25 November 2011

proof of concept: Raw recovery from a small (EXR) sensor

I now am test-driving a Fuji F550exr. Why? Several reasons:

  • available for $175 'used'
  • 24-360 equivqlent FL
  • EXR modes to provide expanded dynamic range or better signal/noise performance
  • Raw capture
  • manual mode + P/A/S automation*
  • back-side illuminated CMOS
  • HD + a few hi-speed video options
  • instant panorama mode
  • multi-shot NR mode
  • and a great price for all the above. 

 Yes, the price was good enough to mention twice - this was a 'used-very good' grab at Amazon's marketplace, their version of the Land of Misfit Toys - some times they're merely misunderstood, of course, so people return them without an objective reason.  Price alone is nice but I do not buy a camera just because it's under $200; this one is here because it's pretty much unique at that price for the features it offers.  For me, if a sub-$200 raw-image-capable camera if available, it's worth considering! This dense, pocketable camera also has GPS if you're into that - but bring a spare battery or two in that case.


This collage is both images from a Raw+jpg, clearly a harshly-lit scene (expecially for a 1/2.0" sensor) - but Raw processing nearly pulled out a miracle here. This was less than 5 minutes' work in PS Elements 9. It nearly brought back every washout, and detail came back in the wreath - and in both cases the larger print on the lower part of the door is legible. OK, I'm impressed.

* If one seeks the down sides, note that this is a 2-aperture camera with a third via ND filtration. It should also be noted that Fuji's EXR modes are accessible in several ways, only few of which are made clear in the virtual owners' manual - check forums and blogs for best settings. This complexity probably results in indifferent online reviews (and returns to the Amazon Marketplace!)  I must take the word of bloggers and forum members for now, as it's really quite baffling.. makes one wonder if even Fuji knows what their sensors can do!  

Right now I've gone with the common wisdom of M image size, 400% DR recovery and P setting, but occasionally go to auto-EXR and watch what it selects.  Sure, now I've 'crippled' it to mostly 8Mpxl shooting in M mode - but it's great there, and it's shooting Raw!  If you think this is stupid, the camera is not for you.

Note - here is a great source for Fuji real-world info, linked especially to a post on what M image size brings to the table over the full 16Mpixel shots.  Kim has tested many different cameras over time and has taken the time to see what works, documented or otherwise.  Worth browsing his site (and his site has an index... why don't I? :^).

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