Saturday, May 21, 2011

F550EXR vs. D700 and the 70-300VR in Winnipeg – Zoom range and clarity …

I’ve just about stopped looking at the Fuji Talk Forum since there is little I can do there without having a voice. But now and again I note that he F550EXR has been largely dismissed. Apparently, the specter of a few images containing funky colored highlights and the ravings of a few of the haters (and they are very vocal on the FTF) has managed to create an impression that this camera is hugely flawed.

Which is very far from the truth. This camera is terrific. Before I left for Winnipeg, I set the camera to RAW+JPEG and never took it off that setting. I shot a lot of image inside my parent’s home, where the lighting starts at bad and quickly hits terrible. Fluorescent lights mixed with compact fluorescent mixed with daylight from windows mixed with blur light from televisions. Even the D700 has trouble sometimes because of the lighting. I convert to B&W a lot just because it is too much trouble to find that balance and my color deficiency makes it a nightmare.

So I often shot in B&W inside the house and this gave me the perfect world of a nice B&W JPEG with a RAW that I could try working with. I process only the RAWs now, but I still shoot RAW+JPEG because I prefer RAW files to be half-sized instead of the full 24MB. Fuji’s funky software team really do make you work for it …

Update: I’ve looked over my RAW images from Winnipeg, and to be perfectly honest I can see no pattern as to when you get 24MB files versus when you get 12MB files. There is no correlation to settings so it ends up looking completely random. I would not be surprised if we find out one day that they have a bug in their firmware. I wonder if the HS20 has the same “feature” …

So … on with the range … I stayed at a hotel called Place Louis Riel, named after the man who founded my home province of Manitoba. It is well located in central Winnipeg, with attached parking that is inexpensive and accessible from the inside elevators. The suite itself was amazing … it put the suites I have booked at the Airport Hilton in the past to absolute shame.

D700 ISO500

The furniture is all top-quality. The mattresses are pillow top, even the pull out couch has a thick and comfortable mattress, quite unlike the spring-fest I was tortured on at the Hilton. Those counter-tops are quartz if you are wondering. Absolutely stunning. Bathroom too.

The view out of my window was a bit mundane, but there was a church in the distance that I focused on now and again, finding some amusement in trying to isolate a screen on the openings in the tower. So here is the view itself at about 24mm … you can see my hotel reflected in the mirrored surface of the building in the center of the image.

The church is just to the right of that mirrored building. Note all the texture on the walls. Some of Fuji’s more expensive cameras have trouble with this in jpeg … I processed these all from RAW.

And the windows 1/3 from the top of the frame at 100% crop …

You will want to click through on that one to see the grate across the window. There is also some visible fringing, but this lens really does not fringe enough to take note. Nothing like older Fuji cameras.

Just for giggles, let’s look at how the D700 with the 70-300VR renders this scene.

Strangely, the actual reach seems rather similar. Hard to say though, as the aspect ratios are so different. Anyway, here’s a 100% cropped section around that window. Those who like to criticize this lens for being unsharp at 300mm are doing it a disservice.

You can see that every opening is covered with mesh, no doubt to prevent the gulls and / or pigeons from soiling the place …

So I think the F550EXR is a fine camera with terrific range. It does not quite compete with dSLRs, but only a zealot would think that it could.

The lens is just fine in my opinion, especially once you learn how to shoot and process RAW. ACR tweaks for distortion can be done quickly and come close to matching Fuji’s own algorithms in their JPEG engine. Fun cam …

I’ll have more from Winnipeg once I can process images with less risk. My computer continues to limp along on a mangled main drive, but the data drives are perfect so far, showing no errors, so I don’t mind doing a bit of limited processing.

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