Shoot-out: Canon Powershot vs. Canon Ixus vs. Canon DSLR

By on August 1, 2012
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Are the lines between point and shoot and DSLR’s blurring?

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Night Time Comparison

As evening descended upon us, we decided to really test out these cameras in the conditions that Canon promised that the cameras would perform well – little to no light. Our priority was to take the three cameras – the Ixus, Powershot and the Canon EOS 600D that we pulled out only for comparisons sake – and test that in the lowest of light, what is the maximum performance of them and what is the balance between a noisy image and a clearer image. To begin with, here’s a low angle shot of the train we were travelling in when it stopped for a while. Light was very scarce except for what was on the train itself, so it was a good starting point to try out. First, the Ixus.

Canon IXUS 125 HS: f/ 2.7 - 4mm - ISO 1600 - 1/8 sec

The image was surprisingly impressive for a camera of that size and we were very impressed with its performance. Noise levels are in control, but majorly the fact that the lowest aperture level of the camera is an f/ 2.7 really lets it capture the maximum amount of light possible and provide a clear image. Note that the background tree is out of focus because of the fact that the aperture window is smaller, but what is in focus is quite solid.

Next up, the Powershot.

PowerShot SX240 HS: f/ 3.5 - 4mm - ISO 1600 - 1/8 sec

Once again, the Powershot led to an even more solid image than the Ixus. Even though the aperture caps at f/ 3.5, it worked for the image and as you can see, the trees and the background is in full focus as well. The contrast levels are better on the image and the noise levels are about the same as the Ixus. Note that other than the aperture, the camera settings remained the same. I tried both these cameras on their intelligent auto settings and they were smart enough to provide the best image for the scenario in front of them.

Now for the sake of comparison, here is the same shot with a 600D. Now to keep things fair, we only used the 18-55m f/ 3.5 kit lens with the camera since things are widely dependent on the lens being used. But we also did use the auto mode on the camera and let the camera decide the best setting for itself. Though the difference in aperture doesn’t affect the image here, we see an example of the opposite later in the test. Here is the image we captured.

EOS 600D: f/ 3.5 - 18mm - ISO 3200 - 1/10 sec

As you can see, there’s a much brighter and actually artificially brighter image here. The camera jacked up the ISO to 3200 at the auto level with an aperture of f/3.5 which leads to quite a noisy image compared to the previous ones. But aside from the noise levels because of the obvious shift in aperture, the rest of the image is sharp and as good as you would expect from a DSLR.

Now we jack things up a little higher. We set our eyes upon a particular area of the zoo where there was literally no light at all. No lamp posts, no bulbs or anything. It was almost pitch black with only light from far away sources faintly reflecting upon it and we decided to test all three cameras out on this ground. As always, first comes the Ixus.

Canon IXUS 125 HS: f/ 2.7 - 4mm - ISO 1600 - 1/8 sec

This was the most impressive image of the bunch. The Ixus 125 HS captured the image the way we saw it and though there was an obvious difference in quality because of extremely low lighting, it did a great job at still keeping the image clear and we can make out the animals just as they should be. The 1600 ISO does have noticeable noise levels when you zoom in, but that’s no surprise.

Then, we pulled out the Powershot.

PowerShot SX240 HS: f/ 3.5 - 4mm - ISO 1600 - 1/8 sec

The result here was very surprising because what we ended up getting was significantly darker and less visible than the Ixus. Could the difference in the aperture (f/ 2.7 vs f/ 3.5) be the reason? It most likely is and that’s why in such extreme low light every bit of light captured makes a lot of difference. Every other setting remained the same, but it couldn’t change the fact that the camera captured less light and hence led to an inferior image this time around.

Now, we brought out the 600D.

EOS 600D: f/ 3.5 - 18mm - ISO 6400 - 1/5 sec

Again, the much higher ISO of the DSLR led to the camera jacking it up for a clear image and we can see that in this case it definitely worked out. Yes, there’s a whole lot of noise here but there’s a huge difference between the images and you can see everything much more clearly. It almost feels like there was a lot of light here instead of the fact that there was none. The Ixus definitely was a truer representation of the scenes, but we can’t negate the fact that the DSLR with its higher ISO delivered.

However, there was a whole new problem we faced in this scenario with the 600D that we didn’t with the Powershot or Ixus. While we could easily use both those cameras and take the above pictures handheld, we could not do the same with the DSLR. The camera would have issues finding a focus point and wouldn’t click a picture until it did, which failed most of the time. Not only that, the image came out blurry the first few times we tried it and it only took a stable and focused image once we kept the camera on top of the railing and then snapped the picture. So here, I guess the advantage goes to the point and shoot cameras because you may not find a steady ground to put the camera on everytime you want to capture moments like these.

Then, there was this moment that we snapped with the 600D:

EOS 600D: f/ 5.6 - 55mm - ISO 3200 - 1/6 sec

That was an adorable sleeping lion that we spotted towards the end of our trip and didn’t want to go away without trying the zoom capabilities of the Powershot one last time. This is the highest zoom that the kit lens on the 600D provided us at at an ISO of 3200, it was a clear image despite low light issues. Now, we pulled out our Powershot and went to the maximum zoom on it to see how far that goes:

PowerShot SX240 HS: f/ 6.8 - 90mm - ISO 1600 - 1/8 sec

Aside from the fact that we were a little spooked out to find that the lion was actually awake and looking straight at us, the impressive zoom on the Powershot delivered once again even in low light conditions where it forced to drop the aperture down to f/ 6.8. It’s a fairly decent image that isn’t the most sharp but captures the subject with justice. But then we decided to go a little further and test out the digital zoom on the camera which takes the zoom even further although with much quality degradation. But hey, no harm in trying.

PowerShot SX240 HS: f/ 6.8 - 90mm - ISO 1600 - 1/8 sec (Digital Zoom - Max)

Levels of spookiness crept even higher, but you can see the degradation in quality here as a lot of detail is lost. Still, if someone needs a shot that is so zoomed in, it’s very helpful to have one if you don’t care about that image loss. Probably don’t try taking an image of a waking lion staring back at you, though.

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Filmmaker and film writer. An ironically strange combination. Follow his tweets on @faisalhashmi for his escapades in film.

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