Ok, I can’t resist any more. I really wanted to wait until my F80EXR arrived before commenting on it … yes, I have one a preorder.
Now, this camera offers the potential to replace both the F70EXR and the ZS3 because of its addition of HD video. Of course, I am skeptical that it can actually do that as Fuji don’t have decent audio engineers, but it has a few other tricks that make it a mildly interesting upgrade, notably the orientation sensor that the Fuji guys allegedly say is in there. (I can never sit through their videos long enough to actually know this, but the comment was left on my blog a couple of times, so I am willing to stipulate that they said this, if not to the actual truth of the comment.)
So … back to my mini review. For those who have followed my comments on this blog or on the Fuji Talk Forum (I no longer post there), you will remember that I consider Fuji’s high res modes on the F200EXR and F70EXR to be evil. Far too much noise reduction, causing a real problem with fine detail.
Well, they took an already overcrowded 1/2.3” 10mp sensor and added 2 more megapixels. One presumes that they felt that they simply could not compete at 10mp (curious, since the ZS3 is also 10mp.)
So I thought I would take a very close look at one of their sample images to see how much this affects the daylight performance of the camera in high res mode.
The image in question is one of a woman who is standing in very bright sunlight. The image is shot at 100 ISO, the camera’s lowest ISO; so this represents the best that this camera can do in high res mode.
Here is how the image looks when displayed in small size:
That’s not actually too bad looking. The hair and eyes look pretty detailed and the color is really nice. But if you wanted to print this large -- and why else would you delude yourself into thinking that the extra 2mp made any positive difference? -- then you would see where the camera’s weaknesses begin to show.
First, the hair looks great at this tiny size, but unlike a dSLR -- which can show every strand under this kind of light -- the camera has clumped the hair into a mass with very little real detail.
This would look considerably less impressive on an 8x10 print than it does on this blog in small size.
The second weakness is skin texture. This is, of course, extremely fine texture and here we see how smooth the skin is. This leads to a bit of the classic plastic mannequin look, and this is in broad daylight! It will be much worse as ISO climbs.
And finally, shadow detail will take a terrible beating from the noise reduction with such small pixels. There is no denying how bad her right eye looks close up.
I’m pretty sure that anyone can see how much that resembles a paint-by-number canvas.
Now remember, my recommended settings for EXR cameras does not include high res shooting … at all. Never. So this issue does not bother me too much … my tests will be pretty much exclusive to my settings, medium (6mp) size in the case of the F80EXR. Hopefully, a much better performance than this.
In summary, I think they pushed this sensor a couple of megapixels too far … but I still think the cam has the potential to replace my favorite compact to date, the F70EXR, as my day to day shooter.