ISO (Sensitivity) and visible noise

ISO equivalence on a digital camera is the ability to increase the sensitivity of the CCD to allow for faster shutter speeds and/or better performance in low light. The way this works in a digital camera is by "turning up the volume" on the CCD's signal amplifiers, nothing is without its price however and doing so also amplifies any noise that may be present and often affects colour saturation.

The 885 features three selectable ISO sensitivities of 100, 200, and 400 as well as the same Auto mode we've seen before which appears to vary sensitivity between ISO 100 and 200 depending on available light.

Good light (10 EV) Low light (3 EV)
ISO 100, 1/73 sec, F2.8 ISO 100, 1.0 sec, F2.8
ISO 200, 1/141 sec, F2.8 ISO 200, 1/2 sec, F2.8
ISO 400, 1/270 sec, F2.8 ISO 400, 1/3 sec, F2.8

Clean images at ISO 100 and 200, although if you dive in real close and take a look at some of the white areas of the image you'll see horizontally layered chroma (colour) noise, it's not that visible but is still there. This chroma noise becomes more visible at ISO 400. But, on the whole, this is an impressive performance for a 3 megapixel digital camera.

White Balance

Just like the 995 the 885 exhibited a magenta cast with Auto white balance under incandescent lights. Clearly auto white balance works best under natural light. Kudos to Nikon for including the fine tuneable white balance option on the 885, it allows you to subtly adjust the pre-programmed white balances to suit your common shooting environments.

The manual preset option produces consistently accurate balance and colour hue. Note how much stronger reds appear to be compared to the rest of the colour spectrum (I'll comment more on this later in the review).

Outdoors, Auto Outdoors, Sunny Outdoors, Manual
Incandescent, Auto Incandescent, Incandescent Incandescent, Manual
Fluorescent, Auto Fluorescent, Fluorescent Fluorescent, Manual

First word indicates the light in which the shot was taken, the second indicates the selected white balance mode.

Macro Focus

Although the 885 doesn't have the 9xx series macro power it is certainly very capable in its own right, more so than most 3 megapixel compacts. The cameras optimum macro focal length range is at the wide end of zoom and is indicated on the LCD monitor by the macro icon turning yellow. At full wide angle macros with the lens very close to the subject are possible, zooming a little further (10 mm as a native focal length) and we are still within the optimum focal length range but must move back from the subject. Here we get approximately 4.8 cm horizontal frame coverage with less barrel distortion than at full wide angle.

Lens @ 8 mm, approx. horizontal coverage 4.0 cm (1.6 in) - some barrel distortion
Lens @ 10 mm, approx. horizontal coverage 4.8 cm (1.9 in)

The bank note close-ups are good examples of some lens softness (corners and extreme edges) at its maximum aperture (F2.8 at wide angle).

Low Light Focus

In a new addition to our reviews we'll now be measuring the minimum amount of light under which the camera can still focus. The focus target is our lens distortion test chart (shown here on the right), camera is positioned exactly 2 m (6.6 ft) away.

Light levels are gradually dropped until the camera can no longer focus. This is carried out at both wide angle and telephoto zoom positions (as more light reaches the focusing systems with a larger aperture).

This test target is the optimum type of subject for most "contrast detect" AF systems (as it has a vertical line at its center), you should consider the results below the best you could expect to achieve.

Lens position Aperture Lowest light focus
Wide angle (38 mm) F2.8 1.1 EV (5.4 Lux / 0.5 foot-candle)
Telephoto (114 mm) F4.9 4.0 EV (40 Lux / 3.7 foot-candle)

Light intensity (Lux) = 2.5 x 2^EV (@ ISO 100), 10.76391 Lux = 1 foot-candle (fc)

As we can see the zoom position has a large influence on low light focus ability simply because the lens' maximum aperture is much smaller at telephoto and thus less light gets through to the CCD and so focusing is more difficult. Overall the 885 performed approximately the same as its bigger brother the 995. I'd really like to see Nikon implementing an AF assist lamp on their digital cameras in the future.