Digicams and 22,000 Christmas lights!

I was able to shoot pictures of my 22,000 christmas lights with several digicams ... and thought the results might be of interest to the camera buffs out there. Shown below are shots using a Canon G3, Nikon 5700, and HP612 digicams. The first two are fairly top-of-the-line "prosumer" digicams, offering 4 and 5 mega-pixel resolution (plus a host of other features). The later is an entry level 2 mega-pixel camera that is designed for the point-n-shoot crowd, so even though it is outclassed by the others, I had it around and thought it might be fun to toss it into the mix.

There pictures are all shot from across the street on fairly dark (but different) nights using the self-timer (to minimize shake) on top of a ladder. The zoom was set at as wide an angle as possible, and the default settings are used (with minimum ISO and Noise Reduction ON if available) ... and if possible, it seemed like about two steps under-exposing gave the "best" picture (see details below). All images are 480X360 - the first set of pictures is the entire image captured by each camera scaled down to that size. The subsequent images are 480X360 sub-portion crops of the original. All work was done in Photoshop7.0 with no other touchup/sharpening, and JPEG quality was 10. Since there was no scaling done on the later images, those from the higher resolution cameras will be "smaller", since there are more pixels in the original.

The Canon G3 picture (F2.0, 1/4 second) is a bit brigher than the Nikon 5700 (F2.8, 1/2 second). I had shot the Nikon picture first, and thought it was fairly decent, although I had noticed some colors didn't come out as much as I would like - especially the snowman's yellow shovel/broom. I had kinda forgotten about that when I shot the Canon picture - but WOW, what a difference. I wonder if it did some sort of wierd white balance but unfortunately, I was not able to reshoot it. There are some comments helow, but overall, I was much more impressed by the color trueness of the Canon versus the Nikon. I do give the Nikon the nod for slightly sharper pictures, but this is to be expected with 5 versus 4 mega-pixels.

As mentioned above, it's really not fair putting the entry level HP612 up against these two top-of-the-line digicams, but it didn't do too bad ... and in fact, had better colors that the Nikon 5700. And I think it would have done even better if I coulda under-exposed it a bit. But the lack of resolution shows ... and quite a bit more noise shows up. Note that I was NOT able to underexpose the hp612, since it doesn't give you this capability - remember, it's designed for the point-n-click market. So it's quite a bit brighter than the other pictures.

Disclaimer: I am NOT a professional photographer and these were NOT laboratory conditions - there are plenty of Internet sites by people that are and do these type of tests rigorously, so pls consult those as appropriate. Also, I unfortunately had the ladder in slightly different positions, so the viewing angle changes a bit. Also check out the crazy Santa tracker and the halloween lights.

Here is the entire frame as shot by the camera re-sized to 480X360
Canon G3, F2.0, 1/4 second, ISO 50, NR on Nikon 5700, F2.8, 1/2 second, ISO 100, NR on HP612 (not 4:3 aspect ratio), flash set off - that's all I can set! ;-)

Snowman and broom/shovel - all cameras had problems the resolving PURPLE hat, BLUE eyes, ORANGE nose, MULTI-COLOR garland, and PURPLE buttons at these exposures as (I guess) the white lights overwhelmed the CCD's. They did start to show as I decreased the shutter speed. Arms are alternating PURPLE/YELLOW rope lights and the shovel/broom are YELLOW lights.
Canon G3: yellow is right on (as is red on star) Nikon 5700: hardly any yellow at all HP612: Did decent job with colors

The tree-wraps in this pictures are from Halloween, and are therefore an ORANGE color. The lights on the tree are WHITE, as are the lights on the fence behind it ... but to the right of those (and behind the tree wrap) are PURPLE lights, with RED lights in the foreground.
Canon G3: Orange, purple, and red are decent Nikon 5700: orange is washed, and purple & red look similar HP612: Again, not bad colors

Chimney/icicles: The SAME type of ORANGE lights are used on the chimney as on the tree wrap in the picture above - so puzzling to me why the color is different in the two sub-frame of the SAME picture - maybe because the chimney is farther away?
Canon G3: Red bell is better, chimney closer to orange, one set of icicles out! ;-) Nikon 5700: 5 vs 4 mega-pixels noticeable here HP612: Lotsa noise on the house surface

Soldier: Canon pretty much nailed the colors again!
Canon G3: once again nailed the colors. Nikon 5700: 5 vs 4 mega-pixels again noticeable here HP612: Just not quite up to this tough shot!