Fisher information is used to analyze the accuracy with which a neural population encodes D stimulus features. It turns out that the form of response variability has a major impact on the encoding capacity and therefore plays an important role in the selection of an appropriate neural model. In particular, in the presence of baseline firing, the reconstruction error rapidly increases with D in the case of Poissonian noise but not for additive noise. The existence of limited-range correlations of the type found in cortical tissue yields a saturation of the Fisher information content as a function of the population size only for an additive noise model. We also show that random variability in the correlation coefficient within a neural population, as found empirically, considerably improves the average encoding quality. Finally, the representational accuracy of populations with inhomogeneous tuning properties, either with variability in the tuning widths or fragmented into specialized subpopulations, is superior to the case of identical and radially symmetric tuning curves usually considered in the literature.