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Noise cont...

Low contrast detail

What the crops and graph don't show is the effect of noise reduction on low contrast fine detail such as hair, fur or foliage. An inevitable side effect of noise removal is that this kind of detail is also blurred or smeared, resulting in a loss of 'texture'. In this test the crops below show the effect of the noise reduction on such texture (hair) as you move up the ISO range. Here we see how the camera performs in terms of retaining fine detail in both 12 and 6 megapixel modes.

12mp mode

100% Crops
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200
 
ISO 6400 ISO 12800  

Even at base ISO there are patches of the image with no fine detail and where any edges have been smudged together. Inevitably this gets worse as the sensitivity rises, though it's not significantly worse at ISO 400 than it is at 100. At ISO 800 the effects of noise reduction are all too easy to see, with all but the most prominent detail disappearing into a slightly muddy mess. Beyond that point there's more noise than detail, so it's not worth looking too closely.

6mp SN mode

100% Crops
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
 
ISO 800 ISO 1600  

ISO 100 in SN mode if anything does a better job of rendering fine texture, despite the lower resolution. This fine detail is progressively, though not terribly, reduced as the ISO rises and again it's not until ISO 800 that the loss of distinction becomes really noticeable.

The ISO 800 result reasonable enough though there's little subtlety remaining and ISO 1600 is as bad as ISO 800 was in full resolution mode (not pretty but entirely acceptable, given that 1SO 1600 from a small sensor is a lot to ask).

Image stabilization

Fujifilm labeled the image stabilization in the F200 EXR 'Dual IS'. 'Dual' because the camera uses not only its new CCD-shift system when shutter times get too long but also pushes up ISO and tries to find the best balance between the two measures. In our image stabilization lab test we lock ISO and exposure times and thus isolate the effect of the CCD-shift mechanism. You can chose between two different IS modes in the menu: Continuous (IS on all the time) and 'Shooting only' (stabilization is only activated when the button is half-pressed to lock exposure). Continuous mode in theory makes framing easier - the system steadies the preview image - but obviously uses more battery power (it's on all the time).

The stabilization test

In this simplified version of our SLR IS test, ten hand-held shots were taken of a static scene with the stabilization off and on. The shutter speed was decreased for each shot (from 1/125 sec to 1/2 sec). The zoom was set to its maximum position (105mm equiv.), the test target was 2.0 m away from the camera. The test was repeated 3 times and an average taken.

The resulting images were then inspected and given a blur score - 'Sharp' (no visible blurring at 100%), 'Mild Blur' (the kind of camera shake that is tolerable at small print sizes) and 'Heavy Blur' (virtually unusable due to camera shake) and 'Very Heavy Blur' (little discernible detail).

Hand-held, no stabilization (140mm equiv.)

As you can see from the chart below only you can only be sure of getting sharp shots at shutter speeds of 1/125th of a second or faster.

Hand-held, stabilization on (140mm equiv.)

As we've seen with Fujifilms before, the image stabilization is not hugely effective. Our tests suggest you'll only see an improvement of around one stop. Even so, it's a feature worth having because that one stop of stabilisation can allow you to keep ISO settings that bit lower, so long as your subject isn't moving too fast.

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