Monday, April 19, 2010

F80EXR Review – Summary so far …

So I’ve posted well over a dozen articles on the F80EXR … many comparing it to other cameras and several just showing images. Here are my impressions from fairly heavy use so far:

Startup Time – Tie
I posted earlier that the F80EXR started up noticeably faster than the F70EXR. Well, I was wrong! In fact, whichever camera has my 2GB 150x SD card in it (or is empty) starts up faster than the other. The other must have one of my SDHC cards (both class 6, one 16GB and one 32GB) and they startup slower. Size or the SDHC technology, I don’t really know. No difference at all though when one has 16GB SDHC and the other has the 32GB. So I’m going for a technology difference here. Older SD is faster to start up for some reason. Too bad, as I was sure that Fuji had addressed a known issue with the EXR technology, and now I am a bit disappointed that they have not.

Recommendation: If you dislike slow startup times, use small SD cards, 1GB or 2GB. No idea if 4GB also starts up quickly.

Handling – Tie
They feel the same. Zoom is the same speed, body and buttons feel identical. 

Resolution – F70EXR Is Better
In many cases, the F70EXR upsized to match looks better. Adding those extra pixels did far more damage than good. HR mode (12mp) is totally useless. No matter what you shoot, you can find areas with damaged edges and pure mush in shadows or shade. It’s simply terrible looking, and visible even at small web sizes. I never liked it in the F70, but it was never this damaging.

With custom white balance, the F80 destroys images shot in very low orange (e.g. incandescent) light. Overwhelming chroma noise makes the images unusable. In good but extremely low light, even 6mp mode loses details in dark areas. The F70 clearly beats it. However, in low to moderate light that does not require lifting in post processing, the F80- can look pretty good at times. It is simply not consistent and this will drive owners a little nuts.

Fuji didn’t just step on its genitalia, it blew them clean off with these unnecessary extra megapixels.

Recommendation: *Always* shoot the F80EXR in Medium size. For extreme low light, start in auto ISO 400 … step up to auto ISO 800 or auto ISO 1600 only if you must have better shutter speeds. Also, I recommend that you *never* shoot custom white balance with this camera, as it makes a hash of the images excess chroma noise. Hint: set your display mode to magnify so you always see a 100% representation after each shot. This helps to quickly detect blur and excess noise.

Aperture vs Shutter Speed -- F70EXR or Tie
The F80’s smaller of two apertures is one stop slower at every focal length. This means that shutter speeds in bright light will be cut in half! Wow … *but*, I have noticed that the F80 is a bit more willing to leave the lens wide open. And I have managed some shutter speeds above 1/500” in P mode, so it is possible that the F80 is not quite as crippled as the F70 is in this regard. More testing needed, though, as I cannot say anything definitive here.

Hint: I have found that you can slightly shift your focus point to get the F80EXR to drop aperture and increase shutter speeds sometimes … when you get that result, half press the shutter to lock exposure and focus and reframe before releasing. This will take some practice.

Auto Focus -- Tie
I have the “feeling” that the F80 is a bit harder to lock on in very low light. But again, not definitive. I certainly have managed to shoot whatever I felt like, so the AF works. Have no tried tracking mode yet. Should have done that with the geese the other day. Duh.

Hint: If you are having trouble getting focus lock, check to see if you have macro mode set or unset inappropriately. Also check whether you are exceeding minimum focus distance, easy to do at full zoom. Non-macro at 270mm is 10 feet and macro is 3 feet. Note: Macro mode will not focus at infinity.

LCD / Menus -- F80EXR, barely
The bigger LCD is nice, but it honestly makes no usability difference whatsoever. In fact, it makes the rather jagged text more jaggy. The menu system has hardly changed at all … one obvious difference is that you know when you are in the menu tabs because the menu itself grays out. That’s useful, but not earth shattering.

Hint: Knock your LCD brightness down 1 or 2 levels in order to get a more realistic assessment of exposure.

