Sunday, January 31, 2010

F70EXR – Does P Mode Bin?

Big Tom asked me to test whether P mode bins as I have claimed because there is a flickr group where the question was asked and user Kelly_Squared, who is presumably a Fuji representative, answered no.

The exact quote:

2. No , reducing the file size to 6MP outside the EXR mode does not incorporate any pixel binning.

So … Tom would like it tested because there are a lot of people who use this setting as the result of my assertions (and those form others of course.)

The test is pretty simple … low light, 1600 ISO, four shots, crops of several areas to gauge detail and noise … and especially chroma noise.

The four shots will be:

  1. P mode large size resuced to medium size in CS4
  2. P mode medium size DR400
  3. EXR SN mode
  4. EXR DR mode DR400

I’ll save you the agony …. I am right. There are three differences between shot one and the other three shots, which look surprisingly similar.

Fine details are smeared, likely from selective NR that kicks in hard in 10mp mode.

Noise pattern is very fine and annoying on shot 1, the others have grain that looks more film like.

At least twice the amount of chroma noise on shot 1, even after reduction. Very objectionable levels. The key here is that shot 2 is *clearly* not just a reduced shot 1. It is binned as are shots 3 and 4. This is blindingly obvious from these crops.

And … without further ado … here are said crops. Click on them to see them full-sized.


Polly Wants a What?

A cute little parrot key fob that talks dirty. Don't listen if you are faint of heart ... that includes you anonymous wimps who consider this blog vile and filthy. This'll rock your world :-)

Rascal Flatts in Ottawa with Darius Rucker

On Friday, 29 January 2010, Rascal Flatts came to Ottawa with Darius Rucker opening. My company held an email lottery for tickets in our corporate box, all proceeds going to the Employee Charity Fund. They do that as part of their community involvement. Anyway, I won the right to purchase a pair of the tickets for charity so Karen and I were privileged to take in this event from the 100 level.
Disclaimer: The images are pretty good here because the F70EXR is the right camera for the job. But the videos are pretty mediocre … the Panasonic was accidentally left at home because I went in to the office on Friday and forgot to take the cam with me. I met Karen for dinner after work and never got home to get the right camera. I also had the smallest of my SD cards (2GB) and only one partially charged battery. So I am pretty pleased with the level of coverage I was able to get anyway.
Although I like the floor for big concerts, the fantastic reach of the  F70EXR and ZS3 make it easy to get decent images from up here.
How about that stage? It was spectacular, and they used it quite a bit to get close to the audience. Very nice.
Darius Rucker, for those who don’t know, is the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for Hootie & the Blowfish. He started his country music solo career in 2008. And he sounds terrific.
He did use the massive catwalk now and again, but did not venture very far out.
DSCF3301_dariusHis band is quite good, and for an opening act they had a pretty decent light show.
And he finished with one of my favorite songs of all time. Purple Rain.
Ok … if you watched that to the end, I was trying to zoom and managed to hit the stop button about 20 seconds before the actual end of the song … duh …
We had a short break then, while they wheeled away Darius’s equipment and opened up the stage to the Flatt’s setup. Very impressive. The now ubiquitous two-level platform system with wings up high to get closer to the audience. And of course that massive catwalk.
The three main guys open up on the top level … they are, shown here from left to right, Joe Don Rooney on lead guitar, Gary (the voice) LeVox on lead vocals, and Jay DeMarcus on bass guitar (he also plays keyboards and they all sing.)
The Rascal Flatts are a country band from Columbus, Ohio … but they play everything and they are clever enough to include a few covers as well. The audience always appreciates this stuff.
Their stage was humongous, with many screens always active, pyrotechnics (which you can see operate during the videos) and a massive light show. This is really something to see.
DSCF3309_rascalsI shot some video early, but I must admit that I don’t know their song book at all. So I did not bother to name their songs in the titles to these videos. Sorry.
I also managed to catch one of the great talk box performances … it almost rivals the legendary Peter Frampton.
LeVox and the Rascals have a legion of fans, and Gary makes good use of his status among fans by wandering up and down the stage throughout the night. The fans are forever reaching up to him and he obliges quite often by tapping hands or even kneeling …
I really enjoyed the band as well. They back the Rascals up very well, staying in the background mostly but joining them when needed to juice up the show a bit. Here’s a shot of the excellent drummer.
You can see the keyboardist and the fiddler in the background here … Gary often stands near that way cool mic stand … it rocks whenever he takes the mic for a walk.
The whole building is awash in light once in a while … oit looks pretty spectacular, I gotta say.
Gary is pretty active while on stage … here, I caught him grabbing the mic and wheeling around to wander back to the band for a moment. The hand is from inside the box … a couple of young girls from another part of the company (there are something like 2,500 of us here in Ottawa.)
The three Rascals tend to stay front and center, although they all move about quite a bit while on stage.
At some point, they rolled out the fog and created the kind of scene I love to photograph. I couldn’t get the shot at the Shen Yun show, but here there was no problem. And I had a nice angle on them as well.
Watch as the two other principles join Gary at the front and center position. Very nice as they walk out from the fog.



