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Friday, 21 December 2007

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We all know (I hope), that bigger pixels are better pixels. But I just cant help but wonder how that 12MP Fuji F50 ISO 1600 image compares to a 6MP F30 ISO 1600 image when downsampled to 6MP... Any takers?

I realize this is a bit off-topic, but I found the Fuji F30 was still weak sauce compared to grocery store film. I purchased one a year ago and ended up returning it. Here's a contrast of two similar scenes, on from the F30 and one from a 36 year old Minolta Hi-Matic.

http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=77291949%40N00&q=chipotle&m=text

At this point, I don't think digital cameras will ever be collectable, regardless of what happens on ebay.

I bought an 'F30 in 2006 as an in-pocket P&S for those occasions when you don't want to lug a dslr and lenses around. As a 'social' camera the F30 is excellent - nailing flash, colour and focus with commendable accuracy.

In the open air and in bright conditions the default out-of-camera results are underwhelming to say the least. The contrast curve and fixed in-camera sharpening seem to have been applied by Fuji with all the subtlety of 16lb sledge hammer. At default settings in bright light, blown highlights and overall high contrast occur with irritating regularity.

Fortunately there are just enough manual overrides to overcome the blown highlights issue and 'most' other things can be fixed with ACR4 which allows a fair few exposure/contrast/colour tweaks to be applied to out-of-camera jpegs to the point of almost profiling the camera. In conjunction with ACR4 the Fuji F30 is a great in-pocket camera. It is well constructed, fast to start-up, great battery life and has ‘enough’ mega pixels.

Now if it also came with raw format and allowed you to apply your own sharpening etc and it in included an optical viewfinder it would certainly move into the category of 'superb'.

It'd be nice to see an F31fd-Classic Edition but my understanding is that Fuji's now sold the sensor onto Toshiba who use it for a security camera device?

The same thing may be happening with the Panasonic LX-1 over the LX-2. The LX-1 (8 mp) seems to be the choice over the LX-2 (10 mp)due to higher dynamic range through larger pixels.

@Mvejerslev:
Someone at dpreview forums just did that:

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1012&message=24705743

I own a F31fd, and am amazed that something I bought didn't crash in value the minute I walked out of the store with it. Amazingly, I also own a Sony R1, a camera whose used prices (as judged by online auctions) is worth about as much today as when I bought it new.

I am savouring this moment, because it's not likely to happen often. I am almost sad that I like both cameras; if I didn't I could cash in. However, this illusory smug satisfaction enabled me to buy a used Oly E-1 for a measly $300, an impulse buy that I would not normally permit myself, being a cheapskate.

I am secretly hoping for a major worldwide F31fd cult to form so I can retire in 5 years when I sell the camera to a Fuji-nut.

You forgot about the Fuji F40fd, which is an 8MP version of the F31. It certainly is not better than the F30 in terms of image quality, but it did use SD cards instead of those xD, which is why I went for it instead. It actually outperforms my Olympus E300 in very low light situations in social settings.

The author has forgot the F11, which was a significant improvement over the F10 in terms of manual controls and ISO quality. I was lucky to purchase one that I still treasure, and then I got a F30 which improves the F11 LCD screen, color balance and controls. I truly believe these are collectors cameras that have made history in digital photography.

I have the F10 and love it as a point and shoot. I recently bought the Canon G9 but actually prefer the Fuji F10. Smaller, faster, similar image quality ( except RAW). Collectible? No. A keeper- Definitely.

Mvejerslev -- the review of the F50 at DPreview does the 6mpix comparison, and concludes that the F30 is better.

I've owned the F20, F30, and F31fd. The latter does seem to apply less noise reduction at higher ISOs, so you get more detail and less of the "watercolor" effect you'll see if you pixel-peep the F20 or F30.

Dresdenboy's link to the comparison on dpreview is very interesting: it looks like more pixels and more noise cancel each other out when you reduce both to 6MP.

Which I suppose is what I'd naively expect: you're effectively binning the new, small, pixels to make big pixels like older sensor had.

If this is right, then all the gnashing of teeth about how good things were in the olden days seems a little misguided. It's just from looking at "100% pixels" which is a different magnification in the two cases.

Has anyone else done a similar test? As far as I can tell that one set the F50 to produce 6mp files in camera, which I would never do in actual use, I'd downsize them as appropriate when exporting from lightroom/aperture. So I'd rather see a comparison where this was done. A comparison of actual prints would be even better, but this is the web, I know.

I own the F30 and i'm very pleased with it. It even survived 6 months of military service in my gas-mask pouch ! Well, i wouldn't be able to sell it but it still works : )

kind regards,

Mike

FYI, AFAIK:

The sensor in the Z5fd is the same type, but smaller than, the sensor in the Fxx family. (1/2.7" vs 1/1.8", respectively, yet w/ same number of pixels.)

