Fanboy’s Lament

Started May 1, 2011 | Discussions
Humphrey Nash Senior Member • Posts: 1,178
Fanboy’s Lament

I’ve been looking for a compact camera to replace my old Fuji 6500. This Fuji has only 6 megapixels, limited zoom (compared to superzooms), no image stabilization and other limitations one expects from a digital camera now 5 years old.

Unfortunately there is no compact camera which approaches the Fuji 6500’s image quality! The small sensor compacts and superzooms don’t compare especially at higher ISOs. But surprisingly, the premium large sensor compacts also don’t compare well. This group includes recently developed cameras such as the Oly XZ-1, the Canon S95, The Panasonic LX5, and the Nikon P7000. Like the Fuji 6500 these cameras all have large (for a compact) sensors of about 1/1.7 or larger. They all are 10 megapixels compared to the Fuji’s 6 megapixels.

Don’t get me wrong. These are fine cameras, superior in most ways to the Fuji 6500. But they still don’t match the Fuji 6500 IQ for noise, color, or detail. No compact manufacturer, including Fuji, has matched the Fuji 6500 IQ. Its sensor was magic and I’m surprised and disappointed to not see an update.

To illustrate the IQ differences the following 100% crops are extracted from the Imaging Resources website. These comparisons are for ISO 400. The IQ differences are generally smaller for lower ISOs and greater for higher ISOs. For most full image prints and displays the Fuji 6500 can’t be beat. Use the IR Comparometer to see other ISOs or image areas.

My question is what was so magical about the Fuji 6500 that it has not been equaled? Clearly the sensor (same as the Fuji 30/31) plays a dominant role but the in-camera processing and lens might also be a factor. I doubt the lens is superior since it has a much larger zoom ratio which generally decreases optical performance. We have been repeatedly and forcefully assured than more megapixels can only improve IQ, so this can’t possibly be the answer.

What’s the answer?

 Humphrey Nash's gear list:Humphrey Nash's gear list
FinePix S1
beshannon Veteran Member • Posts: 4,216
Re: Fanboy’s Lament

Other than differences in sharpness in the images, I am not seeing what is so "magical". All of the images on my calibrated monitor look flat
--
My photos http://brianshannon.smugmug.com/
My photo blog http://brianshannonphotography.blogspot.com/
My Flickr stream
http://www.flickr.com/photos/brian_shannon_photography/

 beshannon's gear list:beshannon's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 Sigma DP2s Leica V-Lux (Typ 114) Nikon D800E Nikon 1 J4 +3 more
Oly Canikon
Oly Canikon Senior Member • Posts: 1,222
Re: Fanboy’s Lament

You are looking at different size images there. If you displayed all of them at the same size the differences would be minimal.

Chato Forum Pro • Posts: 46,027
Understandable

Humphrey Nash wrote:
The shots from the P7000 and the S95 show camera shake.

Just how were these test conducted?

Dave

OP Humphrey Nash Senior Member • Posts: 1,178
Re: Fanboy’s Lament

Beshannon, you have a point. There is nothing "magical" about the Fuji 6500/31/30 sensor, although its highly regarded (at least in Fuji circles). It does seem to provide slightly better color and noise but as you correctly point out the difference are exaggerated at 100%. The Fuji may apply more in-camera sharpening giving it an apparent advantage.

My monitor is not calibrated nor is my eye so you may have the advantage.

Oly Canikon has a point that displaying the same size would narrow the differences. Up-rezzing the Fuji shows its resolution weakness. Down-rezzing the 10 mp images would also narrow the differences ... but not eliminate them.

The following comments, cherry-picked from DPR's review, reflect what I'm driving at. Why can't this excellent sensor be extended to perhaps 8 megapixels in an updated camera with image stabilization, better electronic views, better video, DR adjustments, etc.?

Although the S6000fd's output has a little of the classic 'Super CCD' artefacts look to it and is a touch over-sharpened, there's no denying that it is outperforming the Sony - which is fairly representative of the other 6MP super zooms on the market - by a considerable margin. Edge-to-edge detail is excellent, colors bright but natural and contrast excellent. It's interesting to note that the S6000fd actually produces output that actually looks better at 100% (as here) than the S9000 we tested last year (which has the same lens).

