FujiFilm FinePix F200 EXR actually pimps the sensor quality for a change

fujifilm-f200exr.jpg

As Beschizza continuously points out, megapixels are marketing, and they don’t matter, yet digicams keep on cramming more of them into the same tiny, spotty sensors, leading to fuzzy, inferior images. It’s depressing: technologically, point-and-shoots should be edging closer to the quality of SLRs, but they’re doing nothing of the kind. Megapixels are the camera business’ answer to the Gigahertz… and equally misleading. It’s time to improve sensors, not resolution.

Perhaps FujiFilm gets it. They are promising that their new FinePix F200 EXR will offer high sensitivity, low noise and a wide dynamic range, mostly thanks to its new 1/1.6-inch Super CCD EXR sensor. Other specs include a 5x 28-mm wide-angle zoom lens with CCD-shift stabilization, a 5fps burst mode and 640 x 480 video recording.

That 12 megapixels is still twice what a decent camera sanely needs, but the point here is that FujiFilm’s pimping the sensor here on equal footing with the megapixels. Let’s hope that’s not just marketing, and the pictures back up the claims.

FujiFilm FinePix F200EXR [Let's Go Digital]

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26 Responses to FujiFilm FinePix F200 EXR actually pimps the sensor quality for a change

  1. ZoopyFunk says:

    Waka…so true. Beshizza must never need images for anything but the web.

    Megapixels are marketing? Then why did we ever go past 1 MP? That is just silly. Okay, maybe 12MP vs 10MP marketing. Some people actually print for their clients, and let me tell you, when printing, megapixels are everything. Software for upscaling is bad, bad, bad. When a client wants prints to hang in their boardroom or reception area, sub-8MP just aint gonna cut it.

  2. Crispy Critter says:

    Megapixels without quality are worthless. As an example of this, consider two cameras I’ve used, both of them 6 MP. One is a first-generation Canon Digital Rebel, and the other is a pocket-sized Panasonic Lumix.

    In bright light, they both do quite well, but the difference becomes astounding in low light. The Canon’s huge sensor is worlds better when the lights are dimmed; I was quite disappointed at the Panasonic’s image quality in low light.

    Still, I miss the Lumix – which self-destructed when I made the mistake of putting it into a pocket and the power switch got bumped…

  3. ZoopyFunk says:

    I must say that Beschizza is right, MP are marketing, if your lens sucks. All the MP in the world are not going to help tiny little crap point and shoot lenses.

    It has been, and maybe always will be, about the glass.

  4. umgrego2 says:

    @#1 Wakaman:
    I don’t think the point of Beschizza’s rants about megapixels is to say that they don’t matter at all. The point is that the constraint in P&S cameras at this point is not the number of megapixels. It depends obviously on each manufacturer, but somewhere around 8 and 10 MPixels the limit of the sensor was reached. Cramming more pixels into the same sized sensor at this point can actually reduce picture quality.

    Everyone should check out what Panasonic did with the LX3. With this latest version they stopped playing the Mpixel race and pimped out the sensor AS WELL AS pimping out the lens. Check out the review at:
    http://www.dpreview.com/news/0807/08072102panasoniclx3.asp

    This fujifilm camera still has a slow 3.3-5.1 lens slapped on the front. So you can do what you want with the sensor but you’re still going to be limited in low light situations.

  5. howaboutthisdangit says:

    I don’t know much about the Finepix line, but aren’t these cameras marketed toward *consumers*? If you want multimegapixels for your board-room presentation, then use a professional camera.

    Yes, megapixels *are* for marketing to easily impressed consumers, just like 6-bladed razors.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Oddly Kodak has some great patented algorithms for getting more sensitivity from a imaging chips pixel array, but I don’t see them in Kodaks products. Perhaps they have licensed them to Nikon

  7. dargaud says:

    A word of warning. I’m not sure if this is the same technology that was used on the (6 months old) Fuji F100, but they promised extended dynamics too. I bought it, like I bought the great S5, solely for the dynamic and was sorely disappointed: it work x2 only at 200iso and x4 at 400iso, where I want it to work at 100iso. It also makes me suspect some kind of software trick with little to do with the sensor. They pics were subpar and the camera promptly resold.

  8. airshowfan says:

    As ryuthrowsstuff said in #4, Fuji has been marketing superior CCD technology for a while. I used to sell digicams back when I was in college, and both the S602Z and the Z1 (2002, 2004) claimed improved high-ISO performance and more highly-saturated colors with less grain, thanks to Fuji’s “SuperCCD” technology and smart noise reduction. The results are not SLR-quality, but less grainy than comparable contemporary digicams. You can see some details at the end of this PDF, or some nice comparison shots about 3/4 of the way down this review.

