Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fuji S1 versus HS50EXR – Review Part 22 – ISO Ladder in bad light …

This is a direct follow on from part 21, which was the ISO ladder shot in good light. Of course, the ISO ladder never quite materialized on that one … meaning that I ended up posting a massive number of large crops and a large subset of full sized jpegs on my gallery and linking to that area. So while I am at it, here is the link to the start of the bad light images, which is actually a classic ISO ladder image:

The scene is exactly as shown in part 21, but with a much smaller (and rather worn out) warm compact fluorescent bulb. Thus, the light really falls off, and the challenge for the cameras is difficult. See part 21 for an explanation of the methodology, because all I did for the bad light scenario was to change the bulb and then repeat exactly the same process :-)

Again, with apologies for the 25600 ISO brain fart, here is how the setup looked for the bad lighting …

I won’t spend a lot of time on the jpegs this time … frankly, with sensors this small in really bad light, you will get horrid results.

Here are four full-sized jpegs at 3200 ISO.

HS50EXR L Size DR100

The first is L size and it stinks. Terrible issues of smearing and a serious amount of color shift with massive chroma blotching noise. You want to avoid L size when you don’t have a lot of light.

HS50EXR M Size DR400

Next we have the HS50 in M size DR400. And this is the best mode of the HS50EXR as it has always been. But even this mode has really poor saturation in the area of lowest light on the left.

HS50EXR L Size DR100

Next we have EXR SN mode, a mode that is touted to be the best mode for low light owing to its ability to bin pixels. Well, surprisingly, it really does not improve jpeg saturation on the left side at all. But it does smear more of the detail in the beard of the king on the bill on the right side. In fact, looking at the insignia next to his head on the right side and it is very soft and smeared in the EXR SN image while it is quite legible and sharp on the M DR400 image. A very surprising result.


And then we have the S1, which one might expect to suffer even more than the HS50EXR L sized image. After all, it is a smaller sensor. But, the easy victory of the good light scenario plays out again. The image is far from perfect and does have some saturation issue, but no more than the others. What it does do well is detail. Lots of detail and very large, which means we can downsize it to match the excellent M size DR400 image and improve it by quite a bit more. So this is kind of like opening a can of whoopass on the HS50EXR … again.


And for completeness, I include the GM1 3200 ISO image. The saturation and contrast were left very high, as was sharpening -- it is how I shoot normally to help judge sharpness in camera since I never use the jpegs, and I simply forgot to set the jpegs up in a way that would be more conducive to a good comparison. The excessive saturation cranks up the chroma noise (yellow blotching) quite a bit, but otherwise you still get a good sense of the cleanliness of the saturation and the amount of detail that was retained.

So my conclusion is that the S1 easily beats the HS50EXR in very low light in JPEG.

But I prefer to shoot tiny sensors in raw, so let’s start the real comparison. As was the case with the previous comparison, the crops are used to normalize the same area of the image so that we have a fair comparison. Since I have already provided the link to which you can go and peruse the gallery images, let’s just cut to the chase again and drop in the mega image … a true ISO ladder containing every relevant image that I have.

That image is an absolute monster … and what it will show you is that the S1 is again the champion. So the hierarchy of cameras in this “bad light” comparison goes like this (and it applies to both raw and jpeg):

  1. GM1 (duh)
  2. S1
  3. HS50EXR M DR400 (my recommended settings since 2009 and as valid today as ever)
  4. EXR SN
  5. L size