Comparing the F11 to a DSLR

Started Feb 3, 2006 | Discussions
philzucker
philzucker Veteran Member • Posts: 9,930
Comparing the F11 to a DSLR

Okay, let's compare apples with oranges

I was very curious how my new F11 compared to my DSLR, a Pentax Ds. Does the F11 really deliver "DSLR like" picture quality as sometimes is said? Well, I wanted to find out.

For this I made a rather unscientific test. I just tried to make approx. the same pics with the F11 and with my Pentax Ds at the same focal length. And I concentrated on brightly lit subjects to photograph, so that the cameras in their respective "P" mode could choose their lowest ISOs, an aperture one or two stops closed to assure best possible sharpness and a shutter speed high enough to avoid blurring due to handshake (all above 1/250). And to make the testing conditions not too difficult for the F11 for a first run I only compared the F11's performance at wide angle and a "normal" focal length - 36 and 50mm in film terms.

WB and exposure accuracy was not topic of this "test", nothing but sharpness and resolution under good light conditions was.

Since I didn't want to do a fair comparison but one of highest possible quality I used best quality settings with both cams - with the F11 that was fine mode (highest quality JPG), with the Ds RAW in conjunction with ACR 3.3 development. The Ds pics are sharpened by the default settings in ACR 3.3. (which is not much ...), the F11 jpgs sharpened by the default settings in camera (stronger sharpening).

Okay, let's start with this scene:

On the left we have the F11 at approx. 10mm - on the right the Pentax Ds with the FA35/2.0, a high quality 35mm prime lens. Both focal lengths equal approx. 50mm in standard (35mm equiv.) terms. We see on top the whole scene, below that a 200% enlargement of the upper left of the pics, followed by two 100% crops of the right part of the picture - windows of a building and the back of a car.

The 200% enlargment of the upper left shows that the chromatic aberrations are pretty prominent in the F11 - but only if enlarged. Compare it with the back of the car on the lower right at 100%: it shows - if one looks closely - also more CA in the F11 pic compared to the Ds one, but it's not really that visible at 100%. Overall sharpness and resolution of the F11 is very good here, and it rivals that of the Ds pics - which are, to remind you, sharpened much less.

The next pair are two 100% crops of approx. the same scene, taken out of the middle of the pictures. This time they were taken at maxium wide angle with the F11 (left side) and on th Ds side (right) with a DA16-45 (high quality wide angle zoom lens) at 24mm, both giving approx. the same focal length of about 36mm in 35mm-film terms. He were have some sharpening halos visible in the F11 pics if you look closely at the tram wires against the sky and some minor CA if you look at the print of the tram station's sign. Again the resolution of the the F11 is very good:

Now again a comparison at approx. 50mm "normal" focal length, that means around 10mm with the F11 and a 35mm prime with the Pentax - but this time in portrait orientation. The whole pic on top, the upper left corner at 100% below, the lower right corner at 100% in the last row. As usual you see the F11 on the left, the Ds on the right:

The upper left corner shows some unsharpness in the F11 pic due to CA that is rather noticeable here - but the lower right shows with the branches visibles there that it really is not that bad. Due to the stronger in camera sharpening the lower right corner F11 pic looks even sharper then the Pentax one.

As a last comparison again the F11 at wide angle (on the left) against the Ds with DA16-45 at 24mm (on the right) and with a central 100% crop. This crop lends itself very well to the in camera sharpening of the F11, so we have a very favorable comparison for the F11 here (but again be reminded that the RAW pic of the Pentax is designed for further PP work including sharpening):

All in all I was quite satisfied with the results of that comparison - IMO the F11 shows good quality, edge to edge sharpness and high resolution in bright light conditions and at low ISOs - using normal to wide focal lengths. CA is a problem, but then again at normal enlargement sizes not. Again I'd like to stress that I didn't do a scientific test - I just wanted to know if the F11 would be a usable carry around companion that can produce good enough pics that can be paired with those made with my DSLR.

One last thought: It really would be very nice to have a RAW mode in a F12 or so - the JPGs artifacts created don't show up in 100% crops, but if you do some pixel peeping you see how much smoother and better suited for PP work an uncompressed RAW version is - look at the last row of this comparison, again the F11 on the left, the Pentax on the right - it shows 300% enlargemnents:

Everybody is of course invited to draw his own conclusions from this unscientific comparison.

If I find the time I'll make follow up tests concentrating on 1) longer focal lengths with the F11 and 2) ISO 800 and 1600 pics.

