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ISO Sensitivity / Noise levels (contd.)

In-camera High ISO noise reduction

The A380's offers only one level of noise reduction, unlike its direct competitors which all feature various levels. The system officially kicks in at ISO 1600 and 3200 but of course noise reduction is also applied at lower sensitivities (you can't switch it off). As you can see from the graph below there is no difference at ISO 800 but above that measured noise is reduced significantly. As you can see in the samples below, in turn you'll have to deal with a fair amount of noise reduction blurring. More user control over NR would be really desirable but the way it is you'll have to revert to shooting RAW for more control over noise reduction.

Indicated ISO sensitivity is on the horizontal axis of this graph, standard deviation of luminosity on the vertical axis (note that the standard deviation scale here is magnified 2x compared to the graphs on the previous page).

High ISO Noise Reduction Crops

  Off On
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800
ISO 1600
ISO 3200

Noise reduction and fine detail

The biggest issue with noise reduction - especially luminance noise reduction - is that in the process of blurring away the noise it can also have a very destructive effect on the detail in an image, particularly the fine, low contrast detail you might find in hair, fur or grass. To better judge the effect on fine detail lost due to noise reduction we have shot our lovely model and produced crops from the feathers in the image.

To check the effect of noise and noise reduction on low contrast detail we shoot our lovely model framed as shown here, with the new added feature of feathers. The very fine detail in the feathers will help to better judge the effect of noise reduction on fine detail.

Raw vs in- camera JPEG noise reduction low contrast detail comparison

Shooting in RAW gives you a visible advantage in terms of low-contrast detail at almost all ISO settings. In the JPEGs a lot of the fine detail has already gone at ISO 200 and disappears completely at ISO 400. Of course at higher sensitivities it's always going to be a compromise between detail and noise but with the RAW format you've got, depending on the RAW converter you are using, a much greater degree of control over the application of noise reduction and can mix your customized cocktail of chroma and luminance noise reduction.

  ACR RAW NR OFF JPEG NR-Off JPEG NR-On
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800
ISO 1600
ISO 3200
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