Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wintersleep Plays the Capital Music Hall on 28 October 2010

What a terrific concert. A few problems though, it was really, really long … we arrived (after a nice steak dinner at The Keg) at 7:15 or therabouts and we stood in line until 8pm, when the doors opened. We got in and I rushed up to the lounge while Jon checked his coat. This enabled me to grab the front corner of the right hand balcony, which is about the best seat in the venue. I gave Jon the actual corner and I stood on his left to get a slightly better angle on the band. Wow … it was simply awesome …

The openers were interesting … I will be adding to this section as I get time … we got Rah Rah and The Besnard Lakes. Two groups that are polar opposites.

Rah Rah played for quite a while … well past 9:30pm I think … their music drives hard and is very loud (the box office was selling ear plugs :-) … here they are, clipped from one of my videos – to be posted as I get time:


The Besnard Lakes is quite an intresting band, with a lead singer that immediately blows your mind. He can sing very loudly in falsetto … you do not hear that every day. The band does prefers kind of a Pink Floydy presentation, with a lot of smoke and back lighting. Here they are about as well lit as it got …


Another with heavy back lighting …


They played until well past 10:30 and we were getting pretty bagged … Wintersleep finally came on stage sometime after 11pm … you can see here that they brought a serious lighting system and the concert was very well lit. This is also The Panasonic ZS3 for the first time in the evening (The Fuji F300EXR recorded the openers) and the difference in sensitivity and smoothness really shows.


So … stay tuned for updates to this post. Eventually, I will post every song on the setlist, which I just spent an hour and a half creating from my full length recording of the concert …

Wintersleep Setlist Capital Music Hall, Ottawa, ON, Canada 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

Funniest prank I have ever seen …

Banned again … How do you spell relief? *Update #3!*

  • Terminal anality – This suppresses your sense of humor.
  • Uncontrolled self-righteousness – This leads to terminal anality.
  • Fragile ego disorder – This leads to uncontrolled self-righteousness.
The rest of you, enjoy.

Ok, this is funny. Yesterday, the 3rd thread in two days designed to complain pretty much specifically about me and a few others was created. People whinging about this or that without anything specific just teeing off because their lives suck in some undefined way.

So I get this notice this morning from the DPReview Admins …


Obviously, the attack pack and associated sycophants hit the button a lot more than I thought they did … *half* the complaints in the entire system? Wow.

Interestingly though, I quite agree with them that a holiday is in order. FTF has become a bit of a wasteland lately … not much interesting happening, partially because Fuji is doing nothing interesting and partially because the forum is overrun with people who are starting at the beginning. Not that there is anything wrong with that … just that answering the same set of questions year after year gets old. So I totally agree with the mods … 3 weeks off sounds great.

I have to finish processing the Josh Ritter concert plus the opener – Basia Bulat – and the WIntersleep concert from last night, where I recorded parts of the two openers – Rah Rah and Besnard Lakes – with the F300EXR and then every single minute of the Wintersleep performance with the Panny ZS3. Lots of work there … I expect to do 20+ videos to add to my YouTube channel, which sits at 93 videos right now …
So my hat is off to the attack pack … you got me again … and to clarify the number of bannings, I have *not* been banned 14 times … I would be willing to stipulate to 9 :-)

Update: Dave says that “things have started changing”, yet the “gagged and handcuffed” thread degenerated into an insult fest with the attack pack being dominant … this should give DPReview moderators a fairly clear insight into the real trouble makers. So apparently self-righteously hammering the complaint button does not give one any credibility or perspective …

Further note on bans. For those that do not read the comments on my posts, Billx08 and Rattymouse were both banned. I suspect Bill’s was similar to mine, although likely only 7 days. Ratty is gone *permanently* … a gross overreaction in my opinion. Although Ratty gets invested in certain feelings (HS10 bad, X100 good) he is also interesting and enthusiastic. But he teed off on the moderators pretty harshly and started the third toxic thread of last week.

Yanko started the first, Richard the second. Ratty was the third man in, and even in hockey that can be a real problem … :-)

Anyway, I hope Ratty decides to appeal his fate. Update: He did not have to. DPR said they made a mistake, he is only gone 6 days.

