Digital Cameras - Canon PowerShot SD300 Test Images
|I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumbnail index page for the test shots. The data on this page 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're posting the thumbnail index so only those interested in the information need wade through it!|
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 PowerShot SD300 did a surprisingly good job for a camera with fairly simple controls.
The shot at right was taken with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which is just slightly dark overall. However, the highlights became much too bright with any further increase in exposure. Midtones are just a little dark here, and contrast a bit high, but the overall result is still very good, particularly for a camera with no contrast adjustment option. All three of the SD300's white balance settings produced good results here, though I chose the Auto setting as the most accurate overall. The Daylight and Manual settings had slightly warmer casts.
Marti's skin tones look very good here, as do the blue flowers in the bouquet. (Many digicams have trouble with this blue, but the SD300 gets them almost exactly right.) Though just slightly dark, color looks good throughout the rest of the frame as well. Resolution is very high, and a lot of fine detail is visible throughout the frame. Shadow detail is moderate, and image noise is low. All in all, an excellent job.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files SD3OUTAP0.HTM
through SD3OUTAP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Excellent resolution and detail, but again, high contrast.
Though contrast is high from the high-key lighting, midtone detail is good, and the overall exposure appears brighter than in the wider shot above. The shot at right was taken with a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which keeps midtones about where they should be, but results in bright highlights and dark shadows. Nonetheless, detail is good at both ends of the tonal scale. The SD300's 3x zoom lens helps prevent distortion in Marti's features, though some slight distortion is still noticeable. Resolution and detail are much stronger in this close-up shot, with strong definition in Marti's face and hair.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +0.7 EV, see files SD3OUTFACAP0.HTM
through SD3OUTFACAP2.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Underexposure with the flash in the normal setting, though good exposure with the Slow-Sync mode. Strong warm color cast, though.
The SD300's built-in flash illuminated the subject very well with a +1.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, but the default exposure proved very dark. (Most cameras need some exposure boost on this shot, but +1.3 EV is a lot more than most require.) The color balance is quite is warm from the background incandescent lighting, though Marti's skin tone and the flower bouquet actually look pretty good. The camera's Slow-Sync flash setting produced similar results, in terms of color, though with slightly more even lighting from the longer shutter speed. I found the best results in this mode with a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment. While the warm cast is a little stronger, I find the more balanced lighting more appealing.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV in the normal flash mode, see files SD3INFP0.HTM through SD3INFP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
To view the same exposure series in the Slow-Sync flash mode, see files
SD3INFSP0.HTM through SD3INFSP4.HTM on the thumbnail
Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Good color with all three white balance settings, about average exposure compensation required.
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, but the SD300 handled it surprisingly well with all three white balance settings I tried. The SD300's Manual white balance setting produced the best results here, as the Auto setting resulted in a warm cast and the Incandescent setting resulted in a slight reddish tint (though results weren't too far off). Marti's skin tone looks very good, and the flower bouquet looks about right as well. The blue flowers do have slight purplish tints to them, but their color is still amazingly good, considering the difficult light source here. The main shot was taken with a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which is about average.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV, see files SD3INMP0.HTM through SD3INMP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Accurate color, with high resolution and strong detail. Bad blurring in the corners though.
While all three of the SD300's white balance settings tested performed
pretty well here, I chose the Manual setting
as the most accurate overall, based on the white value of the house trim.
The Daylight and Auto
settings resulted in ever-so-slight warm casts, but results were still
very good. Resolution is very high, and detail is strong in the tree limbs,
front shrubbery, and house front. Details are reasonably sharp in the
center of the frame, but soften a lot in the corners from some lens distortion.
(This seems to be an unfortunate consequence of making subcompact wide-angle
zooms with Canon's high-index aspheric lens technology. It's remarkable
that they can make such compact lenses, but the distortion levels just
isn't up to those of larger optics.)
High resolution and strong detail, but high contrast limits the dynamic range. Once again, very soft corners though.
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 SD300 captures a lot of fine detail. The leaf patterns in the front shrubbery and in the tree limbs above the roof show a lot of fine detail, as does the brick pattern on the house front. Details are just slightly soft overall though, and the corners of the frame are very soft indeed. The bright sunlight causes the camera to lose essentially all detail in the bright white paint surrounding the bay window, a trouble spot for many digicams. Detail is only marginal in the shadow area above the front door as well, further evidence of a limited dynamic range. The table below shows a standard resolution and quality series, followed by ISO and color effects series.
Color Effects Series:
Lens Zoom Range
A good 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 SD300's lens is equivalent to a 35-105mm zoom on a 35mm camera. That corresponds to a moderate wide angle to a pretty substantial telephoto. Following are the results at each zoom setting.
