Posts Tagged ‘F200EXR’

SMALL SENSOR QUALITY : 2009

SMALL SENSOR QUALITY : 2009

Following my ‘AR’-style post of a few days ago, this is in response to a few requests for the ‘saturated’ version of the image, without the posterisation effect from the DxO FilmPack Polachrome simulation.

One great advantage of small-sensor cameras – whether LX3, F200EXR, CX1 or a swathe of others – is that they always exhibit great depth-of-field, even at their largest aperture :

LX3 : f2 at 24mm equivalent

F200EXR  : f3.3 at 28mm equivalent

CX1 : f3.3 at 28mm equivalent

This makes small-sensor cameras absolutely ideal for shooting subjects like architecture & landscapes, or for maintaining decent depth-of-field in night & low-light shots, where the camera’s maximum aperture is needed to let the light in.

Add to this the huge benefit these days of in-built image stabilisation – whether sensor-shift or optical IS – and the result is a very useful photographic tool that supplements an SLR very well. On some occasions, it’s definitely my preference – usually no need for a tripod – and in 2009, the results can be very impressive.

Certainly a far cry from my first Fuji 0.95 Mp (!) digital clunker that was pretty well only able to produce thumbnails through to 6×4 at a push !

The market is maturing well, and 2009 has seen some excellent & innovative compacts, SLRs that are more highly-specced with better high-ISO capabilities than ever before, and more recently, the new ‘Hybrids’ …Micro Four-Thirds cameras such as Panasonic G1/GH1/GF-1, and of course the Olympus E-P1.

So far, I own several compacts and SLRs ….But why no hybrid (yet)?  

See my next post for why I’m holding off (for now!)

Many small- (and large!-)sensor camera images at http://nickbland.zenfolio.com  and much more information for the camera-inquisitive at http://1001noisycameras.com

COMPACT IMAGE QUALITY

COMPACT IMAGE QUALITY

Despite all of the interesting stuff on the ‘net, I still enjoy reading a magazine – especially one that’s been really well printed onto high-quality paper …and when I say ‘reading’, I suppose I mean looking at and appreciating the photographs. Most people – around 80% of the population – respond much more to an image than to text …so we’re not alone !

When a magazine image is so well-printed that you can almost appreciate the quality of the equipment used to make the image, as well as the photographer’s clear ability, some individuals can be convinced that it’s the gear that made the difference, and invest in new kit accordingly. Known well to the musical fraternity – and also being a musician myself – there’s a syndrome that has many ‘sufferers’ …G.A.S.  That’s Gear Acquisition Syndrome.

It’s as applicable to cameras & associated gear as much as it is new musical instruments, amps etc, and it’s all too easy to be drawn in. And it’s not as if I’m immune, it has to be said.

But that’s sometimes what can make things really interesting. If you read the previous post, re Hasselblad H3D/Leaf, Sinar & PhaseOne backs etc, and their place in the commercial photography world, you’ll know that I see it as a challenge. Yes, I have a D3 – one of the finest cameras on the planet – that’s usually to be seen connected to a Nikon ED24-70 f2.8 lens – one of the finest lenses on the planet ….but as a combo, not always the most convenient to cart around. And they’re in for lens repair and calibration at the moment.

My F200EXR is these days pretty well always with me. There’s no RAW file capability, no off-camera flash facility (although it could be ‘slaved’) …it’s little more than ‘point & shoot’. But the quality levels being achieved these days in compact cameras mean that its uses go way beyond taking ‘snaps’. 

Careful setup & usage – and image processing – can result in some great image quality that would have been strictly SLR material in the not-too-distant past. But that’s all changed. I’ll be going into some detail in future posts about achieving ultimate quality from a compact – some readers (of the 82,000 so far) have asked for an e-book, which I may well consider if there’s enough demand. Let me know if that might be useful to you.

The image above is another of my ‘personal challenges’ – visualising what I’d aim for if I had the D3/24-70/tripod with me, and all the time in the World for careful set-up, composition, processing etc ….all the things that happen at the start of the process in the commercial photography domain – and how I could achieve not dissimilar results from one of the very best compacts around – could be with the LX3, or in this case, the Fujifilm F200EXR ‘pocket rocket’.

Job done.

Much more on Fujifilm’s F200EXR (and F100fd/F30), Panasonic LX3, Ricoh CX1, Nikon D3 & D200 at http://nickbland.zenfolio.com.

F200EXR DOES 'AR' STYLE

F200EXR DOES 'AR' STYLE

It’s a well-known fact that images appearing in The Architectural Review – the must-read UK mag for architects – are often captured on absolutely the highest-quality imaging devices known to man : Hasselblad H3D (soon H4D), H prime lenses, Sinar, Leaf and PhaseOne digital backs of 30Mp and upwards, Nikon D3X, Canon 1Ds III ….the best available. This is of course the norm for much commercial work these days, and art directors & image editors insist on a certain level of quality.

Why ? Especially when they’re not going to be printed at poster-size ? Well, the consideration is that the capture of the finest detail is paramount, alongside excellent colour rendition and overall white balance, use of  specialist  ’tilt&shift’  (ie PC-) lenses etc.

I challenged myself to see what I could achieve with the F200EXR, in particular aiming to replicate fairly high-res (ok, not 40/50Mp !) files, with a definite ‘AR’ look. I’m happy with the results, one of which is above.

How did I get it to look this way ? 

