Friday, July 23, 2010

Fuji F300EXR vs F80EXR vs F200EXR – Early Comparison of Specs – A Review of Sorts

Fuji has again obsoleted a camera in only 6 months. This is so fast that I have to believe that they intend to milk consumers as quickly as humanly possible. Since I am certain to buy this one (trading the F80 back to Henrys), I've been triple dipped in only one year. That’s a bit of a rip off, it feels like.

So anyway, there must be something cool with this camera. Let’s take a look, comparing it to the two (yes, that’s right) cameras that it replaces in their line up.

Starting at the top of the feature list as shown in the side-by-side comparison at www.dpreview.com:

  1. Sensor size and resolution: The F300 uses a new generation of 1/2” sensor, which is the same size as the F80 and a fair bit smaller than that of the F200. It has a pixel density of 39mp per square centimeter, the same as the F80 and 56% higher than the density of the F200, despite all three having the same 12mp resolution. This means that we should expect image quality very close to the F80. This is acceptable, but it will be inferior to both the F200 and the F70 in bad light.
  2. Zoom range: Wow, this sucker is packing a 15x zoom that starts very wide at 24mm effective. It goes all the way out to 360mm. This is longer than the already impressive 27-270 10x zoom in the F70 and downright massive when compared with the F200’s 28-140 5x zoom. This is great news if Fuji manages to curtail CA and distortions and blur. A tall order, but Fuji does make some of the better lenses on the planet.
  3. AF: Here’s the biggest news of all. Fuji has pulled a rabbit out of a hat and has managed to create a form of quasi-phase detect auto focus, which means extremely fast focusing. At least twice as fast, and my guess is even faster than that if it works well at long zoom. In low light, the contrast focus will take over, but this trick promises to create the first small sensor cam that is useful for action photography in good light. That’ll blow some minds!
  4. Aperture range: Good news / bad news … f/3.5 at the wide end, a fraction slower than the others (f/3.3) and f/5.3 (DPReview has this wrong at 5.6) at the long end, faster than the F80 (f/5.6)!! This is terrific design. The F200 is faster, but at less than half the reach, who cares?
  5. Apertures: More good news. Fuji has now given us three apertures per focal length, and this is just about as good as any of the variable aperture compacts and bridges because of the narrow aperture range before diffraction makes a hash of images. The range at wide and long are f/3.5 – f/7.1 – f/10 and f/5.3 – f/11 – f/16 … which is an improvement over both the previous cams.
  6. Max shutter speed: 1/2000s, same as the F80, and faster than the F200.
  7. Flash range: The new pop up flash (away from the trigger finger, which will be seen by some as an improvement) is unfortunately quite underpowered. For some reason, Fuji took an already weak flash and made it weaker. And this in a cam with the longest zoom in a compact … this will be a problem.
  8. Continuous shooting speed: Again, DPReview is confused, quoting different speeds for different cams. The 23 shot mode is faster than the F80, 4.5 fps versus 4.2. This is still a bit slower than the F200’s 5 fps. Note: The F200’s long period continuous (time lapse) is again missing from the F300 as it was from the F80.
  9. Movie recording: 720p HD at 24fps, same as the F80. Both better than the SD video in the F200.
  10. Orientation sensor: This handy device, first introduced in the F80, appears in the F300 as well. The F200 does not have it (nor does the F70.)
  11. Storage: SD/SDHC, just like the F70 and F80. The F200 allows both xD and SD/SDHC but who cares. No loss there.
  12. Internal storage: 40MB, same as F80. F200 has 48MB.
  13. LCD size and resolution: DPReview reports an improved LCD (460k dots) over the other cams’ 230k dots … but the Fujifilm.ca web site shows 230k dots. Since the global Fuji web site says 460k dots, we’ll go with them. This will be excellent, but I hope that they fixed the blanking issue the LCD on the F80 has.
  14. HDMI: Yes, same as F80.

Bottom line … the cam has several very nice features. The long and wide lens is superb, as is the fast AF (if real,) The three apertures promises to improve exposures by allowing faster shutter speeds.

The down sides are poor flash range and the fact that they kept 12mp on the sensor instead of dropping back to 10mp. If we are lucky, they’ll improve the jpeg engine’s saturation and custom white balance handling at high ISO. That works great in the F70 and just sucks in the F80.

