Tuesday, January 17, 2012

F550EXR and X10 versus P7100, S100 and V1 – these Fuji cams perform well above their respective sensor classes …

Review after review has come out and slaughtered the F550EXR. Mediocre lenses and rather awful JPEGs at L size have held it back something wicked. But I tested mine thoroughly and I still shoot it exclusively at concerts almost a year later. In RAW, this thing is excellent.

On the other hand, the X10 has been bathed in an almost euphoric glow, despite having come out with at least one serious flaw, the ORB issue. That outlines the difference between the more experience audience that grabbed the F550 versus the rather inexperienced group of X10 owners.

So today, the DXOMark review of the F550EXR and F600EXR came out and the F550EXR has done very well. This site measures the sensor output using the RAW files to determine signal to noise ratio, dynamic range and color bit depth in order to enable a comparison of the sensor against others.

Update: The X10 is now available as well, so this is now a more comprehensive comparison.

Original article follows.

Their method for handling sensor resolution differences is to normalize everything to 8Mp, which works well for the kind of prints the majority of people make. The site now defaults to the “print” setting, which does the normalization.

So I thought it might be interesting to see how the F550EXR compares to two cameras that are in the next higher class with larger sensors. The Nikon P7100 and Canon PowerShot S100 both sport 1/1.7” sensors while the F550EXR sports a smaller 1/2” sensor. This should give the Canon and the Nikon almost a 1 stop advantage everywhere.

First, we look at the summary, and the F550EXR comes in 3rd, as expected.


But notice that the P7100 is only 2 points ahead. The Canon is further ahead, but we’ll get there momentarily. The review:


… has this to say about their overall scores:

Their DxOMark scores (39 for the F550 and 40 for the F600) are limited by the ISO range (scores for studio conditions, color depth and dynamic range could be better if Fujifilm provided an ISO 50 or ISO 80).

So this thing is competitive in normal shooting conditions … because ISO 50 and 80 aren’t used except in the brightest light.

SNR is next …


Note that the F550EXR stays with both and even exceeds them at 1600 and 3200 ISOs. This means that the marvelous BSI-CMOS EXR sensor in the F550 is punching far above its weight … what a great result. And this does not even try to use binning …

DR …


The S100 finally asserts its larger sensor while the P7100 continues to lay down. Now here is the thing about the EXR technology … it is meant to be used. And it was not used for these tests. So once we’ve processed that tidbit, we realize that there are about two stops of improved dynamic range available by splitting the sensor and capturing the highlights and shadows separately and then blending them. Since all the pixels contribute to the final image, we don’t lose any significant SNR!

All of which means that the F550EXR should beat the S100 and trounced the P7100 when shot using the EXR DR mode (PASM at M size and DR400 does it too.)

Now to tonal range (bit depth.)


Again, the F550 stays with the bigger sensors until 1600 ISO, where it again takes the lead.

Finally to color sensitivity. A very tough order for a tiny sensor at high ISO. And guess what?


Yeah … the drubbing is complete. Wow … almost total domination by the F550EXR and it was not shot in its best mode.

So allow me to bang the drum a little … I have been this camera’s biggest fan and now you all know why. This thing is a serious camera in RAW. It’s manual control works just great. I can shoot almost anything with it and it sees a lot of time on the tripod.

I am looking forward to the X10’s numbers for two reasons:

  1. The sensor is much larger at 2/3”, so the X10 has the potential to spank a lot of cameras in the weight classes above
  2. But … the X10 uses a traditional CMOS arrangement instead of the BSI (backlit) arrangement of the F550 … that may make no difference because of the size of the pixels, but we’ll have to wait and see …

Go Fuji! I hope that the F770EXR is even better. I would love to have the same performance or a little better with a 500mm lens … wow!

Updated article follows:

The X10 definitely punches above its weight in several categories, but not in SNR. The F550 has a BSI CMOS and the X10 does not, and as I speculated in the original article, the F550 is quite close to the X10, only 1/3 stops less noise. Of course, the X10 has the faster lens, so it can shoot at lower ISO, which is where the real wins are and why Fuji did not need to bother with the BSI design one supposes.


The X10 aplits the difference between the 1/2” F550 and the 1” V1 … which is pretty much an expected result, except that the F550 should be further back. it is punching well above its weight class.


Dynamic Range is impressive. The F550 matches its older contemporaries like the G12 and P7100, but the S100 moved ahead as shown in the original article. But that is with the F550 shot without use of hardware DR extension. Here, the X10 matches the V1, which is the next class up, and again without its hardware DR extension engaged. So it will clearly exceed the 1” sensor class and will match or exceed the u4/3” sensors. Impressive indeed.


Tonal range is again following the normal script. The F550 matches the next bigger sensors, but the X10 is a cut above, as it has a larger sensor again and some of the F550’s technology. But the V1 does eek out a victory here.


And finally, like DR, color sensitivity is one of the X10’s great strengths.

So the X10 is a camera to be reckoned with, especially once Fuji have addressed the ORB problem. The F550 remains a real surprise while the X10 is basically meeting its potential … but that should be enough for Fuji to send a scare into the competition.

If you like to shoot RAW … then consider these cameras as serious contenders for your wallet. Even in JPEG they are excellent when compared with their peers, provided you shoot the right settings.

One final word … someone asked on the Fuji forum why the X10 was not tested at 3200 ISO … well, you only have to look at the ISO chart to see that Fuji have again only bothered with analog amplification up to 1600 ISO. That appears to be their shtick with the X series of cameras.


So, as with the X100, the X10 “fakes” all ISOs above 1600, in RAW too. This works well enough for the X100, so one presumes that the simulated 3200 ISO is no problem for the X10. The reason they can get away with this is the extended dynamic range, which of course is predicated on a low noise floor. That also allows them to pull exposures up to simulate the higher ISOs.

Of course, Fuji cameras are complex enough to operate without throwing in yet another weird behavior … but that appears to be the price of shooting Fuji.

For concert cameras, there is simply no better cam than the F550 … and for general purpose short range shooting, the X10 will be the premiere enthusiast camera once the ORB issue has been addressed …