    As for Wakaman (#1) and ZoopyFunk (#5)… I think Crispy Critter (#6) and Felsby (#10) are right. When you cram more pixels into a sensor, each pixel site is smaller. This means each pixel site has less light to work with (i.e. less energy to activate it), but no less interference from other sources of ionization (like the camera’s electronics, the vibrations of atoms due to temperature, external radiation, neighboring pixels, etc), so the signal-to-noise ratio decreases. This has a similar effect as raising a sensor’s ISO (sensitivity), making it try to work with less light: It captures more noise and the image becomes grainy. But there is a key point I don’t think you’re seeing: If you have an SLR CCD, you can make each pixel sensor smaller, but they’re still huge, i.e. the pixel density is not crowded enough for this added noise to be a significant issue. But these 10-megapixel compact digicams have such insanely pixel-dense CCDs that increasing the number of pixels drives noise way up, to the point where it un-does the theoretical increase in resolution that you’d have from more pixels. So sure, if you’re using an SLR or a medium-format camera, more pixels means more detail is captured (and your customer is happier). But in a compact digicam, more pixels means a grainier image (or fuzzier, since the alternative is aggressive noise-reduction, which looks fuzzy). Sure, all other things being equal, more pixels means more quality, but in compact digicams, more pixels tend to lead to much more grain and no effective increase in resolution (detail captured).

    (A quick example of how insanely crowded these compact digicam sensors are: A Canon 5D sensor has 1.39 megapixels per cm2, while a Panasonic FX150 sensor has over 37 megapixels per cm2. That’s 12 divided by (3.6 x 2.4), versus 14.7 divided by (.77 x .5). A full-frame SLR would have to have over 300 megapixels before its sensor got as crowded as a new compact digicam.)

    AND, as ZoopyFunk said (#7), the optics also matter. Even if your high-megapixel sensor somehow has low grain, if your lens projects a fuzzy image onto it, all you’ll capture is a high-resolution digital recording of a fuzzy image. If you took a really cheap low-quality lens (or a good lens that is slightly out of focus), and used it on a 6-megapixel SLR and then on a 12-megapixel SLR, would the 12-megapixel image contain any extra detail? No. And it’s not always that a manufacturer chooses to develop a new sharper lens to go on their new higher-megapixel digicam.

    And I agree with umgrego2 (#8): The LX3 is pretty nice. Sure, it only zooms in to 60mm, but the image quality is actually good enough for cropping, especially if the picture will just end up on the web. During last December I bought a Samsung NV24HD and returned it (lens way too fuzzy), then got a Panasonic FX500 and returned it (sensor way too grainy), then got the LX3 and was finally happy. It’s not perfect, but it sure is easier to carry around than the 5D.

  9. Keeper of the Lantern says:

    As a former optical engineer, I have to point out that you do ultimately need more megapixels if you want to have higher resolution. In fact, unless you increase the number of megapixels then any additional improvement in the optics is useless.

    Of course, megapixels =! kwality. But my point is that it may have been a simplified (and admittedly inaccurate) quality metric, akin to “total harmonic distortion” became the only kwality metric most people buying audio knew of, so manufacturers started engineering their gear around that one metric that was not really representative of the sound quality at all. (Look at the THD for single-ended triode designs.)

  10. Dv Revolutionary says:

    Jon-O, I think your understanding is a little flawed. That’s O.K. It happens to all of us.

    f/2.8 is a wide aperture, wider than most consumer zooms can do. Low F numbers mean wide apertures. The diffraction “problem” or phenomenon starts happen at small apertures therefore large f numbers like f/11 f/16 f/22 f/32.

    You can use it creatively. It a diffusion effect like squinting. Not exactly like squinting but similar. If you see a cool image with light streaming in when you squint but the scene resolves to be not that interesting with your eye wide open you can get something like the cool squinting image with the camera. Throw it over to aperture priority mode and crank the iris down and the f number up to F16, F22, f36, whatever your lens can do and take the shot. You will get more interesting streaming light (you will also get to see if your sensor has dust on it).

    For a good context that helps in understanding f numbers here is a great little bit of received wisdom. The human eye ranges from f/2 in darkness when the pupil is wide open to f/8 (pupil contracted tight) in sunlight. “Squinting trick” aside I tend to try an keep shooting within this range. f/5.6-f/6 are a very nice and sharp place to be with decent depth of field. Down near f/2 is glorious for low light work and shallow depth of field but it costs money to get a lens that can go that wide.

  11. nehpetsE says:

    This ain’t scientific, but my impression is that for around $1000 you can get a 10mp slr that will have image resolution roughly equivalent to the grain of 800 speed 35 mm color film.

    Digital that looks like 100 speed 35mm is about 4 times that cost.

    Digital that looks like large format film is only affordable to Nasa.

    For little convenience cameras, the best measure of the image quality is still just to look at the images.

  12. Itsumishi says:

    Felsby….I was not talking about compact cameras. I know exactly how sensors work. I was not talking about SLR’s and medium fomat, Not crap toys.

