Friday, April 8, 2011

F550EXR – Face Off with F300EXR in Various Kinds of Light – Review Part 23

I took along both cameras to dinner with Jon this evening and then dropped him at a friend’s house. After that, I popped over to the little hamlet of Fallowfield, where there is a nice church that lights up orange when the sunset shines on it.

Unfortunately, I was just a bit late and the sun could not catch its bricks, so I drove further into the burg to see if I could get a decent angle on the setting sun. at the end of the road I was on, I came to a cemetery with a church beside it. So I got out of the car and shot some comparative images.

I set the two cameras to AUTO ISO (1600) and decided to allow them to choose exposure. Both were on my usual settings – A-Prio mode, DR400, M4:3. Also, these are downsized and output sharpened. No tone or color changes at all.

The sunlight was just catching the bell in the church’s steeple …

F550EXR – 100 ISO, f/4.9, 1/75s, 13.6mm

F300EXR – 100 ISO, f/4.8, 1/90s, 12.5mm

Tough call here. I like the more open tones of the brick. I like the accuracy of the blue. But the slightly lower exposure the F300 chose makes the sky richer in tone.

I turn around and shuffle to the left until I see a full disk through the trees.

F550EXR – 640 ISO, f/5.3, 1/60s, 66mm

F300EXR – 400 ISO, f/5.3, 1/100s, 66mm

Wow … there is a huge difference in tonal approach here. The F550 bumped ISO and slowed the shutter, increasing the exposure by three quarters of a stop. This opened the trees very nicely, although some might prefer this shot as a silhouette. The amazing thing is that the sky held without blowing out, indicating that the blend was very effective.

So I like both. I can easily convert the F550 shot to the F300 shot, but if I convert the F300 shot to the F550 shot I will see extra noise in the shadows.


Next to the church is a small cemetery as mentioned above. I decided to see how the two cameras approached a classic scene with pretty low light.

F550EXR – 100 ISO, f/3.7, 1/60s, 5mm

The original of this F550EXR shot can be downloaded here. And yes, there is smearing with grass in low light … even at 100ISO.

F300EXR – 100 ISO, f/3.5, 1/40s, 4.4mm

In this case the F550EXR chose the (very) slightly darker exposure. I missed full wide open by one click on that cam, but the images are very similar anyway. Both look very similar in tone and color to me. YMMV and probably does since most of the readers of this will have vastly superior color vision to me.

I was done with this neighborhood so I took off back towards home. On the way, I stopped briefly at the Monaghan Forest to shoot a few trees.

F550EXR – 320 ISO, f/3.5, 1/30s, 4.4mm

F300EXR – 200 ISO, f/3.5, 1/35s, 4.4mm

It would seem that two patterns are emerging here …

  • The F300 favors deeper and richer skies.
  • And the F550 favors exposures 1/3 stops higher in ISO. Probably because it can :-)

Shooting straight into an open area of small trees …

F550EXR – 250 ISO, f/3.5, 1/30s, 4.4mm

F300EXR – 400 ISO, f/3.5, 1/55s, 4.4mm

And the next pair breaks the ISO pattern :-)

Here, though, you can see why the F300 was forced to jump ISO … it cannot shoot in 1/3 stop increments for ISO, so it is forced to raise ISO to 400 because the shutter would have fallen quite low at 200 ISO. The exposures of the F550EXR really get to do fine-grained tweaking and the camera can go low when it needs to. But it does not always do that, and I wonder what sort of randomization algorithms the Fuji engineers built into the firmware :-)

Finally, as I leave the parking lot of the forest area, I note the farm across the highway. And I shoot at full zoom in very low light. So how does that turn out …

F550EXR – 500 ISO, f/5.3, 1/60s, 66mm

F300EXR – 800 ISO, f/5.3, 1/105s, 66mm

Same pattern … had to jump to 800 ISO to keep shutter above 1/30s. Both look nice, and reasonably crisp.

All in all, if you are looking for low to medium ISO stills, the F300EXR is a pretty good bargain these days. Very nice to handle.

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