Digital Cameras - Fuji MX-1700 Zoom Test Images
(Original test posting: 8/26/99)
When we shoot our test pictures, we're generally just in a "production"
mode, checking only to see if the subjects are framed properly before
moving on to the next. We therefore often don't get to closely inspect the
images until we come to the "analysis" phase, and are sometimes surprised
by what we find. In the case of the MX-1700, we observed that the pictures
it was taking seemed pretty nice, but didn't really know just how nice,
until we started looking at them closely. The "outdoor portrait" shot in
particular is exceptional, certainly one of the best two or three performances
we've seen from a 1.5 megapixel camera to date! Color and tonal range are
both excellent. The contrast is well-controlled, flesh tones very natural,
colors in the flowers accurate and saturated, and the image about as sharp
as 1.5 megapixel cameras get. Even the very difficult blues of the flowers
and the model's pants are reproduced very well. Overall an excellent performance!
The default shot (841k)
is typically dark, due to the light background. Our main
shot (842k) here was taken with an exposure compensation
of +0.6 EV, which brought the fleshtones to the right brightness level,
yet still left detail even in the model's white shirt. For those interested,
the table below contains links to shots taken with a range of exposure
compensations, from 0 to +1.2 EV.
As we often find to be the case, with the model's face filling more
of the screen, the default exposure becomes more accurate. With the MX-1700,
the default exposure (642k)
was actually our choice for the main shot for this test. The zoom lens is
a real help for portrait shots like this, as the longer focal length at
the telephoto end of the zoom doesn't distort facial features (such as the
nose) the way a fixed-focus, wide-angle lens would. Excellent resolution,
tonal range, and color: Once again among the very best we've seen from a
1.5 megapixel camera! As above, the table below has links to shots taken
with a range of exposure compensations, from 0 to +0.9 EV.
flash: (852k) The indoor flash pictures we
shot with the MX-1700 were a bit on the dark side (probably due to the large
white wall behind the model) and just a little warm cast overall, likely
because of the heavy incandescent room lighting. - This shot is generally
very difficult for digicams to achieve proper color balance on, due to the
huge difference between the color temperature of the flash and the room
lighting. To its credit, the MX-1700 produced a very uniform color cast
as shown here (849k), with
none of the blue highlights we frequently find. As a result, the images
"clean up" remarkably well in Photoshop, as shown in this image(684k),
which had only an "auto levels" operation performed on it. Like other Fuji
digicams we've tested, the MX-1700 is unusual in that it allows exposure
adjustments on the flash, as well as on the ambient-light exposure. We unfortunately
didn't think to take any shots with the flash exposure increased manually,
before we had to send the camera back. The "Slow Synchro" mode uses slower
shutter speeds in conjunction with the flash, allowing more of the ambient
light into the scene. This really only works with daylight-balanced ambient
lighting though, as you can see here(852k),
where the strong yellow cast of the incandescent lighting overpowers the
||Indoor portrait, no flash: (850k) This shot is a very difficult test of the white-balance algorithms of most cameras, given the strong yellowish cast of the household incandescent lighting used to illuminate it. Still, it's a situation likely to be encountered by users, so we think is a valid test. Like so many cameras we've tested, the MX-1700's automatic white balance system wasn't up to the task of getting rid of so much yellow, producing shots with a strong yellow cast, as shown here(850k). The "incandescent" setting fared quite a bit better, producing the result shown here (866k), leaving just enough of the lighting coloration to reflect the way the original scene appeared to our eyes. Both of the shots above were taken with the exposure compensation set to +1.. The default exposures were quite dark, as seen in these auto (864k) and incandescent (862k) examples.|
Our standard House poster is one of our strongest tests of detail
and resolution. The MX-1700 performed very well on this shot, with good
very good color and resolution. It's clearly at the top of the field of
1.5 megapixel units on this test, bested only by it's older (and much bulkier)
brother, the MX-600 (and it's "kissing cousin" the Toshiba PDR-M3). "Auto"
and "Daylight" white balance settings produced very similar color balances.
We chose the auto setting for our main shot (795k)
here, as we felt the color was slightly truer than on this daylight-balanced
version(170k). The table below contains a full
set of resolution/image quality sample shots, including uncompressed image
at both high and low resolution. Overall a very good performance on this
This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE
that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which
is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster
will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the
presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as
the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the
bricks, shingles, and window detail, and in the tree branches against the
sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the
edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the
Despite the seasonal variability, this shot is perhaps the strongest test of camera resolution of any we do, and the MX-1700 again did very well with it. Given the changes in the subject from test to test, it's hard to make exact comparisons with it, but the MX-1700 appears to perform very well relative to other 1.5 megapixel digicams we've tested to date. Our main shot (777k) was taken with auto white balance, and the in-camera sharpening set to its default value of 2. Color balance here using "auto" mode is very good also: Very natural, with just-right saturation.