The F40fd is considered the sequel to the F20, not the F30, as it is lacking the latter's aperture/shutter priority modes and the larger battery.

Cheers!

I've found the Fuji f-series to be excellent small carry-around
cameras. I have a large number of photos from them, shot at various
ISO's up to 1600, at:

http://www.pbase.com/brandol/fuji_f_series

Another demonstration of the variety of taste: of the two pictures that
Sparkrobot posted, I considerably prefer the Fuji version, certainly at
the posted sizes, with the understanding that I personally regard
technical issues as negligibly important compared to artistic
impression (I never heard the term, nor heard anyone discuss, blown
highlights in the old days. If parts of a photograph were overexposed,
that could be good or bad, and a result of accident or intent).


Burton Randol
http://www.pbase.com/brandol

This is helping me to rationalise my small camera usage, thinking about what's mentioned here and results I've got over the past couple of years it goes like this
- good daylight or a landscape that needs detail, use 35mm film.
- people snaps, flash shots and low light stuff, use my Fuji E550 (has a cropped optical viewfinder and RAW).

Cheers, Robin

To Bruce McL:

The sensor is not the same one as in the F30, as the F30 sensor is 1/1.7 inch whereas the Z5fd sensor is 1/2.5.

Thats not to say the Z5fd does not perform well under low light, as it appears to be satisfactory to you, but the F30 (and the F31 that I own) is in a class of its own, even within fuji cameras.

Great article! This is true, the prices have jumped because they are no longer available. Only the F10 (older), F20 (for beginners), F30, F31, and s6000 (larger) use the same Super CCD (Z5fd does not). I kind of guessed this would happen so I went out and bought about 20 F30s and will sell them when the price jumps even more!

Hi Burton Randol, Nice gallery.

At the small size, my photos don't look that different. But when you zoom in, the purple fringing is out of control on the Fuji F30 shots. I should have sent large files to begin with. These URLs show more detail at full resolution:

Fuji F30 (2.8MB)
http://farm1.static.flickr.com/180/406050285_62536f17b2_o.jpg

Minolta Hi-Matic E with garden variety Kodak Gold 200. (964KB)
http://farm1.static.flickr.com/149/398969440_6f55d8b089_o.jpg

I agree with the consensus the Fuji is fine for casual shots and fits well in a pocket. Also that technical issues can be negligible. I did really like the Fuji colors too, but I didn't find the camera to be worth close to $400 more (with an xD card) than the $15 Minolta and a $3 roll of film.

My point being, if the Fuji F30 were $18 with media (and a 1.7 Rokkor), I would have kept it. More likely, I need to learn to manage my expectations vis-à-vis the performance of digital point and shoots. :)

Cheers!

robert e, Cliff Lee - thanks for correcting me about the Z5fd sensor. I don't know much about Fuji cameras. My experience is with Panasonic (for the wide angle) and some Canon point and shoot cameras. Compared to those cameras I'm impressed by the little Fuji's low light capabilities.

I notice that the newer Z series cameras by Fuji have about one stop less aperture and don't mention Super CCD. So it may be that Fuji has peaked in low light performance in the ultra compact Z series, matching what the article states with the F series.

Dear Mvejerslev & Improbable,

(and wouldn't that make a fine business name!)

Looking at the dpreview comparisons, at ISO 1600 and 3200, image quality is being dominated by the processing engines in the F30 & F50. It's software artifacts uber alles, and I'd agree that it's hard to say one is better than the other.

At ISO 800 and down, though, the F30 has clearly less noise than the binned F50 photos. At least a stop better performance-- the noise in the F50 at ISO 100 is worse than in the F30 at ISO 200, etc.

Simply binning data isn't very effective at reducing noise, because the noise only goes down as the square root of the sample size. You can do better than that with good signal processing algorithms, but if you try to do it in your computer with a simple resampling operation, you'll likely be disappointed with the results.

On sees the same problem scanning film (film grain becomes pixel noise). You can drop the scan resolution to extremely low values by resampling in Photoshop and the grain just doesn't go away-- it gets big and mushy and lower in contrast, but it lingers.

pax / Ctein

I own two of these camera, a Fuji F31fd and an F20. I think they are superb for what they do, and the quality of color they produce is quite special, too. Fuji clearly knows something about color. I bought my F31 in May as a replacement for my old Canon Powershot S45, as it had the best reviews of any P&S I could find at the time I bought it. I bought it from Beach Camera for about $219 at the beginning of May. I was immediately impressed with the image quality, especially at higher ISOs, but like 99.9% of small sensor P&S's that only shoot JPEG, you have to be careful not to blow highlights. I've done some comparisons with the Fujis to my Canon G9, with both cameras shooting available light at ISO 400, and the Fuji simply rips the legs off and mops the floor with the Canon. It is so much cleaner with respect to noise at this modest iS0 setting that it's just ridiculous. I started looking for another F31 in September just to have as a backup, and was dismayed to find that it had been discontinued by Fuji, and was commanding very high prices on the Net, as it had become an instant "cult" camera.

