Paul's Travel Pictures

Canon S5 IS Versus SD700 IS ISO Noise Comparison Test
A comparison test of the CCD noise levels of the Canon S5 IS & SD700 IS at different ISO settings with sample pictures.

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1-Canon-S5-IS-ISO-80
Canon S5 IS - ISO 80
2-Canon-S5-IS-ISO-100
Canon S5 IS - ISO 100
3-Canon-S5-IS-ISO-200
Canon S5 IS - ISO 200

Since I know that P&S (Point & Shoot) digital cameras tend to produce noisy images at any ISO setting higher than 200, I hardly ever use the 400, 800, 1600 or HI settings.

But just out of curiosity I wanted to see how the ISO noise levels of my new Canon S5 IS would compare to my compact Canon SD700 IS.

Both the S5's 8 mega pixel sensor and the SD700's 6MP sensor are 1/2.5" in size. So according to what I've read on the various photography forums, the S5 images should exhibit more noise or perhaps the updated Digic III processor would crank up the noise reduction. If there is a more aggressive NR on the Digic III then that might negate the extra 2 mega pixels of the S5 due to loss of detail.

All the images on this page were taken at the "Fine" & "Large" settings with -1/3 exposure compensation, Vivid colors, and center weighted metering in the "P" (program) mode.

4-Canon-S5-IS-ISO-400
Canon S5 IS - ISO 400
5-Canon-S5-IS-ISO-800
Canon S5 IS - ISO 800
6-Canon-S5-IS-ISO-1600
Canon S5 IS - ISO 1600
The lighting was a mix of overhead CFL (compact fluorescent lighting), an incandescent ceiling fan off to the left and some natural light coming from the window of to the right of my kitchen. I turned off the flash, mounted the S5 & SD700 on a small tripod and used the self timer to avoid camera shake. If you want to pixel peep, the full size images with complete EXIF data are available for viewing or downloading on each picture page just below the small 640x480 sample.
7-Canon-S5-IS-ISO-HI-High-Auto
Canon S5 IS - ISO HI
A-Canon-SD700-IS-ISO-80
Canon SD700 IS - ISO 80
B-Canon-SD700-IS-ISO-100
Canon SD700 IS - ISO 100
As can be expected the noise levels on both cameras is very low at ISO 80 & 100 with a bit of noisy speckles showing up in the dark colors or shadows at ISO 200. With ISO 400, 800, 1600, and HI (High Auto) the noise levels get progressively worse. You could still make good looking small prints at ISO 400 and maybe at 800 depending on your personal preferences.
C-Canon-SD700-IS-ISO-200
Canon SD700 IS - ISO 200
D-Canon-SD700-IS-ISO-400
Canon SD700 IS - ISO 400
E-Canon-SD700-IS-ISO-800
Canon SD700 IS - ISO 800
F-Canon-SD700-IS-ISO-HI-High-Auto
Canon SD700 IS - ISO HI
To my eyes it looks like the SD700 has the tiniest bit more detail than the S5 but then I also noticed that the S5 focused higher on the piggy bank and motorcycle helmet while the SD700 focused lower on the Pepsi soda can and vitamin bottle.

Admittedly, the high ISO performance of these cameras isn't of much importance to me. The only place I can think of where I've used higher ISO settings is in museums that don't allow flash photography. For any other low light situations, like capturing a city skyline or a wedding reception, I can either use a tripod and a slow shutter speed or the flash. Some of you might be thinking "well what about Junior's night soccer game?". For that unlikely (for me) event I have an old beat up Sony VX-2000 3 CCD video camera that has a superb 2 Lux low light sensitivity.

For more info take a look at my Canon S5 IS Review, the Canon 430EX Flash Review, and my page on the Lowepro EX 140 bag which is perfect for holding the camera, flash and accessories. A couple hundred more sample images from the S5 (some with the 430EX) can be seen at my PBOC Homestead-Miami Races page.

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