3.28.2013

New "Holy Grail" of Cameras Spanked by the Real Deal.


It's fun to watch the blogger/reviewers hyperventilate over the latest, new faux rangefinder, the Fuji X100s. But before you snap one up and become part of the (limited) single focal length club, etc. you might want to take a moment to head over to DPReview and check out their studio comparison of a few different cameras in relation to the new golden boy. Don't care about ISO 200? Plug in ISO 1600 and be surprised.

It's fun to watch when the hype doesn't match. Can the early reviews be that wrong? Or have they never taken the time to pick up a ___________ or a Sony Nex7 and really compare?

Becoming a fun spectator sport. Remember last year when it was all about medium format?  And people think I'm fickle....

edit:  Here's the raw comparison. How much noise smoothing is okay? Would you rather have detail or.....?


I'm going to be that, downsampled to the same size the Sony noise will pretty much match the Fuji noise....you'll just be left with more apparent detail...

Of course the Fuji may have unbelievable handling and style. That's important too.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ummm. Try Raw ISO 1600, and move the magnified section down and over to the right in the region by the hair and little robot toy. Spanker vs. spankee?

Craig said...

Okay, having looked at JPEG and RAW ISO 1600 samples between the X100S, the NEX-7, the OM-D, and the XE-1... which camera do you think is getting spanked? Both Fuji cameras produced less saturated images, but that could be considered a plus if a natural, realistic look is what you want. In JPEG, the NEX-7's results are clearly inferior to all three of the others if you look, for example, at the blond-hair-like stuff just to the left of the blue watch in the lower right corner. The NEX-7's noise reduction is trashing all the detail in that area; the other three cameras look much better, though they're all clearly struggling a bit. Looking at the RAW ISO 1600 images, the NEX-7 is clearly noisier than the others.

In general, the new Fuji cameras seem to produce slightly less sharp images than most other cameras of comparable resolution. I think that has to do with Fuji replacing the traditional Bayer filter with a new arrangement designed to prevent moire without an AA filter; the new scheme requires the de-mosaic algorithm to take into account a larger area (more neighbors) to determine the proper color of each pixel. At the same time, though, Fuji's images have a smoother, more natural, less "digital" look to me when examined at 100%, and when viewed at lower magnification (as images usually are, except by fanatical pixel-peepers) it doesn't really make a difference.

I've actually been looking at these images a lot lately, particularly at ISO 1600-6400, since my main annoyance with my EP-2 is that it's fairly noisy at 1600 and unusable beyond that. The Fuji images do look a bit different from most cameras, but not in a bad way. If high ISO noise is the criterion, it's clearly the NEX-7 that's getting "spanked" here. (The NEX-6 does a bit better, though.)

John Krumm said...

They all look so close in raw that it doesn't seem to matter much. The OMD puts up a very good fight, which makes me happy since I have one. The only one that stands out as slightly strange is the Fuji for having raw images that look like they have some kind of smoothing noise reduction going on at the chip level. The Pentax K5ii looks slightly better that all the crop sensors in raw, but it has darker reds for some reason. And now your blog sounds like another DPR thread. : )

Kirk Tuck said...

I'm looking at the much sharper coin images and the comfortable lead in detail in the same section even at 1600. Noise? Maybe, but it's really just a choice of fix it (permanently) in camera or to your taste in software.

Kirk Tuck said...

Thanks. It's DP Review week on the blog. Everyone pile in and call someone else a "fanboi." I volunteer to be the wild eyed enthusiast for Sony today. Which brand would you like to champion?

Kirk Tuck said...

WOW! Being snarky about gear on a blog really does push the pageviews. Who'd have guessed...

Peter F. said...

Hi Kirk, I like reading all this stuff. I use a NEX6 and E-M5 and LX5 and before that a few dSLRs. I've given up on taking any of the review to heart, though I love to compare and contrast like everyone else you reads dpreview and clicks on DXOmark. But when it comes down to it, no one has ever looked at my pictures (admittedly I only show ones I like) and said "you should be using a better camera". I think you might agree with me when I say a camera only needs to be "good enough not to ruin the image".

Peter

Robin Wong said...

