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Digital Cameras - Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-P100 Test Images

I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumbnail index page for the test shots. The data there includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail, we post the index page so only those interested in the information need wade through it!

 

Outdoor Portrait:

High resolution with accurate color, but some flattening of subtle detail due to noise reduction. Good exposure with a minor contrast adjustment.

The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why I set it up this way, and why I shoot it with no fill flash or reflector to open the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the Cyber-Shot DSC-P100 did a better than average job with it.

The P100 has a contrast adjustment option on its main shooting menu, and I found it very helpful for this test. Images shot with the camera's default contrast setting had the typical harsh look that's common to consumer-grade digicams with this shot. With the contrast adjustment set to the "low" option though, shadows opened up considerably, and the strong highlights were held back a bit. With a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, highlights were still somewhat blown out, but the overall image looked better than that produced by most consumer cameras. (See a side-by-side comparison of the contrast adjustment and default exposure below.) I chose the Auto white balance as the most accurate overall, as the Daylight setting was just a hint warm.

Marti's skin tones are pretty accurate here, and the blue flowers in the bouquet look very good as well. (Many digicams have trouble with this blue, which is in reality a light navy color with just a tinge of purple to it.) The red flowers are slightly oversaturated, but color is good throughout the rest of the frame. Resolution is high, with a lot of fine detail visible in the flower bouquet, but subtle detail in Marti's face and hair is flattened-out by the anti-noise processing. Shadow detail is good, with low image noise. Overall, an excellent job.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files P1OUTAP0LC.HTM through P1OUTAP3LC.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

Contrast was a bit high with the camera's default contrast setting, under the deliberately harsh lighting of this test. The P100's low contrast adjustment balanced the highlights and shadows well, without altering the exposure too much. (Apologies for the change in the zoom setting.)



 

Closer Portrait:

Excellent resolution and detail, good exposure as well.

Results are similar to the wider shot above, with slightly high contrast but good color. It isn't labeled as such, but this shot was taken with the P100's contrast adjustment set to its "low" setting as well. The shot at right was taken with a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which produces bright midtones without losing too much highlight detail. The low contrast option really works very well here. The shot at right looks like it was taken under very hazy conditions, but the lighting was actually the same as that seen in the shot above, when the contrast was set to its "normal" position. The P100 features a 3x zoom lens, which helps prevent strong distortion of Marti's features. Resolution and detail are much higher in this close-up shot, with good definition in Marti's face and hair.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files P1FACAP0.HTM through P1FACAP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.



 

Slightly low intensity at the Normal flash power setting, but good color and coverage.

Normal Flash
High Intensity
Slow-Sync Flash
High Intensity
The P100's built-in flash had dim intensity at its Normal power setting, though coverage was consistent and even. I chose the High intensity setting for the main shot, though the flash is on the verge of overpowering the subject and washing out color. (Here's a shot at the Low intensity setting, which is quite dark.) Overall color is pretty accurate, and the flower bouquet looks good for a flash exposure (although the blue flowers are a bit darker than in real life). The background incandescent lighting results in only a faint orange cast, noticeable mainly in Marti's hair and in the shadows of the white shirt. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode increased the orange cast dramatically, since the longer exposure allowed more ambient light into the image, and the camera's white balance adjusted for the flash, rather than the room lighting. I again chose the High intensity setting, as the Normal setting was slightly dark. (Click here to see the Low intensity setting.)



 

Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Auto White Balance
Incandescent White Balance

Warm color balance, but good exposure and low noise.

This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting. The P100's Auto white balance had a good bit of difficulty with this light source, producing a strong yellow cast. The Incandescent setting fared slightly better, but still had more of a color cast than I'd consider acceptable. - White balance under household incandescent lighting is one of the few weak points of the P100. The blue flowers in the bouquet are dark and purplish, and the bright red flowers are oversaturated, almost jumping out of the shot, both effects caused in part by the strong color cast of the lighting on the scene. The shot at right was taken with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which produced an even exposure, and only slightly hot highlights on the white shirt.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV, see files P1INTP0.HTM through P1INTP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.


