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sue6389 Apr 25, 2006 6:32 AM

I just purchased the Canon S2 yesterday, and am leaving in a few days for Sanibel Island for a week. I plan to spend most of my time taking photos of birds, dolphins, etc.
I printed out a few of the suggestions from this forum, and tried them last night, but still seem to get blurry distance shots using auto or P mode. I do have a tripod to use. I couldn't get the manual focus to work at all, and wonder if I misunderstood the directions. I'm helpless as far as understanding/changes the F-stops, etc. If anyone can tell me the "shooting wildlife for dummies" directions, I would sure appreciate it.

Tullio Apr 26, 2006 12:27 AM

Well, I have an S2 and my first suggestion is for you to take it back to the shop and get a Sony H1 instead. If that's not an option, here are some suggestions/recommendations from an S2user who struggled to get good pictures of live animals. Set the camera to P mode (AUTO will limit your ability to change other settings). Set color effect to VIVID (it will help reduce the softness by increasing the contrast) or to Custom with increased sharpness. Turn off AF assist so the camera does not attempt to use it. You will only need it in real dark environments and when you do, you'll find it's useless for the AF hunts for focus and generally it will lock thefocus incorrectly. Set the ISO to either 50 or 100 unless you are in a low light situation out of the flash range. Use a polarizer filter for daylight shooting. Believe it or not,this filter helps the camera AF, specially in macro/super macro modes. TheS2 AF is poor, reason why you've got blurred pictures. This is a known issue that has been pointed out by many reviewers. The polarizer filter works as an imagecleaner, thushelping the camera's AF system. Have the image stabilizer (IS) always ON in "shooting" mode. It's the most efficient.Last but not least, make sure you bring extra batteries for the S2is not battery efficient (at least not when compared to the H1 or the Pana FZ5). Good luck!

sue6389 Apr 26, 2006 6:10 AM

Thank you so much for responding back to me. First thing today I will look into the possibility of getting a sony H1. If that isn't an option before I leave, I will definitely heed your advise (to the letter), and hope to come back with a few salvageable shots. Before getting this camera, I owned a film Minolta Maxxum with a great 70-310 lens, and was able to get very nice pictures. This camera takes so long to zoom in and focus, that the bird or animal is over in the next county. I also own a Canon Digital Rebel EOS 300D, with a Tamron 70-300 lens 4/5.6, but can't afford the "real" quality zoom lens with it that will allow me to take distance shots (It takes wonderful everyday shots of my grandaughter, etc.) I bought the S2 hoping for a small, simple camera with great zoom abilities. I planned to get the 3.2 HD tele lens for it, but now figure it will just magnify my blurriness. It seems I found this forum a couple of days too late, but fortunately didn't spend an arm for the S2. I'm going to search out some of your other responses, and make notes to take with me.
Thanks again.

JimC Apr 26, 2006 8:25 AM

You may want to post a sample image or two so that members can help you determine what is going wrong.

Your problem may not be Autofocus. For one thing, you've got tremendous depth of field with a non-DSLR model (f/2.8 with your S2 IS gives you as much DOF as you'd have using f/8 with a DSLR).

You may have a different problem (for example, shutter speed). Remember that these cameras default to very low ISO speeds, which will require longer exposures.

Tullio wrote:

Use a polarizer filter for daylight shooting. Believe it or not,this filter helps the camera AF, specially in macro/super macro modes.
A Polarizer will cost you 1 to 2 stops of light. That means that shutter speeds will be 2 to 4 times slower using one for any ISO speed and aperture. That can lead to blurry photos in less than optimum lighting, especially at lower ISO speeds.

So, if the problem is shutter speed related, a Polarizer will make it much worse.

If you have a subject with insufficient contrast in bright light with glare, a Polarizer can help the camera see contrast better by eliminating the glare. With many macro subjects, you tend to have a solid color in the AF sensors. This makes it harder to find contrast if light is reflecting of of the subject.

But, it's not as much of a problem in most non-Macro conditions and a Polarizer can do more harm than good in many other conditions (due to loss of light resulting in slower shutter speeds).

The OP mentioned shooting dolphins. Reflections from water can fool AF systems and a Polarizer can help. But, you have to make sure you're not compromising shutter speed to the point that motion blur is a bigger problem.

Tullio wrote:

TheS2 AF is poor, reason why you've got blurred pictures. This is a known issue that has been pointed out by many reviewers
Really? From Steve's review conclusion:


The S2's autofocus system delivered consistently sharp images. It uses only a single AF point, but you can position it virtually anywhere in your composition.

Make sure the focus point is actually on your subject before pressing the shutter button all the way down.

Or, if you'd prefer to leave the focus point in the center, you can also lock focus with a half press of the shutter button, reframe so your subject is where you want it in the image, then press the shutter button the rest of the way down.

