Monday, September 13, 2010

Is the Fuji F200EXR better than a Nikon D40?

The short answer is, not in a million years.

Yet, someone who I thought was rather level headed just posted a terrible comparison between the two cameras. As I said … I thought this fellow was one to not do such things, but I am forced now to deconstruct the test to show why people who are not familiar with the methods required to create one that actually tests something (and not the photographer’s competence) should simply avoid publishing tests.

Here is the F200EXR image:

8B132110CE0E4CAD8A75D74081BB0EB7[1]

Now, that image was shot with poor settings, but this is not his fault. In fact, the F200EXR chooses very high aperture values and very low shutter speeds through really poor algorithms for its EXR sensor. The EXIF data here is:

Aperture: f/11 (!)
Shutter: 1/105”
ISO: 100
Compensation: 0EV
Flash: not fired

The f/11 reading is usually a risk. There is every chance that there is some effect here from diffraction. A too-small aperture softens images. It’s not a major effect at f/11 on the F200EXR, though, because in fact that aperture is achieved partially with a slightly smaller physical aperture and mostly with a neutral density filter. So this image is probably pretty close to as sharp as the F200EXR can shoot. Base ISO, shutter speed more than adequate for 28mm equivalent, and minimal diffraction.

Now, how about that D40 image?

C08BA024E20141C6BD9B14698FC35D76[1]

That image does not look much like a dSLR image. What could be happening here? Well, as it turns out, a couple of serious flaws happened …

The author of the test admits he screwed it up, but then publishes it anyway in the grand tradition of member lloydy …

Two photos taken at approximately the same time from nearby locations. The DSLR image is significantly worse because the ISO was set too high, although even when set lower it wasn't better than F200EXR images, just wider. Both downsampled 50% with no edits.

First, let’s review the EXIF: … No, wait … first, let’s note that there is actually a better dSLR shot as suggested by the phrase “although even when set lower it wasn’t better than the F200EXR, just wider.” Now why do you suppose we are seeing the worst of the shots, rather than the best? Beats me too …

Anyway, now let’s look at the dSLR EXIF:

Aperture: f/22 (!! definitely in the diffraction zone here)
Shutter: 1/500” (strange that it did not go higher in order to reduce aperture, Nikons always boost shutter much higher when allowed to)
ISO: unknown – but he says it is too high … wish he’d come clean with how high though …
Compensation: 0EV
Flash: fired (!!!) WTF? This is why shutter was limited to 1/500” …

Now … what’s wrong with this picture? The flash was fired on the dSLR, limiting its shutter speed, which forced aperture too high and into diffraction territory. Thus, the image is automatically softer. Second, the ISO is set too high by his own admission. That softens the image slightly as well.

Third … *both* images are shot without compensation, which of course blew out the white caps, rendering both images kinda crappy from the get-go.

Fourth … the images were shot 4 hours apart (a long time where lighting is concerned) and the framing is very different, which tricks the meter.

So, as is so typical in tests posted to the small sensor Fuji Talk Forum, the large sensor of the D40 is disadvantaged pretty strongly by poor technique.

And, of course, the king of bad tests jumped in with a mention of the D40 test he posted some time ago, and for which he was savaged by most on the forum. It was actually worse in many ways than this test, which at least attempts to shoot the same subject from a similar angle.

... You'll stir up a hornets nest  emoticon - wink

Still, I did a comparison between the S100 fs and a D40 some time back. Must say the D40 did not impress me. Others mileage may vary though.

He has not yet learned to avoid posting bad tests, but he has been pounded so much for it that he at least acknowledges the possibility that others will see things differently :-)

Bottom line: If you want to publish a comparison between cameras, then take the time to shoot them together and post accurate EXIF, either embedded in the image or explicitly stated. Equalize variables as best you can … ISO is the most important. Shoot each cam at its best settings (hint, flash was not useful for this test, super high aperture is a disadvantage, higher ISO is a disadvantage, etc.)

Also explain what you see so that the reader has a shot at figuring out what you are trying to test. Even better, figure that out before running and publishing the test in the first place :-)

*sigh*

Edit on 13 Sep: I am stunned … the dSLR shot was emailed to the poster of the comparison and he has no idea why the ISO was pushed so high … probably is not even aware as to what the ISO actually was. Anyway … this comparison is compromised on so many levels that it is ludicrous. Please, please, please! never post such a comparison. If you did not shoot the images, you have no business posting a comparison … if you have no idea whether the variables have been controlled, then you have no business posting the comparison … if the images on either side were clearly shot incompetently, then you have no business posting the comparison …

I’m serious here. Much time is wasted looking at and then debunking this sort of garbage. And some people (you listening Dave?) will then repeat post such poor comparisons over and over regardless of how many times they have been debunked in a fit of supreme obstinacy …

Edit 2 … same day: It gets better.

