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White Balance

The F10 offers six white balance presets (sunny, shade, fluorescent 1, fluorescent 2, fluorescent 3 and incandescent) as well as the usual auto white balance and a custom (manual) setting. In everyday shots the auto white balance gave few problems, though low incandescent lighting - as usual - produced a strong orange cast (and even under fluorescent light it wasn't perfect). Our studio tests revealed the auto white balance to be capable, but by no means fool-proof.

Outdoor - Auto WB
Red: -0.1%, Blue: -0.58%
Excellent

Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red: 3.7%, Blue: -5.6%
Average
Incandescent - Auto WB
Red 15.8%, Blue: -19.8%
Poor

Flash Performance

The F10's small built-in flash has a range of around 0.3 to 6.5m (1.0 - 21.3ft) at the wide end of the zoom and around 0.6 to 4.0m (2.0 - 13.1ft) at the long end, which is a lot further than most competitors, thanks to the fact that auto ISO goes a lot higher. In use we had very few problems at all with the flash aside from a slightly sluggish recycle time of around 3.3 seconds per shot. It works well at close distances, and color is also very accurate when shooting with flash.

Skin tone
Excellent color and exposure
Color chart
Excellent color, slight underexposure

Macro Focus

The F10 can focus down to around 24 inches (60cm) in normal mode (at either end of the zoom). The macro mode reduces the minimum focus distance to around 3 inches (7.5cm) at the wide end and a less impressive 12 inches (30cm) at the tele end. It's nice to see that macro mode doesn't produce a huge amount of distortion.

Wide macro - 37 x 28 mm coverage
76 px/mm (1935 px/in)
Distortion: low
Corner softness: low
Equiv. focal length: 36 mm
Tele close focus - 72 x 54 mm coverage
39 px/mm (995 px/in)
Distortion: low
Corner softness: low to average
Equiv. focal length: 108 mm

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

Nothing to complain about here, barrel distortion is very low at 0.6%. At the telephoto end of the zoom there is no measurable distortion at all. We also found no evidence of vignetting.

Barrel distortion - 0.6% at Wide angle
Equiv. focal length: 36 mm
Pincushion distortion - 0.1% at Telephoto
Equiv. focal length: 108 mm

Noise Comparison

Here for visual comparison are six identical shots taken at 50, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600 ISO settings in our studio. As you can see the level of noise doesn't rise noticeably until you hit ISO 800, and even then it is lower than most standard CCD cameras at ISO 400. Even the ISO 1600 setting produces noise that would be considered normal for the ISO 400 setting on many a 5MP standard CCD camera. Note also, that the indicated ISO values seem to be very close to correct (we got exactly the same exposure values from the EOS 10D we use for our product shots).

ISO 80 100% crop ISO 100 100% crop
ISO 200 100% crop ISO 400 100% crop
ISO 800 100% crop ISO 1600 100% crop

Specific image quality issues

Overall impressions of the F10 are very positive indeed - images are sharp, detailed and have excellent color and tonality. Focus is very reliable and exposure almost always spot on, meaning the F10's success rate is very high, with only a very small percentage of shots ruined by camera errors.

There are a few problems - a rather tight dynamic range and relatively high default contrast can lead to problems in scenes with very bright skies and deep shadows - inevitably this leads to some clipping, but it's no worse than most compacts with a small CCD. I would also like to see a less compressed Fine JPEG setting, and some control over sharpening (every now and again you can spot sharpening halos around high contrast areas). There was a slightly washed out appearance to some outdoor shots, here I found dialing in a -0.3 EV compensation helped, as did a tiny tweak of levels and saturation in Photoshop. Finally there is a little purple fringing and the occasional exposure problem, but in general the F10 can handle just about any shooting situation you throw at it.

Very impressive stuff, and proof that Super CCD is finally coming of age and - if you forget the interpolation jiggerypokery used in previous generations - is capable of producing better 'per pixel' resolution with lower noise than a similarly-specified standard CCD. There is still a little of the Super CCD 'look' to the images (with a tiny amount of color bleeding/blurring in very saturated, contrasty scenes), but compared to the interpolated results from cameras such as the FinePix F810 they are very 'photographic'.

Color fringing

Although much better than many recent FinePix models, the F10 still exhibits purple fringing at high contrast boundaries (especially at the wide end of the zoom), though it seems to be limited to areas of quite severe overexposure. In the 800 or so shots taken in this test (admittedly in a rather dismal UK spring) only a handful showed visible fringing.

100% crop 32.5 mm equiv., F2.8
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