I'd post a sample image that we can look at before jumping to any conclusions. It could be something as simple as the focus point not being on your subject. Or, it could be shutter speed related.

If you can't figure it out, post a sample here that includes the EXIF (a header in the image file that contains camera settings used).

Around 640x480 is usually a good size for forum posts. If you don't have an image editor to easily downsize images, download irfanview from (it's free).

After opening a problem image, go to Image, Resize/Resample and make it around 640x480, save it under a new filename (so you don't overwrite your original),and post a copy of it here. By default irfanview will retain the camera settings used in the EXIF (unless you uncheck that box).

Then, members can better understand what you are referring to and look for a setting that could be causing the issue.

To include your downsized image in a post, use the Browse button and select the image from your hard disk. You'll see this Browse button under the entry screen when you're typing in the entry box for a new post (not visible until entering a new post). Here is a thread discussing posting of images:

sue6389 Apr 26, 2006 10:48 AM

Thanks for your insight and suggestions. I've been looking around trying to find out if the Sony H1 is better at auto-focusing when using zoom. I haven't found much yet, but found great shots from folks using both Canon S2 and Sony H1. I'll try to post a couple of the shots later this evening. I realize that practice will help a lot, but would like to get a few good shots while away on vacation. I may go back to the store where I bought the S2, and see if the Manual button is defective, because I can't get the up or down arrows to change the focus at all, and I've read and reread the directions. I sure did like being able to focus using the ring on my Minolta lens... I can see where this forum is going to become my "Bible and Savior".

Thanks for taking a few minutes out of your day to help - I do appreciate it :lol:

Tullio Apr 26, 2006 10:51 AM

Jim, I do agree with some of your suggestions/comments but disagree with others. Although the pol filter eats up 1-2 f/stops, it does improve the S2AF performance (I've ran many tests that proved me that). Although the main purpose of a pol (for short)filter is to reduce glare, it does serve other purposes. But, it is not a filter to be used in low light conditions. Unless you set the ISO to a high values (which will increase picture noise), you will experience blurriness due to slow shutter speeds. Here's where I agree with you, shutter speed can be responsible for blurred pictures (and I failed to mention that)if the camera sets it too low (having IS onhelps but not that much). However,the conditions to photographwild life is usually good in terms of light (I mean,bright daylight, whether sunny or cloudy).Most animals retreat at dawn. As for the AF issue, here's an extract from the S2 dpreview review:


It should be noted that the difference between the S1 and S2 focus speed isn't as great as our figures might indicate - they are an average, and the S1 IS suffers far more from hunting issues (where it struggles to fix focus). In a direct shootout with an easy subject, the S2 always beats the S1, but only by around 0.1 to 0.2 seconds: that's still quite an improvement, but it's more about focus accuracy than actual speed. It's also worth noting that in our shootout tests the S2 IS was consistently beaten - by a small margin - by the Sony H1, Panasonic FZ5 (using the high speed focus mode) and Konica Minolta Z5 - the three fastest focusing 'superzoom' compacts.
Here's another from DIGICAMHELP (see link below for detailed information):

CANON S2 BLOGG: Focusing issues and solutions
BLOGGs introduction | Canon S2 IS BLOGG
Canon A510/A520 BLOGG | Nikon 5400 BLOGG | Panasonic FZ3 BLOGG

I am not of the opinion that the Canon S2 IS has major focusing problems but, like most digital cameras, it does have some. Most occur when using the zoom at 12X. Main causes of focus problems:

  • Photographing low-contrast subjects


  • Overlapping nearby and distant objects


  • Very bright subjects in the center


  • Subjects moving very fast


  • Photographing subjects through glass


  • Taking pictures out of the camera's shooting range


  • Smudges on the front of the lens
To help minimize focus problems, learn to anticipate what conditions may cause the S2 to not focus. Also make sure you use the two-step shutter-release button correctly.

This from the dcresource review of the S2:


Autofocus speeds are good, though not as fast as the Panasonic FZ5 or Sony DSC-H1. Typically the camera takes 0.3 - 0.5 seconds to focus and longer at the telephoto end or if the camera needs to "hunt" a bit.
As one can tell, opinions about the S2 AF varies but the bottom line is that there are issues, otherwise I would not find these links.

Anyway, I'm curious to see what Sue has to say (and post) when she returns.

Tullio Apr 26, 2006 11:03 AM

Sue, take a look at this link from the Sony forum. I've posted half dozen shots taken with my H1 showing different scenarios (long zoom, macro, etc.). I did not post process those shotssotheyshould give you a good idea of the picture quality you get out of the camera. There is no doubt that the H1 AF is superior than the S2 (faster and a lot more accurate).If the link does not work, look for a topic named Sony dsc h1 vs h2.;forum_id=28

JimC Apr 26, 2006 11:56 AM


I'm aware that the H1's AF is slightly faster, and the issues you mention are common with virtually any digital camera.

