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Fujifilm X100S Ken McMahon, May 2013
 
 

Fujifilm X100S vs Nikon COOLPIX A Quality RAW

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To compare real-life RAW performance I shot this scene with the Fujifilm X100S and the Nikon COOLPIX A, within a few moments of each other using their RAW modes.

Because the cameras have different fixed focal length lenses, I changed positions between shots, moving closer to the subject with the COOLPIX A to achieve the same framing and similar sized detail .

For this test the X100S was set to Aperture priority mode; all camera settings were left on the defaults.

  Fujifilm X100S results
1 Fujifilm X100S Quality JPEG
2 Fujifilm X100S Quality RAW
3 Fujifilm X100S Noise JPEG
4 Fujifilm X100S Noise RAW
5 Fujifilm X100S Sample images

The image above was taken with the Fujifilm X100S. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode and f5.6 was selected as this produced the best result from the lens. With the sensitivity set to 200 ISO the X100S metered an exposure of 1/640. As usual for this test, the camera was otherwise left on the default settings. The Nikon COOLPIX A also produced its best results at f5.6, where it metered 1/640 with the sensitivity set to 100 ISO. To produce the same exposure as on the X100S I set +1EV exposure compensation on the COOLPIX A, producing an exposure of 1/320.

I processed both files in Adobe Camera RAW 7.4 using identical settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. To reduce white balance differences I also set the white balance to for both files to 5100k. These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what's really going on behind the scenes.

The interesting thing about these X100S crops is that the granular quality that was evident in the JPEGs is a lot more obvious. This isn't noise, it's the image pixel data itself, as with the JPEGs it's most obvious in areas with text but in these highly sharpened raw files you can see it almost everywhere. You wouldn't ordinarily apply such a high degree of sharpening to RAW files, but the purpose of this approach, as I've said, is to reveal and compare aspects of sensor quality in isolation from in-camera processing.

This bittiness isn't evident in my earlier test results from the X-Pro 1 and X-E1, so the question is what's changed? Well, it isn't the X100S sensor, or at least that's not the main reason. In early 2013, Adobe released the Camera RAW 7.4 update with 'improved handling' of RAW files from X-Series models and this granularity is largely a result of that change. I've gone back to the X-E1 files I processed with ACR 7.3 and re-processed them with the same settings in 7.4 and the newer processing is sharper and results in this speckled, dither-like result. So, you'll get similar results with these settings for other X-series models including the X-Pro 1 and X-E1. What this means in practice is that with settings in the 'normal' range, you'll get sharper results from ACR 7.4 with better definition, but you'll have to be more careful not to overdo it, than if you're still using ACR 7.3.

Compared with the crops from the Nikon COOLPIX A, even at these enhanced sharpening and no noise reduction settings, the COOLPIX A detail is a lot smoother and more natural looking. But it would be a mistake to interpret this as a better result for the COOLPIX A, it's simply that the X-Trans sensors require a different approach. Having said that, it would be fair to say that, at the base sensitivity settings at least, you can clearly get away with a lot more sharpening on the COOLPIX A and still produce natural looking results with a high level of detail and crisp edges.

Now see how these models compare at higher sensitivities in my Fujifilm X100S Noise results.

 

Fujifilm X100S
 
Nikon COOLPIX A
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO


Fujifilm X100S
results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise


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