Monday, April 4, 2011

F550EXR – ISO ladder in poor light – Review part 10

The last two articles pretty much established the F550EXR as the high ISO image quality champion in good light. Even without using RAW. So the glaring question is whether the extra challenge of poor light will allow the larger pixels of the F70EXR to reassert their previous dominance in the long zoom category. Or will CMOS prove to be even better than expected in poor light?

Well … the short answer is the latter. The new CMOS sensor opens a can of whoop ass all over the F70EXR. Wow …

This time around I normalized down to the F70EXR as some think this helps the little cam. Didn’t look like it to me … but hey, who am I to judge what people want to see?

Note that I set the exposures in manual mode where the meter told me to … dead center. The F70EXR habitually misread the light levels and came up a wee bit underexposed. Maybe 1/3 to 1/2 stops.

From what I see in the crops, the F70 starts to struggle by 800 ISO. If the F80 and F300 were in this battle, the F70 would look pretty good. But against the F550 it is clearly outmatched in this light.

At 1600 ISO the F70 is not looking pretty at all. Not terrible mind you, just really grainy and lacking in smooth edge definition. The watch face is a mess. At 3200 the F70 has thrown in the towel and is weeping in a corner. Even the high resolution F550 image is better. And that’s amazing … or shameful, depending on which of these cams you might have been pulling for.

I threw in a couple of RAW images from the medium resolution and large resolution images, choosing to do 800 and 1600 ISO since the lower ISOs would be too easy. The difficulty in beating the jpeg engine shows how far Fuji has come with their noise reduction. They seem to have gotten this one right (finally.) Even the 3200 ISO at medium resolution is usable when downsized. And in rather poor light no less … go Fuji!

And a comment on pro low light. Interesting idea, too much smearing in the F70 version. Also, that peculiar extra magnification is annoying. I note that the F550 no longer magnifies the pro low light images. Interesting change in algorithms. With the F550 I am seeing no advantage to shooting pro low light when you can brace the camera effectively. However, when you are hand holding, this mode really helps as it seems to be using a really fast shutter speed in this implementation. Very cool …

So I think it is official. Doesn’t matter what kind of light you have, the F550 beats all the long zooms without even calling on RAW. I’m looking forward to the battle against the F200EXR. Bring it on …

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