The table below shows all variations of image size and quality:
Resolution/Image Quality Series:
||Lens Zoom Range (new): We've received
a number of requests from readers to take shots showing the lens focal length
range of those cameras with zoom lenses. Thus, we're happy to present you
here with the following series of shots, showing the field of view with
respectively, the lens at full wide-angle, the lens at full telephoto, and
the lens at full telephoto with "digital telephoto" enabled.
While this is just a picture of a poster, the color values for
the various skin tones are pretty representative of the three ethnic groups
represented. Skin tones are tough for digital cameras, both because the
Caucasian skin color is so sensitive to over-saturation, and because all
of the tones are "memory colors:" People are so familiar with the range
of "correct" colors that any deviation is immediately obvious.
The MX-1700 again did very well here, as seen in our main shot (728k). This image was shot using the "daylight" white balance, although we found almost no difference between the daylight setting and the "auto" one, as shown here. (160k) Overall color is quite good, although carrying the slight yellowish cast we've frequently encountered in Fuji's cameras. (An ideal application for the PhotoGenetics application we review elsewhere on this site!) Detail again is very good, well up there with other 1.5 megapixel cameras we've tested.
As before, we've arranged a full set of resolution/image quality samples
in the table below, as well as samples showing the effect of the full
range of sharpness settings on a high-resolution image.
|Macro shot:(678k) The MX-1700's macro function does pretty well, although it's not in the "microscopic" range of some current digicams. At closest approach, it captures an area of 2.3 x 2.9 inches (5.9 x 7.4 cm), as shown here(678k). The flash throttles-down quite well for closeups, in fact somewhat underexposing this shot (690k), due to the strong reflection from the brooch. As usual, the "digital telephoto" mode doesn't add any detail, simply cropping into the central portion of the image. For normal shots, we tend to pooh-pooh digital tele, but macro shooting may be an exception: For shots going onto the web, letting the camera do the cropping for you ahead of time makes sense, so the effect really could amount to the 2.0x "magnification" it's touted as. The shots taken here(162k) show the results with the 2.0x digital tele enabled.|
|"Davebox" test target:(646k)
The MX-1700 did reasonably well in this test, but it's color performance
was hurt a bit by an overall yellowish cast noted above. This cast appeared
in both the main shot (646k),
taken with auto white balance, and in this sample low-res one(155k),
taken with the daylight setting. (In this test, the two white balance settings
produced almost identical results. We've commented before on these overall
color casts, and don't understand why the manufacturers can't eliminate
them. As noted above, they're certainly easy enough to deal with after the
fact, using programs like Adobe Photoshop, or amazingly useful PhotoGenetics
, by Q-Research, which we've reviewed elsewhere on this site. (For reference,
here's a low-res version of the image (134k)
that we cleaned-up in Photoshop with just an "auto levels" command.) Tonal
range is about typical of the 1.5-megapixel cameras we've tested, although
shadow noise is a bit higher than we've seen with some units. (Not much,
but it's there.) The camera does moderately well with the very difficult
red/magenta separation in the small horizontal color-separation target.
Overall, a good performance, but one that could be improved by eliminating
the yellowish overall tint.
As before, we have a full resolution/image-quality series in the table below:
Fuji's "official" ratings for equivalent ISO speed, aperture and shutter range result in an "official" light-sensitivity range of EV 10 to EV 22, more properly 8 to 32,000 foot-candles, or 88 to 350,000 lux. The lower limit of this range in fact agrees fairly well with our own tests, although we felt that our test exposure at EV 9 (4 foot-candles, or 44 lux) was usable, if a little dark. At that low a light level, when you brighten the image in an image-editing program, you'll see a moderate amount of noise in the shadows. We also observed that boosting the exposure compensation setting doesn't appear to buy you anything in terms of low- light capability: In some cameras, the manual exposure compensation boosts the signal coming off the CCD a bit, giving you a bit more overall sensitivity, but this does not appear to be the case with the MX-1700. One good point: There were none of the odd color shifts we've sometimes found in digicams at low light levels: The images are pretty easy to brighten up in Photoshop(tm) or other image editor. A minimum light rating of four to eight foot-candles is decent, but not amazing by current digicam standards. Thus, while you'll be able to shoot in reasonably dim interior conditions (homes and offices), the MX-1700 won't be the camera to use for actual night photography.