1/ Normal file processing in Capture NX ….levels, sharpening, saturation – the usual

2/ Correction in Photoshop to lose the converging verticals …didn’t have a crane handy when I made the image

3/ DxO Labs FilmPack …Polaroid Polachrome Colour Positive setting, with a few tweaks

High-end Medium Format Digital back & lenses/pro retouching etc etc  £40K …. versus F200EXR  : £249

Don’t get me wrong here – the Hasselblad H3D  that I’ve experienced is capable of capturing absolutely unbelievable detail – sometimes too much !  Hardly the same, but I think the F200EXR rose to the challenge on this occasion.

As usual, much more at http://nickbland.zenfolio.com

LONDON COLOUR : AUTUMN IN REGENT'S PARK

LONDON COLOUR : AUTUMN IN REGENT'S PARK

And here’s the colour version – shot on the F200EXR’s ‘Standard’ (Provia) film mode – that I’m pleased with, especially considering that I’ve not yet updated the firmware ….which apparently lends some warmth to the Auto White Balance rendering.

Much more at http://nickbland.zenfolio.com ….images from F200EXR/LX3/CX1/D200/D3 …you get the idea

DOES IT WORK ?

DOES IT WORK ?

(Macro image from Ricoh CX1)

Prompted to post this, following several recent e-mails from readers of my (various!) blogs …. hope this answers some questions for you : 

The LX3 is acknowledged as one of the very best compacts out there, and enjoys a huge fan base, which has perhaps grown further lately as some potential buyers – swayed by the announcement of the Olympus E-P1, Panasonic GF-1, Ricoh GRDIII (and CX2), and Leica X-1 – have more recently decided that this fixed-lens model, producing consistently great-quality images, has to be considered a relative bargain at around £350 …and have bought-up all available free stock. Pretty well globally.

But whilst the LX3 undoubtedly has a huge, die-hard fanbase, there have been a couple of other contenders for buyers’ cash …notably the Ricoh CX1 and Fujifilm’s F200EXR.  Both have proven extremely popular.

For those interested in all of the (potentially boring) technical differences between these three ‘pocket rockets’ – you’ll need to look elsewhere. Life’s too short. But if it’s real-world usability and satisfaction rating you’re more interested in, you’re at the right place. No waffle, here’s how it goes :

 

1/ LX3 : Excellent in very many respects:

  • Stunning lens (of course), starting at 24mm f2 …but ends at 60mm (equiv).
  • White balance dramatically better than it once was – I feel there’s still a little room for improvement. Reds are still oversaturated, even when cooled-off. If you like Canon colour, you’ll like LX3.
  • BW – in ‘Dynamic’ form …very film-like, fantastic high-contrast, highly-detailed results.
  • Multi-film mode – three separate, consecutive images
  • Multi-Aspect mode : very useful. 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9 options
  • Superb Mega O.I.S
  • Slightly ‘hollow’ feel to chassis
  • RAW files – very detailed, but need to use (time-consuming) SilkyPix software to extract quality
  • Separate lens-cap
  • Almost pocketable (!)
  • User interface – a bit fiddly, but ok

 

2/ Ricoh CX1 : vastly underrated

  • Some say it’s a far cry from ‘GRD output’ – I disagree (unless you want to pixel-peep… but why would you?)
  • White balance – superb. Multi-awb is a useful extra. Great colour rendition, and fantastic ‘Outdoor’ setting
  • Electronic level …excellent, should be standard on all cameras 
  • Very flexible 7x zoom focal range – 28-200mm(equiv), capturing images that the LX3 is simply incapable of
  • Image stabilisation very effective – and this camera is capable of surprisingly good low-light images
  • Rapid response …focus, image display, scrolling, changing options ….CMOS etc means very fast all ’round
  • Reliable exposures, and wide dynamic range (without the inhibiting DR Double-Shot mode)
  • As advertised, not prone to sky ‘whiteout’  …more useful and more impressive than I expected
  • Multi-film (Colour, BW, sepia) works brilliantly – exactly same image processed three ways
  • Multi-Aspect – but only one at a time : 4:3, 3:2, 1:1  (needs addition of 16:9!)
  • Stunning 920k screen – looks like the image you download and view on pc screen
  • Amazing 1cm macro capability
  • User interface – as good as it gets – intuitive, fast, logical, reliable
  • Great build quality exceeds all other compacts I’ve ever used
  • Very recently superceded by the new CX2,  with even greater 28-300mm(equiv) focal range

 

3/ Fujifilm F200EXR : useful award-winner

  • EXR sensor promises much, delivers some (sometimes)
  • Sensor option (three in total) has to be manually selected for best results
  • Some strange metering/exposure reactions, so inconsistent results …even in fairly ‘normal’ shooting conditions
  • Irritating real-world aspect : the high-contrast (but fairly lo-res) screen makes you wonder what you’ve captured … or not
  • Images often – but not always – look far better on computer display, once downloaded (thank heavens !)
  • Multi-Aspect modes : can select one at a time from 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9
  • 5x zoom range : 28-140mm (equiv) …again, captures some images that LX3 just can’t
  • Image stabilisation ok, but definitely not as effective as CX1’s
  • Some blackout after image capture, as if processor working really hard
  • Feels ‘lightweight’ and small in the hand, compared with bulletproof CX1 build and solid feel 
  • 12MP files (jpeg only) are very detailed …although images not quite as responsive to processing as CX1 jpegs, in my experience
  • New F70EXR has wider focal range, and is less expensive – but its sensor is more highly pixel-packed
  • Overall – great camera, hoped for more than it has delivered (so far, at least)

 

Hope this helps you draw your own conclusions on usability for your own needs – because that’s all that really matters.

Without doubt, all three are very high-quality cameras, and all are capable of great results much of the time, even under very difficult conditions.

Images in separate galleries from all three models at http://nickbland.zenfolio.com – enjoy !