LeVox is quite the singer and he does not fail to pound out the music when called for. I presume that this is why his fans are so rabid.
Here, we see the fiddler hamming it up with Rooney while LeVox heads out onto the catwalk.
The catwalk was lit beautifully all night. The lighting tricks they built in were pretty amazing. This is just one of many looks it was capable of.
DSCF3336_levox DSCF3337_levox
While Gary is out on the wings, visiting fans, Rooney comes out to one of the platforms and performs for the crowd.
The catwalk is so large that you can’t help but scan it to see what might be happening. Very cool.
DSCF3341_stage I’m not quite sure why, but fans insist on holding up signs for Gary and the others to read … this looks to be a Canadian flag and something that I can’t quite make out is written across it.
At some point, DeMarcus comes out to stir things up. He gets the crowd going, although I’m not sure what this song was.
I think LeVox took a few moments off at this point while Rooney and DeMarcus played.
In fact, I think they were distracting the crowd while a small acoustic stage was lowered and rolled out  … the piano comes from the sky in this case, kind of like how the Foo Fighters did it when they came out to their acoustic stage.
Here, DeMarcus switches to keyboards. You can see that tony drum set … it was quite loud anyway :-)
Rooney joins the rest of them from the catwalk.
Right here, they did a very brief version of Lean On Me … it was terrific, although I managed to chop a bit off the recording … not enough battery or memory … *sigh* …
During the next song, Gary rejoins the band on stage. Very nice …

They still had the piano at this point and were making excellent use of their amazing screens.

A while later, Gary seems to interact directly with one girl …
And the show continues …
A bit later, they seem to be showing some rather erotic images on the screens. I don’t know what song that supports, but I’m sure it fit … the audience were into it.
Note all the glowing dots in the audience near the stage … compact cameras are essentially ubiquitous nowadays …
Gary and Joe Don playing around … it’s cool how Rooney can do all this while hitting the pedals to change sounds … I’ve always been impressed by the amount of information a band member must manage during a concert.
DSCF3369_levox_rooneyI like this next shot … mainly because of the silhouette  of the fiddler.

And I shot the keyboardist the same way.

Here, LeVox hams it up with DeMarcus, the other other brother … so to speak. These three work really well together … they still have a lot of chemistry.
I couldn’t help to back out now and again to try to capture the scope of the light show. It was something else.
Here, LeVox and Rooney play against the fiddler …
Later, Rooney is out on the catwalk. This lighting was perfect …
LeVox visits his fans again … this is on the closest wing of the catwalk, so this is not a crop …
Someone throws him a hat to wear for a moment … note the incredibly flukey timing where I caught *two* flashes going off … since my shitter is open for about 1/125 of a second, this shows you how many flashes were going off at any one time.
Flashing peace … I think :-) … It is also interesting to see how many audience members fist pump or point in the air or point at the band. Not sure what it all means, but they get into it all the way … that is for sure.

The crowd surges whenever he walks nearby …
And while all this is happening, the band plays on.
More for LeVox to read …
For the longest time, I thought that this was an argument … but looking closely, it’s just a security guard scanning the catwalk edge, a guy looking at the stage, and another guy looking at Gary with a camera in his hand …
Late in the show, the fiddler takes a walk up the catwalk, plays a bit on the platforms, and then runs back … not sure why he had to run, but I think he was late for the next song or something …
We enter the finale, which goes on for a while, and I am desperately short on memory and battery …
If you know what “crawling ants” means (basically the dots that march around a selection on some editing or drawing programs), they did that on the catwalk several times. I managed to capture a static view of it …
I was not sure where this cowboy hat came from …
The band got really active as the show was ending …
And I ran out of space as the finale ended. But there was an encore! And I could not film or photograph that.
The guys brought Darius back out to play the encore with them, a real class act. This is so rarely done … I deleted a couple of images in order to make room for a shot or two of the encore, and I managed exactly one before the battery completely packled it in.
Darius waves goodbye to Ottawa …