For the average user producing prints the S6000fd's ISO 400 output remains perfectly usable - and compared to most (if not all) of its competitors it's nothing short of amazing.

Just like the F30, the S6500fd's output at ISO 800 is considerably better than most of its competitors manage at ISO 400 - and some at ISO 200. To have a small-sensor camera capable of producing results that are perfectly usable at ISO 800 is a luxury we have rarely seen before, and something for which Fuji must be congratulated.

Although the JPEGs are a bit over-sharpened, and they don't quite match the F30, the S6500fd sets a new standard for resolution in a 6MP 'super zoom' camera, and out-performs cameras with one or even two million more pixels. There's little, if any moiré and only the merest hint of jagginess on 45 degree diagonals, and overall you can't fail to be impressed with a camera that really does squeeze the maximum detail out of 6 million pixels, across the frame.

It's worth noting that the unique design of Fuji's Super CCD sensor seems to lend itself very well to shooting the standard resolution test chart, and SCCD cameras always score highly, but this result is only one test, and one that has only a passing bearing on 'real life' photography. Still, impressive stuff!

And in many ways the S6000fd doesn't disappoint; the resolution is excellent, and at lower ISO settings it puts many of the more popular 'super zoom' models to shame. At ISO 400 and 800 it is quite literally in a class of its own. The high ISO output might not worry the SLR manufacturers (the sheer scale of the difference in sensor sizes puts paid to that), but it is better than most competitors by a fairly wide margin.

Do not, however, be seduced into thinking that the 6.3MP pixel count puts the S6000fd at a disadvantage compared to its 7,8 or 10MP competitors; the resolution is one of the best of any 'super zoom' camera, and at ISO 200-800 the S6000fd retains far more detail.

Note, though, that this review was made in Dec 2006.

 Humphrey Nash's gear list:Humphrey Nash's gear list
FinePix S1
Pedagydusz Veteran Member • Posts: 5,544
Very simple

The fact is that you are looking at different size images. Just choose one of the others (I did the Oly one), resize it to the same size as the Fuji image, and you will see!

BTW, that is why more pixels are better: because, for any photographer (as opposed to pixel-peeper) what matters is the whole image, not a detailed view of each pixel!
--
Antonio

http://ferrer.smugmug.com/

 Pedagydusz's gear list:Pedagydusz's gear list
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F707 Canon EOS 7D Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 Olympus E-M1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 +3 more
OP Humphrey Nash Senior Member • Posts: 1,178
Re: Understandable

These tests are from the Imaging Resources review site. These test are carefully controlled and surely are tripod shots. Other ISO comparisons tell a similar story so camera shake is not the problem. It may be the sensor, noise reduction or optics. Full image prints or displays may be perfectly fine from a detail standpoint.

 Humphrey Nash's gear list:Humphrey Nash's gear list
FinePix S1
Chato Forum Pro • Posts: 46,027
Take a gooood look

Humphrey Nash wrote:

These tests are from the Imaging Resources review site. These test are carefully controlled and surely are tripod shots. Other ISO comparisons tell a similar story so camera shake is not the problem. It may be the sensor, noise reduction or optics. Full image prints or displays may be perfectly fine from a detail standpoint.

At leat on one of those shots there is clear camera shake. Clear. I really don't care who did the test, on one it's clear as day, and on another it looks to me like shake, but I'm not as sure.

Dave

003tvd Contributing Member • Posts: 935
Re: Very simple

I've recently become smitten by the Oly Pen Pl1 4/3'rds sensor system. Might be worth a look......big sensor, stabilizer etc.?