My point is that we don't know what is causing the OP's blurry photos, and if it's a shutter speed issue, using a Polarizer is only going to make it worse. It could also be user error (focus point not on subject).

In more cases than not, AF is blamed for blurry photos when something else is the cause.

That's why I suggested posting some samples. Telling the OP to return the camera for a different model, without determining the source of the problem, is not an approach that I favor.

There are many Canon users that like this camera.

JimC Apr 26, 2006 12:59 PM

sue6389 wrote:

I've been looking around trying to find out if the Sony H1 is better at auto-focusing when using zoom. But, the Canon is no "slouch" in this area.
Yes, the H1 is slightly better by most accounts. But, it sounds like you may have a more basic issue. Unless light is toolow for a focus lock using AF, manual focus is probably not the best way to go for most subjects.

Your Canon has an option in the menusformagnifying the focus area if you do use manual focus. But,it has to be turned on. You'll see it in the camera's review on this page (look for MF-Point Zoom).

For Autofocus, you can press the set button and use the arrows to move the focus box around the frame. But, some users prefer to leave it centered, then half press the shutter button to lock focus, reframe so that the subject is in the desired portion of the viewfinder, then press the shutter button the rest of the way down.

It's a good ideato makesure you're actually getting a focus lock (and that goes for any camera) with a half press first, especially in less than optimum lighting.


I sure did like being able to focus using the ring on my Minolta lens...
I saw you mentioned having a Maxxum. I've gota Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D DSLR now (as well as a couple of Maxxum film bodies). The Maxxum DSLR models can use your Maxxum lenses.

In addition, Sony will be introducing DSLR models this summer that can use Maxxum lenses (they acquired some of Konica Minolta's assets and are entering the DSLR market with the intent of capturing more than 25% of DSLR marketshare over the next few years).

Personally, I use Autofocus unless light is too low to get a lock on anything in the scene with contrast. That goes for film bodieswith Autofocus, as well as Digital Cameras. I Half press the shutter button to get a focus lock, then press it the rest of the way down (after making sure focus is locked).

sue6389 Apr 26, 2006 1:22 PM

That bubble shot is amazing!!! Oh- what I wouldn't give to get a photo like that :-)
I sure wish you were closer - I'd request a training fieldtrip. I'm sure that spending a couple of hours with someone who knows the camera, and can actually show me what to do instead of trying to understand the printed instructions, would be extremely helpful. I got to the point with my film Minolta where I could get wonderful shots most of the time. I read that you own a Canon S2, but choose the Sony H1 over it. Is that just for zoom shots, or does it perform better with Macro also? Back to work, but I'll be back later.

Tullio Apr 26, 2006 4:31 PM

Thank you for your kind words, Sue. Next time you come to California (more specifically tothe Bay Area), don't hesitate to contact me. Anyway, yes I chose the H1 over the S2 for...well...1000 reasons (maybe not that many but close). The primary reason was camera performance. The H1 beats the S2 in just about every respect. It's faster, it has an extremely accurate (and super fast)auto focus system, it produces sharp images perfectly balanced right out of the camera, it has no known issues (unlike the S2 which has the poor AF problem, picture softness problem, poor AF with AFassist issue, poor AF in macro mode, etc, etc, etc.), it has a much more powerful flash (too powerful at times but I've got a good grip of it and when the subject is too close, I decrease the exposure to -1.0 or even -2.0 at times), 2.5" LCD, which is awesome (the S2 has a pathetic 1.8" LCD), abetter, larger and clearer EVF, it offers a live histogram (in REC mode), which I can not live without (it helps you determine how exposed your image is BEFORE you take the picture, so you never end up with an over or under exposed shot - the S2 only offers histogram in PLAY mode, so if the picture is not properly exposed, you have to adjust the settings andtake it again), ituses only 2xAA batteries (the S2 uses 4), ....I can go on and easier to navigate, easy setting wheel locatedbelow the shutter release button, which allows you to change the aperture, shutter speedand exposure w/o having to navigate through the menus,...