Here is something  a lurker on the forum sent me …

attack-pack (2)

It is cute …
  • Snow White is, of course the new female member of the pack. She does play the role of shepherd now and again …
  • Dopey would probably map to someone who posts nonsense technical comparisons and information :-)
  • Grumpy has been permanently banned, as all he ever did was post threads that crapped on the forum …
  • Doc is an intellectual, and if there ever was one on the attack pack, he is long gone …
  • Happy … I got nothin’ …
  • Bashful could be someone who is demure right up until the knife goes in … any ideas?
  • Sneezy could be someone who is invisible for long periods and then returns to spray the forum violently …
  • Sleepy is slow and heavy lidded … well that could be anyone in the pack or even a whack job who likes to stalk me from his crib …
Thanks to the unnamed lurker who sent that … it is a fun exercise :-)

Update 2: Ted (tdkd13) was also banned, and that makes zero sense to me.

Update 3: Royslaw started a 4th toxic thread yesterday to continue a long and very boring argument on concert shooting. But it was dripping in arrogance as a direct attack on stephen 06. He’s gone today.

And down in the comments section, I single out one member for special treatment … and here is why:
(name removed to avoid the threat of fictitious legal action :-) So, for everyone else - What to do ? When these folk return, if it is just the same old nonsense,
In fact, DPR says to do just that. That's right ! Push the button and state your case. Is it a shame to do so ? DPR rules state - " ... Have a complaint about a particular poster? 
Contact us immediately, don't antagonize the situation by replying ... "Simply,
no matter who it is, follow this advice."
The arrogance implied in that message is staggering. DPReview moderators have two jobs, and they hate the moderating one. So they often go with sheer volume (popularity contest) … and what is he calling for? Higher volumes … complain, complain, complain … no doubt the true sheep in the herd will ignore the shame they accrue and follow suit …

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Josh Ritter plays the Capital Music Hall

On Monday, 25 October 2010 Josh Ritter came to Ottawa. He’s a fantastic singer-songwriter that has captivated my boys and me for some time now. We listen to him all the time in the car. We got an excellent set from him, the set list being shown below, served up by the good folks at

Josh Ritter Setlist Capital Music Hall, Ottawa, ON, Canada 2010

The opener was Basia Bulat, a young woman who played several stringed instruments and sang very well all on her own. A powerful voice able to stay on a high pitch with power.


I enjoyed her stuff, although some in the audience were clearly just waiting for Josh.


Josh’s band is very accomplished … here is the lead guitarist.


I filmed four of Basia’s songs with the F300EXR and the ZS3. I learned a few things about the F300 from this … first off, that you should *not* use face detection when filming. The camera is almost completely unable to stay in focus at close zoom. Second, that the audio is finally pretty decent. It’s not up to the ZS3 in quality, but it’s not bad. I flmed most of Josh’s setlist and I learned that the F300EXR time limitation is a real killjoy for concerts like this, where he runs through the songs with no space between … the ZS3 did the last 54 minutes with no breaks … that is *much*, *much* better to work with.

Anyway, I will be publishing videos on YouTube as I get time … and will be updating this report as I do …

Part 1 – Lantern and Mind’s Eye

Part 2 – Wolves and a partial recording (finger problem) of Change of Time

Part 3 – The Curse

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Nikon D3100 versus Fuji HS10 and F200EXR / S200EXR -- How many stops of detail retention from an entry dSLR to a bridge cam?

I have had some discussions recently regarding entry level dSLRs and bridge cams. The consensus is that a bridge cam can keep up under some kinds of light … and I tend to agree. By keep up, we always have to add caveats … for images where subject isolation is not all that important. You can do a portrait with a bridge camera, but you’d better know how you will handle your backgrounds. And get the lit properly. That kind of thing …

But one area that always stands out as a weakness is the low light image. And we’re not just talking about high ISO images … but rather any image. If you take a bridge cam into low light, the noise on the sensor – even at 100iso – is going force some very heavy noise reduction, which will lead to smearing of low contrast details.

This is especially bad with hair, and I always like to prove my point with the rather nice images from … they shoot a mannequin in low light for every camera they test. Now, I thought we’d compare Nikon’s new and very inexpensive D3100 against the two Fuji bridge cameras … the HS10, which sports a Sony 1/2.3” BiCMOS sensor, reputed to be quite good in low light because it’s backlit nature allows much more light to hit the photodiodes.

