Sunday, January 1, 2012

Fuji X10 – Review Part 11 – Macro Performance

Macro … not close up. Flowers are close up shots. Any dSLR with a kit lens can shoot those just as well, so when people continue to tout the macro capability of small sensor cameras as a major selling feature, but then post reams of close up shots, I shake my head. Unfortunately, “macro” is short for macrography, which means to view an object with the unaided eye. Micrography, by contrast, includes the use of the microscope or equivalent form of magnification.

Nikon is the only manufacturer to call their macro lenses “micro” … which is probably more correct, but is certainly swimming against the current of all the others. Still, you know what you are buying when you get a macro or micro lens … magnification.

So how close can we get with the X10? Well … around a centimeter it appears. In both of the following images, the lens was slightly angled and the edge was literally touching the subject. But first, a few other observations.

  • The lens is not really a macro lens. It shows some CA around edges of blow out, and blow out is far too easy to do with this sensor at DR100, which is where you have to shoot to get ISO 100.
  • The grain pattern is clumpy. This is just like all EXR cameras, indicating that Fuji have not managed anything special with this camera.

This crop at 400% demonstrates both quite well. At this magnification, it is plainly visible, but luckily it is not very obvious at normal sizes. Still, watch out and protect your highlights, as CA is a fact of this lens’s life … the second image shows that quite clearly …


Let’s compare the X10 to the F550. The F550 does not have the highest optical magnification in the family, the F300 easily takes that crown, but the F550 has extra digital magnification and I think it performs admirably as magnification rises.

It has some of the same issues with the CA, but is more subdued about it.


This is something I have begun to note … the X10 should be stomping the F550 all the time, yet it is always closer than I think it should be. A theory … if you don’t mind:

It recently came to light in one of Fuji’s “X” series articles that the X10 has a traditional front-lit CMOS sensor as the base for its EXR technology, instead of the back-lit CMOS of the F550 and HS20. This is peculiar, as front lit is known to be less efficient than back-lit for the simple reason that the front is where all the wires and electronics are situated, and these manage to waste a lot of light gathering space. Back lit has a light gathering advantage, which is why all manufacturers quickly moved there for tiny sensor cameras. Could it be that the sensor surface area based advantage of one stop for the X10 over the F550 is simply not realized because of the choice of technologies?

I think anyone would say that this is pretty nice … but the lens is even worse than the X10’s lens. Near the right side the CA is rampant. Macro is special though, as the lens is really pushing it to get in focus.

I actually prefer this shot over the X10’s rendition. Strange … the light angle must have been slightly more favorable I suppose, but the X10 wants to blow highlights even more aggressively than the F550 at DR100 in RAW …

And now let’s look at what macro shooting was meant to be … this is the D7000 with Sigma 105mm f/2.8 Macro set at 1:1 magnification, and augmented with the Canon 500D achromatic close up filter. We risk CA here for more magnification. I set the D7000 to f/16, which puts it into diffraction territory, but with these magnifications, we can ignore the issue.

Note that I set manual focus and 1:1 as mentioned above, which means that all focusing took place with the focus rail. The camera was moved back and forth until I had perfect focus on my target. At f/16, precision is not required. but I got it really close before shooting. I used a remote infrared release for the D7000, which works with mirror up to guarantee perfect sharpness on a sturdy tripod. I did not use a sturdy tripod, but it was acceptable.

Yup … real macro is still considerably closer. But to be fair, this is a more expensive setup. Still, the D70s, this lens, and this filter could be had on the used market for about the price of an X10 … the X10’s other charms are why people buy them.


The X10 is good at macro ranges. You can get really close and it should be good for those hornet shots this summer. The X10 will shoot flowers very well I am quite sure.

As always, I suspect that you will want to shoot the X10 at DR400 as often as possible, as you want to avoid those micro over exposures that stimulate excess CA. This goes double for the F550 near the edges. But in the middle of the images, I kind of like the F550 as well. Both cameras shoot macro quite well.

But if you are serious about macro … get yourself a serious macro kit.