Fujifilm's FinePix F700 Digicam
Are Two CCDs Better Than One?

Overexposure has always been the bane of photographers, be they the film or digital variety. If using negative film, moderate overexposure could be easily handled when printing. But overexpose a slide film and colors, details, and especially bright areas would become washed out, with subsequent loss of detail and quality. The same goes for digital, where overexposure creates interference and causes the sensor to drop out detail and create crossovers (artifacts, odd colors) when an attempt to fix the image in image-editing software is made. Until now photographers would have to always bias their digital exposures toward the highlights, much as if they were exposing slide film. This controlled the highlight problem, but often at the expense of shadow detail. No photographer can properly handle gross overexposure, or deliver both bright highlights and deep shadow detail in one image, without controlling exposure and development carefully.

This was a very backlit scene made in the late afternoon. Getting detail in the shadow areas is well beyond expectations without some post-processing. To see what sat within the shadow recording I selected the sky and played with the Levels controls on the street and Flatiron Building.
Photos © 2003, George Schaub, All Rights Reserved

4th Generation CCD
That being the state of affairs we were intrigued when Fuji announced their 4th generation CCD, which they tell us includes both HR (for resolution) and SR (for dynamic range) CCDs. Both 3.35-megapixel CCDs are employed to deliver sharpness and a dynamic range they claim matches film to deliver a 6.7-megapixel image, thus close to an 18MB file. In the CCD SR there are both high-sensitivity (the so-called S-pixels) and low-sensitivity (the R-pixels) components. Thus, claims Fujifilm, while the S-pixels may be saturated in highlight areas the R-pixels continue to respond to light without over-saturation. Therefore, the Super CCD SR achieves four times the dynamic range than their previous CCD manifestation. When all is said and done the HR and SR combo is integrated in the image processor and the results should be such that they overcome previous exposure problems.

Our tests show that for the most part this is true, except of course when the contrast range is beyond reason and even beyond that which true Zone System practitioners could handle. But this 4th generation CCD did better than most digicams we've seen with high contrast scenes, and did so with a close-to 18MB file size that could be used for some great 11x14" prints.

Lo and behold the detail was there after a quick Levels adjustment of the selected area.

Improved Dynamic Range
To test the FinePix F700 we made pictures of very bright urban scenes and some with very dominant highlight areas. In some cameras these bright-dominant scenes would cause the metering system to underexpose, due to being fooled by the highlights. This could result in saturated highlights but very little shadow detail. All the images were photographed on Auto mode without fill flash or any exposure compensation. On one scene where the subject was almost totally backlit, we used a Magic Wand selection in Photoshop to see just how deep into the shadows we could get.

The results were impressive indeed. This tiny digicam delivered some of the best exposures in contrasty situations we've seen, close to those delivered by high-end digital SLRs shot on raw mode and post-processed in raw software. We did little or no post-processing on any of them. Most impressive were the scenes with bright highlights and deep shadows. The dynamic range was rather incredible, making us feel as if we could work with this camera more if we were shooting color negative film, rather than the more limiting color slide film type exposure procedures we practice with most digicams. Take a look at the images and their captions for more information. Street prices we've seen range from the high $400s to the mid-to-high $500s. If you're looking for a camera that can handle street scene contrast or nature shots on a bright day then the breakthrough Fujifilm FinePix F700 is worthy of consideration. My only complaint, though small, is that the camera uses those very, very tiny xD cards, which I always misplace in my camera bag.

For more information about the FinePix F700, visit Fujifilm's website at: www.fujifilm.com.

This very bright, reflective white door would give many camera metering systems, and sensors, fits, but the FinePix F700 handled it in Auto as if I had spot metered it and gave it a plus one exposure compensation. The door itself shows texture and great highlight control.

Digging into the shadows on a bright day would give most slide film and digicam users problems, but the FinePix F700 delivered this exposure with no effort. Note how the shadow details read with full information and how the highlights are well under control. This shows off the great contrast handling characteristics of the 4th generation Super CCD sensor.

A scene like this taken with many digicams would have resulted in harsh highlights that would be difficult to control even in post-processing. The texture of the building and color richness that came from an Auto exposure cause us to give this camera high marks.

The light was bouncing brightly off the Empire State Building and this cast-iron beauty before it. Regardless of the lighting conditions, the F700 delivered great texture in all the highlights without making the sky go inky black. This is just as much a testament to the Super CCD's dynamic range as are the shots with more shadowed areas.

Even with all the exposure advantages of the F700 the color richness is excellent as well. You can see how bright the light was here, and how the colors jumped, but note also the shadow opening dynamic range.

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