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.