 003tvd's gear list:003tvd's gear list
Nikon 1 J5
OP Humphrey Nash Senior Member • Posts: 1,178
Re: Very simple

I agree "what matters is the whole image, not a detailed view of each pixel! "

I like Oly products; I've owned the 2040, 5050(still have), 8080(still have), among others. The XZ-1 is the best of the current premium compact group, IMO. Still I think the Fuji 6500 has better IQ (color, detail, noise). Here is the Oly image downsized to the Fuji dimensions. Note, for example, the detail in the red fabric or the white yarn, the colors of the crayons.

I grant that for normal full image prints or displays there's not much difference.

 Humphrey Nash's gear list:Humphrey Nash's gear list
FinePix S1
Lee Jay Forum Pro • Posts: 52,332
I couldn't find the f6500fd on IR's web site

Where did you get these images?

-- hide signature --

Lee Jay
(see profile for equipment)

 Lee Jay's gear list:Lee Jay's gear list
Canon IXUS 310 HS Canon PowerShot SX260 HS Canon EOS 5D Canon EOS 20D Canon EOS 550D +22 more
OP Humphrey Nash Senior Member • Posts: 1,178
Re: Very simple

Good idea 003tvd. I like the compact mfd Pens. However, despite their compactness, they are too close to my Canon 500D (and lenses) in performance and portability. Not that the Fuji 6500fd was compact. If I were just getting into cameras the Pens would be very attractive.

 Humphrey Nash's gear list:Humphrey Nash's gear list
FinePix S1
OP Humphrey Nash Senior Member • Posts: 1,178
Re: I couldn't find the f6500fd on IR's web site

The IR default is currently available cameras. To view the Fuji 6500 images click on "all" to display the entire database.

The 6500 is no longer sold so the comparison is academic. But I wish there was an update of the camera and sensor(more MPs).

 Humphrey Nash's gear list:Humphrey Nash's gear list
FinePix S1
Lee Jay Forum Pro • Posts: 52,332
Re: I couldn't find the f6500fd on IR's web site

Humphrey Nash wrote:

The IR default is currently available cameras. To view the Fuji 6500 images click on "all" to display the entire database.

I did - I still don't see it. I guess the S6000 is the same camera and I see that one.

After up-resing that ISO 400 image to the same size as the S95's ISO 400 image, I see a slight IQ advantage to the S95, but it's very close.

You have to compare at the same final size. Either up-res the smaller one or apply a little NR and down-res the larger one.

-- hide signature --

Lee Jay
(see profile for equipment)

 Lee Jay's gear list:Lee Jay's gear list
Canon IXUS 310 HS Canon PowerShot SX260 HS Canon EOS 5D Canon EOS 20D Canon EOS 550D +22 more
Johan Borg Senior Member • Posts: 2,511
Re: Fanboy’s Lament

Yeah, progress is slower than one might think And while cameras get cheaper all the time, optics don't follow Moore's law...

I came to a similar conclusions a couple of years ago, deciding to not upgrade my compact but rather try something completely different. So I bought a Sigma DP2 which ended up being such an improvement (even in resolution, and the Sigma only has 4.6mp) that I use it more or less exclusively since.

ZorSy Veteran Member • Posts: 3,482
Historically speaking

everyone remembers S9500, the more MP brother (or sister) to S6500. It is the perfect example how simple things can get wrong: both cameras were using the same lens (BTW designed by Tamron if DPR was on the spot), the same size sCCD but those extra 3MP offered by S9500 (which I still have and use for windy and sandy beaches). The 6500 performed where 9500 failed - the conclusion was that the lens was no match to pixel density of the sCCD behind. The photos always looked mushy and no PP could pull more details out of it. RAW was too sluggish to be usable but even with all time on the earth, rarely delivered more than superfine JPG (a smidge on ISO80).

As the pixel denisty goes up, so the demand to design "real" superzoom going 20X plus, from wider to longer than ever.

What you are seing (and challenging) is the limitations one over the other - Panasonic (as by tradition) had the best optics with weaker chip behind, making it possible for them to migrate to a higher MP count as the chip technology moved on. Still, there are limits and it looks all players have past it. But MP race is still on (and so the zoom range). It appeals to consumers wanting big numbers - and once downsized to 4x6 postcard (or 2MP screen resolution) it all looks good. But up there, at the full resolution looked at 1:1, it's all soft and mushy.

