low end digital / low light and macro ?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by stu7seven, Jun 27, 2008.

  1. stu7seven

    stu7seven Guest

    I have a Fuji P&S... nice zoom... and, it does great daytime
    pictures... but I have two problems with it.
    This camera will not function once the Sun goes down... without
    flash, it chokes even on a heavilly overcast day.

    So_ next, I'll be looking for a digital with two capabilities...
    it needs in reduced lighting situations... and... it needs to
    work totally without autofocus, or, maybe I should say, have
    a manual focus mode.

    What kind of digital... inexpensive please... will have these
    capabilities ? Or... has digital completely forgotten about
    manual focus and low light ??

    thanks for any suggestions. Im sure these same problems
    are perplexing a lot of other 35mm/slr people too.
    stu7seven, Jun 27, 2008
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  2. stu7seven

    stu7seven Guest

    oops... typo: I meant
    stu7seven, Jun 27, 2008
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  3. Low end, low light and manual focus are three mutually exclusive

    The Fuji F20/30 series were the best of the compacts for low-light -
    no recent cameras have done any better. But usable manual focus?
    On small sensor cameras you just won't get significantly better
    results. I'd suggest you forget looking at compacts - if you are
    after low cost, about your only option might be a secondhand dslr with
    a 50/1.8 lens or similar. The older canon digitals are probably the
    best low-light performers.
    mark.thomas.7, Jun 28, 2008
  4. The inexpensive DSLRs now available work well a much wider range of
    conditions than the small-sensor compact cameras, the auto-focus is
    significantly faster, and they aren't that heavy either. Worth a look,
    at least.

    David J Taylor, Jun 28, 2008
  5. wrote in :
    Fuji P&S cameras have sensors that under-perfrom those by many other
    companies, hence the need for their cartoon-like noise reduction which
    removes all fine detail at high ISOs and in shadows.
    John P Sheehy, Jun 28, 2008
  6. stu7seven

    ASAAR Guest

    You've said that before, but it's still complete BS, at least as a
    generalization, and this has been demonstrated in the past. It may
    be true for *some* of Fuji's P&S cameras, but definitely not for all
    of them, a few of which (such as those mentioned by Mark, above) are
    better at high ISOs than any other P&S cameras, much more closely
    approaching the detail of DSLRs at high ISOs than any other P&S
    cameras. You either ignore facts that you don't like or forget
    very easily. It must be distressing that what appears to be one of
    your favorite P&S cameras has such poor high ISO, low noise
    performance, despite its ultra low read noise, that you so often
    tell us about. :)
    ASAAR, Jun 29, 2008
  7. stu7seven

    John Sheehy Guest

    The day I bought the FZ50, I almost bought the 6MP Fuji (6500, I believe)
    which had RAW (I went with the FZ50 because of the legendary lens). It
    turns out they both have similar pixel read noise, but the FZ50 collects
    more photons in each of its 10M pixels than the 6500 does in each of its
    6M. This is the same 6MP sensor in the "legendary" F31.

    I'm just stating the facts as I find them. Here's what the 6MP Fuji sensor
    looks like at ISO 3200 without any noise reduction:


    John Sheehy, Jun 30, 2008
  8. stu7seven

    John Sheehy Guest

    Sorry, I meant to link to the page, not the image itself:


    The page mentions that it is a 100% crop; if that were the entire image
    properly downsampled, that would be *really* bad.

    John Sheehy, Jun 30, 2008
  9. stu7seven

    Mark Thomas Guest

    Indeed. Like asaar, forgive me if I defer to other sources. Just for a
    change from the usual dpreview pages, here are two Cameralabs pages, one
    for the F30 and one for the FZ50. Look carefully at the ISO 1600 shots,
    taken in controlled, but real-life conditions:


    Neither are brilliant, but imo there is more usable detail in the Fuji
    images. The pure noise tests on the previous pages are even more
    damning, but less 'real'. Similarly, every review I can find for the
    FZ50 is critical of its low-light/noise performance, and its
    over-zealous NR. Nice camera otherwise, don't get me wrong.

    Eg, here are some reviewers comments:
    (IR) - Fuji has been wise to emphasize the F30's range of excellent
    low-light options...
    (CL) - (The F30's) low light capabilities still lead the market
    (DPR) - F30 is far and away the best low light compact camera on the
    market today... F30's sensor gives you at least a two-stop advantage

    (IR) - Panasonic FZ50 really struggles when shooting at higher ISO
    levels, producing images that are marred by excessive chroma noise...
    (CL) - FZ50 sadly runs into trouble at 200 ISO... detail is smeared-out
    by aggressive noise reduction... with its compromised image quality
    above 100 ISO is arguably a step-backwards
    (DPR) - fantastic camera with a less than stellar sensor... smearing of
    detail.. limits the FZ50 to low ISO settings.. only for those users who
    can live without anything over ISO 200...