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Phil

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RMH Contributing Member • Posts: 570
Re: Comparing the F11 to a DSLR

I think there is very little difference in terms of final image qality, certainly when you print the images. Thereby the F11 is much more compact and more overall value for less money. One of the reasons i sold my S3 pro

philzucker
OP philzucker Veteran Member • Posts: 9,930
Re: Comparing the F11 to a DSLR

RMH wrote:

I think there is very little difference in terms of final image
qality, certainly when you print the images. Thereby the F11 is
much more compact and more overall value for less money. One of the
reasons i sold my S3 pro

Thanks for your comment!

One thing though: I'd be rather cautious with general conclusions here. I compared the two cams in a way they can be compared sensibly - non-action pictures in good light conditions. I'm impressed by the quality the F11 images show, but I'd never dream to substitute my DSLRs system by a F11. It's really oranges and apples - a DSLR system has a versatility, response and viewfinder quality that just can't be rivaled by a P&S - it's just a totally different horse. Both cameras have very good value for money in their respective class and functionality.

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Phil

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Paul De Bra
Paul De Bra Forum Pro • Posts: 12,887
The F11 can "do" even better.

CA is something you can at least partially correct for in post-processing. (Not quite as perfect as in RAW, but better than not correcting it.)

In PS you can use the filter-> distort-> lens correction filter to shift yellow/blue and red/green channels. This helps a lot. And if after this correction there is still some purple fringing left (probably the case in your first image) you can use the free PFree filter to get rid of that.

My personal experience (with F11 and Canon 300D) is that the F11 comes so close that I now use my 300D only for "important" occasions (like a concert or wedding) but that I can use the F11 for almost everything else. I simply carry it with me at all times (which I could never do with the dslr).

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RMH Contributing Member • Posts: 570
Re: Comparing the F11 to a DSLR

yes true... but if you take a lot of daylight pictures at ISO 80 the F11 is more handy. No need to carry a bag of lenses with you. DSLR's shine however in lower noise and better overall performance

philzucker
OP philzucker Veteran Member • Posts: 9,930
Re: The F11 can

Paul De Bra wrote:

CA is something you can at least partially correct for in
post-processing. (Not quite as perfect as in RAW, but better than
not correcting it.)
In PS you can use the filter-> distort-> lens correction filter to
shift yellow/blue and red/green channels. This helps a lot. And if
after this correction there is still some purple fringing left
(probably the case in your first image) you can use the free PFree
filter to get rid of that.

Agreed. I had an Olympus C5050 (the F11 substituted that in favor of portability) that also displayed CA problems at wide angle, considerably worse than that of the F11 BTW. Before discovering RAW I was pretty successful with methods comparable to that what you suggest - but to tell the truth sharpness does suffer a bit compared to a correction on RAW data. I looked at that closely - and with the 5050 found that JPG artifacts in the blue channel that were not identical to those in the other channels were the culprit here. But as I said the CA at 100% is not that bad with the F11 anyway. I think in normal use I won't feel tempted to do anything about it. Only if I had a quite big print to make or wanted to present an enlarged crop I'd feel the necessity to invest some PP work.

My personal experience (with F11 and Canon 300D) is that the F11
comes so close that I now use my 300D only for "important"
occasions (like a concert or wedding) but that I can use the F11
for almost everything else. I simply carry it with me at all times
(which I could never do with the dslr).

Interesting to hear! I can list several occasions that right now I wouldn't try to shoot with my F11 - for example low light action shooting (e.g. a ballet class), serious macro work, portrait work (just need better bokeh than a small sensor cam can provide), sports (need a bright tele here), serious flash use (including bounced flash, diffused flash, flash seperated from the camera), architecture (often need more wide angle esp. indoors). All this is easier done with a DSLR.

That said I bought the F11 exactly out of the same reasons you describe - to have it with me all the time. I simply can't do that with a DSLR. And if I get good quality in a lot of not so challenging situations (compared to those described above) I'm a very satisfied person with my F11. This combination of size and quality rocks!

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Phil

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Kim Letkeman
Kim Letkeman Forum Pro • Posts: 33,444
But most people shoot jpeg, even with dSLR

I've read numerous review sites etc where the comment is made that most dSLR users use jpeg because the RAW work flow is so onerous. The files are huge, the cameras are relatively slow to write (compared with jpeg) and the post processing takes much longer. You need an amazing amount of disk space and a library full of back ups to do it right.

In other words, for the typical user of either cam ... jpeg is still king. And as close as this test was with jpeg versus RAW ... it's much closer with jpeg versus jpeg, especially against a Pentax, which the reviewers often feel has somewhat over-processed jpeg.

So if you plan to do more rounds of testing, it would be much more interesting (fair does not enter into this since it is so unscientific) to add a dSLR jpeg set and show the three together.
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Kim Letkeman
Kim Letkeman Forum Pro • Posts: 33,444
Re: The F11 can "do" even better.