No, I was just puzzled that the D40 was capable of such bad results, and produces photos no bigger than M (medium!) size from the F200EXR.

How is one puzzled by the fact that a camera Рany camera Рcan be shot incorrectly -- the highlights blown out; the aperture too high; the ISO much too high; and the flash on at the wrong time? Some people are simply incompetent. Either because they are extremely inexperienced or because they choose to never learn anything. It really does not matter because there are lots of them out there. So being puzzled that they exist is staggering naivet̩.

And as for producing photos no bigger than the F200EXR at half size … at 12mp the pixels on the F200EXR are poor when compared to the pixels from a properly shot 6mp D40. Second, 6mp is more than enough to produce excellent 13x19 images *if the quality of the pixels is high enough* … as they would normally be from the D40.

The mind continues to boggle …

9 comments:

billx08 said...

Kim Letkeman said...
> The EXIF data here is:
>
> Aperture: f/11 (!)
> Shutter: 1/105”
> ISO: 100
. . .
> Anyway, now let’s look at the dSLR EXIF:
>
> Aperture: f/22 (!! definitely in the diffraction zone here)
> Shutter: 1/500” (strange that it did not go higher in order to reduce aperture, Nikons always boost shutter much higher when allowed to)
> ISO: unknown – but he says it is too high … wish he’d come clean with how high though …
> Compensation: 0EV
> Flash: fired (!!!) WTF? This is why shutter was limited to 1/500” …

Very strange. It would be interesting to find out what shooting mode was used. Auto mode automatically pops up the flash when the light level is low, but limits the shutter speed to 1/60th sec. It's also one of the few shooting modes that allows ISO to be set to Auto. P,A,S,M require the ISO to be set manually. Many of the scene modes (including landscape) don't open the flash when you press the button that normally pops it up, and if the flash is already popped up, it won't flash. You can get 1/500th sec. shooting in S or M mode, but then you need to manually raise the flash and Auto ISO isn't an option and the ISO needs to also be manually selected. I don't know why the ISO wasn't displayed but the two highest choices are ISO 1600 and ISO HI-1, so it looks like HI-1 was selected since most photo apps show the ISO when the normal choices are used, but IrfanView, for one, doesn't display the ISO when HI-1 is used. Custom Setting #1 (ISO Auto) doesn't allow the maximum ISO to be set above 1600.


> Now … what’s wrong with this picture? The flash was fired on the dSLR, limiting its shutter speed, which forced aperture too high and into diffraction territory. Thus, the image is automatically softer. Second, the ISO is set too high by his own admission.

The F200EXR was shot at about 3pm. If the D40 was also shot at that time so that the light was similar, the D40 used an aperture two stops slower and a shutter speed more than two stops faster, so the D40's exposure would have gotten about 4 1/2 stops less light than the F200EXR. It's interesting that ISO HI-1 is about 4 1/2 stops faster than the ISO 100 used by the F200EXR, but the D40 was used after 7pm, when the light is noticeably darker at this time of year, so even using ISO HI-1, the D40's shots were probably underexposed by at least 2 stops, and the exposure was boosted by the unspecified photo editor used to downsample the images. This underexposure also significantly contributes to a poorer image. Since he shot several other photos with the D40 using a lower ISO, he had control of the camera and knew what he was doing which sure make it seem like an intentional Lloydian attempt to put the D40 in its poorest light against the F200EXR. He got some 'splainin to do, Lucy.

r said...

More info has come out, he didn't take the D40 shot. You all have probably already read that, but in case you didn't.

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1012&message=36310905

So I'm disregarding this. I don't think it was a trolling attempt, just a bit of an overzealous/overeager post imho. Two shots from different cameras w/o any parameter control.

billx08 said...

r said...
>
> More info has come out, he didn't take the D40 shot. You all have probably already read that . . .

I hadn't. Ok, so he's not the incompetent photographer that shot the D40. But whether he got the D40 photos from Flickr or from a friend's email, it's a little late to mention what should have been stated in his OP. His latest comment :

> Dontcha think DSLR cameras should have an ETTR option?

shows that he doesn't really understand his cameras, since that's pretty much what the camera's exposure meter does. Maybe CAcreeks wants the meters to not only do better exposure evaluation but do some photographer mind reading as well. Or maybe he just wanted to change the subject. Fast. :)

I hope that he learns from this and doesn't instead learn to emulate Lloydy, whose knee jerk reply to the OP was pure Lloydy :

> You'll stir up a hornets nest . . . Must say the D40 did not impress me.

which no fair minded pros not suffering from mental deficiencies would ever say, unless . . . maybe they were Fuji fanboys with agendas controlling their keyboards.


