Sunday, September 19, 2010

F300EXR – Review Part 4 – ISO Ladder in Low Light

This is the big one … here is where we find out how the cam performs indoors with low light of a decent color. The cacophony from the cheap seats on the Fuji forum has been ringing with demands of “post originals” and with the usual “wow, those are horrible” … all this without an understanding that the crops I post really are originals. Exactly what the cam has produced pixel for pixel. And the lighting in my stress test was truly despicable … the whole point was to see what they could do with bad light. The F70 survived adequately and the others took the expected beating.

So for this test, I am including much larger crops. The three cameras are shot from tripod with IS off. Manual mode. Exposures identical in most cases with a few caveats:

  • The focal lengths had to be about the same to get similar magnification. This because the size of details makes a huge difference to the Fuji NR algorithms. But this forces a difference in aperture. The F70 and F80 were shot at f/4.7 … their maximum magnification point. The F300 was shot at f/4.3 because the cam is faster at that same magnification. This is actually a tiny advantage for the new cam, although it amounts to about 1/6 of a stop, which is well within meter error. What this means overall is that the F300 gets a tiny bit more light, and there is no way to prevent it.
  • The F300 had a brain fart at 400 and 800 ISO for reasons unknown. These images are slightly darker than all other images in the test. The exposures, however, are the same as the other cams. So I would say that Fuji has introduced a bug in their firmware.
  • The shutter speeds are not perfectly matched in some of the higher ISO images. Not off by much, but not perfectly matched. Just a few and I think they are isolated to the F80.

On shooting manual:

The user interface in the F300 has changed dramatically by the introduction of the wheel. I was not even aware of it until I tried shooting manual. Took me a while, but I found that the wheel would changed the currently selected attribute (shutter or aperture) and up would change which was selected. This leaves the ability to change the aperture or shutter live while changing flash, macro and timer settings. But I find the wheel too easy to tweak while using it for other settings as well. The moded interface of the F70 and F80 was better in my opinion.

Now … to the test. First, I am going to show you the 100 ISO images from all three cameras. I think we can all agree that these are close enough that the differences do not matter.




DSCF4846_f80_100iso[1] Look at that wild saturation :-)



The perfect balance in my opinion.

Note: Remember to click through to see the bigger images. You know who you are :-)

Now let’s see the 1600 ISO images …







Hmmm … the details are not bad at all at 800px. The main difference here is that the F70 continues to retain more low contrast details at 1600 and 3200 ISO. If you look at the details that the F70 preserves at 3200 ISO, you will realize how incredible this little sensor really is. Too bad they could not leave well enough alone.

Now … crops to really show the differences …


The two anomalous shots tick right out, but the details are not harmed by the cam’s brain farts. The F80 changes WB backj to F70 standards at 3200 ISO. That’s peculiar. The F300 closely matches the F70 in color and saturation.

But all three look really nice to 800 ISO. Remember that this is very low light. 3200 ISO at 1/8s is low, low, low … but the color of the light is good, and the subject was close to the cam.

Now … here’s a treat for those who feel they just need to see the originals in all their glory. Download a 48MB zip file with all 18 images here.

And for those who will post smugly that they forced me to post originals, go suck an egg. My testing is expected to take weeks and I will not post all originals. This is exactly the kind of test where the originals have great meaning and are worth putting in others’ hands.

Regarding my copyright:

You have permission to view my originals on your own machine. You have permission to comment on them as you like. You may post these images in whole or in part so long as you use them to enforce a factual technical point and so long as you include an attribution back to me and to this article. Any use other than as outlined here is a violation of my copyright.

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