Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fuji X10 versus Fuji F550EXR – Battle of 3200 ISO

During my test of the Fuji X10, I performed a simple test of the X10 versus the F550 at 3200 ISO in a room with only filtered daylight coming in. I can’t find this test in my review posts so I suspect that I ignored it and did a full ISO ladder instead.

I was exploring the X10 archives for shots to process and when I saw these I wondered how ACR7 and CS6 would handle them. And I was pleasantly surprised as both came out very well for their relative sensor size.

The processing is very similar between these two, yet their color and tone response is dramatically different. I cannot really account for it, but perhaps the light was at differing levels when I shot the test. It happens now and again. Or the sensors have dramatically differing responses to light and color, and that would not surprise me since Fuji developed a new front-side illuminated EXR CMOS sensor for the X10 when it already had some pretty good back side illuminated technology in the F550 line.

Anyway, here is an animated version of the test image.

And here are some animated crops from the middle with the F550’s image downsized to match the size of the X10’s image:

So what do we see? At 100%, both are a little crunchy looking in shadow, but the X10’s larger sensor is clearly superior at retaining details, especially in shadow. I find that the F550 is still pretty decent for a 1/2” sensor, though, and I regularly publish images shot at 3200 ISO on my blog. Most of the time, the images look like any other image.

What really strikes me is how much brighter the shadows are for the X10 image. I really have no idea how that happened, as mentioned above. But one thing I note is that the deeper shadows on the F550 image cause the F550 to render a more three dimensional image. In other words, you get the sense of dimension form looking at the image, where the brighter X10 image has flatter tones and does not radiate three dimensions at all.

So clarity is not everything. At web sizes, these cameras are not as far apart as you might think, and it is clear that the lighting (or the camera’s response to the light) is probably the most important factor in how the image is perceived.

For all its weaknesses at super high ISO, I actually prefer the F550 image here. The tonality and dimensionality easily win it for me. I also like the stronger sense of contrast between the red and yellow.