISO 1600

As can be seen, some of the cameras - in particular the Samsung and, to a lesser extent, the Canon and Olympus - struggle to render the fine detail even at their lowest ISO settings. The Sony and Panasonics do a slightly better job - all three have rather high levels of sharpening but none of them exhibit the indistinct, blurred patches apparent in the other cameras.

At ISO 400 it's a similar story, with the Canon, Olympus and Samsung having most trouble. However the Sony and Panasonics are also getting themselves into difficulty with detail becoming less distinct and featureless blurred patches appearing. None of the cameras manage to render any fine detail at the ISO 1600 setting (which is very challenging for any camera with a sensor small enough to allow such long-range lenses to be fitted into such small bodies).

The Sony, Samsung and Canon have ISO 3200 settings (though it's an option-limited 'mode' on the Canon), but there's so little fine detail remaining at ISO 1600 that there seems little point demonstrating it here.

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Comments

Matafuko

Just picked up a second hand SX200 for £35!
I bought it because I was surprised at a 12mp, 12x optical, 720p HD and manual function camera would be available so cheaply these days.
I have an SLR but wanted a smallish carry around thing. I am not - in any way - precious about it being top of the line, but the resolution, zoom and manual functions are perfectly adequate for me.
I'm in pretty much total agreement with your review and once you replace the idea that it's the most expensive in the batch test with the fact that I got it second hand for a steal - there's not a bad word I can say about it!
(It's even in the cool blue colour)

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