SO if you really need 30X zoom starting at 24mm (EQ) with 14MP CMOS behind with all the bells and whistles behind (OS/ADL/panorama sweep/HD video with stereo sound) - just dont past 35% zoom on the screen and very likely you will be just fine. (OK, you may be wanting to apply some USM...)

For anything else, DX at least.

cheers

 ZorSy's gear list:ZorSy's gear list
Nikon D80 Nikon D7100
rocklobster Senior Member • Posts: 1,408
I was a fanboy, read on...

Yes the noise performance has not really been beaten although other compacts have gotten close but, seriously, others are better at dealing with bright or contrasty conditions producing a better shot straight out of the camera. And having lived with the camera for many years now I find that these factors are more important.

Indoors shooting with flash produce excellent results but without flash and no image stabilisation you are up against it. IS is good for a couple of stops so there goes your low noise sensor advantage.

The tone curve, I suspect has been optimised for reducing the presence of noise, and shows its limitations in high contrast shots by clipped highlight and dark shadows. I have taken many outdoor shots in these conditions and have thrown most of them away - they were that bad - until I discovered RAW.

Choosing RAW makes a HUGE difference to this but also slows the operation to about 4 to 5 seconds between shots. But there is another price to pay - the level of noise apparent in images is quite alarming even at ISO 100. This is where, dare I say it, the deceit of small sensor tone curve maniplution shows the sensor's true colours. The in-camera processing (for JPEG images) steepens the tone curve so that it is optimised to give 'punch' to an image in the mid tones whist hiding noise in the darkness. The other price of this is clipped highlights. This is why your sample shots look so good; the mid tones are shifted up into the 'clean' zone of the sensor whilst the nose is relegated to dark areas where it is less obvious.

Of course, you have to do a fair bit of post processing to get the best out of RAW images and this is not so simple if you want to reduce the noise to a minimum. You must discard the Finepix RAW processing software as it will only give you limited control. I use S7RAW for coversion and setting white balance, tone curve and lens correction but its noise reduction algorithm is a bit dated so instead I put it through another processing step with Neatimage to clean up the noise.

I still use my S6500 but only in RAW and my family become exasperated everytime I have to go through my PP workflow to produce a print. The results can be really good but I crave a camera that can produce a JPEG as good straight out of the camera.

My next camera will be a Olympus E-PL2 with a pancake and a not too overly big zoom.

Cheers

rocklobster Senior Member • Posts: 1,408
Current superzooms are mostly rubbish...

As ZorSy suggested, the Panasonics re probaably the only good ones left because they have the best glass. The megapixel race and the requisite heavy handed noise reduction required to clean up images has produced cameras with even lower overall resolution than the 6Mp Fuji.

If you must have a 30+X superzoom just be prepared to not see much detail.

Cheers

Rolo King Regular Member • Posts: 121
Re: I couldn't find the f6500fd on IR's web site

That still doesn't excuses the Olympus' performance with the red fabric. There's almost no detail left. The downsizing couldn't have wiped it all out.

 Rolo King's gear list:Rolo King's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 Nikon D90 Pentax K10D Pentax K20D Pentax K-5
Chris59 Forum Pro • Posts: 15,415
Re: Take a gooood look

Chato wrote:

Humphrey Nash wrote:

These tests are from the Imaging Resources review site. These test are carefully controlled and surely are tripod shots. Other ISO comparisons tell a similar story so camera shake is not the problem. It may be the sensor, noise reduction or optics. Full image prints or displays may be perfectly fine from a detail standpoint.

At leat on one of those shots there is clear camera shake. Clear. I really don't care who did the test, on one it's clear as day, and on another it looks to me like shake, but I'm not as sure.

Dave

Astigmatism can look a little like camera shake and to my eyes, this looks more like astigmatism.

 Chris59's gear list:Chris59's gear list
Samsung NX1 Samsung 16-50mm F2.0-2.8
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads