Tuesday, April 12, 2011

F550EXR versus F200EXR – The gang’s all here and Phase II begins — Review Part 30

A great big thanks to MSL for shipping me the F200EXR, which I received today. It is brand new in a box (yes, they are still available in Canada) and is silver in color. She says that they are in no rush to get it back so I will be able to test the living sh.. out of it, so to speak.

So here is the entire Enthusiast Compact EXR camera family at once:

Click through to see them in all their magnificence :-)

I was able to take a walk at lunch today and decided to retrace my steps from the other day (cut short a bit by an impending meeting) … on the way to the pond where the Geese like to play, I shot a fence and some trees about 50 feet away. Here is the first set of crops from the F550 and F200 that I have seen …

The F200 has a slight detail lead in jpeg here, but the 550’s RAW image seems best of all to me. I left the sharpening a tad toned down, but that can be cranked …

I arrived at the pond and immediately shot a pair of ducks with both cameras. Here, I wanted to see the difference in reach. This is the biggest reason why I never got interested in the F200EXR.

F200EXR 32mm 100 ISO, 1/420s, f/5.1, –0.33ev, M4:3, DR400

I do like the lush tones in that image. The geese are crisp and the image is pleasing to me. The vignetting is something I note in every single image from this camera … I find it a bit disturbing.

F550EXR 66mm 100 ISO, 1/480s, f/5.3, –0.33ev, M3:2, DR400

This image is also pleasing to me. The difference in reach is staggering. And now the same image from RAW.

Some might find that a tad dark and/or low contrast. I wanted to preserve every ounce of detail, and excess contrast often wipes out fine details. Anyway … this image is just magnificent.

Update on 27 August 2011: I decided to process this image again with ACR and then with ACR and CS5. Here are the results:

ACR Only


The image is excellent with only one minor flaw – a dark vignette. Something that the F200 does with abandon but that the F550 does not, in jpeg or with Silkypix. The issue here is that the F550 does not have an ACR lens profile. Hopefully I will get some time one day. Meanwhile, I easily correct the vignette in the CS5 version that follows.

ACR plus CS5


I also added a bit of punch to the feather detail and the waves. Just excellent in my opinion …

The crops show how much detail is retained with Silkypix versus the jpegs:

So, it’s pretty obvious which camera you want if you like shooting the local fauna. There’s just no contest here.

Next, I backed out to 28mm and shot a wide landscape image. Not intended as art or anything, but I must say that I find this image very pleasing. The F200EXR has made a very nice go of it.

F200EXR 6.4mm 100 ISO, 1/240s, f/9, M4:3, DR400

Next, the F550 shows us its penchant for much more open mid tones. A completely different jpeg rendering. I like it for detail, but I do prefer the darker renderings. I tried to equalize focal lengths as you will see.

F550EXR 6.4mm 100 ISO, 1/1000s, f/3.9, M3:2, DR400

And again the RAW version, this time with the tones dropped into a darker rendering. The weather was close and threatening and I much prefer this rendering over the more open one that the jpeg engine chose.

Another set of crops for your perusal …

They are all very detailed. I prefer the less sharpened look of the raw image, but others might not.

I wandered around the pond and through a parking lot to my favorite building in the area. The F200 does not have a wide enough lens to get the shot I like of this building, but here’s a shot anyway …

And the F550 …

I obviously need to get the F300 / F550 lens into the PTLens database to get automatic distortion correction.

Halfway down the wall towards the back of the building, I notice a boggy area. The F200 captures it nicely …

And so does the F550 … note that these least couple have been processed, which I do for the next few as well.

As a general rule, at M size, I see no real difference between the F200 and F550 images … tone sure, but not detail.

Around the back, I arrive at “the door” yet again …



Now we go back to unprocessed images for a moment. I have been asked to shoot some grass with the F550 and I saw an area that should qualify nicely.


Note that the F200 shot that pretty dark, so I lifted it a tad with a curve.


F550 RAW

And the crops that show that the F550 is on par in RAW with the F200 at M size.

I turn around and face the satellite dish array and shoot a few. This shot I like, and it is processed for both cameras.



Almost no difference there at all. The F550 replicates the larger sensor’s “liquid” look just fine for my purposes.

Now .. I realized at this point that the internal memory of the F200 had one more shot left, so I set the camera to L size and shot one that includes several elements. This is a quick and dirty L versus L test …



F550 RAW

At web sizes, there is essentially no discernable difference in detail. Again, I prefer the less dramatic sharpening of the RAW image, but that may just be me.

But look at the difference in a small crop in the middle in the very far distance …

These overcast conditions are perfect to reveal the one area where there is a significant detail difference: tiny details of low contrast in the far distance.

But wait: I just realized that this is simply too big a difference. And guess what … the F550EXR chose to shoot at DR400, which forces 400 ISO at L size. Frak!

This is one of the issues I hate with the EXR cameras … when you switch from M to L size, sometimes the camera will stay on 100 ISO and force DR100 and sometimes it will choose 400 ISO to retain DR400. In this case, the two cameras chose opposite paths.

So there you have it … I screwed up the last test and the crops are worthless.

And you F200EXR zealots thought it had slaughtered the F550 … not a chance :-)

A last pair of images that are essentially 100% crops of taken in RAW. These animals were a long way away, but the 550 pulls pretty decent detail anyway. The bird was a quick tracking shot … not clean, but decent for what it is.

Summary and Impressions

So here’s what I think so far …

  • F200 is a clunky cam … very old school body
  • Horrid cable for the F200, looks like an Anaconda next to the svelte cable used by all others in the series
  • Who designed the battery door?
  • The menus on the F200 definitely belong to a past era …

The F550 is holding its own, and in RAW it is spanking the F200 in good light for subjects where reach is needed as I expected. But this is just a taste … the ISO ladders will tell much of the tale. How do they compare in low light? Stay tuned …

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