Canon PowerShot SD850 IS Digital ELPH (IXUS 950 IS) Concise Review
With tiny, high pixel count chips noise is always going to be an issue, and to a large degree this is more a test of the effectiveness (both measurable and visible) of a camera's noise reduction system. Designers have to balance the desire to produce smooth, clean results with the need to retain as much detail as possible (if you blur away the noise, you blur away image detail too).
Noise is kept fairly low at ISO 80-400 with Canon concentrating mainly on the ugly chroma noise (color blobs) though as we've seen with other recent Powershots there's more luminance noise reduction than we're used to seeing on Canon compacts. The net result is that up to ISO 400 the output looks relatively sharp and clean, but at ISO 800 and above the impact of noise and noise reduction are taking a heavy toll. Compared to many of its competitors the noise reduction is applied with a relatively light touch, giving as good a balance as you're likely to get between noise and detail on a sensor this densely packed.
|ISO 80||ISO 100||ISO 200||ISO 400||ISO 800||ISO 1600|
Indicated ISO sensitivity is on the horizontal axis of this graph, standard deviation of luminosity is on the vertical axis.
The graphs confirm Canon's relatively light-handed approach to noise reduction. Measurable noise is low at base ISO up to ISO200 but then increases fairly smoothly as sensitivity rises. What might look bad on the graph is actually not quite as bad in the real world. As mentioned above the relatively subtle application of noise reduction preserves a reasonable amount of detail in the image. This approach leaves all the options to the user. You can always apply some more noise reduction in post production should you wish to do so. However, it is impossible to get any detail back that has been blurred away in the camera already.
Low contrast detail
What the crops and graph don't show is the effect of noise reduction on low contrast fine detail such as hair, fur or foliage. An inevitable side effect of noise removal is that this kind of detail is also blurred or smeared, resulting in a loss of 'texture'. In this test the crops below show the effect of the noise reduction on such texture (hair) as you move up the ISO range.
|ISO 80||ISO 100||ISO 200|
|ISO 400||ISO 800||ISO 1600|
Unsurprisingly, the SD850 is not significantly different from most digital compact cameras when it comes to the effect of noise reduction on low contrast detail. The ISO 80 and 100 images are clean with good detail. But from ISO 200 upwards it becomes obvious that the noise reduction algorithms are interfering. At ISO 200 there is already quite some blurring going on and the individual hairs are starting to merge into one large yellow mass. As expected this becomes worse at ISO 400 with the added bonus of some chroma noise color blobs appearing. ISO 800 and 1600 are firmly based in the emergency camp as far as fine texture goes, almost none of the detail has been preserved.
In summary, avoid shooting at anything higher than ISO 200 if fine textures or other detail are important elements of your photographs, you'll hardly recognize any of it on your screen/print.
Optical image stabilization
Like the SD700 IS before, the SD850 IS sports Canon's optical image stabilization system. The 140mm equivalent focal length at the long end of the lens is not exactly what you'd call a super zoom but nevertheless the stabilization system comes in handy in low light situations. At the wide end of the zoom (35mm equiv.), I was regularly getting acceptably sharp hand-held results at shutter speeds as slow as 1/8th sec. Undeniably, though, using the IS mode is more useful at the tele end of the zoom.
There are three modes: Continuous (IS on all the time), 'Shoot only' (IS is activated at the moment the exposure is made) and Panning (for horizontally panned shots). The first option makes framing easier - the IS system steadies the preview image - the second puts less strain on the batteries (by only activating itself once you press the shutter button) and the third option only counters vertical camera-shake so the system does not get confused when you pan a shot.
The SD850 IS does not offer any manual control of shutter speeds. So unfortunately we could not run our usual IS systems test but nevertheless we can say the SD850's stabilization works pretty efficiently in most situations. To a certain degree the effectiveness will obviously depend on a particular photographer's ' type of shake' but it's probably fair to say that the SD850's system will give you somewhere between approximately 2 and 3 stops advantage in most cases (1/30th sec exposures at the long end of the zoom were nearly all blur-free). Once shutter speeds get slower the hit rate decreases pretty rapidly. The stabilization system is also very helpful when recording movies - your footage will be much less jerky.
Just as with the competition's anti-shake solutions the Canon IS does not do any miracles but it significantly increases your chances of getting a usable shot. Even in marginal light situations you should at least get one 'keeper' (such as the one in our sample below, taken at 1/3rd sec) if you activate IS and take a few safety shots.
|1/3rd sec, 140mm equiv., IS off, 100% crop||1/3rd sec, 140mm equiv., IS on, 100% crop|
I own it
I want it
I had it
Discuss in the forums
|Global Reach by cjf2|
|Maligne Lake by Pete of Oz|
from - Mountain Lake - (Full Colours only + A Border)
This two-part video series takes a deep dive into the world of dynamic symmetry and geometric composition, using iconic photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson's brilliant photographs as a guide.