    If this is the case (and I’m guessing you meant to say ‘I was talking about SLR’s) then why make the comment on a post about a compact p&s without even making yourself clear.

    I’d bet that 90% of people using a p&s compact camera would never blow an image up past 4″x6″ prints and even if you are blowing them up to four times this size 6mp with a decent sensor will still look better than 12mp with a cruddy sensor.

  13. gadgetophile says:

    Damn, I was excited for a minute that FujiFilm was finally declaring the War on Megapixels over.

    But after seeing sample shots, colour me very unimpressed.

    Pixel Fusion mode: http://tr.im/em30
    Hi-res mode: http://tr.im/em34
    (warning gigantic images)

    Pixel Fusion just looks smaller and just a noisy.

    Bah humbug.

  14. philipb says:

    P&S marketing IS all about MPixels. I have an earlier Fuji Fine Pix bought because of it’s excellent low light performance & wide/fast lens. In reality most people’s P&S shots are taken in-doors where light is low and a 10x zoom does you no good.

    I’m always amused at how much better my lowly 6MP performs against other higher count cameras in these situations.

  15. felsby says:

    I am sorry, but Wakaman and Zoopyfunk does not understand how modern 12mp compact cameras work. As the sensors are the same size as when 6MP was norm, pixels have shrunk – and so has the output from the CCD. This creates NOISE, which looks bad. Then you apply noise reduction, and whoops! There goes the detail from your 12mp sensor. I do not invent this. Read the test on http://www.dpreview of the Sony dsc-T300, where the author sums up:
    “The question this camera raises is: if the extra megapixels added are too mushed-up by noise reduction to allow for large prints or cropping-in on images, then what are they good for? It’s a question that we believe a lot of new cameras will have to answer, and needs to be considered by a potential T300 buyer.”
    This, of course, is applicable to every overpixelated compact.

  16. felsby says:

    BTW: at 50 iso, where the noise is low, my 3MP compact produces decent A4 (7 x 10″) prints. When did you use a compact for larger prints?
    My film camera as well as my DSLR (10mp) has been used for stunning 24 X 36″ prints.

  17. Jon-o says:

    The other thing about ridiculous numbers of pixels squished into a tiny sensor is that diffraction starts becoming a problem – from my (possibly flawed) look at it, with this resolution and sensor size, any aperture wider than 2.8 is going to lose sharpness for this reason! http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/diffraction-photography.htm has some more info, along with a calculator tool.

  18. wakaman says:

    We DO need greater resolution. 12 megapixels is not nearly enough to print large scale prints. And if you hope to crop your images down to certain details, those extra megapixels come in handy. Not to mention, if you want to use your images in HD video, you’ll need those extra pixels for any zooming and panning you hope to do. Yes we need better sensors, better everything, but don’t be a megapixel luddite.

  19. soupisgoodfood says:

    @24: Yeah, but the point here is that lenses aren’t really getting any better in terms of optical quality for compact cameras, and there doesn’t seem to be any obvious improvements to optics for such cameras anytime soon.

  20. ZoopyFunk says:

    Felsby….I was not talking about compact cameras. I know exactly how sensors work. I was not talking about SLR’s and medium fomat, Not crap toys.

  21. Anonymous says:

    thanx gadgetophile (#13) for your link to the F200EXR samples!! I have been using the F30 for 3 years now, but as I see what kind of quality the F200 gets you at ISO1600 (according to the exif information) then I must say that it’s very good for a compact!!
    I do not expect DSLR quality from a compact, so I think Fuji is taking the top of the compacts again!!

  22. dculberson says:

    Megapixels help you play Deckard.

    “Enhance.”

  23. Anonymous says:

    #13: I can see a small improvement in noise and detail in the 6mp image, it is more apparent when the large image is scaled down to the same size as the small image.

    Compact cameras are always going to be noisy. What really interests me about this sensor is the increased dynamic range they claim. I hope this pans out.

  24. Anonymous says:

    @#1: If youre taking pictures with the intention of producing high quality large scale prints, you shouldnt be using a compact in the first place.

  25. ryuthrowsstuff says:

    Fuji’s actually been marketing there stuff based on CCD quality for a while. Even if its not in their advertising, their sales reps have been it goes into every sales pitch at every camera shop large or small.

    They claim the Super CCD is effectively 2 regular CCD’s sammiched together! 12mp is really a lot like 24mp with a Fuji!

  26. stratosfyr says:

    I bought a Finepix camera a few months ago a few months ago and was hugely disappointed. I think it’s a 6 Mpx, but the quality is about half as good as my old 3 Mpx Canon (which broke, unfortunately — apparently there was a design flaw).

    I don’t know if it’s the sensor quality or just that it overcompresses the JPGs. Practically all texture is washed out.

    Basically the camera’s only redeeming feature is that it’s dead easy to use, but then digicams aren’t exactly rocket science.

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