Monday, April 18, 2011

F550EXR versus F200EXR – Is SN mode better than P mode? — Review Part 39

Surprisingly, the answer is no. I think there are circumstances where deep shadow improves under SN mode, but this test does not show that.

But first, let me show you a huge file with 8 crops that are 900px wide and span the full height of the images at 6mp (F200EXR height.) All F550EXR images were normalized to this size before crops were taken

I show four pairs:

  • F200EXR jpegs in SN and P mode
  • F550EXR jpegs in SN and P mode
  • same F550EXR jpegs with sharpening
  • F550EXR raw in SN and P mode

This is shot in a fairly strong halogen light bounced from the ceiling, so somewhat crappy white balance but not as bad as yesterday’s awful direct compact fluorescent light.The light was quite low with exposures of 1/6s at f/5.1 for the F200EXR and 1/4s at f/5.9 for the F550EXR. Note: that’s about a 2/3 stop advantage at this focal length (around 169mm equivalent for the F550.)

Click through to load this file in your browser, and then click again if you see the plus sign cursor to open it to full size. You will need to use the scroll bars to move around.

My observations:

  • The F200EXR wins the jpeg race this time, as it shows less chroma effect in this light than it did in yesterday’s test, again I would caution you to remember that pixel peeping tells the story for pixel peepers, but for normal usage this level of difference is going to be pretty hard to see … neither is smearing heavily. For big prints though, the F200 is the winner here.
  • The F550 in RAW is again slightly better than the F200 in several spots.
  • The SN mode’s DR100 caused some highlights to burn, while the P Mode DR400 saved most of them.
  • SN mode is worse than P mode for detail on the F200, but on the F550 they look almost identical. Clearly the binning algorithms were rather new when the F200 was released (read: unrefined.)
  • Both cameras nailed focus every time in this light using center AF …

Now, just to prove my point about typical usage of these images (Facebook, small prints, etc.) … let’s look at the three P Mode images downsized to 800px. (Those of you from the FTF who belong to the “800px is a joke” club can push off at this point … your opinions are pulled from dark places and we don’t need that here.)

So here is the F200EXR image …

Remember to click through … looks really nice, doesn’t it?

And here is the F550EXR image … for this one I added a touch of local contrast to the wool and a touch of extra saturation to equalize with the others. This is only to make my point, but I process all images so this is a trivial exercise for me …

How many differences do you see? The answer is pretty much none. For typical users, there simply is no real difference. To get that higher saturation without processing just shoot Astia in this light.

And now … the RAW image …

Now, on some monitors, there will be a strong blue cast in the corners. My Dell shows it and my NEC does not. The Dell has a different white and black point and is better calibrated. Which means it is really there. This is a consequence of the difficulty I have with Silkypix. I can’t wait for an ACR solution for Fuji RAWs.

Note: we’re getting close to being the #1 idea on the ideas forum at … if you have not already gone over there and added a “Like” and perhaps a comment, please do so a.s.a.p. (click here) … ACR runs in three excellent editors at all price levels and this would be a huge benefit to Fuji (in spite of their rather lackluster approach to RAW with Silkypix.)

So in conclusion …

  • In the F200, P mode is actually slightly better than SN for detail
  • In the F550 the two are equal in this light
  • P Mode with DR400 saves highlights that you never thought were at risk whereas SN does blow highlights all the time because of forced DR100 … I see no reason to shoot anything but P mode with DR400 at M4:3 size 99% of the time
  • I see no reason to shoot the F200 if you want any of the features in the F550 (and the improvements over the F200 are too numerous to mention.)
A final thought …

The F550EXR is taking a real beating the last while on the Fuji forum from several people who say that it is a terrible low light camera. One then said that the F200EXR “delivers the goods every time” … that’s a direct quote. Now, my tests show that the differences in detail are minute … and that exposures are excellent across the board for both cameras. So what up wit dat?

This same person managed to screw up his test night images by:

  • shooting the wrong aperture at 200 ISO
  • shooting SN mode at the Tower Bridge with many bright lights when he should know it blows highlights because of DR100
  • shooting 0EV which just makes the problem worse by not protecting highlights

This is not a bad camera … but it is being used by some photographers with very weak technical skills who post every brain fart and who seem to want the camera to think for them and are profoundly disappointed when it does not do that …

*sigh* …

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