    And there are numerous other examples - are all these people on the Fuji
    payroll? It seems you may be justifying your own purchase decision,
    rather than doing controlled tests. If you wish to show two identically
    lit and exposed images, and a similarly lit and (under)exposed
    unprocessed shot at 3200 from the FZ50... feel free to come back and
    continue the discussion.

    I'm intrigued by your claim that FZ50 'collects more photons' - do you
    have a source?

    Anyway, this is rather offtopic as no *compact* camera is highly suited
    to low-light photography, and the FZ50 is neither compact or worthy of
    any consideration for someone who is focussed on low-light imaging...

    Do you have alternative suggestions for the best *compact* camera, and
    supporting links?
    Mark Thomas, Jun 30, 2008
  10. stu7seven

    ASAAR Guest

    OK so far.
    How so? The FZ50 has a 1/1.8" sensor and the S6000/S6500 has a
    larger 1/1.7" sensor. If the larger sensor has fewer pixels, then
    those pixels/sensels must be much larger than those in the FZ50's
    sensor. Unless each of the Fuji's sensels is really tiny, and each
    one is surrounded by a lot of unused, wasted space.

    Legendary it may be, but it's not the camera that DPReview
    compared in its "legendary" high ISO/low noise comparison. That one
    was the F30, but close enough. At least for the moment you've
    abandoned your familiar "cartoon-like noise reduction" rant, which
    you've used before when you didn't want to admit that the F30 could
    possibly have low noise at high ISO as well as more detail than all
    but the DSLR in DPReview's test. Now if you're really on to
    something with your claim that the FZ50's pixels/sensels capture
    more photons than the Fuji's, it should outperform the Fuji. Let's
    see if DPReview found this to be true (selected quote snippets) :

    Fuji S6000 :

    Panasonic FZ50 :

    Oh well, at least your FZ50 has low read noise. Unfortunately,
    when it comes to high ISO/low noise with high detail, it doesn't
    come close to the performance of the S6000/S6500, which in turn is
    bested by the palm-sized F30. If your FZ50 could produce the same
    "cartoon-like noise reduction" you'd be ecstatic! :)

    For those that never saw DPReview's Compact Camera/High ISO test
    (and possibly for you, who apparently wants to forget it), it's
    still online. Cameras evaluated were Fuji's F30, Canon's Powershot
    S3 IS, the Panasonic FX01, Sony DSC-H5, Samsung NV7 OPS, Ricoh
    GR-Digital, Olympus Mju 800, Casio EX-Z850, Canon Powershot G7,
    Panasonic LX2, Olympus Mju 750, Casio EX-Z1000, and finally, your
    Panasonic FZ50. Canon's EOS 30D was also included in the test, and
    DPReview's reason was that it "is simply here as a benchmark to
    compare the compacts to".


    On second thought, it'll probably be a waste of your time unless
    you've changed (become more open minded) since you posted this
    comment about DPReview's comparison article nearly a year ago :

    "A closed mind is a terrible thing to waste." -- anon.
    ASAAR, Jun 30, 2008

  11. As an addendum to this, there are some very distinct differences between
    early FZ50s and those with current firmware. I initially used a friend's
    FZ50 and was really impressed but I bought one I was immediately
    unimpressed. The performance both in noise levels and focusing was not as
    good as the one I borrowed. I subsequently learned, through Google, that
    there had been a firmware update and my new camera did not have the current
    firmware. I found a thread on the issue and looked at some sample photos
    with the new firmware (see: http://tinyurl.com/5kevnv) and immediately
    returned the camera. They offered me another - brand new stock with the
    new firmware - which I accepted. It was and is quite brilliant. The
    difference really was from mediocre to brilliant. The new firmware makes it
    faster and gives it better battery life as well less noise and more precise

    I still find it to be more versatile at low ISO settings than my DSLRs. No
    bulky lenses to carry and I can instantly shoot anything from a macro to
    430mm zoom with that lovely Leica lens (or with the telephoto conversion at
    more than 850mm).

    If only it had decent low light capability I would want no other camera.
    That is why I was posting about TTL flash units the other day. I have
    solved that problem now, at huge cost unfortunately.