The S200EXR is a hybrid bridge cam with the S100fs body and lens (mostly) and the F200EXR sensor. A 1/1.6” EXR sensor. Quite large when compared with the HS10. The problem we have here is that imaging-resource never shot any samples with the S200EXR … possible because they already shot the F200EXR, which has the identical sensor. So I will use that camera’s image for this test. And, I will use the SN mode image on the site so that I get the binning advantage as well. The only image they have in SN mode is at 200 ISO, so we will use that. The HS10 will be at 100iso, its best. And the D3100 will show 100iso and 1600iso to see if the bridges can beat it wtih 3 and 4 stops advantage.

Se here are the crops:

hs10_vs_d3100_vs_f200exr[1] My analysis:

  • This is not a contest at all. Even at 1600 ISO the D3100 crushes the two bridge cams for hair detail. A slight amount of grain has crept in above the eye, but that is easily vanquished with NR.
  • The F200EXR beats the HS10 handily. There is some hair detail, although the clumping is rampant.
  • The HS10 is embarrassing here. In low light, the contrast is low enough that the cam’s jpeg engine simply goes nuts on the hair and makes it look blurred.

So … if you shoot low light, it is pretty obvious what you should be shooting …

A danger to him or her self …

On the way home from dinner and a bit of shopping, Jon and I were going through the traffic circle near our house, and we saw the most stunning example of stupidity I can ever recall seeing.

Someone was trying to make a 3 point turn in the entry port (split by a small triangular cement divider) to turn around. Presumably because he or she felt they were going the wrong way.

Now … stay with me here … he or she is entering a traffic circle … this is a circle … which means it comes right back to where he or she was starting, and conveniently pointed the other way.


So he or she was basically jammed into the entry portal sideways when it would have taken 5 seconds to simply go around the circle …

Duh … :-)

George Stryker and the Bandits on Kelly’s 50th


Last August 6th, Karen and I went with Kelly to Malone’s Restaurant on Kelly’s 50th birthday. George Stryker and the Bandits were playing and Kelly knows them very well. She actually knows the manager very well also, and we ended up getting seated at the table next to the stage. When we arrived, that was one of only a few tables available and I have been eyeing it as we walked by to the last table, out of sight of the band. Kelly was looking at the table unhappily, but was politely saying “I guess it’s ok” when a moment later the owner popped over and waved us to the front. Awesome …

But let’s back this up a moment … we were walking in near sunset, with the sun low in the sky. Dow’s lake is always beautiful around this time of the evening. I caught some boats of various sizes at dock that were shining in the golden light …




The Bandits are a 3 piece band backing George up … George seems to play lead guitar and has a woman on bass, a young fellow on what seemed to be acoustic rhythm guitar most of the evening, and a guy on drums. The band sounded great … very tight. George’s vocals are very Elvis-like, which I happen to really like.

The venue was dark, as are many informal concert venues. I shot images and filmed quite a bit of it with the F80EXR, and it did a decent job. This was the kind of light that screamed for a dSLR and I could easily have gotten away with it. I still regret not bringing the D700. Duh.

Here is how it looked before the band came in. The lights are on here, but they were off while the band played.


And a rendering for those who like black and white …


Kelly’s friends, Rebecca and Andy joined us. I believe that this was also a special occasion for them but I will have to check on that and update this later. Here’s Kelly enjoying some talk time with them.


Karen and I sat on the other side of the table with our backs to the band. We spent the evening with our chairs turned around of course :-)

DSCF4504_karen_kelly[1] Some of the earlier images seemed to have a bit more light, so turned out adequately in color. The band get’s ready here …

DSCF4508_bandits[1] They opened with a nice version of Apache. They followed that with an Elvis tune – Too Much. Here is the F80’s rendering of it from YouTube. I must say that the sound is pretty decent … this venue has somewhat muffled sound, and the F80 did as well as coule be expected. It also maintained focus all evening with no problem. I only have one part mastered and posted, so the rest will be added later … as (if) time permits.

George giving the thumbs up to someone in the audience … can’t remember what this was about, but there was a lot of audience interaction.


George singing later on …

DSCF4518_george[1] The girl on bass …


And finally, George at full zoom … not bad considering that it was really dark …


A nice evening with good music and a fun birthday party. There was a wedding party in the house and later on a young fellow took the mic and gave a speech, following that up with a song for which George lent him a guitar (very nice gesture) and he and his sister performed I believe. All in all, very sweet …

Monday, October 18, 2010

F300EXR – Review Part 27 – Video Exposure Test

Guess what?

