Thursday, September 30, 2010

F300EXR – Review Part 16 – SN mode versus DR Mode

The question came up … is SN mode better than DR mode on the F300EXR? I have always recommended ignoring SN mode for EXR cameras because there was not improvement in noise and there was a definite issue with DR100, which SN forces. I don’t like DR100 because it risks blocked shadows and blown highlights and I see no reason whatsoever to do that.

The setup for this test is simple … camera on a tripod with IS off to get exact framing match and to get crystal sharpness. That way we can compare directly the edges for NR degradation and the flat areas for excess noise. Also, there is sufficient dust to compare smoothing effects of NR. Note that exposures are identical, which helps us see what the tone curves are doing.

Here is the DR400 shot … in A mode at ISO 100 …


And here is the SN shot … in EXR SN mode at ISO 100 …


You should be able to see the darker tones on the flash bodies … especially apparent on the mody of the Nikon flash. The Nikon’s diffuser and the paper to the right of the Pentax flash are much brighter in the second image. So the tone curve difference is very true.

Now, we examine the crops. You will absolutely have to click through to the larger version if you want to see anything in these crops …


So what do I see? Let’s go left to right through the five crops:

  1. Noise about the same. Detail about the same. A tie.
  2. A tie on noise and detail. I prefer the tone of the EXR DR because I process my images. You may feel the opposite.
  3. There are bits (almost chunks) of dust that are rendered clearly on the DR image and wiped out on the SN image. This is on the left and right underneath the flash. Details on the lens at the front of the flash are also softer on the SN image. This one goes to the DR image.
  4. The lettering seems darker and the edges are more defined on the numbers and last letter in the SN mode, but the edges are more realistic on the AF letters in the DR mode shot, The DR mode shot has better, more 3D rendering of the flash contacts. Let’s call it a draw.
  5. Again, the SN image shows damage drom excess noise reduction. The hairs along the edge are criso in the DR shot and smoother in the SN shot.

I find that the DR mode eeks out a slim victory … but frankly, both work fine. The choice you make depends on you preferred tone curve for the capture.

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