    Secret Squirrel
    clandestin_écureuil, Jun 30, 2008
  12. stu7seven

    Mark Thomas Guest

    And I can answer that request myself, having just browsed over the links
    asaar provided. At the bottom of this page:
    there is a direct comparison of the F30, the FZ50 and a DSLR at ISO3200.
    Oh dear. Perhaps that is a little unfair, as the Pana is in a reduced
    res mode and they didn't include the FZ50 in the lower ISO comparisons.
    But it is very clear throughout that test that the F30 is simply in a
    class all by itself when it comes to compact high ISO.. Of course the
    camera itself wasn't so outstanding in some other aspects but in that
    respect, ie low-light sensor performance, it was unchallenged.

    Sadly, it's been downhill since then due to the suicidal desire of
    camera companies (inc. Fuji) to simply pack more pixels onto sensors, so
    finding one of these little gems may be difficult. It does make one
    wonder what sort of cameras we *should* be seeing now if the improvement
    in sensor/processing quality had continued. Or even if they just stuck
    a similar sensor into a design like the FZ50 so it could benefit from
    that lovely piece of glass.. Oh well.
    That's interesting to know, especially for anyone considering one
    secondhand... I wasn't aware of a firmware release addressing noise.
    I would imagine the 'less noise' is only relevant up to about 2-400 ISO,
    judging by your comments. The images I've seen above that from the FZ50
    were clearly beyond any sort of NR, or firmware fix.. (O:
    No argument with that - I use a similar camera and love the
    'one-thing-to-carry' convenience. I borrow a DSLR every now and then,
    and one day I might win the lottery and get one of those I think are
    'worthy' (which at the moment would probably only be the D3...(O:)
    I saw the thread but missed that posting - I'll go check it again..
    Metz? (no need to answer, I'm just being lazy..)
    Mark Thomas, Jun 30, 2008
  13. Mark Thomas wrote:

    Not necessarily. To me, there is more graduation in the reflected
    highlights on the Casio and Panasonic than on the Fuji, and it might be
    that the 2.5MP image would be more than good enough for smaller prints
    (say up to 7 x 5 inches). (I've seen good A4-size prints [297 x 210mm)
    from a 3.3MP camera.)

    So in low-light conditions, reducing the spatial bandwidth by binning may
    well be a better comprise then having a sharp, but noisier image. It may
    also depend on the image, and the viewer. It is one case where
    pixel-peeping at 1:1 zoom just doesn't tell the whole story.

    David J Taylor, Jun 30, 2008
  14. stu7seven

    ransley Guest

    I have a cheap digital, i just use a tripod, actualy many fujis have
    had better low light performance then others by a stop or 2. P&S are
    most all a bit slow. but it depends on your model. Dont expect
    anything without sun or a tripod but blur.
    ransley, Jun 30, 2008
  15. stu7seven

    ASAAR Guest

    Someone here has eyes but cannot see. :) Really, anyone only
    needs a quick look at the ISO 3200 and they'll easily see detail
    produced by the F30 that would show up in a print. But that same
    detail is completely absent from the Casio and Panasonic images, so
    it wouldn't be visible in prints of any size. See all of the dots
    (rivets?) in the robot's face? They're very clear in the EOS 30D
    and F30 images, but completely absent from the Casio and Panasonic
    images. It's impossible to compare the text seen in the 30D and F30
    images because it's cropped out of the Casio and Panasonic images.
    But if you examine the full images, you'll see that the "Tin Light"
    that appears on the robot's chest is produced very legibly by the
    30D, is a bit noisy but legible (F30),

    Now if you're trying to make an A4 print from the FZ50's full
    image, the result may be satisfying, but that satisfaction would
    quickly turn to dismay if an A4 print from the F30 was placed next
    to the one from the FZ50. From uncropped (other than to match the
    print aspect ratio), where *no* pixel peeping is involved, the
    FZ50's ISO 3200 image just doesn't compare. You may need good
    eyesight or a loupe to read the "Tin Light" in the smaller of the
    F30's prints. But the same detail from FZ50's image, whether
    printed at 4"x6", 5"x7", 8"x10" or A4, is an illegible smudge. You
    may be able to make out that it's text, and that's a shame,
    considering the detail that the FZ50's Leica lens can produce.

    Speaking of "Leica", look at the camera in the test shot. The
    F30's image clearly shows Leitz Elmar 1:3.5 F=50mm, as well as the
    aperture and other markings. The FZ50 only shows smudges.