This is a classic example of the fact that more megapixels does not mean more image quality, but in fact, can mean LESS image quality.

Fuji's 6.3 megapixel 6th Generation SuperCCD design really worked in terms of providing improved dynamic range and noise performance, and really nailed the sweet spot between resolution, image quality and noise.

The SuperCCD design was truly brilliant; Fuji figured out the key issues of the physics behind CCD-based photon capture, and came up with a brilliant design to get around the shortcomings, and it *really* worked. I am really wondering lately if the camera mfrs have figured this out yet, they are bumping up against the limits of phyics with these pixel densities on these size sensor. In low available light, the chances of a given pixel capturing photons become a Poisson statistics-driven event, and the shot noise from the gain on the sensor at higher ISO really degrades the image quality. There is no way around these physics-based limitations, ultimately. The only way around this is to go back to larger pixels in the same size sensor (so that the bucket capturing the photons is larger), or increase sensor size the way the Samsung DP-1 has. I really am sorry that they threw in the towel on this superb sensor and fell victim to the megapixel race.

Like many photographers who have owned and shot with these little gems, I'd rather have a clean beautiful 6 megapixel JPEG file than a noisy 12 megapixel RAW file with limited dynamic range any day of the week.

I don't think TOP has covered the Ricoh GRD 2 since it came out - reasonably fast, fixed lens (28mm, though some think that the 4:3 format makes it shoot more like a 35mm), not low-noise but in B&W very nice looking 'grain.'

If you aren't wedded to the low-noise Fujis, the GRD 2 or its zoom cousin the GX100 are fine cameras.

My wife bought a Fuji F31fd. I'm used to Canon A-series digicams myself, and I have to say I find the Fuji a poor second in terms of usability. Lots of minor niggles that irritate the hell out of you if you're used to Canon's smooth UI. Like, why can't you delete an image immediately after shooting? Why does the delete confirmation default to 'Cancel', and why is deletion accompanied by a pointless pixellated effect? Why is all the stuff you want, like WB adjustment, buried under "intuitive" yet non-obvious menu titles? (Answer: because Fuji were aiming the camera at Joe Public, rather than impatient photogs.)

I agree that the low light performance and image quality are good, which I guess is the main thing, but I'd find it too annoying to use daily, having got used to the Canon line.

Unfortunately, Canon too have bought into the megapixel race; I doubt I'd buy their current 12MP models unless someone could demonstrate equivalent quality to the older 6MP ones.

It is sad to see the great sensor of the Fuji FD30/31 disappear! While these Cameras lacked some important other features, like IS,or a more intuitive menu system, they produced absolutely stunning shots under low light. Unfortunately I lost my FD 30 about a Year ago, it got replaced with a Panasonic TZ3, and most recently a CanonG9. The Pana is unusable over 200 ISO, and the G9 is just ok but not great at 400.
Guess a FD 32 with IS, and a few more manual controls, while retaining the great Sensor could sell extremely well. I would rush to buy it, but will stear clear of FD 50.

While the dpreview crowd were wailing about lack of availability and consulting eBay, someone managed to acquire me an F31fd (back in either September or October) from a dry-cleaning outlet in a UK supermarket for around $250. Sometimes it pays to take a trip into the real world...

Sadly, that outlet has moved on to shifting one of the Z series models, the F480 and the S6500fd, but they all have SuperCCD sensors of various kinds. And as others have pointed out, the F40fd is still around, retailing for around $250 in various places as stocks presumably get run down. Even the S8000fd (more or less the superzoom version of the F40fd) is fairly well discounted in the UK.

I guess it pays not to get too fixated on one particular model, although I'm very satisfied with my F31fd so far. ;-)

Corrections to my last comment: the F480 doesn't appear to have a SuperCCD sensor according to some specifications I've seen; the S8000fd doesn't have a SuperCCD sensor, either, so it isn't really related to the F40fd after all. Now I can see why some people are a bit upset...

Worth considering is the Fuji S6000fd which used the sensor of the F31 with a 10x zoom. NOT pocketable, but lighter, tighter and cheaper than an slr. Think you can still find some of these on the web.

I used to sell tons of digital electronics on eBay and a large majority of those sales were digital cameras. And yes, I sold a lot of Fuji's that I received as closeouts, overstocks and returns from the liquidated market. I can certainly say it is true that the values of digital cameras and electronics in general do certainly depreciate in value when the next model comes out but to hear of them going up in value? what? I no longer sell these but it seems like I missed the boat on this! The day that digital electronics go up in value will be the day that a lot of people will become very wealthy reselling them!

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