Monday, April 12, 2010

F80EXR – Day time clarity … or not?

Well, I managed to get out today and promptly got soaked in a squall. So I stood on the covered porch of the Wild Bird Center (a rescue facility staffed by volunteers) and shot images of the woods and a very friendly squirrel.

Starting with the woods … I shot an image with F80EXR, F70EXR and the ZS3 in 4:3 mode at 100, 100 and 80 ISO respectively. These were shot at 28mm in order to test the clarity of the corners on the F80EXR. My F70EXR has always seemed acceptable, but part of that is the fact that I prefer 3:2 mode, which crops away the deepest part of the corners. So here we expose both lenses to the ultimate test.


Obviously, you’ll need to click through to see the large version of these crops. So here is my analysis:

1. The F70 has the worst corners. By far. Obviously, I am still happy with it because my normal shooting mode is 3:2.

2. The F80 has very nice corners in 4:3 mode. Almost as good as the ZS3, which we knew up front was going to win.

3. The F80 has the most CA. Since angle matters so much to the presence or absence of CA, *especially* with these EXR cams, don;t read too much into this. Both have CA, and both show it less often than previous Fuji compacts with the exception of the F100/F200.

Now … to the squirrel.


You will definitely need to click through to the full sized crops. This small version shows nothing.

Note: The D700 and 70-300VR had slight movement, so there are small ghost images shown. This slightly affects sharpness, but I left it in as a referent anyway. It still smokes the rest of the field, even though the shot is at 2500ISO.

Note 2: These were shot in a fairly dark area. The cams were all on auto, so I got the exposure I got. The D700 was set to 2500 ISO, but that’s no disadvantage for that cam. The two Fujis chose identical exposures, at 1600 ISO. The Panny chose 800 ISO, but that’s much too high for that cam. These are *realistic* images in the woods, which are darker than people tend to think, especially on cloudy days. To avoid blur, the cam will always jump the ISO. Tough.

My analysis of the squirrel shots …

eye: Slight blur evident in D700 shot. A lot of grain in the Panny shot. Detail smudged by NR in the Panny shot, and a bit in the F80 shot. F70 shot the best of the bunch, despite being upsized from 5mp to 10mp. Go figure.

mouth: Again, slight blur on D700. Best detail anyway. Serious loss of detail on Panny shot from NR smearing. Grain on Panny shot. F80 shot has detail loss on flat areas, also NR related. F70 almost keeping up with F700.

elbow:  D700 smokes the field. F70 second (but not that close.) F80 third, but crude clumping quite evident. Panny simply sucks. Nice, fine detail in some spots, but detail smudged away completely in others. Very high NR is obvious.

tail: D700 loses from ghost images, although the detail is the finest of the bunch. Panny and F80 are tied. F70 close, but comes in last. Very slight ghosting evident. Makes me realize that the tail may have moved for the D700 and F70 shots. At normal print sizes, they will all look alike in this area.

butt: Down by the haunches, a fairly dark area. D700 retains lots of hair detail. Panny dissolves to a technicolor mess. Horrid. F80 almost as bad. F70 retains its dignity by showing a bit of hair detail. Although nowhere near as good as the D700, the F70 is *far* better than the F80 or the Panny.

ear: D700, F70, F80, ZS3 in that order. Lots of mush in the flat areas in the Panny and F80 shots. In well lit parts with higher contrast, F70 looks good and so does F80. Panny is poor everywhere. D700 is good everywhere.

So … my conclusion:

As always, the D700 shines. This shot was actually not all that good, but that was my error. Still, it waxes the other cams with no effort. And it bloody well should, since it cost about 8.5 times the Fujis and about 4.5 times the Panny.

So … which cam do you take into the woods, assuming you don;t have the D700?

Easy answer. The F70EXR. Total victory in my opinion. The woods can get dark. You need to be able to shoot at 1600 ISO if you want to avoid blur. Animals, birds and people move … simple fact of life. If you cannot boost ISO, you need flash. And that simply sucks in the woods. So you really need a cam that can go to high ISO.

The Panny *cannot* shoot well above 400 ISO. And 400 is a big stretch.

The F80 is about the same as the Panny. I think it would work ok at 400, though.

The F70 is nice to 800 and usable at 1600. That’s (still) your best bet.

Sorry Fuji … but the choice to add pixels has consequences in almost every facet of photography. Bad choice. Baaaaaaaad choice!

Now … for those who publish contact-print sized images, maybe this all does not matter so much. Here are the four squirrel images for you … click through to see 800px versions.









Note the dramatic depth of field difference. And the D700 was shooting at f/9 … imagine how it would look with a nice f/2.8 lens …


Robert said...

Thanks KIm for your excellent tests of the cameras. I like my F70EXR but my tests of the corner softness has also shown similar results to your test. I will be shooting in 3:2 in the future. What is puzzling is that the corner clarity of the F80EXR is better, assuming that the lens in the two cameras is the same.
Bob Crawford

Kim Letkeman said...

Robert, sample variation has been found in the F70EXR cams, so it is not unlikely that sample variation would play a role here.

Lili said...

Well done series!
I may try to hunt done the F70 as well now.

Kim Letkeman said...

Thanks Lili. The F70 is quite fun to carry all over the place. Much more so than any bridge or dSLR could ever be. Especially with the reach. And in mode5mp, I think it has the best IQ currently available in all light.

archish said...

Excellent review Kim. Thanks for all the exhaustive testing. I guess only the video review is pending for this cam :)

BTW I am curious how did you manage to shoot the squirrel with all 4 cams at same time?

I haven't realized the corners were this soft on the F70. Will do some test and check back if they affect my cam too.

Kim Letkeman said...

Archish: Yes, the video is pending. Believe it or not, the squirrel sat there while I changed cams three times. It was used to me by then.