    One other point - the color produced by the FZ50 may be pleasing,
    but it isn't accurate, at least on my monitor. The F30's image of
    the "Kodak Gray Scale" is gray, and the supposedly white background
    appears quite white. The FZ50's image on the other hand has a
    pronounced greenish cast. Since DPReview said about the FZ50 "Vivid
    but realistic color", maybe the color balance wasn't closely
    monitored during the test. In any case, that's a non-issue for FZ50
    RAW shooters. Or for FZ50 owners that wear rose colored glasses. :)
    ASAAR, Jun 30, 2008
  16. []

    I'm not pixel peeping, simply suggesting that for smaller prints, have a
    smaller number (2.5MP) of binned pixels may be preferable to a larger
    number (10MP) of poorer quality ones. I don't have the time to try this
    test for myself right now, but it would be interesting to know what actual
    prints - and not pixel peeping - shows. And I mean viewing the prints at
    a normal distance, not with a magnifying glass. It's a test for anyone to
    try - I am not pre-judging the result.

    David J Taylor, Jun 30, 2008
  17. stu7seven

    ASAAR Guest

    I completely understood that you weren't pixel peeping and in some
    cases binning might be preferable. From what I could see, though,
    the binning might be more of an advantage for the pixel peepers,
    since it seems to really be good at hiding, or smoothing out noise -
    unfortunately losing a tremendous amount of detail in the process.

    Did you actually look at the images? The one from the FZ50 at ISO
    3200 that I described (at the link provided by Mark Thomas) *was*
    binned. At least it didn't turn out as bad as the really atrocious,
    similarly binned photo from the Casio EX-Z1000. If you want to try
    your test, almost everything is supplied. Save the ISO 3200 images
    for the FZ50 and F30, add some spice from your favorite editor if
    you wish, bake until done and print. As I indicated, if you print
    the full sized image the difference may be slight. But if it's a
    cropped portion that you print, the difference should be obvious.
    Loupe not needed!
    ASAAR, Jun 30, 2008
  18. ASAAR wrote:
    That I don't agree with - it seemed to me that there was more colour
    detail in the binned images, and that operating the small sensor at such
    ISOs with noise cleaning lost too much.
    Yes, it was inspection of the images which made me wonder what a full-size
    print mught be like. I was thinking of full-size images, not cropped,
    i.e. 2.5MP for a 6x4-inch or 7x5-inch print. I don't the time at the
    moment to check this myself. Yes, the Casio looked to be binning too many

    Of course, no matter how you try to fix-up the small-sensor images, they
    will not be anything like as good as those from a full-frame or crop-frame
    35mm camera (DSLR or otherwise), so as soon as someone says "low-light",
    the DSLR would spring to mind as the obvious solution.

    David J Taylor, Jul 1, 2008
  19. stu7seven

    John Sheehy Guest

    Something like that must be going on. The sensor in the 6500 saturates
    at about 3200 photons at ISO 100. 4800 for the FZ50.
    I never said that the Fuji NR didn't leave a lot of edge detail. That's
    exactly what it *does* do; maintains high-contrast edges, while smoothing
    away fine detail and low-contrast detail. I can do the same for any
    camera with a sigma filter. The edges that are maintained can be quite
    wrong and jagged, of course, at high ISOs.
    How in the world would DPReview be able to tell this? No one on the
    DPReview staff knows anything about RAW data; how to look at it or
    analyze it. They are JPEG and converter people.
    No, I wouldn't; I despise that look. It's for optically naive people who
    think that anything they don't see colored speckles in is good.
    It's not a matter of forgetting; it's a matter of not accepting anyone in
    the DPReview Staff as an authority on RAW imaging.
    My mind is wide open, and very elastic, and that's why my understanding
    goes a lot deeper, and I don't by into the myths that the DPR staff do.

    John Sheehy, Jul 11, 2008
  20. Really? If so, that explains something I've been struggling with in
    their reviws for some time. They sometimes make detailed comments
    about camera sensors and lens performance without making at all clear
    how they avoided having those judgments polluted by well-known
    differences in camera or editor jpeg conversions. I've sometimes spent
    a long time scanning their reviews for clues as to how they avoided
    those problems without finding any clear statements.

    I can see there is a specific utility in comparing how one package
    combination of camera body, lens, and in-camera jpeg conversion stack
    up against another, but if that's all that dpreview are doing then
    they really should make that clearer in their reviews.
    Chris Malcolm, Jul 11, 2008
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