Friday, April 30, 2010

HS10 Review Part 13 – More Close Ups

This is one of the HS10’s strengths. It has two macro ranges, macro and super macro. The latter allowing focus when the subject is almost touching the lens.

The F70EXR, on the other hand, is forced to shoot macro from a bit of a distance, although there is a wonderful trick – discovered by Fuji Talk Forum member Altruisto - where you shoot at a zoom range 55mm with aperture f/4.9 and obtain the highest possible magnification with a much nicer background. I did not use that trick here.

I happen to like the F70EXR for close ups, so I like comparing it to the HS10 to see if that camera is also livable as a close up camera. I’ve already shown several longer zoom images shot by the HS10, and there the camera shines without question. So how does it perform really close up with the lens at a wide angle of view?

Here are some pairs of images with a bit of analysis for your perusal. Click through as always.

HS10

DSCF5283_hs10_tempgauge[1]

F70EXR

DSCF4304_f70_tempgauge[1]

The Angle here is slightly different, so we can’t make much in the way of judgment of the handling of the glare from the stainless steel next to the gauge itself. However, we can see that both cameras render the rust well, with the HS10 getting a bit more in focus, possibly as the partial result of a slightly smaller sensor.

The lettering and water inside the gauge are very clearly rendered by both cameras with any real differences the result of the slight change of angle of light.

HS10

DSCF5284_hs10_screw[1]

F70EXR

DSCF4305_f70_screw[1]

Again, the HS10 has slightly better focus on the tip of the screw and the base. Indicating a slightly wider depth of field. I may be unconsciously going closer and getting higher magnification on the F70EXR shots, since that’s a much smaller camera. 

The HS10 is heftier and thus a little easier to control overall. There is some body to it and it does not shake as much nor does it drift as easily in any one direction.

This may be why I tend to get slightly better renderings when close up with the HS10. That and, of course, the HS10’s amazing magnification when the zoom is extended or super macro is engaged.

Note through, that details in the focused sections of both images are very good. These cameras have sharp lenses.

Stepping to the fence and holding back a bit from the subject, which is a vine that is coming into bloom in the lattice of the fence:

HS10

DSCF5285_hs10_lattice[1]

F70EXR

DSCF4307_f70_lattice[1]

Again with the slightly different angle, which changes the background seen through the lattice at the very bottom. But everything else remains essentially identical.

The sun that pours through the fence strikes the vine in the same spot and we can see the same difference as mentions in the previous part – the dynamic range of the HS10 is very narrow. The sun burns the branch a bit on the HS10 shot and not on the F70EXR shot, although the latter is in a higher key overall.

So this is the classic difference between these two sensors … the HS10 cannot quiote hold highlights in teh same way. It is not a bad camera for highlights, but the EXR is simply better. This was *entirely* predictable, but it is something once must be aware of when choosing a bridge camera. If one really desires this ability to save highlights and skies under harsh lighting, one can always choose the S200EXR, which is the F200EXR sensor in the S100fs body. A nice bridge camera itself.

HS10 Review Part 12 – Dynamic Range Revisited

My regular readers will know by now that I like to pound certain points home. Sorry :-)


One thing that is a bit disconcerting after shooting for so long with EXR technology is the lack of forgiveness in the images from the HS10. You have to perfectly nail the exposure, and even then, you are likely to blow highlights sky high.

Some highlights cannot be saved no matter which technology you use. But when there is a chance, I like to save the highlights. It simply removes one unnecessary jarring element from the image, and why would I not want to do that?

So … a pair of images shot in the back yard, from about the same spot as the comparison shot in part 11, but facing 180 degrees from those images.

I am shooting a small branch of my Buffalo Berry, a tall bush with 1 inch thorns that could kill in my opinion. I hate this thing, but right now it has to stay because it is roped to my fence, holding the fence up …

About 6 feet behind the branch is the fence, and it is in shadow and is thrown nicely out of focus by both cameras, which are shot at the F70EXR’s maximum focal length of 270mm equivalence.

HS10

DSCF5277_hs10_close_branch[1]

F70EXR

DSCF4299_f70_close_branch[1]

First off, why the contrast difference? Well, despite using a setting of “soft” for both color and contrast, the HS10 shoots higher contrast than the F70EXR. Its use of binning for dynamic range extensions definitely show up on images like these.

So I had to use more contrast for the HS10, and I left the F70EXR looking softer. And before you say that you prefer the higher contrast look og the HS10, I must point out that the F70EXR has plenty of room to increase contrast, while the HS10 does not have as much room to decrease it. Not a big difference, but remember that as we go on.

Details on the leaves and branch are similar. Good texture in both images.

So what is the big difference?

Look at the leaves on top of the branch where the dappled sun strikes full force. With the first image, the leaves are burnt to pure white. There is no detail and no color. A fairly jarring element in this image.

On the second image, you see that the EXR binning has saved all but the top right portion of one leaf. There is a bit of color and the tonal transitions are much less jarring. It’s subtle, but it’s the whole point of extending dynamic range. Retain color where other cameras cannot.

And remember that I shot both camera at –0.67EV, which saves more highlights than normal. Had I shot at 0EV, we would be looking at serious burnout everywhere.

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

DSC_1283_pool[1]

DSC_1284_pool[1]

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:

DSC6840_daisy_pool[1]

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.

DSCF5273_hs10_hydrangea[1]

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.

DSCF5274_hs10_hydrangea_pool[1]

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.

DSCF5274_hs10_hydrangea_pool_crop[1]

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.

HS10

DSCF5275_hs10_pool_reflect[1]

F70EXR

DSCF4298_f70_pool_reflect[1]

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:

HS10

DSCF5275_hs10_pool_reflect_crops[1]

F70EXR

DSCF4298_f70_pool_reflect_crops[1]

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.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Go Habs Go!

I was raised in Winnipeg in the center of Canada, far from any hockey teams at that time. I latched on to the Montreal Canadiens and in fact they won the Stanley Cup every year of my University years (76-79) … this made my finals easy to deal with since all was right in the Universe.

Since then, Patrick Roy returned the Habs (les Habitants, as they are called in Quebec) to glory in 1986 and again in 1993.

Could this year be another such glorious moment in history? The mighty Washington Capitals fell in the 7th game to the new wunderkind Jaroslav Halak.

halak[1]

The Penguins almost fell to Ottawa … and now they must face a goalie who seems to be in touch with some force in the Universe right now …

Go Habs Go!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Favorite (i.e. in my opinion, the best :-) Photography Books

I think most amateur photographers overlook their best learning tool without realizing it. That tool being books. I’ve learned so much from the experts that I can hardly document it all.

I own three dozen photography books at least. I have not read every single one of them cover to cover, but I have read at least 9 that way. And they are the ones I recommend.

I’ll try to go in order by the most useful, but all of them are excellent and in the end what is useful to me might not be useful to you.

Check them out at the library if you prefer, or buy cheaply from Amazon. For your convenience (and to help support my blogging efforts – I won’t hide that fact) I will provide links to amazon.com.

Note to Canadians … I often buy from amazon.com as I often find it cheaper overall than the Canadian Amazon site, even after shipping is factored in.

Update for 2016: This is waaaaayyyyy overdue. And yet, not. You see, the fundamentals of photography have hardly changed in decades. We do have better equipment now than ever, but that is the tool. You are the craftsman, and so you still need to make sure that you understand how to use the tool and what your goals should be. It should be blindingly obvious that the most important aspect in any image is light. Or maybe lighting. Or both. You simply cannot make an image without light, and you cannot fix horrible light, although you can attempt to compensate for it (for example, processing to black and white is a time-honored save.) Also, the following list might look a little out of date. But fear not ... many of these books have been updated in the last few years and are as current and relevant as when they first appeared. And finally, these books are best practices that are bound to improve your technique, which will absolutely show up in your results.

John Shaw – Field Guide to Nature Photography

This book has an absolutely excellent discussion of metering. It also covers basic technique and macro photography. Lots of useful info and a must read in my opinion … at least the metering and close up parts.

 

Bryan Peterson – Understanding Exposure 3rd Edition

This is a classic. Everyone eventually reads it.
Jim Zuckerman – The Perfect Exposure

I like this one because it deals with difficult situations like white on white and black on black. Plus it puts some effort into spot metering.

Bruce Fraser and Jeff Schewe -- Real World Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop, Camera Raw, and Lightroom (2nd Edition)

In my opinion, sharpening technique makes more difference than almost any other skill to the appearance of your images. Two little and they look soft, too much and they look gritty. You need to know what this book teaches.

