The promise of the new technology has been to bring the sort of dynamic range and forgiving exposure curve that have characterized film to the digital world. Fuji's apparently struggled with producing these more complex sensors, so the F700's commercial debut has been considerably delayed. They're finally shipping though, and I'm busily testing one, to bring our readers a full report shortly. (Likely another week+ though, given my current backlog.) Because it's such an innovative sensor technology, I've really been looking forward to putting it through its paces.
The tendency of digicams to totally lose detail in strong highlights has been a persistent bugaboo from the outset. This is exactly the sort of thing that my deliberately-awful "Outdoor Portrait" shot is intended to test. Readers (and other pundits) have from time to time called me to task for the horrible lighting on this shot. Don't I know any better than to shoot a "portrait" shot in full, direct sunlight? Of course I do! I'd of course normally strenuously try to avoid this sort of setting, and if I had no alternative, would at least use some fill-flash or a reflector to soften the shadows.
But that's not the point: The whole purpose of this shot is to see how well cameras handle really harsh lighting, with glaring highlights and deep shadows. This is a shot that a film camera shooting onto color negative film would have relatively little difficulty with, but that gives digicams fits. It's invariably a tradeoff between how much highlights you're comfortable losing, and how dark you're willing to take your shadows and midtones. Some cameras have options to reduce the contrast of their tone curves, but this can introduce problems with color saturation, and is still ever only partially successful.
As it happened, I had both a Fuji S5000 and the F700 in-house at the same time, so I shot the same subject with the two cameras just a few minutes apart. The results are impressive, nicely validating the rationale behind Fuji's SR technology. While the S5000 quickly lost all detail in the highlights (as do most, if not all, digicams on this shot), the F700 retained a surprising amount of detail in Marti's shirt. What I hadn't expected, but that should have been perfectly obvious, is that the F700 had much more exposure latitude than the S5000 or other digicams I've shot this with. The extended tonal range means that I could get acceptable-looking images over a much broader range of exposures than is normally the case.
Overall, it looks like Fuji's "SR" approach is a genuine innovation with a lot to offer the digital photographer. - I just hope Fuji brings it to the "enthusiast" and/or professional range of their cameras soon, as it's those photographers who are likely to appreciate the improved tonality the most.
Kudos to Fuji for thinking "out of the box," and coming up with a genuinely useful sensor innovation as a result.
|Fujifilm FinePix S5000 ||Fujifilm FinePix F700 |
|SuperCCD HR ||SuperCCD SR |
| || |
|Camera Settings |
|Exposure ||Auto ||Exposure ||Auto |
|Compensation ||+1.0EV ||Compensation ||+1.3EV |
|ISO ||200 ||ISO ||200 |
|Aperture ||5.6 ||Aperture ||9 |
|Shutter ||1/480 sec. ||Shutter ||1/250 sec. |
The table above shows a side by side comparison of photos from the Fuji FinePix S5000 and FinePix F700. Click on either to download the full-sized image. The sets of images below show how each camera did across a range of exposure compensation settings.
|Compensation ||0.0EV ||0.3EV ||0.7EV ||1.0EV ||1.3EV |
|FinePix S5000 || || || || || |
|FinePix F700 || || || || || |