Award-winning photographer Jeremy Cowart tells the moving story behind this drone photograph, captured in the aftermath of the devastating wildfire in Gatlinburg, TN in 2016.
Happy 2017 World Photo Day! We asked everyone on staff at DPReview to share one photo that they took within the last year that makes them jazzed on photography. Here's what we chose.
French President Emmanuel Macron has lodged a legal complaint against a paparazzo who snuck onto the president's private vacation property to take pictures.
Ever wonder what the difference is between compressed, uncompressed and lossless compressed Raw files? Photography Life's Nasim Mansurov breaks it down for you in this informative article.
The oldest known portrait of a US president was just discovered after over a century in storage. It's going up for auction in October, where it's expected to fetch between $150,000 and $250,000.
If you're using the popular Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 Art lens with Sigma's MC-11 converter, listen up: you'll want to update your lens and converter firmware ASAP.
If you've heard it once, you've probably heard it a thousand times: never check in your camera gear when flying. This shattered $11,000 lens is what can happen when you do.
Lensrentals just did its first Cine lens comparison, pitting five top-notch 35mm primes against each other: the Zeiss CP.2 35mm T2.1, Canon CN-E 35mm T1.5, Sigma 35mm T1.5 FF, Rokinon Xeen 35mm T1.5 and Schneider Xenon 35mm T2.1.
A team of Google researchers have found that slightly warping watermarks when embedding them into images can help prevent automatic removal.
You don't have to empty your savings account to take your photography to the next level. These cheap buys cost about $50 or less, and come with outsized benefits for your photography.
Joey L, Dani Diamond, Brandon Woelfel and Jessica Kobeissi go head-to-head in an episode of "4 photographers shoot the same model."
The latest flagship phone from Asus combines a 12MP 1/2.55" Sony IMX362 main sensor with a smaller Sony IMX351 chip for 2x zoom and a background-blurring portrait mode.
The company behind popular photo editor Picktorial 3 just released the X-Pack: a preset package that allows you to add Fuji's in-camera film simulation profiles to your RAF files in post.
Photoshop. GoPro. Every once in a while a product emerges that defines a category. And sometimes, it vanishes just as quickly as it arrived on the scene. This week's Throwback Thursday remembers the Flip, the pocket camcorder everyone had – until they didn't.
The Nokia 8's dual-cam combines the image data from a 13MP RGB sensor and a 13 monochrome chip for better detail, improved dynamic range and lower noise levels.
The company behind retail giant B&H Photo has agreed to pay out $3.2 million in monetary relief and back wages to settle a discrimination and harassment case from 2016.
After a popular Facebook teaser and some studio portrait samples, Godox has finally officially released the Godox A1 smartphone flash and flash trigger. Cheap, versatile and innovative, color us intrigued.
Canon’s EOS 5D Mk IV has won the European Imaging and Sound Association’s Professional DSLR of the Year award, making this the third year in a row that the brand has beaten Nikon to the top spot in the professional camera category.
A photograph and quote tweeted out by former president Barack Obama has officially become the most popular tweet of all time, receiving over 1.3 million retweets and 3.4 million likes.
Edward Weston was one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century, and in this episode of Advancing Your Photography we learn the extreme technique he used to capture one of his most famous still life photos.
Instagram just released a small update that will make a huge difference if you're active on the photo sharing app: threaded comment replies.
Venus Optics has announced the price and delivery date of the second lens to join its Zero-D line up: the 15mm F2 for Sony’s E mount. A lens they've dubbed, "the world's fastest 15mm rectilinear lens for full-frame."
Cinnac is a new social network for photographers that will help you separate your good photos from your great ones through a Tinder-like community-based rating system.
The Canon EF 35mm F2 IS USM is an understated jewel of a lens, and one that we've enjoyed on a variety of cameras since its release almost five years ago. Its relatively small size and image stabilization make it a versatile tool for a variety of photography - check out our sample gallery.
You don't need a fancy studio or tons of gear to capture the kind of classic product photography you see in magazines. In this video, Dustin Dolby shows you how to do it with just a couple of speedlights and some know-how.
The life-logging camera is trying to make a comeback. Say hello to FrontRow, a live-streaming enabled life-logging camera from Ubiquiti that hangs on a necklace like a pendant.
When a prospective client approaches you, don't just say "yes" right away. Here's a useful list of questions you should be asking before you decide to take the job and name your price.
Samsung just revealed a blazing-fast new Solid State Drive capable of data transfer speeds of up to 540MB/s.
DJI has developed a 'Local Data Mode' that lets pilots fly without being connected to the Internet. The mode should calm recent fears over data privacy and security when flying DJI drones.