ISO Series:
As we'll see in some of the other images below as well, image noise is surprisingly low on the P100. Even at the ISO 200 and 400 settings, noise is only moderate, and the grain pattern is small. What's more, the P100's anti-noise processing manages to avoid flattening out all the detail in Marti's hair. (See the discussion under the DaveBox target below, for mention of an odd artifact I encountered with it though.)

ISO Series
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400



 

House Shot:
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance

High resolution and detail with good color.

The P100's Auto white balance setting did a good job here, producing a nearly accurate white value on the house trim and good overall color. The Daylight setting resulted in a warmer, yellow cast. Resolution is very high, and detail is strong throughout the frame, especially in the tree limbs and front shrubbery. (With a five-megapixel CCD, the P100 stretches the limits of this poster as a test target, even though it was made from a 500MB scan of a 4x5 negative shot with a tack-sharp lens.) Details are slightly soft, but there's little or no additional softening in the corners of the frame.



 

Far-Field Test

Very good resolution and detail, with accurate color. A slightly limited dynamic range, from a bright exposure and high contrast.

This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

This is my ultimate "resolution shot," given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this, and the DSC-P100 performs very well for a compact model. A lot of fine detail is visible in the tree limbs over the roof as well as in the fine foliage in front of the house, with well-defined leaf patterns. Details are just slightly soft throughout the frame, with overall resolution a short notch below that of the best full-sized five megapixel models. That said, the image is quite sharp from corner to corner, with only a little additional softening visible in the right hand corners. The camera loses detail in the strongest highlights, but does a good job holding detail in the shadows. (The low-contrast setting lightened the shadows, but didn't pull back the highlights on this shot. - With a little negative exposure compensation, the low contrast setting would have done a very good job here as well.) Color looks good with the Auto white balance setting, and the Daylight setting looked pretty good as well. The table below shows a standard resolution and quality series, followed by ISO, sharpness, contrast, and color series.

Resolution Series:

Wide Angle "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
2,592 x 1,944
P1FARLF
P1FARLN
2,048 x 1,536
P1FARMF
-
1,280 x 960
P1FARSF
-
640 x 480
P1FARTF
-



ISO Series:
Once again, generally low image noise, and a tight pattern at high ISO settings.
ISO Series
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400


Sharpness Series:
A nice range of sharpening options. Low takes unsharp masking in Photoshop(tm) very well, High would work well for inkjet printing.
Sharpness Series
Soft
Normal
Sharp



Contrast Series:

As before, a contrast adjustment that works well. Here though, it really needed to be coupled with some exposure compensation adjustment as well.
Contrast Series
Low
Normal
High


Color Effects Series:
Color Effects Series
Normal
Black & White
Sepia



 

Lens Zoom Range

A typical 3x zoom range.

I routinely shoot this series of images to show the field of view for each camera, with the lens at full wide angle, at maximum telephoto (3x, in this case), and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled. The DSC-P100's lens is equivalent to a 38-114mm zoom on a 35mm camera. That corresponds to a moderate wide angle to a moderate telephoto. (Very slightly biased toward the telephoto end of the range vs the 35-105mm zooms that are more common.) Following are the results at each zoom setting.

Wide Angle
3x Telephoto
Digital Telephoto



 

Musicians Poster
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance

Slight color casts with both white balances, but high resolution and strong detail.

This shot is often a tough test for digicams, as the abundance of blue in the composition frequently tricks white balance systems into producing a warm color balance. I chose the slightly warm and reddish color balance of the Daylight white balance setting over the cooler, more magenta cast of the Auto setting, because of the more believable skin tones. The warm cast gives the blue background purplish tints, and creates a purple cast in the shadows of the blue robe as well. Skin tones are a little warmer than I'd like, but still more natural and appealing than the paler tones of the Auto setting. Resolution is very high, as the embroidery on the blue robe and red vest show a lot of fine detail. (The original data file for this poster was only 20MB though, so cameras like the P100 are definitely capable of showing more detail than the poster has in it.)



