Saturday, April 30, 2011

F550EXR – Sunny Exposure Modes — Review Part 48

I became curious about how this camera reacts when you fiddle with exposure modes. There are more than half a dozen exposure modes you could use on a bright sunny day, so let’s explore some of them.

First off, let me just say that I am not partial to DR800 and DR1600 as they are a combination of hardware and software trickery that force ISOs 200 and 400 respectively. On a bright sunny day I consider it anathema to raise ISO off of base, so these tests are set on DR400 across the board.

I do shoot the tests in Auto ISO mode, though, as I recommend for people. The mode correctly chose ISO 100 for every image. What surprised me, though, for the EXR AUTO mode was that it chose M size landscape instead of HR mode or DR mode. Landscape mode exposes brighter than necessary, as shown here. And thus I am not fond of it. I am not fond of EXR AUTO mode in general because it wants to constantly focus the lens, which is a real problem for battery life. Plus it makes poor decision in my opinion (landscape being a poor decision here.)

So … here are the five modes with their chosen exposure modes and exposures as shown by EXIFTool GUI. Interesting.

Mode on dial Exposure Program in EXIF Exposure in EXIF
EXR AUTO Landscape 1/300s f/5 DR400
EXR DR Program AE 1/420s f/5 DR400
Program AE Program AE 1/420s f/5 DR400
Aperture Priority AE Aperture Priority AE 1/420s f/5 DR400
Manual Manual 1/500s f/5 DR400

As you can see, I chose a slight underexposure in manual mode and got a slightly better exposure in return. I would have gotten this same exposure in the auto modes had I set -1/3EV.

So here is how these exposures look in jpeg, straight from the camera. Click through to see them better and read the blurb, which is pretty similar to what is written here :-)

Note: All images from tripod so the meter saw the same thing each time. All shots matrix (multi, pattern) metered.

As you can see, my preference here is the M exposure mode, and shooting my recommended mode of P mode and –1/3EV in this light would give you that exposure. But … some people will prefer the Canon-like open shadows at the expense of the fence being a bit too bright. Still, it is not technically overexposed and the sun is blazing today, so maybe that is the best exposure for many people. Nice, open shadows for sure.

Anyway, enough with the jpegs. They are very nice and DR400 saves super bright highlights quite well in my opinion. But what about the RAW images?

Well, a peculiar thing is that they all wrote out 24MB. And I have no idea why. Clearly, all five images shot M mode (file resolutions confirm that) and clearly DR400 was in play, which means that we would normally expect the half sized RAW images.

Beats the heck out of me. More exploration needed I suppose … sheesh.

So … I processed two RAW images, and they came our slightly differently because the exposures are very different. One thing about working in any editing program is that you will never get identical images from two different working sessions. So save your intermediate work!

I save a flattened PSD file when I am satisfied with what I have. I never save a layered PSD file because they are enormous. Note that I only save my final file if I think I will want to print it one day or if I did a lot of extra work (cloning, smoothing, make-up on eyes, etc.) If not, I save only the final 800px jpeg. I can always re-run the edit (I am quite fast with ACR6/CS5 but as mentioned the results are always slightly different.)

So here are the outputs from EXR AUTO and Manual mode. The brightest and dimmest exposures processed in ACR 6.4 with no extra processing in CS5.

You will note that I reversed the output exposures on these. Not intentionally, but that is how it worked out. RAW has a lot of latitude in these files, but there was definite shadow noise in both images so I applied some light luminance noise reduction. Small sensors and all that …


I would avoid EXR AUTO mode. Bad decisions and eats batteries. But any of the semi auto or manual modes are terrific and very consistent. Here, I would use –1/3EV or –2/3EV normally, but the 0EV images are perfectly fine I think. It is DR400 and Provia (default) film mode that saves the highlights here.

No comments: