Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sony WX1 versus Fuji F70EXR

I must admit that the Canon G10 is just a bit too big for a carry everywhere camera. This is really too bad, as it is one amazing piece of machinery. Seriously good at every aspect of photography, except perhaps really high ISO imagery. I can get decent images from it up to about 800 ISO, but after that all bets are off ... and even 800 requires shooting RAW and lots of magic with Neat Image and Topaz Denoise ...

Anyway ... two new compacts have been announced that tickle my fancy. I've already written about the F70EXR, which appears to be pretty darned good for still high ISO images. Not so sure about night images of people, as the EXR sensor limits you to 6mp in SN mode and even the F200EXR was unable to capture images as clean as the Fuji F31fd from yesteryear ...

But they do have the multi-shot mechanism, where 4 images are captured in quick succession and then one image is created from that. It looks very promising, but no samples have yet appeared with people in the image. Still waiting ...

The newest kid on the block is Sony's wonderfully specified WX1. This thing has a spectacular feature set, with a super high quality G lens (it's quality really shows in the almost total lack of chromatic aberrations) that unfortunately gives up a lot of reach to the Fuji. But Fuji's lens is simply awful, with CA everywhere (purple fringing.)

The Sony has HD video, a far cry from Fuji's mediocre 640x480 motion jpeg, although to Fuji's credit, they appear to have enabled zooming during filming. That is something, anyway.

The Sony shoots 6 images in their anti-blur mode and combines them for some very nice restored detail at high ISO. Quite impressive results.

I found a site with several full resolution test shots at high ISO and I must say that this sensor seems to be the real deal. Here is a set of crops taken at 500iso, 1600iso, 3200iso and 3200iso anti-blur. You will see that 3200iso with the multi-shot technology brings back some shadow detail, which is very nice.

Series 1, 2 and 5 show the improvement in shadow detail in the last column ... this is not something that shows up at web sizes on tiny details like these, but they illustrate what you can expect for camp fire shots with detail in shadows being everywhere.

But the truly amazing thing is that even the 3200 ISO shot is pretty good ... there is no extra noise reduction involved here ... and that's unheard of. The foliage is obviously muted by noise, but there is none of the smearing we associate with Fuji noise reduction, and none of the weird artifacts reported by DPReview from the F200EXR. One presumes that this issue will remain, since it is a product of the kinky photosite arrangement on the new mask Fuji uses.

Here are the 4 shots form which the crops are taken ... only downsized and sharpened, no other processing at all. And you will see that the details are all there, although only the 500 ISO image shows the foliage perfectly. Impressive ... and let's remember that this is a really tiny sensor at 1/2.4" ...

500 ISO

1600 ISO

3200 ISO

3200 ISO Multi-shot

This cam has a real shot at being my new concert cam. Oh yeah ... what about faces? Well, there is a full sized 2500 ISO campfire shot on the Sony site (unlike Fuji, Sony have the cojones to put up real examples) and I'll let you judge for yourself. Me ... I'm very impressed by this shot ...

Now ... back to the F70EXR ...

There's a guy in Singapore who claims to be the first person ever to buy this camera. Probably true I suppose ... and he's posted some images at high ISO that make this camera look better than Fuji has done ... of course, as usual, Fuji has done almost nothing to promote this camera's high ISO strength. They no doubt assume we'll just assume it is amazing ... but after all the F200EXR debates, you'd think they'd get smarter about it this time ....

Fuji won't be able to hide form their lens's weakness (chromatic aberrations) but they should be going nuts promoting its strengths ... amazing reach backed by a great sensor.

The real question is whether the software in cam will be up to the sensor. Sony appears to have really nailed that aspect. I get the sense that their software is better than their sensor :-) ... but with Fuji it is always the opposite.

So let's have a look at his images ... no crops, unfortunately. He's a great salesman ... but not a great tester. Still, he has managed to save the F70EXR's reputation from the ham-fisted early shots on the Chinese and Japanese web sites. Those guys are really bad at testing and as always they give a false impression of these cameras' capabilities.

He opens with a pair of images at 1600 ISO, showing how much noise is removed by the 4-shot multi mode. (Remember, Sony uses 6 shots.) Seems it removes a bit, but both shots are pretty good. I present them in the opposite order from his ...

1600 ISO in high ISO mode

1600 ISO in multi-shot mode

The latter is definitely cleaner (remember to click on the image to see the original sized versions) ... but both are pretty good. Excellent detail retention ... might actually be better than Sony's, by a bit. But the fringing ... sheesh.

Here's an especially nice image shot in his car ... again in multi-shot mode.

Here's an 800 ISO image in low noise mode ... I assume that us SN

That's very good.

And finally, an 800 ISO image in the same mode with people ... looks quite decent.

So ... what to do ... the video on the Sony embarrasses the Fuji ... the Fuji has great reach and looks to have excellent sharpness in the lens (link through to the guy who owns it ... there are day time images as well.)

I really cannot decide yet ... so I'll wait for more samples and see if I can get more telling crops ... the big day will be when has shot samples with both ... that always helps me ...

Remember that video matters to me and so does decent image quality at 800 ISO .... that's what concerts need ... everything else is secondary. I certainly don't get too excited about daytime issues because I have real cameras for that .... but concerts require stealth and both of these cams have that in spades ...


Anonymous said...

Panasonic TZ7 ( aka. ZS3 ).
It's got even longer reach zoom (300mm eqv.) and broader focal range.
It picks up STEREO sound (HighQual.), and zooms during filming (but s-l-o-w-l-y....).
Still pic qual. is decent-to-good, and the typical Panasonic noise issue is a lot better than its predecessor; by now it's fairly easy to handle in post processing - if neccessary at all ( really! ).
And not only the gorgeous display w. 460k reslution makes stunning images - it captures HD video (AVHCD Lite, or, to your choice, Motion JPG).
Good image stabilization too.
I'd choose it for concerts stealth photos.

Kim Letkeman said...

I suppose I never really responded to that comment ... so I will now. Panny compacts have terrible high ISO ... I see too much smearing and chroma noise as low as 400 ISO. Too bad, because they manage to get everything else right.