As mentioned above … I plan to buy one of the first ones, replacing the F80. I will keep the F70 for some period, testing to see if this thing can replace both .

Six weeks and counting I suppose … meanwhile, you can watch this amusing video from YouTube showing the primary new features for this camera.

19 comments:

PawelPilch said...

I thought you'd be looking at the new Fujifilm arrival and must thank you for the first signs of it.

I've followed your writing for some time, both here and on the dpreview forum (I was sorry so see the sad end of it.) and I've come to rely on your insights on cameras and photography, perhaps like many others.

This has got me convinced to acquiring an F70, with which I'm quire happy, but a faster-responding camera would be nice to have, so I will be interested how you find the new model when it finally arrives.

Keep up the good work

Kim Letkeman said...

PawelPilch: Thanks for the kind words. Not sure what sad end you mean, I am still at the FTF, although it is becoming a lot more tedious than ever these days. That's kind of sad. The F70 is still the nicest of these cams for general shooting. EXR cams are far from perfect, but I like the images I can get with the F70 and F80 during the day, and the F70 at night. The F80 works at night, but I find I need to do more work on noise. And yes, if the F300 is as fast as they are touting, it will be a real joy to use.

PawelPilch said...

Ah, this must be my dropping interest in the forum at some point, as I only remember your parting shots quite a time ago ;-) Can't follow everything...

I'm reviving my old photography interest and while I cannot devote the time or resources to it that I'd like, I'd rather avoid mistakes if I can. There's so much I have to (re)learn to move away from quantity and capture some quality. If it weren't so exciting it would be quite daunting.

I'm missing an SLR for the responsiveness and depth of field control, so I may come to market for one at some point. Or maybe they'll push the recent non-reflex cameras further by then. Have you considered them for yourself at all or is this firmly an DSLR territory?

Kim Letkeman said...

I've mentioned a few times on the forum that I really like the Panny GH1 ... it has the first 4/3 sensor to equal the APS-C sensor in noise, although it is still behind in dynamic range. This is at the sensor level, by the way, which is measured on DXOMark.com. I am in no rush though, as the D300 is fine right now as companion to the D700. I can wait to see what Nikon does.

Tarek said...

Please Kim! be among the first to do some real testing on the F300exr. Reviewers suck when testing EXR cams. Even Dpreview messed up with F80 testing. They always match luminance noise but never do it for exposure. This is unsane.
I hope too they managed to give us a better HD video. F80 samples I've seen are far behind ZS7 or SX210is.
By the way, have you heard Kim about the new Nokia N8 containing one of the biggest sensors ever in a phone, I think it's a 12MP 1/1,83 CMOS sensor. First pics seem gorgeous, and show no digital output with natural micro-contrast and gradations. The lens is a wonderful 28mm eq f2.6 conceived by Zeiss. That should give a tremendous weapon! what do you think about it?

Altruisto

Kim Letkeman said...

Altruisto: Thanks, I hope to get an early copy of that cam. I am torn as to whether I should trade the F80 or not ... I may keep it for detailed testing of the three of them together. That should be a hoot. I had heard that phone cams had come a long way ... a fixed focal 28mm makes sense in a phone, and will be great at parties. I wonder when the zooms will hit ...

PawelPilch said...

Myself I will not consider buying the new F until early next year, perhaps for my skiing trips at the earliest, but like Altruisto I will very much look forward to your thoughts on it in the meantime.

Among the many features is what I've been missing in a compact, i.e. responsiveness in the form of the focusing system. I hope they will have a shutter lag to match. This is also what I'm looking at in the new mirroless cameras (is there a generic term for them?).

What I'd like to see in these cameras would be a DSLR-like versatility with a huge gain in overall quality and action-readiness vs. compacts without necessarily an exact match of the DSLR image quality. But looking at the DXOMark comparison I can see why you've picked the GH1. Thanks for pointing me to this tool.

Paul Kriz said...

Hi Kim,
I live in Australia and should be picking up my F300EXR late this week.
Do you know when you will be getting your one and the time frame of running it through its paces and publishing your results and opinions?
I wait with interest to read your results.

Cheers,
Paolo

Kim Letkeman said...

Paolo: I apologize for the delay in responding, I've been out of town for 11 days with spotty email access. The F300 is on order and should arrive any day now. Thanks for your interest, I am really looking forward to playing with this thing.

nivram01 said...