Paul De Bra wrote:

CA is something you can at least partially correct for in
post-processing. (Not quite as perfect as in RAW, but better than
not correcting it.)

I've found that CA, when it gets bad (both sides of the branch in different colors for example) is impossible to correct using the lense correction filters in CS2. When you dial far enough to correct one of the colors, the other is worse, and so on.

But ... removing it with clever software is another thing entirely. I've removed CA completely, both colors and all the coronas (e.g. around lights in night shots) with the Shay Stephens CA removal tool. It takes a minute or so, but that's probably nothing compared with a full RAW work flow anyway.

So ... CA correction in jpeg is painful ... but CA removal in jpeg is simple and very effective in my opinion.

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Schummy Regular Member • Posts: 373
Re: Comparing the F11 to a DSLR

Hi,

i downloaded nearly all the pics made with F11 from this forum, but my maxtor hard disk, few days before decided to go to another life :-(...
can u help me to find some thread where there r good f11 pics?

many thanks to all

Alessandro (Roma)

Kim Letkeman
Kim Letkeman Forum Pro • Posts: 33,444
Versatile ... but limited

Your summary is excellent. The F11 is very versatile for a small compact camera ... blows all the others away in my opinion. Easy to wear at your side all day every day (I have for almost 2 months now.)

But a dSLR can do so much more and get even better image quality. It requires a larger investment in cash, time and effort, but when it is needed, there is no substitute. (Even expensive bridge cameras are quite limited when compared with the cheapest dSLR ...)

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Kim Letkeman
Kim Letkeman Forum Pro • Posts: 33,444
Re: Comparing the F11 to a DSLR

Schummy wrote:

Hi,

i downloaded nearly all the pics made with F11 from this forum, but
my maxtor hard disk, few days before decided to go to another life
:-(...
can u help me to find some thread where there r good f11 pics?

many thanks to all

Do you want unprocessed, or processed?

For unprocessed ... look at the sample shots for the F10 on this site and on Steve's Digicams.

For lightly processed, look Hugo Poon's blog ... he has used the F10 and the F11 ... you'll be amazed: http://hugopoon.blogspot.com/

For heavily processed F11 shots ... look in my gallery, linked below. (Whether they are good or not is in the eye of the beholder, frankly.)
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philzucker
OP philzucker Veteran Member • Posts: 9,930
Re: But most people shoot jpeg, even with dSLR

Kim Letkeman wrote:

I've read numerous review sites etc where the comment is made that
most dSLR users use jpeg because the RAW work flow is so onerous.
The files are huge, the cameras are relatively slow to write
(compared with jpeg) and the post processing takes much longer. You
need an amazing amount of disk space and a library full of back ups
to do it right.

I wouldn't dream to encourage anyone to switch to RAW. But for me it has been sort of like developing your own b/w pics in the analog world of film: once you have done it there is no turning back to the mass laboratory - the possibilities you have doing it yourself are just too huge.

The files are also huge as your correctly point out; but post processing has become very straightforward and fast for me since sensible batch processing was introduced with PS CS2 and ACR 3.x - and buffering is not the problem with most DSLRs; my Pentax writes the files in the background as I click away, and I am only reminded that I shoot RAW if I take multiple high speed series of pics.

Even with my C5050 from a point I used almost exclusively RAW - and that one took more then 5 seconds to write a single RAW pic ... the advantages simply were there (for me!). Searching for a P&S recently I almost favored the E550 over the F11, because the E550 has RAW - my need for better portability was what me made choose the F11 finally.

In other words, for the typical user of either cam ... jpeg is
still king. And as close as this test was with jpeg versus RAW ...
it's much closer with jpeg versus jpeg, especially against a
Pentax, which the reviewers often feel has somewhat over-processed
jpeg.

Hmm, IMO it's hard to define a typical user of any cam. I know lot's of photographers that like me use RAW whenever possible. On the other hand I don't know if the typical user of the F11 really prefers "fine" mode? So I just compared the highest possible quality settings of both cams introducing the least possible amount of artifacts.

The Pentax *ist Ds has somewhat underprocessed JPGs with it's default settings BTW - so the finding of Phil in the Ds review on this site here. He found it ideally suited to PP work, but less contrasty and sharp appearing like e.g. the Canon 350D in comparison. AFAIK Pentax reacted by putting more aggressive default sharpening in the Ds' "little brother", the *ist DL. A good example for what a JPG engine has an influence on pics taken with identical sensors and optics.

So if you plan to do more rounds of testing, it would be much more
interesting (fair does not enter into this since it is so
unscientific) to add a dSLR jpeg set and show the three together.

Of course I'm quite willing to do so for you Not much work shooting an extra JPG with the Ds. Will keep it in mind when I do a ISO 1600 comparsions.

