Stephen Shankland over at CNET has written an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how DxO Labs — one of the world’s premier camera testing services — evaluates equipment. DxO Labs is based near Paris, France and was the result of a 2003 spinoff from a company called Vision IQ, which specialized in swimming pool safety. Since then, the group has published over 185 in-depth camera reviews on its website DxOMark.
After years of testing cameras, they’ve come to a few interesting (and surprising) conclusions:
- Actually, megapixels do matter
“Everybody says there is no need for more pixels, and we should reduce the number to a reasonable number so the quality will improve,” Guichard said. However, DxO’s aggregate measurements tell a different story: “If we look at the cameras, there are more and more pixels, and the quality is increasing in the meantime.”
- ISO isn’t what it appears to be
[...] just because this year’s camera goes to a higher ISO than an earlier model, don’t assume that the image quality at the highest ISO setting is on par. Cameras can clean up photos as they’re converted into JPEGs, but DxO’s measurements of the raw image data shows how newer cameras produce more noise at the highest ISO before that processing.
- Phone cameras are better than you think
“If you scale down the quality to the sensor size, today the [phone] cameras and sensors are better than the SLR sensors,” Guichard said. “In the end, the image quality is not as good because it’s smaller. But if Canon were able to put the technical quality of a 2012 phone camera on full-frame sensor, they would win about 1 stop more [in image quality]. It’s a big difference.”
- In practice, sensors beat film’s dynamic range
Most people aren’t surprised to hear that high-end digital cameras offer higher resolution, lower noise, and better low-light performance than film. But there’s a common belief that film still surpasses digital when it comes to another important attribute, dynamic range, which measures the spread from where a scene is too bright for a camera to capture detail to where it’s so dark that details are lost in the image noise. [...] “All digital SLR cameras are above film,” Guichard said.
Head on over to CNET for the entire article — it’s worth a read.
Image credits: Photographs by Stephen Shankland/CNET