The table below shows the best exposure we were able to obtain for each
of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table are untouched,
exactly as they came from the camera.
|Flash Range Test (New)
(This test was added in August 1999, so cameras tested before that time won't have comparison pictures available. As we go forward though, all the new models will have similar tests available.)
Oops! - We neglected to shoot this test before we had to return the 1700 to Fuji! We'll try to get a unit back to re-test, & take this shot. (Sorry!)
|ISO 12233 ("WG-18") resolution
target: (627k) This test is always interesting,
as a way to pick apart "in the laboratory" what the camera is doing resolution-wise.
In the case of the MX-1700, we felt it performed very well in the resolution/sharpness
department in the other tests we conducted. In particular, the images seemed
quite sharp for a 1.5 megapixel camera. Shooting the resolution test target,
some of the "secret" of this sharpness became evident.
First some minor background explanation: Most all digicams employ some level of "anti aliasing" in their optical design. This is to prevent the camera from seeing colors along sharp, high-contrast edges in the image. Think about it: With individual sensor pixels having either red, green, or blue color filters over them, there's always the possibility they could be confused by very fine detail. Imagine a situation where an abrupt white-to-black edge in the subject left two of the pixels of a color triplet are illuminated, but not the third: What will the camera see? If the red and blue sensor elements were illuminated but not the green, the result would be a bright magenta pixel, even though the subject was just black and white. To avoid these problems, camera designers employ varying amounts of selective "blurring" in their systems. (We can feel the engineers cringing as we write this grossly simplified description of the process!) The result is some tradeoff in apparent sharpness, in exchange for no colors popping up where they shouldn't be.
In the case of the MX-1700, it appears that the engineers chose to boost the sharpness a bit by holding back on the anti-aliasing. The result in the resolution test target is rather more aliasing than we're accustomed to seeing, showing up as bands of color in some of the higher-frequency elements. Will this affect your own shooting with the camera? Probably not in most cases, but you could very well see some of these false colors if you shot a subject with fine horizontal lines. (Venetian blinds at a distance? Someone in striped pants laying on their side?) The upside is that images in general will appear a little crisper than they would otherwise. An interesting note: Digicam zoom lenses are invariably slightly sharper at the wide-angle end of their range (which is why we show test samples at both wide-angle and telephoto settings.) The slight softening of the MX-1700's images at the telephoto end of the lens' range is enough to almost completely eliminate the aliasing we saw in the wide-angle shot, even though the apparent resolution is virtually identical.
Overall, resolution on the MX-1700 was good: It tested-out with a visual resolution of roughly 700 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and 650 lines per picture height vertically. These numbers are very much in line with other 1.5 megapixel digicams we've tested. Images shot in low-res mode are of good quality. (Not always a given with dual-resolution digicams.) Shots in digital telephoto mode (155k) show less resolution than those taken as low-res shots in the first place. The tables below show the usual array of images shot in various combinations of size, quality, and sharpness setting
Resolution/Image Quality Series Wide Angle
Resolution/Image Quality Series Telephoto
|Viewfinder accuracy/flash uniformity target:
Both the optical and LCD viewfinders in the MX-1700 were a bit "looser"
than we'd prefer. At the wide-angle end of the lens' range, the optical
viewfinder (618k) only shows about 81% of
the final view, while the LCD viewfinder (227k)
shows about 91%. At the telephoto end of the lens' range, the optical
viewfinder (609k) shows only 78% of the final view,
while the LCD viewfinder (607k)
still shows 90%. In digital telephoto mode
(150k), the LCD shows 96% of the final view. (Surprising
as it may seem, many LCD viewfinders show less than the full image area.)
Flash uniformity is better than most cameras, with only slight light falloff in the corners at the wide-angle end of the zoom range.
We've recently begun testing cameras for optical distortions, such as
barrel/pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration. The MX-1700 showed
moderately severe barrel distortion at the wide angle end, measuring 1.5%
deviation across the width of the frame, but only a tiny 0.2% barrel distortion
in telephoto mode. Chromatic aberration was almost non-existent, with
only the tiniest hint of color on test elements at the extreme corners
of the resolution target. Although we don't have resolution elements out
there to generate a quantitative measure, we did note that text and fine
details were notably soft in the extreme corners of the frame, particularly
in wide angle mode. We also saw moderate lens flare at the edges of the
frame at the telephoto setting.
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