Wednesday, May 4, 2011

F550EXR – JPEG versus RAW versus Pro Low Light — Review Part 49

So here I am at lunch after visiting Henry’s to confirm that there are no Sony HX9Vs to be seen on these shores, and I am pondering the F550EXR in my hands once again. This building is interesting for some shots because I invariably sit all the way on the inside of the building where the only lighting is incandescent, and yet I face the outdoors which has rather blue light by comparison.

And it’s pretty dark, so 1600 ISO or 3200 ISO are needed for decent shutter speeds.

So I shoot the coke and water as my opening bid. A few people down the right side of this section get caught up in the 24mm image, and the camera resolves them pretty well, especially when one considers the very bright windows in behind. I shot this at +1EV in order to pull out detail in the stuff on my table and the face of the girl on the right. The windows were lost anyway, even at DR400.

As far as I am concerned, the new Fuji jpeg engine is pretty amazing. The painting at top left and the girl’s hair far right all show detail that the older Fuji engine would have struggled with. Images got painterly a lot faster in the olden days :-)

Of course, I still favor RAW. Here, I have achieved a more open tone curve, but of course I could have done that to the JPEG as well. The results being a bit less predictable since the pixels are already somewhat bruised.

And then my wonderful C1 arrives. C1 is the designation on the menu … it’s some form of Thai curry I suspect and it is simply amazing. Here, I shoot it at 1600 ISO and 1/6s, which is low light in anyone’s book. This is the RAW image and I process it with white balance set for the plate with a bit of warmth added back in. The shadows are warmed a bit in the camera profile panel as the F550EXR does have a tendency to blue deep shadows under some circumstances.

You will not the wonderful steam coming off the dish … I love that look. The windows and everything lit by them are in blue tones. This because the interior is quite orange so when the blue channel is pushed to adjust white balance, the already blue / white outdoor light is greatly exaggerated. Nothing you can do about that except desaturate and I decided not to do that here.


Then I realized that I had not really done much with pro low light mode. So I set that and shot another image. I noticed three things immediately:

  1. Brain fart. I shot in 3:2. Doesn’t hurt, but I prefer to get the whole frame while testing.
  2. The four images are shot very quickly on this camera. Much quicker than on any other EXR that I can remember.
  3. The magnification of this mode is quite high. I had to back off quite a bit to frame the whole plate and that changed the perspective. The rim of the plate is thinner in this shot, which is caused by the perspective change. Interesting …
  4. I said three, but I just remembered #4. Even though the camera is set to provide RAW images, pro low light writes exactly one JPEG only.

The image came out so desaturated when compared with the RAW above that I took pity on it and performed some tweaking in ACR and CS5. I still prefer the RAW image, although this saturation might be a bit more accurate.

Because of the blending of four images, we lose the very clear steam imagery. That’s annoying. But otherwise, the image is nice. Not really any better than the processed 3200 ISO image, but still nice.

When I left the restaurant, I noticed a pigeon farting around on the pavement, searching for dinner [gag] … and shot him a couple of times before I realized that I was still in pro low light mode. And although he was walking about and I was following him, the images remain sharp and clear. That’s very interesting …

And at the very end, I shot one image in A prio mode again. This one came out slightly soft unfortunately, but I processed the RAW anyway and it is still pretty cool. He’s picking up some delicacy or other from the pavement … [shudder] …

So I think pro low light is very interesting … but maybe not quite as interesting as it once was. The high ISO on this beast is good enough that it really is not necessary to use pro low light and give up a RAW capture.

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