Thursday, April 22, 2010

F80EXR vs F70EXR – Night Vision

So how well do these two do when simply shooting casual images in parking lots at night?

The short answer is that they are very similar … well lit portions look basically the same, and darker portions show the usual differences. Edge issues, noise, etc.

I dropped off a busted Taylor Made R9 driver for reshafting tonight, and on the way out I photographed the Golf Town building in the dark.

Now, for those of you who habitually get terrible images at night, here is the method. You must set negative compensation so that the meter knows how dark to make the image. Meters in all cameras try to achieve a mid-gray level of brightness in every shot. That way, the majority of images are ok … foliage and sky are both at mid-gray luminance, so you can see why this works.

But … when we go out and play at night, the meter still thinks it is day time and blows out all the lights with abandon. It also raises all the dark parts to look an ugly gray. So to tell the camera that it is night time, the easiest thing to do it to set –1ev compensation.

With the F70EXR and F80EXR, you press the top of the 4-way ring at the bottom of the back and then press the bottom until you see –1 displayed. Then press ok (button in the middle of the ring.) Every shot will now be one stop darker than the camera would normally shoot. This protects the lights and makes the darkness look like darkness.

To set it back to zero or –1/3 (the best general setting during the day), simply repeat the procedure, pressing the up part of the ring to bring the compensation back towards zero.

So here are some crops showing the Golf Town building at –1ev and –2ev for both.

Click through to get the full-sized crops. And note that all crops and images in this article have had no processing except size reduction.


Now, at web sizes and in reall small prints. There is *no* practical difference here. The F80EXR is as good as the F70EXR for night vision. White balance is the same, no problems with detail on well-lit parts.

There is, however, a difference if you happen to like to print big (honestly, would you really print a 1600iso image from acompact big?)  That being that the details on the left side of the –1ev image (the one that actually looks better and thus appears below from both camweras) are still visible on the F70EXR image, and pretty much mangled on the F80EXR image by NR. The details I am talking about are the bricks and the left-most post.

This is, of course, just one more example of the issue with adding a few too many pixels to a really small sensor. The details are actually lost instead of improved, as would be the intuitive answer … well, intuitive if the laws of physics were not so well known. The Fuji engineers certainly understood that they were ruining this aspect of a perfectly wonderful small camera.

Think about how much power the marketing arm of a company must have to take the outright image quality leader in the long-zoom compact class and add an unnecessary feature that reduces its image quality. Long-time Fuji fans (I am obviously one since we have five Fuji compacts – F10, F11, F70EXR, F80EXR, Z10fd.)

So back to night vision. Here are the two images from these cameras with no specific indication as to which is which. Would you really care about the difference? Click through for a proper-sized representation.



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