Kirk, I had a brief hands on with the Fuji X100S last Sunday during an event with Fujifilm Malaysia. Generally I find the 35mm equivalent lens on the camera to be soft, even when I have stopped down to F2.8. While I did not shoot in RAW, the JPEG files come out with "smudged details", surely nothing as fine or as sharp as the files from (insert latest cameras from Sony or Olympus). I did not test high ISO shooting with it, since all my shots were taken outdoor, in the afternoon. I may not have spoken very negatively about the camera, but hey, I am one of the few (or probably the only one) who did not hyperventilate about the X100S.

Itai said...

That is cherry picking one area of the image, isn't it? There are other areas where the X100s looks to me to come out ahead. Not to mention that the NEX-7 samples are shot with a 75mm equivalent lens.

Anyway, I don't put much stock in studio comparisons such as these. I like to see what people can produce with the cameras in real life shooting and how they handle under those conditions. That's what I care about. Any decent modern camera will produce fine enough image quality for me.

atmtx said...

The real problem for the Fuji guys is the X-Trans sensor. I don't think the 3rd party RAW processors have them dialed in yet. That is why even if the X100S is on my watch list, I won't seriously consider it until it has good Aperture 3 support.

Four cameras on my watch list

Also, the new Olympus micro 4/3 sensor is so good that even if Fuji can eventually get 1 stop better performance, is it worth paying $1300 for it? Especially since there are so many excellent primes for the micro 4/3 platform.

Craig said...

The Fuji isn't doing "smoothing at the chip level" -- you're looking at the results of the raw processor's demosaic algorithm, which has to be a bit different for the Fuji cameras because they aren't using a standard Bayer filter. Their filter pattern is still a new thing, so every raw processor handles it a bit differently, some better than others.

Nikon/Canon/Olympus/Fuji fanboy said...

I hope this doesn't start a trend in content. Any chance the next article will be related to photography?

Kirk Tuck said...

Nope. When I actually write about real photography all the people who post snitty comments opining that they only want to read about real photography stop reading and go to other blogs to read about how sharp that last 16th of a mm near the edge of the Griptonon 85mm .099 is. Besides, today IS DPReview style. All day long...

Kirk Tuck said...

What's the Fuji excuse for the soft jpeg?

Kirk Tuck said...

Robin, Thanks for the input. I worked with an x100 (original) back when it was the hot deal. I never considered buying one. What's the rational for a portrait shooter who loves 85mm equivalent focal lengths?

Kirk Tuck said...

ISO noise is never my criterion.

Anonymous said...

People get weird when confronted with facts and images. Don't they?

christopher 404 said...

Enjoying this post and this discussion. But come now, Kirk Tuck, we have all seen this post on your very own blog:

http://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-best-systems-for-walking-around.html

Yes, I know the X-E1 doesn't have a fixed lens. But it is a faux rangefinder...could it be that you tire of the NEX 7's sterile lines and robotic personality and crave an older-style camera? Why, I even heard you bought an older Sony camera recently. Is this post masking an underlying urge to purchase retro Fujis?

And yes, in the spirit of this thread, I'm hoping to poke a little fun, too


Frank Grygier said...

Wow..Wee.Biff..Pow..a real knock down pixel peeping Trans sensored snark fest. Keep it going business is slow today.

Craig said...

Sorry, I inferred from your "Plug in ISO 1600 and be surprised" that you thought the Sony came out way head on noise. Noise matters to me simply because I like to shoot handheld using only ambient light, and often the conditions are such that ISO 1600 or 3200 is necessary. And I don't like using NR beyond very low settings because I don't really think noise can reduced; it just changes from random variations in brightness or hue to a smeary loss of detail. It's just a different kind of noise, really.

At the same time, I recall that you made a good point some months back that camera makers seem to be optimizing for high ISO to the extent that their low ISO performance suffers in various ways. This is a legitimate concern too, and given the kind of professional work you do, I can see why that you would be more concerned with the quality of low-ISO performance than with how well the camera does in the dark.

As to detail, though, the interesting thing to me about this comparison is that although the Fuji images, when viewed at 100%, do give an initial impression of being sort of soft, they actually have a lot of detail of the kind that matters most to the human eye. Zooming in on the blue watch face, for example, I find that it looks much better in the X100S sample than it does from the NEX-7 or even the newer NEX-6. The watchmaker's brand name ("Paul Smith", written in a cursive style on the watch face) is easier to read in the Fuji image, and the lines and curves of the watch face look cleaner.