Hi Kim, i can say that i found your comments really interesting. I was going to buy an F80EXR and was going to order it tomorrow from abroad as in my country is practically 30% more expensive. What is your opinion should i go for the F70, F80 or F300? I am not a pro, however i like to experiment a bit and usually use the camera for general use and for my holidays photographic record!. Thanks a lot and keep it up!

Kim Letkeman said...

nivram01: The best image quality in this group is still the F70EXR. It has the lowest pixel density of the group and thus shoots a bit cleaner in any light. It shoots a lot cleaner in really bad light, if you like to shoot in really low light. But the F300 seems to have a pretty good balance of extra zoom range and image quality. If you decide to go for any of these, you may have to send it back for exchange if you get really bad corners. It happens. All that said, I have shot a lot with all three and enjoy them all for general purpose shooting. I have many images on the blog and in my gallery for you to look at to help decide.

nivram01 said...

Hi Kim, Thanks a lot for your immediate reply. Unfortunately i am very confused. From what i have read the F80 has some features that the F70 does not have for example hd movie etc which i still like. Is it possible to lower the pixel range for some night or low-light shots to get same result as the F70. Is there really that much difference between the f70 and F80? On the other hand I am seeing that the F300 is a little bit too expensive for a compact. Do you have any image which was taken by both cameras to see the difference. Sorry for bothering you.

Thanks a lot,
Marvin from Malta

Kim Letkeman said...

nivram01: Yes, the F80 has some features that the F70 does not have, but the video is not implemented all that well. The orientation sensor is very nice (images are always rotated correctly.) And images are more saturated. It is a good camera if you do not plan to shoot constantly in very bad light. And even then, I have some good images from it. Look through my notable sites on the blog (left sidebar) and select my gallery. Then look for Puppets Up! near the bottom. The images starting with DSCF are all with the F80.

Michiel said...

Hi Kim, I am about to buy a F200 or would it be wiser to buy the F70which is about the same price? What would you recommend?

Kim Letkeman said...

Michael: The F200 has the largest sensor in the group of EXR cameras. Some people swear that it has the best image quality overall, as it should. But others say that the F70's image quality is close enough and the extra reach is nice to have. There are other small improvements like the faster shutter speeds and pro low light mode. It's really up to you to make that choice. If you like to peep at pixels at 100% on screen, then you will be happier with the F200. If you are not so concerned with that, and don't print really large, and if you like more reach (e.g. for concerts from the stands) then the F70 would be more satisfying.

Michiel said...

Thank you so much for your reply! I don't really mind about the zoom. I have read the F200 sometimes has a problem to get auto focus right. Is that true? And which camera does a better job in low light without flash?

Kim Letkeman said...

Michiel: I don't know how well the AF is on the F200, but I do know that the AF on the F70 and later models does have a few quirks to get used to. Generally, though, I find the AF very reliable.

Regarding best non-flash low light imagery ... the F200 should have a slight lead because of its larger sensor. The F70, though, is also quite good into the high ISOs ... 800 is very clean, 1600 retains lots of detail in moderate light, and 3200 even retains detail in good light (e.g. concert) ... I have images in my gallery that support that.

Mario said...

Hi Kim,

I am getting married in two weeks and am really confused on what camera to buy. I have been researching, researching, and researching for the best camera to shoot in low light. Some say its the Sony HX5V or WX5, others say its the F70.

Can you help me out? The only thing I am looking for is a good picture of me and my wife with the Eiffel Tower on the back at night.

Thank you.
Mario

Kim Letkeman said...

Mario, I presume that it must be a compact camera. The reason I say that is that a dSLR like the Nikon D3100 has a much better chance of capturing a good image at night than a compact. But that said, the Fuji F70 does take nice images at night. You should shoot a number of images framed different ways ... but the key is to make sure that there is light on your faces. Either stand in a light or use the flash. If there is some light nearby, try it both ways. The flash has only moderate range, so you will need to be framed fairly close (not more than 8 or 10 feet away and that is probably a stretch.) The cam must be set to slow sync so that the eiffel tower is well exposed. I would set -2/3ev compensation to try to make sure that the lights come out well. The Sony is probably ok as well, although I don't think it would be as good during the day. One further thing, if you get some images that are ok but could use some processing, I would be happy to take a shot at processing one for an 8x10 for you.