Friday, April 22, 2011

F550EXR versus F200EXR, F300EXR and F11 – Custom White Balance in very bad light – Review Part 41

Well, it had to happen. There had to be an Achilles’ Heel with such small photosites (I accidentally wrote photoshites before correcting, but maybe such small light gathering sites deserve this new moniker :-)

And that flaw is the same one that is shared by the Panasonic ZS3, too-easily saturated photosites so that, when the custom white balance pushes hard on the blue channel, the colors all shift far too heavily towards blue. This manifests in my test subject (the cute woolen cross) turning some sort of purple / magenta color in the middle and washing out the yellow completely.

Even the F300EXR, with its much more conservative 12mp versus the 16mp of the F550, does far better when the blue channel is hammered this way.

So, the test … start with moderate light bounced from the ceiling … old halogen lamps that are pretty orange these days … a challenge for tiny photosites for sure. Tripod, self-timer, yada yada yada …

Caveat: Do not assume that this is going to show up all the time. It hardly registers under auto white balance, because the camera handles that much better in this light. It requires specifically custom white balance in really orange light, a rarity. And, it is easily overcome in RAW. So those who are piling on the F550EXR to try to remember the good ole days, don’t bother adding this to your whinge list … you can whinge all you need without it. Pretty much everything these guys moan about in thread after thread is baloney anyway … issues like so-called over exposure are inevitably easily controlled by the photographer. The funky flare is not, but then it is fairly rare in my experience (about 0.2% so far.)

So, the crops … you won’t have any difficulty picking out the F550EXR:

So … would it be any better in RAW? Well, yes. Using “film color K” (probably pretty close to Velvia) the colors come roaring back and the F550EXR acquits itself rather well. So this is a case where the jpeg engine is out of its league.

Click through to see the slightly larger version, which is straight from Silkypix and thus does not benefit from appropriate capture sharpening in ACR. This version pretty much matches the F200EXR for detail and saturation, so if you like RAW, the F550EXR can still carry it’s load.

And here are the originals of the four above … by now you know that the RAW version of the F550EXR image would look very much like the F200EXR jpeg as shown above.


F550EXR (tweaked the jpeg a bit in post)



Tweaking the jpeg improved things, but did not bring it all the way back. The RAW, as shown right after the crops, would have been necessary top handle this light.

So there you have it. It’s not as bad as it looks and pretty much nobody shoots this way in this light anyway.

If you want to see how the F550 performs with AWB under this light, take a look here.

If you want to read about the so-called funky flare issue, take a look here.

If you want to see how these cameras compare in low but nicely balanced light, take a look here.

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