Monday, April 4, 2011

F550EXR – Night Shooting – Review Part 12 ** Updated with jpeg original **

This is one that many of you have been waiting for. We already know how well the camera shoots at night from Hugo Poon’s excellent work. What I’ll add is how easy it is to get great images from the jpegs. The RAW is starting to look a little superfluous here … well, almost.

Anyway … before I left this evening for a ride downtown, I had a bowl of my excellent Heinnezup, as depicted here after 4.5 hours of simmering violently.

What is notable about this image is that I shot it in auto ISO 1600, which generally would have meant 1600 ISO with the F300. But I have been noticing that the F550 is fairly aggressive about using as low an ISO as possible, and it is helped by its new (to Fuji) ability to choose ISOs in 1/3 stops. So here it chose 640 ISO, which is much better than the F300 would have done.

Here’s a funky composition (read: bad) of a bowl of the soup from that pot. Mmmmm … shot at 1250 ISO.

Update: Oops … forgot to post the image :-)

Anyway, at that point I left home. When I got downtown,I had a few extra minutes so I stopped in front of the Lord Elgin hotel and shot a few images. I had raised my auto mode to auto 3200 and for this image it went to the max. It’s pretty dark here since we have 3200 ISO at f/3.5 and 1/8s.

I ran Topaz Denoise 5 on it and you can see some of the effect of that on the building to the left of the hotel. The walls are smeared quite a bit with no bricks visible at all. So here I thought I’d see what I could get out of the RAF file. I was not disappointed.

If you click through and compare the two on separate tabs you can see the massive improvement in detail. And I have to say that this is quite a performance for 3200 ISO in such low light.

If you would like to take a shot at this RAW image yourself, feel free to download it here – right click this link and select “save link as…” or equivalent. 

I was also enjoying the GPS display for each image I shot as it said “Confederation Park” as the nearest landmark.


Now how about them apples?

If you examine the image again you will note that I am clearly parked across the street at the left edge of the hotel (its right edge.) It missed by about 6 feet. Wow …

As I proceed along Elgon, I approach the corner of Rideau / Wellington and see the Chateau Laurier Fairmont Hotel in front of me.

Here I accidentally tweaked the A-Prio dial and ended up at f/8 … which gave me 3200ISO and 1/8s again. Oops. Still, a nice image.

The eagle eyed among you have noticed the excessive warmth of these images … turns out that I shot these on the custom setting applied at the stove at my house for the soup shot :-)

Know what? I like the excess reds in these. Anyway … again a very decent jpeg shot. This is straight from the cam by the way. Just downsized with a bit of compensatory sharpening.

As I swing around the front of the hotel I am on Rideau Street, and parked waiting to turn into the market area.

Another quick shot from the steering wheel through the windshield. Not too shabby for 3200 ISO, f/9 and 1/4s … (brain fart continues.) Note: This thing has very little CA. Some have noted (snottily I might add) that there was some visible in my first crops, but look at the lights here. See any?

I stopped once I turned onto York Street to capture a few shots of the local fauna … here we see a Gentlemen’s Club nestled in its hiding spot …

Again 3200 ISO … the brain fart continues with f/11 … 1/4s being the max in auto modes.

And then I shot the street here at three different ISOs. Here are the three with no processing to speak of … what do you think?

3200 ISO

400 ISO

1600 ISO

I think it becomes clear to almost anyone how impressive this camera really is …

Here’s one where I tweaked the white balance back towards the blue of evenings … it’s also shot at 1600 ISO. Not the text and other details that are clear as day … also note the clarity of the fire hydrant.

Let’s check the GPS again …


That is right on! Zaphod’s is right next to the Barefax in the first image in this series … and about 30 to 45 degree in front and to my left. I am parked exactly where the GPS says I am.

If you study this image, you see a lamp post just in front of my car and another about 20 feet away …

How about them apples :-)

I drive up a little distance and stop across from the Hard Rock Café, which has nice looking signs. This 1600 ISO shot is the best of what I shot. Jpeg with basically no processing.

Just for the anal out there (I see some of your sour grapes on the FTF this days) here are the stats on this image. Most of the others share essentially these same settings, which are the settings I recommend in my how to shoot EXR article.


And a close up of the sign next door … straight from the cam.

That one was shot at 800 ISO … mainly to lower the ISO and squeeze out even more negative compensation. I already had this one set at –2, which is the max.

Again … full zoom looking pretty sharp here.

Finally I arrive at my destination. I park across from a building that I have tried shooting many times with the F300EXR. The results are always disappointing with that camera. But not with this one … wow.

And just to make it clear how much detail is retained at 1600 ISO in jpeg, here are some 100% crops. (Full disclosure: I tweaked the highlights a bit in ACR, but you can too with Elements 9.)

You might be forgiven if you just had a “holy shit” moment … so … here comes a closely guarded secret:

I love this cam!

I have never shot a camera that handled light as effortlessly as this one. I really can’t say enough about how this thing shoots at night.

Update: Sometimes, a kernel of truth shows through even the most vitriolic critique spewing forth from … well … user adhemar from the FTF gave us one such kernel of truth – I am not posting enough jpeg originals. So here is the jpeg original for the final pair of images shown in this article.

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