The video exposure responds to the exposure compensation settings. That’s right! You can boost the exposure on the F300EXR. Not a massive amount … but some.

I discovered this today because I just could not believe that there was no way to change the exposure on the video. After all, both the G10 and the ZS3 can do it, so it made sense that something would affect the video levels, and this was it.

So, a short film to demonstrate.

Something to note … the lower range (darkening the video) is not available in low light. I.e. the camera will only go so dark (which as we all know is pretty dark already.) But when in bright light, the full range of adjustments work fine.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

F300EXR – Review Part 26 – Stabilization test …

I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to see what the stabilization can do. It seems quite reasonable in decent light, but what about when one is in a moving car?

Well, I got my opportunity yesterday as Karen and I and the two pugs (Spike and Sophie) were driving into town to attend a Pug Fest kind of get together to support a Pug rescue group. The 417 is being paved right now on the way into town, so we had to pause for 10 or 15 minutes as traffic passed them by. As always, the traffic starts to speed up as you pass the trucks.

So I got a chance to get an image from pretty far away at full zoom …

DSCF0681_paving[1] Then one a bit closer …

DSCF0682_paving[1] And finally one as we were driving by …

DSCF0683_paving[1]My observation is that these are sharp and in focus. The stabilization is quite effective. Note also that I had time only to press the button without aiming … the AF was nailed three times in a row. These are the only three images I tried … I am a little bit impressed because I don’t think many compacts have the AF chops to get that last shot during a drive by.

P.S. Anyone else notice that the last guy there looks a lot like Mr. White?

Warning: The driver should never shoot images while driving and I take no responsibility for the consequences if you choose to do it …

F300EXR – Review Part 25 – First concert video …

On Friday, 15 October 2010 I attended the Johnny Spinks CD release party on the upper floor of the Royal Canadian Legion in a town called Almonte. The room is fairly small … perhaps 30 feet wide by 50 feet long … something like that. It held perhaps 100 rather rowdy people, as you can hear on the video. The one thing that is truly striking about this room is how dark it is when only a few small pot lights are on. Reall, really dark :-)

And so this is the test bed for the F300EXR’s first video in my hands. I had already tested the audio quality (one of my main concerns with any concert camera) and found it to be significantly better than the F70 and F80. It seems that Fuji may have reduced the sensitivity to bass notes and the subsequent distortion in the vocal tracks. In fact, I find no sign of it on this video …

Unfortunately, the darkness means that the stock out of camera video appear to be blank, except for the lights and the exit sign. I decided to try to see what was on the video (i.e. had the F300EXR captured anything?) below the threshold of visibility. I started in Pinnacle Studio 14, but was *shocked* to discover that they give you no video adjustments … to get even the simplest brightness and contrast adjustments, you need to purchase a plugin in pack from another vendor for $50 .. or from Pinnacle for $104. This application disappoints me more and more …

I then tried Nero 9 (accidentally, but fortuitously as it turned out) and found that the video seemed to be 4:3. But I could see some detail in black and white and that was what I wanted. I tried Nero 10, the latest version, and found that it had the ability to set the aspect ration right up front … nice. But despite using the same settings that worked on Nero 9, I was unable to get a decent image. It looked very flat and posterized, whereas the image I was seeing on the Nero 9 film actually had a 3-dimensional quality to it despite being grainy and dim.

So back to Nero 9 I went … and on export I was able to select the aspect ration and the result is decent.

I have a few videos to master, but I started with Mustang Sally. Partially because I really like the song, and partially because the audience participation in this song is really fun to listen to …

My analysis:

  1. A lot more detail under the hood than I expected. Not bad at all.
  2. The audio is excellent. Matches what I heard in the venue and even manages to hear the performer more than the crowd.
  3. The codec still sucks, but I did not find it unpleasant to work with. It takes about 1GB per 5 minutes of video, which adds up to 40 minutes per 8GB card. The Panny is more efficient and can record for longer, but the F300EXR is good enough for my purposes and has the potential to be my concert cam of choice for everything.

I will be attending two concerts the week after next … same venue and not that well lit, but far better lit than this room, where no lights were on the performers at all …

Addendum: The difference between the original video and the adjusted video, and the Nero 9 settings that pull what little is there out of the void.

