Friday, April 30, 2010

HS10 Review Part 11 – Details Details

During my HS10 shoot, I revisited the detail issue several times. It is something that always nags me when working with the small sensors … how much detail will be preserved in the never-ending fight against the noise reduction software built into the camera?

Well, I can tell you that the HS10 can preserve a remarkable amount of detail at times, yet still disappoints in a few areas. This little series is shot around my pool, which is of course getting to the point where I need to open it to prevent a big algae bloom :-)

Last year, I became rather enamored with the look of images shot with a near-field / far-field juxtaposition. By which I mean something in focus in the foreground and something out of focus in the background. This just happens to be a look I admire.

So to open, I’ll show a couple of images from last year.

Nikon D70s with 18-200VR at 200mm



Interesting that I sold the D70s and the Sigma 18-200VR to one of my son’s friends for his journalism course … I charged him about $450 for this kit, which is less than on would pay for an HS10, so this comparison is rather interesting.

A longer focal length can do even more interesting things with the background. Here is a shot from the D300 using the 70-300VR at 300mm:


Now we move back to the HS10, which has the focal length advantage over any of these kits. But, it has a much smaller sensor, so it has less ability to throw the background out of focus. The formula, as readers of this blog will remember, is a product both the distance to  subject and the distance to background. And the smaller the sensor, the more lopsided that needs to be to maintain similar background blur.

This first image with the HS10 was shot standing fairly close to last year’s hydrangea blooms and at full zoom, 126mm or 720mm equivalence. That’s a long, long focal length.


The background bloom is only a few feet away, and yet is already pleasantly blurred. Kudos to the HS10 for that. This next image shows a bloom in a bit of sunlight with the pool edge in the background, very nicely blurred.


And a crop showing how much detail is available in those little petals. There is quite a bit of room here for cropping as far as I can tell.


So far so good. Full zoom close ups have a *lot* of inherent detail and some lovely blur in the background. Very soft. Remember, though, that your subject distance is fairly long here, even in macro mode.

Now we turn our attention to a comparison with the F70EXR again. This time, we shoot from the shallow to the deep end, with the white vinyl fence backing. This requires a focal length around 60mm effective.





Not too much obvious difference here, the primary one being the field of view. These were not shot at minimum focal length, so this difference is my fault. Hard to get perfect matches on every image pair. But the distance to subject is sufficient to make the differences essentially irrelevant for this look-see.

The other difference you might notice, especially if you click through to the 800px versions of these images (as you should *always* do on this site), is the subtle difference in texture of the tree in the background. That tree is two yards (as in abodes, not measuring sticks :-) away and thus is in the far background. But I find the tree much crisper in the F70EXR shot. Is that mush? Let’s take a closer look with some crops:





Well, that looks a little mushy to me. The bird house, tree and left corner all look a little weak by comparison. So is this somehow going to be a hint of bokeh? Is that even possible with such small sensors?

I doubt it. I think we are seeing some mush here, likely caused by noise reduction. This is what is being widely reported on the DPReview Fuji Talk Forum, and why several people have made the controversial move of sending their HS10s back.

I am not advocating that you avoid the HS10 … far from it … it makes great images under many circumstances. Just be aware of this issue in long distance shots and be prepared to close your eyes when looking at images at 100%. In other words, don;t sweat this too much … it is there and you aren’t going to change that by having angst. Instead, focus on the strengths of the camera and enjoy what it does really, really well.


drpankajshukla said...

hi Kim !
Kindly guide me on the installation and usage of DCRAW software[windows] for processing the RAW files from HS10 in slightly more easy -to -understand terms !--I mean I tried to readup at the DCRAW site and was unable to gather much !--I thought all RAW processing software have to installed b4 using --however in this case the site says there is no need to do installation! Moreover some lettering needs to done preceeded by a hyphen each time in order to get the software to do various functions ..........and I am TOTALLY LOST ! ----- Kindly help !

Kim Letkeman said...

DCRAW is a free open source RAW converter that runs on the command line as far as I can tell from this web page:

I believe that it is the back end used by many, if not all, the free RAW converters out there. S7Raw comes to mind ... and you would probably be better using S7Raw as it provides a proper front end to let you tweak what is happening. Of course, this assumes that it supports the HS10.

Frankly, I am *not* a fan of RAW on the HS10. I think 4 to 5 second shot to shot times spoil the user experience enough to remove any advantage the HS10 had in the first place. Instead, I recommend dropping all jpeg settings to soft and then processing. Best you can do in my opinion.

drpankajshukla said...

Thanks for the response !
I will try out your suggestion and see how it goes !