Thursday, April 8, 2010

F80EXR vs F70EXR: More ISO Ladders and Review

I shot two more ISO ladders … one in decent light, very low but basically well balanced soft daylight … and one in terrible light, extremely orange light from halogens that are old and on a dimmer … also, the subject in the second series is in shadow and had to be lifted by half a stop in post.

So the second series is a *worst case scenario* … but I shoot in such conditions … the Black Sheep Inn for example lights with orange and keeps the lights very low even on stage.

So these tests are very relevant to me. Whether you care or not will depend entirely on how you use your compact camera most of the time. But if you shoot a lot indoors, then these results matter a great deal to you.

So on with it … first off is the series in good light. You will need to click through to see the 100% crops … these little images just do not show you enough. Also, remember that some browsers fit the image to the window so you may need to click on it to magnify once you are there.

ISO_ladder_good_light[1]

So what do I see?

1. 100 ISO shows a slight crispness advantage to the F80EXR, especially with the white hair. But the forehead’s lower contrast detail goes to the F70EXR, so this is a tie.

2. 200 ISO Goes to the F80EXR by a nose. Not noticeable in any but the largest print.

3. 400 ISO sucks on both. The F80EXR had another of those disturbing AF failures, and the F70EXR appears to be the victim of the soft spot in tripod shooting around 1/30s. F70EXR wins though.

4. 800 ISO starts to show the superior detail of the smaller sensor. Yes, the smaller image is enlarged to match, yet it still retains better contrast. The forehead makes this blindingly obvious.

5. 1600 ISO is no contest. A crushing victory for the F70EXR as the F80EXR is showing mostly mush by this point. To quote Mr. Scott: “ye canna break the laws of physics!” Packing more pixels on an already overcrowded sensor the size of your pupil leads to … mush. Every time.

So … in decent light, the F80EXR is acceptable to 800 ISO, providing you are careful with AF. The F70EXR is excellent right to 1600 ISO. The cam still amazes me.

Now … let’s look at the bad, neh – terrible, lighting scenario.

ISO_ladder_bad_light[1]

You’d be forgiven if you groaned when you saw these come up. Looking at the full-sized image, this is what I see in series 1 (Jamaican dollar bill):

1. 100 ISO shows a fractional win on contrast for the F80EXR, but yellow blotching is already evident. Subtle, but it is there. OMG.

2. 200 ISO again gives a slight contrast edge to the F80EXR but then also shows distinct yellow blotching. Not good.

3. 400 ISO shows yellow blotching on the F70EXR, but the F80EXR has moved on to strong chroma noise in all channels, resulting in yellow and blue blotching, the latter being a nightmare to deal with generally. The noise is also blurring edges on the F80EXR image, whereas the edges (e.g. white hairs) are still good on the F70EXR image. Easy win here for the F70EXR.

4. Need I go on? 800 and 1600 ISO show a total breakdown for the F80EXR … it sucks beyond description. Huge amounts of chroma noise, edges are gone to mush, the cam is failing completely.  The F70EXR, on the other hand shows some moderate yellow blotching but *no* blue blotching and the edges are excellent for the circumstances. Total, crushing victory to the F70EXR.

Just to be clear … the last time Fuji made this kind of boner in the F series was the F50fd … a blue channel nightmare in bad light. Exactly the same problem here. What a bummer!

Moving on to series two, the can of Goof Off:

The story is the same here, with one exception: Fuji have managed a slight improvement in saturation of the red and yellow colors all along the ISO scale. Good for them, but the extra saturation is probably part of the issue with this camera. I wonder if they even tested it in bad light?

So … my bottom line:

The F70EXR is a far better low light still camera. So much so that I cannot recommend the F80EXR for low light shooting. The F70EXR appears to be 3 stops better in bad light. *sigh* …

Note that I like the F80EXR in good light … if Fuji had kept the F70EXR’s sensor and made the rest of the ergonomic and performance improvements, I’d be very happy with the new cam. But destroying the low light performance was a sacrilege … shame on you Fuji.

2 comments:

Tarek said...

Hi Kim,
Thank you for all this testing. Not good news. But I do have a doubt. Lately I have gone through some F70exr reviews and I've noticed a difference between DR mode (the same than P mode) and SN mode, the latter being the only one benefiting from true binning to have bigger pohotosites. DR mode, on the other hand is doing some blending and is using only half the data registered by the sensor. So, could I ask you to do some comparison shots using SN mode rather than P mode, and see if there is a margin for improvement.
I love my F70, but I do miss that lacking 1 MP as I use only EXR modes. Thank you in advance.

Altruisto

Kim Letkeman said...

Altruisto: Good point. I'll run a ladder in SN mode in bad light so we can see if there is a difference. Thanks for suggesting that.