Friday, February 13, 2009

Is the F200EXR that much better than the F31fd?

Today, the Fuji Talk Forum on DPReview is a buzz with interest in this review. It's been pointed to before, but it seems that there might be some new comparisons on there. Specifically, the F200EXR is directly compared to the F31fd.

Why does this matter? Because there is a cult of people who believe that the F31fd was the culminations of Fujifilm's great Fxx series of cameras, the low-light masterpieces that were able to shoot decent small prints at 1600iso ... a first for a compact camera.

Personally, I like the F11 just fine ... it used a softer touch on the noise reduction and sharpening, and could therefore handle quite a bit of processing. I compare that camera to the Canon G10 (my new favorite) in this blog entry.

The buzz is made up of a lot of superlatives. The F200EXR is "a hundred times better" ... "VASTLY better" ... and so on ...

I compared the F200EXR to itself at 1600ISO previously in this blog entry ... and found that the new 6mp "binning" mode seems to work. You get a better result than with the 12mp mode, which means that this camera should get back the high ISO performance that was lost when jumping to 12mp. A bit ironic, though, that it was achieved by dropping back to 6mp in this "special" mode :-)

The real benefit though, is that this camera increases the effective pixel size while taking advantage of the really nice lens from the F100fd. This lens shows less tendency to CA and PF, and it seems sharper corner to corner than the F31fd's lens ever was.

So there should be an improvement, and indeed there is obvious improvement at 100%. That is, you can see less smearing from noise reduction and you can see less blur from the lens. You also see much less CA and PF.

But what does this mean to j6p? Remember that the average person does not print and tends these days to post to facebook or equivalent.

Once downsized, a lot of these differences simply disappear. And for those enthusiasts who process their images (I don't see any point in just taking what the camera gives you), the differences becomes very marginal.

Here is a pair of 800 ISO images (the highest useful ISO on almost any small sensor camera) where I downsized for the web after performing essentially identical processing. Basically, for each image, I:

  • Loaded into CS4 directly as a copy / paste
  • Removed distortions using PTLens
  • Adjusted saturation and vibrancy (it was terrible on both cams)
  • Adjusted contrast, opening the shadows a bit
  • Adjusted local contrast with the DSLR Tools clarify filter
  • Added more local contrast to the subject (middle forground) using PKSharpener's narrow edge local contrast filter. Also worked over the background branches and foliage on both images.
  • Resized to 800px
I performed one special step to each of the images:
  • For the F200EXR, I ran Neat Image 6 to slightly reduce the obvious grain. I added luminance sharpening to preserve detail. The end result was still more grainy than the F31fd.
  • For the F31fd, I added a slight amount of output sharpening to equalize to that received by the 200 in its Neat Image step. Both images appear to me to have the same amount of sharpening now.
Now remember, I used the same amounts in each of the steps ... the two images were similar enough that no variance was needed to achieve the same effect.

So ... drum roll please. Which is which? In my opinion ... all these superlatives get washed away once properly processed.

Remember ... click to get the 800px version, and use the back button to come back.


opalchip said...

Well I didn't cheat, and I liked the f200exr better - though without an A/B comparison it probably wouldn't matter much. My only critique is that you ask what it would mean to J6p and then you run both images through 4 software packages that j6p never heard of. Posting the direct out-of-camera image would be a more valid comp for most point and shoot users.

opalchip said...

I'm a former pro (Gamma Liaison --> Getty Images) who now just takes family pics and never wants to pick up a full size camera or tripod again! My main reason for using the Fuji is it's low-light indoor capability + pocketability. I still don't see any other camera that beats the F31 and now the F200exr there. The main argument for the F200 is that the F31 is out of production and old-stock new f31's are going for over $450 on Ebay!!!

The 3 things that IMO Fuji really screwed up here, considering a $399 list, are:
1. not incorporating better video - a HUGE disappointment to me and undoubtedly to J6p, and possibly the reason I won't buy.
2. no RAW, but can live without.
3. the XD slot instead of a larger battery. Ridiculous. Do they really think ANYONE is going to use an XD? Long battery life would be much more attractive to potential buyers.

btw - I would have posted on your dpreview forum thread, but I don't have the type of email address that will allow me to register there :(. Feel free to copy this over there if you'd like.

Anonymous said...

I liked the F31FD better, but maybe for the wrong reason, anyway, it just jumped off the page a bit more--but that is mainly the color. I still would consider the 200 for the IS, etc.

opalchip said...

I agree that as published here, the f31 color looks more accurate. Given what looks like an overcast sky, the magenta tilted hue of the granite in the f200 has to be wrong. I'm assuming though, that it's some kind of processing or white balance setting issue that's not inherent to the camera.

Kim Letkeman said...

Opalchip: you are absolutely right ... I should never have gone with the j6p angle and then processed these images. The processing wasn't a big deal, but j6p probably would not do it. On the other hand, j6p would post the f31fd images on facebook without thinking twice about the f200exr ...

davitof said...

I guessed the f200 right from thumbnails, because of the contrast, probably for the very same reason Anonymous liked the f31 better. But maybe my reasons are wrong, maybe the contrast difference comes from your post-processing. I like the f31 more too, but the price for this type of contrast is blown highlights on some shots. OTOH, a little post-processing could easily bring the f200 to the level of contrast of the f31. The difference of geometry is interesting too. Which one is closer to reality? Did you use the "HDR" setting?

Anonymous said...

I think you are pretty much right on the money. Fuji is indeed trying to revisit the former F11 surprising ISO usability and they do it by halving the 12M sensor to half... well, well, well.

But then again they tried to sell 5Mega SuperCCD as 10Mega this is one of the same trick. Now we have "improved" noise by resizing image 50% down.

Wow, maybe if they make 3Meg picture the noise will be even better. Do I smell 300exr?

Kim Letkeman said...

Regarding the 300EXR idea ... if Fuji are so bent on trying to fake us out with fantastic high ISO, then I think they should seriously consider a specialized party cam with a 6mp sensor, binning down to 3. That should come pretty close to dSLR territory ... perhaps 4/3 at least. Gotta say I think that would be very interesting for the Facebook crowd ... or how about a 3mp sensor binning down to 1.5mp? That's more than enough for the web and the output should be close to D3 territory :-)