And these are the settings that do that …


Addendum 2: I checked out Windows Movie Maker and it offers a simplistic effect for black and white and a simple control for brightness that handles gamma and everything in a reasonable way. The down side is that it does not quite get bright enough. Still, I would rate Windows Movie Maker right behind Nero 9 for this task and ahead of Nero 10. Pinnacle does not even place because you have to pay extra for a brightness control …

Friday, October 15, 2010

D3100 versus D700 – How many stops apart at high ISO and in low light?

The D7000 is shipping, so there is a flurry of OMG! posts regarding the D7000 noise reduction and how amazing it looks at 6400 ISO. Some are congratulating themselves over how close they are (presumably to justify the purchase of the D7000, which actually has many reasons for acquisition – none of which include matching the D700 at 6400 ISO :-)

My favorite test site,, does not yet have D7000 jpegs posted, so I thought in preparation for my analysis of that pairing, I would do the D3100 in a bit of depth. Just a bit, as you will see.

I think a camera must do two things at high ISO to be a contender:

  • Control chroma noise … huge blotches of blue or yellow make recovery of a good images essentially impossible. It was the crhoma noise starting at 800 ISO that made me finally replace the G10 as my concert camera. I really miss that thing, but it pretty much sucked.
  • Retain as much detail as possible. And not just high contrast details … everyone seems to be getting good at that trick. No, I want to see lots of low contrast details too. The classic being texture in hair. I *hate* helmet hair.

So … with that goal, let’s take a look at one crop set based upon the imaging-resource mannequin files.


My analysis:

  • Generally, they all handle high contrast details adequately. Even 6400 on the D3100 shows a decent depiction of eyelashes etc.
  • Hair is badly clumped on the D3100 at 6400 ISO. This would look good enough at web sizes, but even an 8x10 would show the helmet look.
  • Hair at 3200 in the D3100 is not bad, but there is still considerably more clumping than on the D700 shot.
  • The D3100 1600 ISO shot looks good. The details are very similar to the D700 at 6400 ISO, although the hair does look a bit coarser than on the D700. The skin and eyelid textures are about the same. The D700 even has a trace more noise in the shadows, but not enough to show on any normal print, even a very large one.

My conclusion is that the D3100 shoots at 1600 ISO about where the D700 shoots at 6400 ISO, presuming that you need to retain a lot of low contrast details. If not, then there is only about a stop of difference.

I suspect that the D7000 will come out pretty similarly. Right now, we’re seeing test examples that are all blurred backgrounds and high contrast, large details. No challenge at all for any modern DX camera. We;’ll see how the imaging-resource torture test fares …

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Banned again from dpreview …

I’ve hardly been active lately and I just received this nasty comment from the moderators at DPReview.


I have absolutely no idea what they are talking about … really.

Monday, October 11, 2010

F300EXR – Review Part 24 – Some random images …

It’s been a while since I showed you some random images and described what it was like to shoot them with the F300EXR. So that’s what this part is all about …

An image of Karen, shot at a restaurant in very bright and nasty colored light. I used fill flash at 800 ISO and this managed to destroy the colors in the image as the sunlight balanced flash mixed with the overhead lights. Hence, the lack and white treatment. I also shot this with the usual DR400 settings, which, alongside the –.67ev compensation, might explain why the TV in the background is perfectly legible.

DSCF0498_karen[1] The next day, I noticed that my fence was really getting bad in one spot. This fence is about 20 years old, a rather impressive life span for wood fencing. But it shows its age in ever way, with panels falling down every year when the wind blows hard. This damage was aggravated by squirrels sitting on the platform provided. Anyway, it’s fixed now … as for the exposure, ISO 100 at –1ev to hold theb ackground highlights. This adds to the smearing of details on the fence, and raising the shadows did not help much. Still, I do not find the details objectionable … the smoothness of the fence in the foreground (right side) is also explainable because of depth of field limitations at 240mm approx.


I next focused on the lattice itself … the one standing up on the right that is :-) This image is also shot at –1ev, again to hold the background, which is much brighter than the fence itself. This was shot at 200 ISO though, because I shot at the full 360mm …

DSCF0504_lattice[1] Very decent detail in my opinion … and note the incredibly shallow depth of field at 360mm, despite the tiny sensor. reports projected depth of field (DOF) of about .26 feet (3 inches) at 8 feet at f/5 at 66mm (360mm equivalent) for a 1/2” sensor. So … that’s just about exactly what we see here. It’s cool when the laws of physics become visible to us …