Slightly warm color, but still good results. 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. Both the SD300's Auto
and Daylight settings produced slightly warm
color balances, while the Manual setting produced
a cooler, more magenta cast. I preferred the warmer skin tones of the
Auto and Daylight settings, so I stuck with the Auto setting for the main
shot. Though the warm cast creates slight purplish tints in the blue background
and gives the blue robe a greenish tint, overall color still looks good.
Resolution is very high, and detail is strong in the models' accessories
and instruments. The embroidered bird wings on the blue robe also show
a lot of fine detail. (The original data file for this poster was only
20MB though, so cameras like the SD300 are capable of showing more detail
than the poster has in it.)
A very small macro area with great detail. Flash has trouble up close though.
The SD300 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum
area of only 1.22 x 0.92 inches (31 x 23 millimeters). Resolution is very
high, showing a lot of fine detail in the dollar bill, coins, and brooch.
Details are softer on the coins and brooch due to the close shooting range,
but the particles of dust on top of the coins are actually very well defined.
Details soften toward the corners of the frame, but are fairly sharp on
the dollar bill. (Most digicams produce images with soft corners when
shooting in their Macro modes.) The SD300's flash
has trouble at such close range, overexposing the top of the frame and
leaving the bottom in shadow. (Definitely plan on using external lighting
for your closest macro shots with the SD300.)
"Davebox" Test Target
Good overall exposure and color.
Though just slightly cool overall, with magenta tints, the SD300's Manual
white balance setting produced the best results here, as the Auto
and Daylight settings were slightly warm. Exposure
looks about right, and the SD300 distinguishes the subtle tonal variations
of the Q60 target well. The large color blocks are all pretty good. The
SD300 shows the usual Canon tendency to pull cyans towards more pure blues,
apparently part of how they deliver such nice sky colors. There are minor
hue-shifts in yellows and oranges, but these are sight indeed, and reds
are more accurate than average. Overall, very nice color rendition. The
shadow area of the charcoal briquettes shows good detail, with moderately
Color Effects Series:
Excellent low-light performance. Good color and exposure, with low image noise, at the darkest light levels of this test. Good low-light autofocus as well.
The SD300 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at the 100, 200, and 400 ISO settings. At ISO 50, images were bright down to the 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux) light level, though the target is visible at the lowest light level of the test. Noise is fairly low in most shots, and even at ISO 400, image noise is lower than I expected. Autofocus performance is also excellent, with the camera able to focus down to 1/4 foot-candle with no AF assist, and in complete darkness with the AF-assist light enabled. Since city street-lighting at night generally corresponds to a light level of about 1 foot-candle, the SD300 should do very well for after-dark photography in typical outdoor settings. The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. 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.)
Flash Range Test
A weak flash, dim at 8 feet, and with significant falloff from 9 feet on.
In my testing, the SD300's flash only barely illuminated the test target at 14 feet, showing significant decreases in intensity from the nine-foot distance on. Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.
High resolution, 1,200 lines of "strong detail." Slightly high barrel distortion at wide angle.
The SD300 performed about average on the "laboratory" resolution test chart for its 4-megapixel class. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,000 lines per picture height vertically, and about 800 lines horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,200 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,500 lines. Here's a sample image with the camera's Low Sharpness setting.
(Norman Koren's Imatest program reports average resolution here of 1072 line widths per picture height, and 1,283 LW/PH when normalized to a one-pixel sharpening radius.)
Geometric distortion on the SD300 is a bit less than average at the wide-angle
end, where I measured approximately 0.7 percent barrel distortion. The
telephoto end fared quite a bit better, as I measured approximately 0.09
percent pincushion distortion (about two pixels' worth). Chromatic aberration
is virtually nonexistent, as I couldn't really find any strong pixels
of coloration. (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.) What is obvious here is the incredible blurring in the corners
of the image, worst at wide angle, but bad at any focal length. - This
extreme corner softness is the one significant flaw in what is otherwise
an excellent digicam.
Resolution Series, medium focal length
Resolution Test, Zoom Series
Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
A tight optical viewfinder, but nearly accurate LCD monitor.
The SD300's optical viewfinder is very tight, showing only 82 percent of the final image area at wide angle, and about 80 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor actually proved very slightly loose, showing just a bit more than what made it into the final frame, though results were near 100 percent accuracy. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the SD300's LCD monitor performed pretty well here, but its optical viewfinder could use some help. Flash distribution is a little uneven at wide angle, with some falloff at the corners and edges of the frame. At telephoto, flash distribution is more uniform.
SD300 Test Images
SD300 "Picky Details"
Up to Imaging Resource digital cameras area
Questions, comments or controversy on this article? Click this link to see what other Imaging Resource readers have had to say about Canon PowerShot SD300, or add comments of your own!