Anonymous said...

I'm never satisfied with the systems/cameras I own. My Nikon DSLRs are all unsharp, but the IQ is excellent when mounted on a tripod. Just don't like to carry one. I finally found a m43 that doesn't sound like a gun when firing a shot, but I really miss the viewfinder of my DSLR when shooting the E-M5 in broad daylight in the winter. EVF can't handle the white winters of the North. I like my X-E1 for its IQ and soft shutter sound, but the EVF is not any better than the E-M5. I love the x100s for its bright OVF, IQ and quiet shutter, but need something with interchangeable lenses. I haven't tried any NEX cameras, but own the RX100 and hate the menu. Besides I can't do aperture priority without getting the shutter speed down to a halt. I mean, I need at least 1/100 to hold it steady. Oh, and I loved the Nikon1 J1, but it had to be something wrong with the tiny sensor in a system camera so I sold it.

One day I hope I'll find a perfect camera! For now I'll just keep buying and selling...

Kirk Tuck said...

No, no, no. (smiley face implied) the EX-1 is the only one of the Fuji's that's not a faux rangefinder. It's a good, ole fashioned mirrorless camera with an EVF instead of an optical finder. That's why I like it. A lot. And for the same price as the x100s you get the option of using the appropriate focal lengths for YOUR way of seeing and photographing things. Not some cliche from the early days of photojournalism....

Kirk Tuck said...

Join the ongoing search for perfection. Last year one of the gods of photography let all his workshop students understand that medium format was where the illuminati were headed. The year before that the same photo guru let his workshop students know that full frame DSLRs were the only game in town. This year it's the magic of the cropped frame Fuji. He's starting to sound like me...If it's a new year I must be ready to change systems.....you know, most of us haven't given Pentax and Samsung a fair try....

We'll all figure this out at some "Burning Man-Type" photo event where we all bring our old cameras to the desert bonfire and toss em in. Then we'll return to our regular lives and buy whatever the group decides we need to be shooting with. I'll sell the tickets to the event. And the post-event events that teach us how to use the new wonder camera.

Anonymous said...

Just waiting around for the next camera to drop from the heavens. Will it be the Nikon interchangeable lens, full frame mirrorless we've all be waiting for?

Frank Grygier said...

We could do it during Eeyore's Birthday celebration.

John Krumm said...

I was looking at various medium format film bodies yesterday after seeing the pretty prints my daughter got from her first four rolls of film in her Nikon FM2n. One roll of Ilford 400, 3 Kodak Portra 400. Such nice highlight roll-off in that Portra... And printing the scans on my Epson works very well. Fun stuff.

Craig said...

Kirk, I'm guessing you're just having a lark between jobs yanking the chains of all the pixel peepers - or you feel a need to bump your page view analytics.

I have a Sony A77 and although I find it somewhat noisy at the higher ISOs, reading your blog, Luminous Landscape, T.O.P and sansmirror has taught me that some work in post processing usually will address any noise concerns I might have.

In fact, the camera is the least of my problems, it's usually the photographer's abilities that gives me fits. ;-)

Robin - a big shout out to you!!

I love your blog - it is a true inspiration to me, and you optimist attitude towards photography and life in general is always a day brightener. Lastly, I'm glad (and I suspect the other attendees last Sunday were too) that you didn't shoot in the raw with the Fuji X100s - I don't know if Malaysia is quite ready for that :-))

Craig said...

BTW, I'm not the same Craig as the guy above...

Joe Gilbert said...

I'm a super Sony fan boy, and also a fan of Fuji. I've had the X-Pro1 for about a year and it is now my daily carry. I still shoot a lot of rangefinder/film with an Ikon, and the purple cast noted by M. R. when using M mount glass swayed me away from the Nex7 as I wanted to be able to use the same lenses.

I prefer using MF lenses, and the "REPORTED" downside about the EVF lacking detail when used in very bright light.. Pretty much a non-issue when you consider that with an OVF you have no pre-chimp ability. Always enough detail to focus.. I like the optical finder with the Fuji lenses, but have grown so accustomed EVF's, using a crummy one daily for surveillance duty, that I could live without optical forever.