Just beyond my fence are some shamefully tall thistles :-) … and since the season is long over, I thought I’d capture one for posterity … at 360mm, the background blurs out nicely even thought I am shooting a subject from a bit of a distance …

DSCF0505_thistle[1] I watched for a while as a crow sat on my neighbour’s chimney … eventually I thought I’d shoot a few images to see what I could get. The answer is not much … a decent silhouette I suppose … the branches here look pretty nice after some processing … but they don;t look very pretty at 100%. This is *so* not a pixel-peeper’s camera …


I’ve always been enamored with the sun’s power to warm scenes during the late afternoon … and tree bark takes on a gorgeous glow with lots of little details showing. Here we see a neighbor’s tree bared for the coming winter, but it still looks completely alive in the glow of the sun.

DSCF0522_tree[1] Click through to see it in all its glory. Those of you with quality monitors that are hardware calibrated will get a real show … the others might see it a bit more washed out, as it looks on my TN panel. But still, the glow of the bark is there.

The more observant of you will note the blur in the upper left corner of this camera. Bummer. But something I can personally live with.

As evening approaches, I pop into the backyard and shoot this little scene with the patio chairs … the colors are a bit cool and the details are not too bad …

DSCF0526_chairs[1] And just to be clear on how well the details are preserved for 800 ISO …

DSCF0526_crop[1] I really do find that acceptable for a compact with the kind of reach I have in the F300 …

What happens when you shoot an airplane in the distance? A long, long way away … well, you get some edges that only a mother could love. But at web sizes, it’s a cute image.

DSCF0527_airplane[1] My garden this year had a mind of its own. I don;t even know what th is … perhaps a thistle in the final stages … I don’t really know. But this walkway is over grown right now, and that makes for a mildly interesting image as the day fades …

This is shot at 400 ISO and –.67ev … And still the sky could not be saved, although the sky was washing out at this point because of the lateness and depth of the shade I was shooting in.


Facing the other way, across the pool, we have the lovely Purple Ninebark next to the Silver-Leaf Dogwood. The burning bush is poking out from underneath. And there is a peak of the Annabelle Hydrangeas bottom left corner. The darkness of the scene required 800 ISO to capture. I should have changed the –.67 ev here, but I left it on. Had I moved it to 0ev, though, it might have jumped to 1600 ISO to get adequate shutter speeds.


Around the other side of the house and we get some serious shade. And here we are forced to shoot at 1600 ISO again … layers of native plants :-)


Over to the fence, where we have better tones again and the camera chooses 400 ISO … I am in macro mode at 24mm, and the F300EXR gets really, really close …


The next day, I am off to get the newly painted grill piece installed back onto my car My mechanic is a great guy who lives way out in another town … about 30 minutes from my house. A nice drive in the country though, and I especially like this property, about 300 meters from his house.

Here stand a couple of barns … old and new …


Closer focus on the older barn … 360mm at 100 ISO.

DSCF0543_barn[1] And finally, the field  beside the barns … note that the depth of field does not allow the whole field to remain in focus …


And later that day … here is the grill for my car … it outshines the rest of the car, but that just means that it is time to get it detailed again :-)

That’s my Ash tree reflected in the paint and windshield …

DSCF0552_car[1] And there you have it … the F300 is a pretty nice general purpose camera. In dull light and with distant foliage is does not satisfy, but I still find it quite useful for the kind of shooting I like to do when just plinking about.

F300 – Review Part 23 – 1600 ISO

So, can this camera be shot at 1600 ISO? Well, in low light, we’ve already seen that smearing is pretty strong. The various ISO ladders I have done show that the F70EXR retains a lot of detail at 1600 ISO on the Jamaican Dollar Bill test, while the F80EXR gives up a lot of that detail and the F300EXR gives up a bit more again. On the other hand, the F300EXR looks a lot like the F70EXR where saturation and white balance are concerned, so the camera looks pretty decent at high ISOs if the subjects is close enough to the camera to avoid the smearing.

So here is a torture test … shot from my front porch at the beautiful overhanging Ash tree in my front yard standing next to my CR-V from 2001. An oldie but a goodie … (it’s actually that wicked Alpine stereo with 10” subwoofer that keeps me in this car :-). The reason the camera chose 1600 ISO was the rain … it was a very dull day. Note also that this is shot at the equivalent of 180mm …



  • The grass has detail, but there should be a bit more. Smearing is obviously evident. Still, acceptable to me for snap shots (vacation, etc.)
  • The fence in the background and the Annabelle Hydrangea show just how much smearing is occurring. Pretty heavy.
  • The car looks ok, as does the Hosta in the distance. Higher contrast and larger details make for adequate output.