It covers the A to Z of sharpening and noise reduction technique. You will learn more than you thought could possibly exist about the subject, and your images will improve greatly as a result.
Bryan Peterson -- Understanding Shutter Speed: Creative Action and Low-Light Photography Beyond 1/125 Second

This book contains all the tips you need to move comfortably between the technical requirements for creative exposures for things like blurred merry go rounds or flowing water and technically correct exposure exposures for action. He covers it all with excellent examples that make things dead clear.


Lee Varis – Skin: The Complete Guide to Digitally Lighting, Photographing, and Retouching Faces and Bodies

The classic book on portrait and people photography. Covers lighting and processing and you really should read this if you expect to be shooting people.
Fil Hunter, Paul Fuqua, Steven Biver -- Light Science and Magic, An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, Fourth Edition

This one is a real gem. Tons of information on lighting models and products. It covers the white on white and black on black problem in addition to reflective surfaces. Every scenario comes with a map of how the lights are set up so you can reproduce at home or in studio. A real tome.

Jeff Schewe and Bruce Fraser -- Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS5

In my opinion, enthusiasts and indeed all advanced photographers should seriously consider shooting RAW. Unless, of course there is a pressing need for immediate output etc.

There are many reasons and you will know them all once you have been shooting for a while. This book provides a ton of information on Adobe’s converter, which ships with Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Lightroom. It is a bit out of date these days, but if you are serious about learning the ins and outs of raw shooting, this is a pretty good place to start.
Bryan Peterson -- Learning to See Creatively: Design, Color & Composition in Photography (Updated Edition)

An interesting book that helps to shape your perceptions as a photographer. In other words, it will help you learn to “see” …

I can't really describe it any other way. Take a look at it and see what I mean.

HS10 Review Part 10 – Bokeh and Dynamic Range

Bokeh is the quality of the blurred background in an image. Well, that’s simplistic. Read all about it here. The point being that we want smooth, undistracting backgrounds to our subjects. That’s critical to keeping the eye where it belongs.

The HS10 comes in with a massive advantage here … it can shoot at more than twice the focal length of the F70EXR. It is destined to slaughter the F70EXR, and you will not be disappointed.

HS10

DSCF5267_hs10_backlit[1]

F70EXR

DSCF4295_f70_backlit[1]

No contest. Same subject, same look. Background *much* better at 720mm.

 

At 270mm the background is acceptable, certainly when compared to what we would see at 140mm … but the little donut bokeh shown here where the speculars are just drags your eye away constantly.

The other thing to note here is how badly burned out the two images are where the sunlight hits the leaves. Dappled sunlight is brutal to deal with … but I would have hoped that the F70 would distinguish itself better than this.

Here is an example that is closer, but still a win for the HS10 because of its ability to get better magnification by shooting from closer in. I started taking full advantage of that as I became comfortable with the camera (hint … it takes a few hours.)

HS10

DSCF5271_hs10_branch[1]

F70EXR

DSCF4297_f70_branch[1]

The F70EXR is just that bit more jumbled and jarring. I can’t pin down the difference … it is going to come down to (a) magnification and (b) better control of certain aberrations in the HS10 lens.

Kudos to Fuji on this magnificent lens. I simply cannot argue with these results. If only the HS10 would fit in my fricken pocket :-)

HS10 Review Part 9 – Details Details

I wandered back to my front yard to see what was going on, and found that the European Starlings that nest in my garage were out in the Ash tree in my front yard.


I zoomed in from below with the HS10 and shot a few images. This one had the best detail, so I am publishing it despite the clipped beak.

 

DSCF5254_hs10_starling[1]

You’ll definitely have to click through to see the feather details. You can see the veins on the well lit wing feathers. Very nice.

Underneath the bird, things turn a little mushy. Expected of course.

While in my front yard, I turned to the window in my garage and shot the sill and the aging paint. Yes, it needs painting … no, there are no plans right now. Reasons not forthcoming, but I have them.

The HS10 gets nice and close and handles the sun surprisingly well.

DSCF5257_hs10_sun_window[1]


The F70EXR also handles the sun well, but there is more spread to its sun specular.

 

DSCF4288_f70_sun_window[1]

Not sure why, but the HS10 is able to show a more narrow specular for the sun. This surprises me. Detail-wise, they are pretty similar, but the HS10 allows a bit closer shooting in super macro mode, so the magnification is a bit higher.

Not much more to say for this one … I think the HS10 handles sunlight better than expected, but as mentioned in other parts of the review, I also think it has a bit more trouble with highlights than the F70EXR.