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Old Mar 5, 2013, 4:54 PM   #1
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Default Noise tests between superzoom & dSLR cameras

G'day all

Image 'noise' is a topic that arises all too often with many photographers - and readers here will have seen some of my posts responding thereto
I have just completed some experiments with noise in a medium-low light zone [my home office] using 4 cameras available to me

Cameras are:- Superzooms Fuji X-s1 + Panasonic FZ100 + dSLRs Panasonic G2 w- 14-42 lens + Pentax Kx w- Sigma 18-125mm lens.

Each camera was using "Program" mode to determine exposure, and each was pre-set to "factory default" beforehand, then WB = Tungsten for the desk lamp, camera on 2-sec self-timer before shooting images on iso-200 + 800 + 3200. [one camera didn't go to 3200, so 1600 was used]. Images were shot using in-camera JPG format

The camera was auto-focussed onto the target item, then reset to MF to prevent any focus shift during actual shooting

From each image was then extracted a 640 x 640 px crop of a medium-dark portion in the lower edge [ie- the focus target ... my coffee cup, and being down towards a corner it also shows lens corner sharpness], before being inserted into a new canvas large enough to hold 4x images.

These combination images have then been reduced to 1024px wide for display here

The test site...


1- images at iso-200


2- images at iso-800


3- images at iso3200


I well realise that some viewers will look at these results and proclaim "always toldya that the larger dSLR sensor gives better noise.... etc etc"
I ask the rhetorical question ... as the APS sensor is 9 times the area of the FZ100 superzoom sensor, is the APS noise only 1/9th that of the FZ??

Comments?
Regards, Phil
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Old Mar 5, 2013, 5:14 PM   #2
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well it looks like the pentax at 3200iso is nearly as clean as the fz at 200iso. But also the sharpness is still there at 3200iso which is has completely fell off at 800iso with the tiny sensor.
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Old Mar 5, 2013, 5:24 PM   #3
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PS

You can drop the kx to 12800, and it will be a bit sharper and still less noisey then the fz at 800iso. And compare to the g3 at 3200iso, is what I would see at 12800 with the kx.
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Old Mar 5, 2013, 7:49 PM   #4
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Unfortunately, DxOMark doesn't have test results for your Panasonic FZ100. The good news is that it does have test results for your other 3 cameras. Their results correlate with your findings. Specifically, at ISO 800 the Pentax Kx has almost exactly the same level of noise as the Fuji X S1 at IS0 200, and at 3200, the Kx has almost exactly the same level of noise as the Panasonic G2 at ISO 800.

Very interesting. Thanks for doing this.
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Old Mar 6, 2013, 10:33 AM   #5
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Just out of curiosity- were all camera's set to native resolution- and in particular could more be squeezed out of the XS-1 by using the 6mp or EXR mode...?
Also,whilst it's clear- and not surprising- that the DSLR sensor/processor is king, the noise disadvantage of the smaller sensor siblings would be less apparent at smaller image sizes- be it print or monitor viewing.
Nevertheless, nice showing from the K-x... and a good effort from the Fuji...
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Old Mar 6, 2013, 10:59 AM   #6
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Increasing the native resolution of an image sensor reduces the impact of individual errant pixels, thus increasing image quality. But resampling, either up or down, averages out the errant pixels, thus increasing image quality.

The Fuji X S1, Panasonic G2, and Pentax Kx, are all roughly 12MP cameras, so comparing them pixel-for-pixel would be acceptable. But the Panasonic FZ100 is a 14MP camera, so its images would have to be downsampled for direct comparison in Ozzie_Traveller's test, and that would unfairly reduce the impact of noise in its images. Similiarly, setting the X S1, or any camera, to downsample its images would in all likelyhood, eliminate any trace of noise.

It's been my experience that noise is most visible in out-of-focus areas, so I think I'd have done this test with the lens focused at infinity while the camera was pointed at something close (or vice versa.) In that way, in the absence of any detail, the noise could be compared in 100% crops from each camera, whatever the native resolution might be. Then the estimate of the noise level in each image could be balanced by the actual resolution of the sensor, to give a better comparison of the amount of noise in the images from each camera.
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Old Mar 6, 2013, 11:28 AM   #7
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Indeed Tcav... your suggestion is a fair one- but given that each camera has potentially a different final output (a "Bridge" user would unlikely print beyond A4- well not often,maybe...) you could argue such a test is pointless.
Perhaps compare each camera's final output at each one's optimum output,rather than a comparable,default setting- after all,we all try an get the best out of whatever we have got... by whatever means we use... and at whatever setting suits...
All the above camera's have different sensor sizes- so,if one feels compelled to compare them, at least maybe we could find some "middle ground" for comparison...to make it a fair fight...?
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Old Mar 6, 2013, 1:07 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TCav View Post
Specifically, at ISO 800 the Pentax Kx has almost exactly the same level of noise as the Fuji X S1 at IS0 200, and at 3200, the Kx has almost exactly the same level of noise as the Panasonic G2 at ISO 800.
Yes - a 2 stop advantage. And when you throw in the D700 full frame - of similar vintage to the K-X you see about a 1 stop gain going from APS-C to full frame. D700's ISO 6400 about the same as K-X 3200.

Each generation we see an improvement at every sensor size but we still see larger sensors consistently holding an advantage over smaller sensors.
The take-away is that if noise performance is critical to you - you have to decide which format is 'good enough' for your individual needs.
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Old Mar 6, 2013, 1:48 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SIMON40 View Post
Indeed Tcav... your suggestion is a fair one- but given that each camera has potentially a different final output (a "Bridge" user would unlikely print beyond A4- well not often,maybe...) you could argue such a test is pointless.
Perhaps compare each camera's final output at each one's optimum output,rather than a comparable,default setting- after all,we all try an get the best out of whatever we have got... by whatever means we use... and at whatever setting suits...
All the above camera's have different sensor sizes- so,if one feels compelled to compare them, at least maybe we could find some "middle ground" for comparison...to make it a fair fight...?
Any upsampling or downsampling will dilute the effect of noise. Nobody complains about noise when they look at a 4x6 or 8x10 print. ... or even a 20x24 print. Noise only shows up on the computer screen, and especially when you're pixel-peeping.
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Old Mar 6, 2013, 2:15 PM   #10
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Quote:
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Any upsampling or downsampling will dilute the effect of noise. Nobody complains about noise when they look at a 4x6 or 8x10 print. ... or even a 20x24 print. Noise only shows up on the computer screen, and especially when you're pixel-peeping.
That's true when you don't have to do any cropping or correcting of the photo - and you're still talking about reasonable print sizes. Once you have to crop and make exposure adjustments then you start to really see an issue. Similar to shadow detail - you don't care about it until you actually need to pull some out and it isn't there.

Similar, in fact to RAW vs. JPEG - in many cases you couldn't tell the difference in a print between the two - until you have to start making more corrections. Some people do a great job of getting everything right in-camera. From a lot of my family photos I can say I have a heck of a better safety net now than I did before. I don't always use the safety net, but it's really helped save images important to me that with older cameras would not have turned out so well. Hopefully sensor improvement will keep on keeping on.
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