Note, though, that the shutter was 1/120s … so I could have dropped to 1/60 at 800 ISO or 1/30 at 400 ISO. Frankly, though, smearing is pretty evident as soon as the threshold of detail size and contrast is reached … ISO has less to do with it than it does in other brands …

Fuji, oh Fuji, wherefore art thou decent programmers? :-)

This Horse is Hysterical

I was looking at some YouTube for a few minutes and stumbled on this horse … and laughed and laughed …

You gotta see this …

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dynamic Range versus Sensor Size

I’ve covered this before … but the issue continues to crop up. There are people on the forums who still think it is ok to use harsh tone curves in camera and this always brings up the issue of tone curves and dynamic range. There are also people who feel that DPReview’s testing of the jpeg output of a camera is somehow more accurate than the testing performed by DXOMark on RAW images, which of course will determine the potential dynamic range for the camera if shot correctly.

This particular article just documents some information I left in response to user arguros, who asked me to elaborate on my answer to cacreeks’ assertion that he uses the infamous “tunnel of doom” image to test DR. I suggested that it was useless for that purpose and arguros asked me to explain.

So first, let me show you one of these images. I will show it small here with a ling back to the review. Let’s look at the F200EXR version of the image:

DSCF0030[1] Copyright ©

Click on the image to get back to the F200EXR image gallery on …

Two things to note:

  • The sky is blue, which is extremely rare in the tunnel of doom images. Most cameras do not have sufficient dynamic range to cover the spread (so to speak) but the EXR cameras do. The pillar is still blown out though … we cannot expect miracles.
  • The shadows are nicely opened. Thus it is obvious that the meter exposed for the shadows and midtones and left the highlights to fend for themselves.

A better exposure would actually have saved the pillar too … but that would have driven the shadows (e.g. ceiling) way, way down.

Here is a version of the image from a camera with a really tiny sensor, the Panasonic ZS7.

P1000005[1] Copyright ©

Again, click through to get to the review of the ZS7, gallery page.

More things to note:

  • The sky is not blue on this image. Not enough dynamic range to hold the highlights in the blue channel.
  • The shot is at a different time of day. The various tunnel of doom shots could never be used for objective assessment on that condition alone.
  • The pillar is even more blown out and so is the area of the inner wall where the sunlight touches it.

All this is happening because the images are not shot for dynamic range. The tunnel of doom is about fringing, not dynamic range. Shooting on auto and letting the meter do what it will is no way to determine what the camera can do in competent hands. But that is not what the shot is for, hence no foul on DCResource.

Now … back to what arguros actually asked me …

  1. What would you do if shooting RAW?
  2. What do you mean when you say that the extreme pixel size difference with a dSLR means that there will be something other than noise in the shadows when you use the technique discussed in (1)?
  3. What do you mean when you say “Of course ... some will still believe that shooting jpeg at 0ev or -.3ev with default tone settings is a good test of DR ... I can't really help that.”?

First, how would I shoot to preserve the highest dynamic range in RAW? My answer, verbatim:

If I were actually trying to capture that image as a memory or even something to frame, I would shoot in 14 bit RAW. I would set my exposure to ensure blur sky through the arches. This might require chimping (looking at the result on the LCD) and reshooting. Basically active bracketing.

One would also check the RGB histograms, because it is likely that the blue channel will be blowing out. Here is where UNI WB will make a difference, as the last thing you want is more underexposure of the shadows than you will get with a perfect exposure on the skies.

Once you have the capture, you load that into ACR and tweak the exposure and recovery dials to ensure that the sky is the way you want it. Then you open the shadows and set the correct black point.

That should do it. With a dSLR, the shadows will contain some detail with only low to moderate noise. Trying this with a tiny sensor will leave you with mostly noise in the darkest parts. Which is where the hardware assist of the Fuji EXR technology makes so much difference.

Second, about the pixel size difference from tiny pixels to huge pixels and what that means to dynamic range, again verbatim:

You must read this article to understand linear gamma of the sensor versus the logarithmic gamma of our eyes.

As you will note from that article, the signal to noise ratio is much higher when you collect more light. I.e. if you are shifted as far into the highlights as you can safely go, then you have collected as much data in the deep shadows (many stops down) as you can.