Raw has been a pain with the Fuji, but C1 seems to do a decent job and I'm now in learning mode.

Another problem with the Fuji, is the ISO set at 6400, I'm a full stop off. (According to my Digipro-F) My Sony, Ikon, Nikon, and Oly were all spot on with the same meter. So as far as I'm concerned, 6400 on the Fuji is really 3200.. It's pretty close at lower ISO.

Incoherence blamed on Skyfall playing as I type.


Kirk Tuck said...

yes. I'm feeling Larky.

Robin Wong said...

Cheers Craig for the kind words. I always find myself coming back here (Kirk's wonderful site) for inspiration and "day brightening" read!

Claire said...

Oh kirk, you really made the shit hit the fan this time, lol. I'd rather comment on the beautiful portrait of your graceful mom, but the mob enjoys going at each others' throats about camera models much more. Shame. I didn't even look at this comparison, because I agreed with your point. Which was about the bad@ss bloggers out there getting all worked up about the new toys of today, as they will about those of tomorrow. Yawn. In the meantime I, like you, just breathe and shoot my NEX 7, and it's bliss (well, your is more blissful than mine, must have something to do with skill and vision. Dang).

Kirk Tuck said...

Actually Claire, everyone here was very well behaved. Definitely more restrained that I was in starting the whole blog..

Yes, we actually do have what might be the best all around camera in the world in this moment. I'm enjoying mine!

Kirk Tuck said...

I went back and looked at the watch. The hour lines are much better defined on the Nex7, but even better is the total lack of chromatic aberration while the minute hand in the x100s photo shows off some nice purple. Where the Nex7 really shines against the x100s is at 100 ISO where it is the widest DR and highest Res APS-C sensor in the world (according to DXO...) Oh wait....no ISO 100 on the competition? Sorry about that. That's where the finnicky kids play....around the edges of "what's the best use?"

Ed Gill said...

Kirk, I always love (NOT) snark wars on pixel peeping. I have been looking into the Sony, Fuji, and Olympus latest cameras and find them all appealing. My only general comment on DPreview and pixel peeping in general is that I have found DPr to be a bit sloppy with focus on their very 3-D test image target. One really needs to move the square around to often find that "softness" is due to poor focus. Compare the Fuji x100s (Jpeg or RAW) at high ISO on the watch face. The detail and smooth rendering of the blue face are definitly superior to the NEX6 and 7. Now move to the white on red text by the dime and the verdict is opposite. Some is due to focus and some is due to how different sensors handle different colors. Bottom line is that all the sensors now can produce fine images, but camera handling, ergonomics, and AF/Exposure systems count more to me. Sadly camera makers are still stuck with goffy ideas: "everyone is right handed and right eyed" - try using your left eye without picking your noise (hopefully by accident). "Everyone has little flat noses that don't leave grease prints on LCDs". "Nobody could ever want to use a flash or trigger and a viewfinder at the same time." Pressing three buttons simultaneously with one thumb must be better that just two buttons or, lord forbid, just one large easy to find botton. Of course pull out (extending) viewfinder eyepieces can ONLY work on camcorders - never, ever on still cameras - oh wait still cameras are now camcorders also - I'm so confused ;-).

Ed Gill

Kirk Tuck said...

Ed, the point of my whole article (when reading between the lines) is that there is no "great new camera." No single company has made a camera in any price range that really leapfrogs over anything else in the price range. The new Fuji might look sexy but is no better (IQ only) that the Nex cameras, the Olympus cameras or even the more traditional cameras and all the breathy enthusiasm of mid tier pros ain't gonna make it so.

Ed Gill said...

Kirk, thanks for the reply. I wholeheartedly agree and disagree, I believe there are many new great cameras (some even affordable). The current state of the electronic and sensor technology easily meets the needs of most photographers, BUT the ergonomic decisions in the design of most cameras leads me to believe that software engineers are making the decisions and that "cute" and "tiny" are the overriding drivers. I see you find the A-900/850 and A-99 appealing, some old Minolta DNA showing through, along with "manly" styling. One thing I will give to Fuji is that they apparently listen to their critics and make adjustments, which bodes well for them. Now if they all would just listen to the left handed, left eyed, mediterainain nosed, cameraholics - nervana.

Jesper Hansen said...

What lens was used to produce the better results ?