 

Macro Shot
Standard Macro Shot
Macro with Flash

A nice, small macro area with strong detail. Flash is positioned too far to the right for good coverage, however.

The P100 did pretty well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 2.42 x 1.81 inches (61 x 46 millimeters). Resolution is high, and detail is strong in the dollar bill, coins, and brooch (though the coins and brooch are soft due to the close shooting range and possibly a limited depth of field). As with most digicams operating in macro mode, curvature of field in the lens results in soft corners in the image, the softness in this case extending a fair ways into the frame. The P100's flash almost throttles down enough for the macro shot, but is too far over on the left side of the camera to be effective when shooting this close. (Plan on using external lighting for the closest macro shots.)



 

"Davebox" Test Target
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance

Good overall exposure, though a warm color cast.

The P100's Auto and Daylight white balance settings both produced warm images, though the Daylight setting was the warmest of the two. Exposure is about right, and the P100 has no trouble distinguishing the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target. Though slightly warm, colors are nearly accurate in the large color blocks, with good saturation. That said, the additive primary colors (red, green, and blue) are a tad oversaturated (as is the large yellow block). The shadow area of the charcoal briquettes has moderate detail, with low noise. Here are sample images with the P100's Black and White and Sepia color modes.

ISO Series:
As noted earlier, the P100's images are generally quite "clean," with less image noise than I'd expect from a 5-megapixel digicam, particularly a compact model. It apparently accomplishes this via the usual technique of "flattening" fine detail, particularly in low-contrast areas of the image. What's a little different though, is that it seems to raise the threshold for the flattening as the ISO increase. The result is that high ISO shots frequently show better detail (albeit with less image noise) than low ISO ones. The blurring of detail also appears to be color and saturation-dependenent, as can be seen in the DaveBox shots here. Notice how fuzzy the borders of the bright color blocks in the MacBeth(tm) target are in the ISO 100 shot here, particularly the red and magenta blocks. The effect clearly isn't a matter of focus, because other blocks have very crisp edges. Likewise, it's not exclusively a red-channel issue, because (for instance), the red channel of the green block is quite crisp-looking. It's also clearly not a lens flare issue, again because the edges of other blocks with similar luminance are quite sharp. As noted, as the overall image noise increases with increasing ISO, the "fuzz" around the red and magenta blocks decreases, indicating that the anti-noise algorithm is somehow looking at the overall noise levels and adjusting its behavior accordingly, so as to not throw out relevant subject detail. The P100's coupling of the detail-flattening threshold to the ISO level is unusual, and I think generally a good idea. - I'd really like to see less aggressive noise reduction at low ISOs though.

ISO Series
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400



Contrast Series:
As we saw in the Outdoor Portrait test above, the P100's contrast adjustment option works very well, providing a useful range of adjustment, and exactly the right behavior. (Affecting only contrast, not exposure or color saturation.)
Contrast Series
Low
Normal
High


Saturation Series:
Like the Contrast adjustment control, the P100's Color Saturation adjustment works just as you'd expect it to. I'd like to see more steps in its range, but what's there will work well for most situations you're likely to encounter.
Saturation Series
Low
Normal
High



 

Low-Light Tests

Excellent low-light performance with great color, exposure, and focusing in the darkest light levels.

The P100 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at all three ISO settings. (There is a slight warm cast in a few shots, but overall color is pretty good.) The P100 again handles image noise quite well in these shots, and even at ISO 400, the noise is only moderate. A very nice job overall. The bright autofocus-assist lamp lets the camera focus on nearby objects even in complete darkness, and even without the AF assist, the P100 can focus (albeit slowly) at light levels as dark as about 1/8 foot-candle. (Very impressive.) For reference, a light level of one foot-candle corresponds to typical city street lighting at night. The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels, from one foot-candle, down to 1/16 foot-candle. Images in this table (like all sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.