Here is where the linear gamma interacts with the well capacity of the sensor ... i.e. the number of photons that each pixel can capture in a given amount of time. This is related to the surface area of the pixels. It should be obvious that a really huge pixel will gather more light in a given (and very short) time that a really tiny pixel.

We know, for example, that a full frame 12mp sensor has pixel density of 1.4 million pixel in a square centimeter. Whereas the 12mp sensor in the F200EXR has 25 million pixels in the same area. And since each pixel is trying to capture exactly the same tone as the same pixel focused on the same field of view, we have a whole lot less chance of capturing the few photons we will see form the darkest areas.

So that exposure for the highlights, even if perfect (just about blown, but not) is going to leave the deep shadow part of the image starving for photons.

That's why the shadows can get so easily overwhelmed with noise. If you have ever underexposed an image dramatically with a small sensor shot in jpeg and then tried to look in the shadows, you will see exactly what I mean. It can be horrible ... but if you do that with a D700 shot at 14 bits, you would be surprised at how much clean detail is buried in there ...

Finally, regarding my statement on shooting auto with little or no exposure compensation as a (non) useful test of dynamic range … again verbatim:

When you shoot a jpeg, you are throwing away quite a bit of dynamic range, unless you use a specialized tone curve. See this article for info on that issue ...

So my point here was that the tunnel of doom shot is not optimized for the highlights at all ... he does not apply sufficient exposure compensation to save the highlights, shooting instead in auto mode with little or no exposure compensation.

So the image show nothing with respect to the camera's potential dynamic range. I.e. it is a useless set of images for that purpose.

To use those images for dynamic range comparison, one would have to shoot hem for the highlights, hence every single image would have blue skies in it. Then, the shadows would have to be opened in post processing. The quality of the shadow detail would be be very instructive and would define, at least subjectively, the amount of dynamic range available in the sensor / jpeg engine combination.

That is what I meant.

One final word ... if you have read those articles I linked, then you now understand why I consider it so goofy to suggest increasing the tone curve when capturing images at night ... the shadows are already deep and the technique is designed to crush them further out of existence. And the harsher tone curve also pushes the highlights further towards blowing out.

TANSTAAFL (translation: there ain't no such thing as a free lunch)

And finally … one last thing. That thread was started by showing two images, one from the F200EXR and one from the F300EXR and saying nothing other than the F300EXR was good at DR (a given with EXR technology) and that the F200EXR *might* be as bad with CA if the framing had been the same … this leaves it to the reader to draw his or her own conclusions, which may or may not be the same as that of the original poster.

This is problematic on many levels, but the key issues is that people cannot easily disregard what they see in the frame, even if it is not present in the other frame. So let’s rectify that …

The F200EXR image above was shown below the following F300EXR image:


Copyright ©

Things to note:

  1. The framing is much wider. This comes from the 24mm versus 28mm field of view.
  2. The shadows indicate that theimage was shot at the same time of day as the F200EXR, yet the inner wall, ceiling and area on the left are rendered much brighter. There is a lot of detail on the shadows, which indicates a brighter exposure.
  3. The skies are still blue, indicating very effective EXR technology despite the increased exposure.
  4. There is a large streak of fringing on the far right of the image … one presumes that this was the point the original poster was trying to make.

So … I like this image a lot more than the one from the F200EXR. It is warmer and more open. But what about that streak of CA? Well, it is pretty bad … that is for sure. But is it actually that much worse than the F200EXR? The answer is that we have no idea, because that part of the frame is missing from the F200EXR image … so a great big DUH goes to that thread.

Let’s look at the parts of the image that are actually common … I will create a matyched pair of images that have the same framing by trimming the F300EXR image to match the field of view of the other.

When we do that, we get a rather different perspective on these two cameras … perhaps things are not what they seem to first glance …

F300EXR_vs_F200EXR_tunnel[1]Copyright © 

It is not quite as obvious which one would be the better cam once the frames are equalized. I prefer the upper image by quite a bit.

There is one spot, and only one spot, that is pretty much identical in both images. That being the top piece of the second arch from the left … the part with blue sky. That’s as close as we can come to a fair fight. So let’s look at that second magnified.


Hmmm … I don’t think that anyone quite expected that … which is why variables must be equalized when you make such comparisons. Posting a pair of images without analyzing what they represent just wastes peoples’ time … and worse, it often misleads them …