BTW, it's suddenly making sense why Gary's photos are so uniformly poor. Not only does he have his 30" monitor set to 800x600 (my 13" laptop is 1280x800) but he shoots with an ancient 3mp Fuji S602. He must be almost as blind as a bat and is unwilling to wear glasses.

r said...

Yep. Say up front the D40 shot is not one's own. Or, just don't start the post - that was my input once that came to light. I've moved since I don't see any vehement defense going on.

I've seen some Fuji S602 shots recently and think folks should give up the ghost and move on to a camera update. Not to spend other people's money, but if it's affordable then they'd benefit all else being equal. The shots just don't hold a candle compared to contemporary standards (surprise...).

As far as 800x600 resolution on a 30" monitor, I didn't see that. Maybe he's trying to replicate the lowest common denominator rez for uploaded 800x600 images? He's had some rough sledding when it comes to uploads.

I believe his taste is "unique," as are the excuses. It was too cold, too windy, too far, too unstable. Now, toss vision impairment or rez crippling into the mix and maybe we have a recipe for what we've seen. Toss gullibility (great shot, keep up 'em comin') and bias (shoot the messenger, "No rrreply forrr you!") and we have a piece of work. Unbelievable. But a darn good sideshow. I have difficulty with those who do not demonstrate the capacity or desire to learn, adapt, improve or attribute credit BUT have a disposition and capability like his. Flat line progress is no progress imho. Where is that little plant book he was going to get so he could learn to ID more than the same ol' 3 flowers he always posts: African Daisy, Ice Plant, Geranium (technically Pelargonium. Judges? Oh, they'll accept Geranium as a correct answer). Sshh, don't tell him it's a Geranium, it's still a very, very, very red (or pink) flower. : P

But WRT to progress, that's what got me to the 7D vs. Barbie comparison. I feel all thumbs when it comes to video, and that link popped up in my search. I'm delving into some other features just to confirm/refute whether the core set and methods I've settled on are best suited to my common shooting situations or not. And then, there is the vacuum of growing into other shooting situations. Just re-reading the manual or expert commentary on technique is like seeing a movie for the 2nd time...I pick up more insight.

Now I'm just waiting for a 5DmkII vs. Ken video comparison.

Kim Letkeman said...

Dotbalm, good post. Pretty interesting (and accurate I think) summation.

Regarding Canon dSLR vs Ken doll ... an ironic pairing since rumor has it that shooting white lenses will make you look like Ken where it counts :-\

Patrick said...

Dotbalm.....
The 800x600 thing came about in Dave's ISO800 thread. Dave wanted us to see what the HS10 could do at ISO800 in real world use, which means we needed at least 1600 pixel wide images to view as a slideshow on your average computer and for your minimum 6x4 print. He posted 900 pixel wide images! They looked real good for the attaboy gang and those who haven't a clue. But I wasn't buying into it!!


I pressed him into posting 1600 pixels wide images and they were (as expected) rubbish and soft as S**t from NR. He made all sort of excuses up as usual when that was the general concensus.
Gary then came in and said that they looked brillant and sharp on his 30 inch monitor.....WTF?? I said I was lucky to display them on a 15 inch monitor and they were crap at that, so his files would have had to been *zoomed up* to get them to spread across a 30 inch monitor, so would have had to been a lot worse than what I was viewing. That's when he came out with that he only views images at 800x600. Told him my images from my iPhone would look great at that resolution and just gave up after that!!

Also, Dave said that he got a chuckle when I thought that there may be a conspiracy going on when he posted 900 pixel images. What is one suppose to suspect? Surely a professional photographer know what size files is needed to view for real world use on a computer and for a small print, eh?? So why post 900 pixels wide?....unless of course you are trying to play down the flaws in the images.

r said...

Patrick, thanks for the explanation! I definitely missed that one. Hoo boy...wonders never cease.

Yan said...

The ISO used is 3200, which is hilarious for the D40, this + f/22 on the kit lens at 18mm will always give you just one thing - mincemeat.
And there is one more thing the Nikon was shot in jpg and the in-camera sharpness and contrast were set to -1

It's not a guilt not to be able to shoot a DSLR, but it is strange to post such comparisons.

P.S. Still editing the Nikon shot gave me a result better than the finely set up P&S, which could never take such amount of PP on it's output.

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1012&message=36335386

Kim Letkeman said...

Yanko, thanks for your contribution here. 3200 ... wow. I agree, the original shot was a silly set of mistakes, it was the comparison itself that I rail against. Things like that mislead all sorts of people on several levels. The D40 is a fine camera though, still praised highly for its low pixel density and very sharp images. So I agree ... between a badly shot image from a dSLR and a well shot image from a tiny sensor, there is not always the level of difference you expect ...