Sunday, March 14, 2010

F80EXR – High Res Sample Image Analysis and Review

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.


Tarek said...

Hi Kim,
It's dpreview's Altruisto. Nice I can still find you in your own blog. As regards F80exr, I'm happy you'll be able to do the comparison with F70exr at M size. Actually, I would only use it that way to take advantage of the extended DR (No other petite camera in the market does it that well), and Though the 5 MP of F70 were nice, I really feel 6 MP as my minimum psychological threshold, especially that i crop and reframe every single shot. The 12 MP we're seeing in Fuji samples are crappy, but I noticed two improvements: there's no purple fringing (maybe software based) and corners seem sharp enough. That's encouraging! Otherwise, I'm not too excited about the HD video shooting as Fuji never got it right with VGA, so why would be expect better for HD?
I can't wait for your thorough and insightful comparisons!

Kim Letkeman said...

Tarek / Altruisto: Thanks for the kind words, and I agree with you that 5mp seems a little small, despite the fact that the linear resolution difference from 5 to 6 mp is somewhere between zip and squat. But the psychology of megapixels is not to be denied. And thanks for pointing out the total lack of CA in the top-right corner of this image ... it is a white surface in a corner and is overexposed (because high res mode uses DR100 at 100 ISO) ... so this looks extremely promising. Can't wait to point the cam at some trees :-)

NMQHCgtpw4aSIFy5FfQnmvwauqQr9L4mbg-- said...

How come there is no mention of the Pet Face Detection Mode! talk about upgrade... (end sarcasm)

I agree Kim, I could care less about the 5mp-6mp increase, but if they can improve the CA, which may be possible, that's at least a step in the right direction. I am skeptical on the corner sharpness, as I am guessing this is the exact same lens.

the HD movie is a welcome addition.

Despite these small steps in the right direction, Fuji really had an opportunity here, an opportunity to do something great, but instead they just tagged on a couple MPs/HD video, some useless scene modes, and hoped that was good enough for the masses.

Long story short, I will be keeping my F70EXR and enjoying it and waiting for the next iteration.

Will be looking forward to your tests at the camera's true modes Kim!

Best Regards,

Kim Letkeman said...

Dustin: I agree that Fuji should have done something bigger with this next generation ... if they fixed the CA, that will be impressive. If the HD does not suck, that will too. Although I can't believe it will be as good as Panny because they left out AVCHD. And they can't do a microphone to save their lives. But we'll see ...

archish said...

Any idea if this newer model supports zoom when recording a video. I don't get why Fuji doesn't like to implement this feature in any of its cams :/

Kim Letkeman said...

Archish: The F70EXR supports zoom in video mode, so the F80EXR surely will. The zoom is a bit too fast and fairly noisy, but it works well enough. If you want to see the difference, you can look at the latest series of videos I posted on my YouTube channel (kletkeman) for the small band Postdata. Parts 1 through 6 were recorded with the ZS3 and part 7 with the F70EXR. Both acquitted themselves very well.

archish said...

Kim here is something that may interest you ;)

Kim Letkeman said...

Thanks very much for the link Archish. The review is quite interesting ... I can't wait to test some of this for myself. So far, it looks like the ISO ladders say that the color noise is actually improved (this I gotta see for myself), the luminance noise is about the same (good for Fuji if true), and the HD mode works, albeit with mediocre image quality (I'll compare directly to the F70EXR and the ZS3.) Looks like the F80EXR is the cam Fuji should have built when releasing the F70EXR.

archish said...

Kim just happen to read through the specification and found the Lens focal length is fixed at f=5.0 - 50.0mm which is not the case with most of the older models. Any idea if this will have any significant effect?

Kim Letkeman said...

Archish: The F70 and F80 share the same lens as far as I can tell, a 5-50mm zoom that translates in 35mm terms to 27-300mm ... a little over 10x. The 100 and F200 share the excellent 28-140mm 5x lens and the older models all share the equally excellent 35-105mm 3x lens. The 5x is the only lens that has been fairly free of chromatic aberration and purple fringing (not as free as proponents would like you to believe, but the least of all Fujis) ... but the F80's early samples look quite promising in this area. Can't wait to test it myself.

archish said...

Thanks Kim for the reply but I think I put the question in incorrect way. My old Fuji S5500 doesn't mention focal length is fixed at f=5.0 or anything like this. So either the focal length is variable in the older cams or they didnt mention in the specs. So from this viewpoint is there any difference with digital camera whose focal length is fixed? Sorry if the questions are too basic :)

Kim Letkeman said...

Archish: The focal length in all of these cams is variable. The F70 and F80 share a 5-50mm zoom, so nothing about the focal length is fixed. The maximum aperture is also variable. I don't know where you read that the focal length was fixed, but that would have been an error.