Sunday, April 3, 2011

F550EXR – Testing the lens – Review Part 5

After the wicked corner issues I had with the F300EXR (that led to me swapping it out for another) I had to take a look at the corners on this cam. Also, Dotbalm has asked if the clarity is up to scratch at long distance at full zoom.

So we’ll kill two birds with one stone with this mini review. First, the corner issues, then the zoom range.


The F300EXR I first got has pretty wicked blur in the corners and the second was better. Still slightly blurred, but not horrid. That’s the price of building tiny 15x zooms …

Remember that the only one of the majors that has ever attempted 15x for the APS-C sensor is Tamron, with its 18-270 mega zoom. It’s difficult, but people expect it with tiny sensors for some reason. I know I do :-)

Right off the bat it is obvious that this is not a blur-fest. The corners are not perfect, but at this size they are not horrible. If we look a little closer, though, the corners are pretty soft.

Still, unless you plan to print posters (and why would you print posters from landscape shots from a compact?) you should be ok.

An obvious question springs to mind here … how about RAW? Does that improve the corners?

I find that it does look a little crisper here. I prefer the tones, but that’s just because I could set the contrast exactly as I wanted it (well, at least as close as I can get in Silkypix.) And the corners …

Although the corners appear equally soft because I’ve turned down the contrast somewhat, in fact there is slightly more detail available here. Most noticeable in the bottom left corner where there is a lot of detail to see.

A note on sizes and lens distortion: With the HS10 RAW files, the Silkypix output was quite similar to the jpeg output in size and distortion correction. Not so with the F550EXR. This new version of Silkypix seems less dedicated than the other (which cannot load the 550’s files by the way.)

The default size of output for the F550EXR is several pixels off from the jpeg output of the camera in both dimensions. The distortion cannot be corrected to match the jpegs in any way shape or form. The lens clearly has significant barrel distortion, I find that correcting at +7 in Silkypix brings the distortion close to the jpegs. But the jpeg corrections appear to occur only in one dimension, whereas Silkypix corrects in both dimensions. This is completely peculiar and is one of the reasons I think of Fuji developers as outright hackers.

Adobe … please save us from this RAW conversion gong show!

So, in summary, these corners are far from perfect, but they are very good when you consider that this is a 15x zoom and I checked it at 24mm.

Now, for those of you who want to play with the original jpeg file, you can download it at this link. Sadly, I cannot upload the Silkypix original output for you to peruse as Silkypix creates jpeg formats that are invalid in the eyes of Gallery. Score another negative for Silkypix.

Zoom Range

The question, then, is whether the lens remains crisp at full zoom. This is a real problem with the HS10 as the lens loses contrast at the far end and is really only good at lower zoom levels or with close in shots. Basically, some of the range is wasted.

Not so with the F550EXR. I find full zoom shots to be very crisp. Here is a small example of shots at 24mm, 240mm and 360mm and crops to show a small detail in the bell tower that you can hardly even see at 24mm. Click through to see it at full size (800px.)


Now, here are the original files for you to poke around in if you so desire.




In summary, I think this lens kicks butt :-)

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