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Phil

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Clara Lisson Senior Member • Posts: 1,169
Re: Versatile ... but limited

Reflecting on the innovations in photography hardware, I think that the digital approach has liberated non-pro photo creators from the dSLR domain since the coming of a variety of cameras that simply did not exist in the film system. For instance, you could not find large zoom film cameras aside of reflex cameras, but in digital you have the Lumix and other brands offering excellent large zoom cameras. This kind of cameras are able to cover most outdoor (bright light) conditions, also they can cover macro and non-studio portrait photography. Second instance, the new phenomena of decent high ISO portability, inaugurated by Fuji (soon to be followed by other brands). So, reflex is progressively ruling in less areas; areas like high quality high ISO or super fast shooting photography (continuous shooting). Considering all things, I think that many photo enthusiasts are increasingly buying more than one non-reflex digital cameras to cover more situations, instead of buying a dSLR and a handful of lenses. Not only because the first option is cheaper, but also because is more practical for the amateur photographer. Besides all said above, Sony and Epson have introduced large sensor non-reflex digital cameras that indicate that high quality high ISO will soon be no more the exclusive of dSLRs.
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Unda Covalava Veteran Member • Posts: 7,154
Re: Comparing the F11 to a DSLR

Very interesting. Thanks for posting.

Hellashot Veteran Member • Posts: 7,234
Focusing...

There are serious advantages to an SLR. dP&S cameras have such tiny sensors that require tiny lenses that require tiny appetures which gives such little control over DOF.

Plus focusing is always an issue with dP&S because for the most part you have little control over what exactly you are focusing on - unlike an AF dSLR.

When the focusing is on the F10/F11 gives great results - more close up shots of people and macros than landscape.

psyther Regular Member • Posts: 254
Re: Comparing the F11 to a DSLR

Interesting comparison. For those who are not professionals and do not use dSLRs (and probably never want to!), these shots clearly show the value of the F11. I don't own one, but they certainly are great little machines.

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Shomari
Shomari Contributing Member • Posts: 620
Re: Comparing the F11 to a DSLR

Great Work. As I have indicatd in another forum, I have been equally impressed by this little camera's images and ease of use. I own several DSLR's but I am using this one for quick scene captures when I run, hike or walk. It's definitely the perfect companion for me. So far I have been able to bring home several dead on shots which I've been happy to enlarge and display. Again thanks for your comparisons and sharing.

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Bernie Ess Veteran Member • Posts: 7,150
One can only hope...

that Fuji has decided to use that sensor further and announces a better camera body with the same sensor that seems to be the best available small sensor. The S9000 series sensor seems inferior to this one.

regards
Bernie

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Clara Lisson Senior Member • Posts: 1,169
Re: Focusing...

Large sensor camera does not need to be a reflex. See Sony and Epson.
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philzucker
OP philzucker Veteran Member • Posts: 9,930
Re: Versatile ... but limited

Hi, Clara!

Clara Lisson wrote:

Reflecting on the innovations in photography hardware, I think that
the digital approach has liberated non-pro photo creators from the
dSLR domain since the coming of a variety of cameras that simply
did not exist in the film system. For instance, you could not find
large zoom film cameras aside of reflex cameras, but in digital you
have the Lumix and other brands offering excellent large zoom
cameras.

As far as the zooms are concerned that's true - the smaller sensor of digital cameras allowed for zooms with a larger range and reasonable size.

This kind of cameras are able to cover most outdoor
(bright light) conditions, also they can cover macro and non-studio
portrait photography. Second instance, the new phenomena of decent
high ISO portability, inaugurated by Fuji (soon to be followed by
other brands).

Equally true! :-))

So, reflex is progressively ruling in less areas;
areas like high quality high ISO or super fast shooting photography
(continuous shooting). Considering all things, I think that many
photo enthusiasts are increasingly buying more than one non-reflex
digital cameras to cover more situations, instead of buying a dSLR
and a handful of lenses. Not only because the first option is
cheaper, but also because is more practical for the amateur
photographer.

Hmm, here we have different opinions. The main point of reflex cams IMO is the optical viewfinder, not continuous shooting. I have yet to see a electronic view finder capable of rendering a clear, bright, undisturbed and instant view of the scene I'm looking at. And in my experience specialized lenses - e.g. macro, bright teles, primes - actually have an edge over zooms fixed to a camera ...

Besides all said above, Sony and Epson have
introduced large sensor non-reflex digital cameras that indicate
that high quality high ISO will soon be no more the exclusive of
dSLRs.

Agreed again. The interchangeable lens system still has advantages - and a purely optical viewfinder also. But I don't have any reasons to downplay the special capabilties of the cams you mentioned. It's good to see innovative competition!

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Phil

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