Movies -- Tie (both suck, but differently)
The HD is nice, but unbelievably fat, taking 3 times the space of the ZS3 in JPEG mode. AVCHD is even more efficient. And the ZS3 video simply looks cleaner. Fuji uses a weird format, it appears to embed it in a 4:3 frame with letterboxing. And the audio stinks. Very loud hissing when not recording a rock concert. Really bad when compared with the ZS3. This was probably a waste of time for Fuji. The F70EXR, of course, suffers from having only SD. But I think the hiss in its audio is a bit quieter. Sheesh.

Cat, Dog and People Identification Modes -- F80EXR with a strong showing :-)

Verdict -- F70EXR with an easy victory
So far, I give the nod to the F70EXR. I don’t like the video on this cam, which is the big difference. The cam can be made to ruin images with noise and to lose a lot of detail. There really is no advantage. But … it’s pretty decent if you are a daylight shooter mainly and stick to my recommended settings. In fact, it pretty much smokes everything in its class except the F70.


bakahana said...

Thanks for sharing. I've decided to get F70 instead of F80 despite the pink F80 really caught my eyes...

Kim Letkeman said...

If you shoot indoors much, you will be happier with your results with the F70. Happy shooting.

Dustin said...

Hey Kim,

I have been following your F80 posts, and your conclusions pretty much fell in line with what I was expecting, and we had alluded to in earlier comments. Still good, but the extra MP hold it back from being better.

I recently picked up a Panny ZR1, and have been really pleased with it in good lighting, the lens is really sharp and the OIS is quite good. Still doesn't handle high DR and low light like the F70 of course, but they compliment each other well, which I think you found the case with the ZS3 as well.

Anyways, I have been busy moving, so wanted to drop a line and say hi and keep up the great blog, I always enjoy reading.


Dustin said...


I think you meddled with m4/3 a while back if I remember correctly.

I also picked up the Oly E-PL1, and just adore this camera, the lighter AA filter gives it a distinct advantage over the ep1/2, allowing detail retention even with NR at iso1600 and above.

And shoots good video, especially if you get the stereo mic.

I find myself using my 50d less and less.

Just a little temptation there. :P


Kim Letkeman said...

Dustin: Nice to hear from you again. It is my understanding that the ZR1 and ZS3 are essentially identical with mainly a difference in video. A lot of people prefer the ZR1 because they get the same superb lens and IQ without the cost of the high end video and microphones. Great cam in good light and the lens really puts Fuji to shame. But in shadow, the lens has nothing to say as Panny NR goes about turning all its hard work to mush :-)

I have not in fact played with 4/3 yet. I have been following the developments though, and the latest generation is pretty amazing. Even DXOMark says the sensor can almost keep up with the D5000 for noise ... not quite for DR, though, which is no doubt tied directly to pixel size. Anyway, I am waiting with great hopes for Nikon;s entry into the EVIL style bodies with an F mount. No idea what is possible, but my Olympus Trip 35 was a hoot, and that was full frame with an f2.8 lens.

Dustin said...

I think you were referring the ZS1 which was the stripped down ZS3. The ZR1 is a bit smaller with 8x zoom, HD video, and the newer OIS, but essentially yea, same image quality within their share range, same sensor, etc.

I am not sure what to expect from Nikon at this point. What I have heard is that they are going to do a large sensor bridge style fixed lens camera. But alas, that is only rumor, and nobody really knows.

But, yea, right now my EPL1 is my favorite cam. Just so easy to like with its favorable size vs image quality ratio :)


Kim Letkeman said...

Sounds great. I find it difficult to imagine investing in another system though ... especially an expensive one :-)

archish said...

Kim I was just going through F80 specs and found it has ND filter, any observations on that?

Kim Letkeman said...

Archish: The ND filter is integrated into the aperture. So when you are at full zoom, you get two apertures, the widest being f/5.6. The other aperture, which the camera can select or you can select in M or Aprio modes is f/16. This is implemented with a 3 stop ND filter and no further aperture reduction. I.e. there is an exposure change, but no depth of field increase. The F70EXR uses a 2 stop filter for the same purpose.