(Note: If you'd like to use a light meter to check light levels for subjects you might be interested in shooting, a light level of one foot-candle corresponds to a normal exposure of two seconds at f/2.8 and ISO 100.)

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
ISO
400
Click to see P1LL1003.JPG
1/1 sec
f2.8
Click to see P1LL1004.JPG
1.6 sec
f2.8
Click to see P1LL1005.JPG
3 sec
f2.8
Click to see P1LL1006.JPG
7 sec
f2.8
Click to see P1LL1007.JPG
13 sec
f2.8
ISO
200
Click to see P1LL2003.JPG
1.3 sec
f2.8
Click to see P1LL2004.JPG
2.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see P1LL2005.JPG
7 sec
f2.8
Click to see P1LL2006.JPG
13 sec
f2.8
Click to see P1LL2007.JPG
20 sec
f2.8
ISO
100
Click to see P1LL4003.JPG
2.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see P1LL4004.JPG
5 sec
f2.8
Click to see P1LL4005.JPG
10 sec
f2.8
Click to see P1LL4006.JPG
20 sec
f2.8
Click to see P1LL4007.JPG
30 sec
f2.8



 

Flash Range Test

Moderate flash performance, an 8-foot range with increasing falloff toward the 14 foot limit of our test.

In my testing, the P100's flash illuminated the test target all the way out to 14 feet, albeit with low intensity. Flash power decreased with each foot of distance from eight feet on, leading me to rate its usable distance as 8 feet. Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.

8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft
Click to see P1FLASH08.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.2
ISO 100
Click to see P1FLASH09.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.2
ISO 100
Click to see P1FLASH10.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.2
ISO 100
Click to see P1FLASH11.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.2
ISO 100
Click to see P1FLASH12.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.2
ISO 100
Click to see P1FLASH13.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.2
ISO 100
Click to see P1FLASH14.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.2
ISO 100



 

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test

Very high resolution, 1,250-1,300 lines of "strong detail." Average barrel distortion, but very low pincushion.

The P100 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,000 lines per picture height vertically, and around 800~900 lines horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to about 1,250 lines vertically and 1,300 lines horizontally. (Some reviewers might rate the resolution as high as 1,400 lines, but I tend to be more conservative in my resolution ratings.) "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until 1,600-1,700 lines.

Optical distortion on the P100 is about average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.9 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, with only 0.04 percent pincushion distortion (about one pixel). The Zeiss lens quality shows in the P100's images, which are sharper from corner to corner than those of most cameras. There's also relatively little chromatic aberration, as the color fringes around the res target elements, while a little broad, are pretty faint. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) Overall, an excellent performance from such a compact digicam lens.

Resolution Series, Medium Focal Length
Medium Focal Length "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
2,592 x 1,944
P1RES2592F
P1RES2592N
2,048 x 1,536
P1RES2048
-
1,280 x 960
P1RES1280
-
640 x 480
P1RES0640
-


Resolution Test, Wide Angle

2,592 x 1,944
(Fine, Wide)
P1RESW


Resolution Test, Telephoto

2,592 x 1,944
(Fine, Tele)
P1REST


Sharpness Series
Sharpness Series
Soft
Normal
Sharp



 

Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity

A tight optical viewfinder, but accurate LCD monitor.

The P100's optical viewfinder is a little tight, showing about 84 percent frame accuracy at both wide angle and telephoto. (While I strongly prefer a more accurate optical viewfinder, this figure is fairly typical for digicam optical viewfinders.) The LCD monitor actually proved to be just slightly loose, showing more than the final frame. Still, the LCD's frame accuracy was very close to 100 percent. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the P100's LCD monitor did quite well in this regard. I'd like to see a more accurate optical viewfinder, but the P100 is pretty close to average in this parameter. Flash distribution is even throughout the center of the frame at wide angle, with falloff in the corners and at the edges. At telephoto, flash distribution is more even, though with very faint falloff at the corners.



P100 Review
P100 Test Images
P100 Specifications
P100 "Picky Details"
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