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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W350 Gordon Laing, May 2010

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W350 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W350 vs Canon IXUS 130 / SD1400 IS High ISO Noise (default Program settings)

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To compare noise levels under real-life conditions we shot this scene with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W350 and Canon IXUS 130 / PowerShot SD1400 IS within a few moments of each other using their best-quality JPEG settings and at each of their ISO settings.

The lenses were adjusted to deliver as close a field-of-view as possible; the best match was with the Sony a fraction wider, hence the slighter larger area in its crops. Each camera was set to Program to see how they performed with default settings, although DRO was disabled this time on the Sony as it can introduce noise.

The image above was taken with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W350 in Program mode at 80 ISO with an exposure of 1/4 and the lens set to 7mm f3.2; the original file measured 5.31MB. The crops below are taken from the area marked with the red rectangle and presented here at 100%.

At their lowest sensitivities of 80 ISO, both cameras deliver detailed and fairly clean results. Look closely and pixel-peepers will notice the usual fine textures common across all compacts these days, even at their lowest ISO settings, but most people would be perfectly happy with the results in this first row of crops. As seen on the previous page, the Sony Cyber-shot W350 is applying greater sharpening and contrast, even with the Dynamic Range Optimiser disabled for this low light test. This doesn't make it better – it's just a different approach to image processing and the choice between it and the Canon IXUS 130 / SD1400 IS at this point is entirely personal.

At 100 ISO the Canon IXUS 130 / SD1400 IS delivers essentially the same result as it did at 80 ISO. Sure the textures have become fractionally greater, but that's getting into serious pixel-peeping. In contrast though, the Sony Cyber-shot W350's image quality has taken quite a hit in the small jump from 80 to 100 ISO. Noise levels have noticeably increased, the image looks softer overall and fine details are already being lost. Again there's a fair amount of pixel-peeping going on here, and most wouldn't notice any negative impact on prints, but when examining at 100%, it's clear the Canon IXUS 130 / SD1400 IS enjoys a visible advantage at 100 ISO.

At 200 ISO there's a drop in quality on both models, but this time it's the Canon which suffers from a bigger drop compared to its previous setting – the IXUS 130 / SD1400 IS looks noticeably less crisp than it did at 100 ISO. But the Canon result at 200 ISO remains preferable to that from the Sony which is becoming increasingly plagued by noise and processing artefacts.

With the sensitivity set to 400 ISO, both cameras are becoming steadily fuzzier and losing more subtle details, especially in terms of tone – for example, the markings on the organ pipes are much less defined than at lower sensitivities. We'd still say the Canon enjoys and edge here, but it's smaller than before with both cameras being quite close in overall quality at this point.

At 800 ISO, the Canon IXUS 130 / SD1400 IS has begun to really suffer with a loss of fine detail and an overall softness to the image. In turn, the Sony W350 has become quite patchy, but while its stronger contrast and sharpness by default makes the artefacts more obvious, we prefer its output at this point to the Canon.

Likewise at 1600 ISO where the Sony W350's punchier-looking image processing gives it the impression of a superior result. Look closely though and you'll see both cameras are roughly neck-in-neck on actual detail, but we personally prefer the Sony result. This is personal though and you may prefer the Canon.

The IXUS 130 / SD1400 IS tops-out at 1600 ISO, but offers a Low Light scene preset which significantly drops the resolution in an attempt to reduce visible noise. It works too when viewed at 100%, but of course when printed or viewed the same size, the artefacts on the normal 1600 ISO version will appear smaller and less obvious.

The Sony W350 bravely offers a 3200 ISO option at its full resolution, and while it's unsurprisingly very noisy at this point, it may be acceptable for emergency situations.

So an interesting result here with no clear winner overall. Both cameras start looking roughly the same at 80 ISO, but the Canon IXUS 130 / SD1400 IS enjoys a noticeable lead at 100 and 200 ISO, and a small edge at 400 ISO. At 800 ISO and above though, the Sony W350 comes back with results we personally preferred to the Canon; this is however a personal preference and you may think the Canon still looks better. If you think you'll be shooting at 400 ISO or lower, then the Canon IXUS 130 / SD1400 IS will be the preferred choice, but if you regularly shoot in low light at 800 ISO and above, you may prefer the Sony W350.

Check out our Sample Images Gallery for more examples across the Sony's sensitivity range, or if you've already seen enough, head on over to our verdict!

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W350
Canon IXUS 130 / PowerShot SD1400 IS
80 ISO
80 ISO
100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
3200 ISO
Low Light preset (here at 1600 ISO)

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W350 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise

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