Having a camera like the Canon IXUS 210 IS (also called PowerShot SD3500 IS) should – I think – place you in the category where you want good pictures without too much hassle! At least that is the assumption I have made during my testing for this review. Here I should add that this is what many many photographers want! To be able to concentrate on the motif and forget as much as possible about the technical side! Still it would go too much against my grain to use “Full auto” so I have set the camera to “Program auto” when comparing it to the Canon PowerShot S95.
Under a few common lighting conditions the two cameras will battle it out to see what kind of sample photos they will produce – on their own – with the setting “Program auto”. There are a number of differences between the cameras – and we will see how that affects the pictures! As I have pointed out earlier on these pages the differences between most cameras on low ISO-settings when lighting conditions are good (sunshine or very light clouds) are very small – even between DSLR’s and compact cameras! Ok, Ok – when pixel peeping you will see differences … But the differences are not much to write home about – not when the full picture is shown on the screen – not even when viewed on my 24″ 1920×1200 pixel screen! (As you probably know that translates only to just over 2Mpix – roughly like a FullHD television screen! On (large) printed pictures is where the differences might show – if you are very close (sort of pixel peeping again… 😉 ) BUT as the light gets weaker – even just a day with proper clouds – the differences start to show very clearly!
Note that what I will be testing is each cameras ability to produce good pictures – under similar conditions! Not what pictures you will get using the same exposure time, the same f-stop, etc..
First out will be indoors sample photos. The one not so common circumstance was to use a table for support on these pictures. Most people tends to take handheld pictures but they would have been very blurry …! Low light is not be the easiest – but quite common – task for these cameras!
As always the pictures are unchanged and unedited – this is how they came out of the cameras – only filename has been changed!
Let’s start by looking a little at what settings these two cameras chose – and try to guess why the camera chose those settings! The IXUS 210 chose 1/20 sec and S95 1/15 sec, both picked f3.5, but chose very different ISO values 800 and 80(!). It is not very easy to guess why the cameras picked so different settings for this albeit lowly lit but evenly lit subject. Also why S95 picked f3.5 instead of f2.0 – that would have been the logical selection when light is sparse. If I would have picked settings I would have chosen to go with the full opening f2.0, 1/30 sec and let the ISO sort itself out. ISO would probably stop at around 80 – so I would probably have gotten away with slightly shorter shutter time or slightly higher f-stop. Considering the image stabilization my picking 1/30 sec is probably very conservative – for a stationary subject… But the great MYSTERY is how the cameras could have picked so very different ISO values – 800 against 80 – and that the lightness of the pictures still do not look soo much different! Agreed the IXUS 210 picture looks a little on the light side – but 800 to 80 – that is over three steps!
As can be seen the difference in chosen ISO-values makes a lot of difference when it comes to sharpness and noise in the picture. The S95 picture is clearly the winner here – even if I do not understand why the cameras picked so different ISO-values! The IXUS has clearly overexposed this motif a bit and also the white balance is a little on the cold blue side. The differences are so big that any deeper analysis of the two pictures qualities would not contribute to anything! Of course any (at least from a compact camera) ISO 80 picture will be better than any ISO 800 picture! Click on the pictures and see for yourself!
Even if my idea for this test aims to show the above – how the pictures from a camera will look during different but common lighting conditions – I am a little baffled by the above … so for those of you that – like me – wonder how much the IXUS and S95 differ at the same ISO-value I will include another indoor sample – this time forced to the same 800 ISO-value!
Now the differences are not that big – but first let’s look at the settings the cameras picked when forced to use ISO 800. The IXUS and S95 chose 1/15 sec and 1/50 sec, f3.5 and f2.0. Again this baffles me – a little at least! The IXUS could not do much but pick the largest aperture f3.5 and then got 1/15 sec as a result. But why did the S95 pick such a “short” shutter time 1/50 sec this time? And used the widest aperture to achieve this – when it not did so in the umbrella picture above?
Looking first at the noise levels they are somewhat similar but still it is quite clear that the S95 has much lower noise levels generally – both in dark corners and in “well-lit” areas! The saturation and contrast are slightly higher on the S95 picture – also affected by the lower noise levels. Sharpness in a ISO 800 picture is always very much affected by the rather high levels of noise but also here the S95 trumps over the IXUS.
The above is while pixel peeping (Click on the pictures and do it yourself to see what you think!) but most of it is not visible on my 24″ 1920×1200 pixel display. That is not to say that there are no differences – flipping between full size images I can both “sense” and actually see a little better saturation and slightly better sharpness in the S95 picture.
Conclusion – Indoor Pictures
The S95 has a clear edge over the IXUS 210 with sharper pictures that has better saturation and better contrast. The S95 also has lower noise with higher ISO-values.
Time for an outdoor picture taken in good light.
Here a slight tonal difference is clearly visible – with the IXUS going for a slightly colder colour and the S95 for a slightly warmer look. I brought along my trusty old EOS 550D for the comparison as the “gold” reference. Based on the EOS colour I would have to lean to that the S95 probably is the most correct one. My memory of the sky colour at the time is not so exact so I could not say which is the most correct. These three pictures are similar enough that except for the tonal differences I can see no other differences when viewing full screen. This was expected – as the lighting conditions were so favorable! The settings for the pictures were – in the above order – 1/1250, 1/1000, 1/320 and f3.5, f4.5, f11 and ISO 80, 80, 100. Both compacts going for shorter shutter times – probably both because of there being fewer* F-stops to choose from and because of their intended target users … (The last is just a guess!)
(* Compacts very often has just a few f-stop settings. Some cameras go as low as two settings! Full open and something around f5.6-f8.0)
Conclusion – Outdoor Pictures
As expected – in good lighting conditions – all three cameras produce good results! Both the IXUS and the S95 faring very well when comparing them with the EOS 550D.