Now you may ask, "why did you buy the S2?". Well, I really liked the colors produced by the S2, very rich and nicely saturated. I also thought that having the ability to zoom in and out in movie mode was a great feature. However, as it turned out, I hardly use the camera to shoot movies (I have a camcorder for that purpose), so it did not matter. Today, the S2 became my spare camera, the one I carry in my car if that unique photoopportunity arises (I will not expose my H1 to the environment or risk of being stolen). But, when I go on any trip (short or long), the H1 is the camera I takewith me.

sue6389 Apr 26, 2006 8:03 PM

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OK - I realize these are BAD, but hope they give a little insight into the issue at hand.

sue6389 Apr 26, 2006 8:04 PM

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Another rotten shot...

sue6389 Apr 26, 2006 8:05 PM

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And one more. These were all taken using auto focus, at about 35 ft. away. I can't get the manual focus to work at all.

sue6389 Apr 26, 2006 8:12 PM

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This shot was also taken using the auto focus, with the same lighting, at 15 ft. away. Granted, the dogs weren't moving much, but it seems to be a zoom problem for me (maybe).

JimC Apr 26, 2006 9:36 PM

The EXIF has been stripped from these images. So, I'm unable to see the camera settings.

You may want to try using the free Irfanview I mentioned to downsize them, making sure to leave the retain EXIF box checked when you save the images (and they are checked by default).

Whatever editor/method you used to downsize them removed the camera settings from the images that were put there by the camera.

Were they processed by something else before you downsized them for posting? If so, whatever software you used may have stripped out this information. It will be in the original images.

There is no obvious focus point in the first image. So, I'd like to see the shutter speed and settings.You could be getting some blur from camera shake or subject movement. Was IS turned on? The shoot only mode is reported to work best.

The rest have a lot of CA/purple fringing. That's to be expected with very high contrast photos (more often limbs against a bright, white sky), especially when you're shooting a smaller subject where your depth of field is shallower at wide open apertures (and my guess is that you were at wide open apertures but I'd need to look at the camera settings to tell).

But,the fringingdoes appear to be unusually high. Were you using any kind of filter? Sometimes a cheap filter can cause odd problems with light. Or, you may have an out of calibration camera (it happens from time to time).

If you have a chance, use Irfanview to downsize an image and post it (making sure to leave the retain EXIF box checked when you save it so we can see the camera settings). I might be able to tell more about what the camera was doing.

Tullio Apr 26, 2006 11:22 PM

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I agree with Jim. With no EXIF available is difficult to determine what is causing the blur. IMO, the first photo, as Jim stated, has no focus point, so it could be that you either did not have IS turned on, the shutter speed was too slow or the camera just could not focus properly, period. My guess? Option #3. I've experience that phenomenon many times. The camera locks the focus (green square) but the picture is actually out of focus. The reason this is my guess is because I see sunshine on the bird so it is very unlikely the shutter speed is too slow (unless you had the camera set to Av mode forcing the camera to a slow shutter speed - again, very unlikely). The IS system could potentially be off but, based on our previous suggestions, I want to believe you have made sure it was ON. Thus, the problem is with the AF.

#2 appears to be focus (at least the tree and the bird are). The purple fringing is severe. Yes, some may be expected but you've got way too much (see picture below taken with my H1 with the Sony 1.7 Tele converter DH1758. As you can tell, despite the high contrast in the background, there is no purple fringing at all. You can also see the accuracy of the AF. Although there are branches all over the place, the focus was dead on the squirrel). Anyway, back to your photo, I think this is a typical example of how you would benefit from having the color effect set to VIVID. Theimage would not be as soft.

#3 is a typical example of the "fog effect" many people talked about. The softness can be reduced,once again,by having the camera set to VIVID. My claims are substantiated by your photo sharpened in Picasa (see below). If the focus was the problem, it would be very difficult to obtain such a result.

And finally #4 is the reason I bought an S2. Excellent color reproduction, good contrast and sharpness.

Finally, the manual focus is a pain and should only be used in extreme situations and even that, it's a total hit and miss.

Tullio Apr 26, 2006 11:23 PM

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Sue photo #3

Tullio Apr 26, 2006 11:27 PM

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Photo taken with myS2 and apolarizer filter. No water reflection or glare to be removed but yet the filter cleaned up the image and the AF was dead on (with zoom).

JimC Apr 27, 2006 12:15 AM


You can't compare a shot with a bird in deep shadows with a bright backgroundto one of a squirrel in more even lighting, especially when focal length, etc., isn't even known. Any camera will exhibit purple fringing in severe conditions.

Has the Canon got a problem with it in some conditions? Sure. Does the H1 have a problem with it in some conditions? Yep. Is one better than the other? The H1 probably has a slight edge. But, it's nothing to brag about in this department either.

The only way to tell how one camera is going to do against another is to take photos of the same subjects in the same conditions.

For these two cameras, Steve did just that so that visitors could better compare them. You'll see some of the samples marked where photos were taken with both cameras at the same time.

Tullio Apr 27, 2006 1:44 AM

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Jim, if you look at the back of the squirrel, there is a very brightopen spot between the leaves, similar to the background of Sue's #1 shot. However, you see no purple fringing around the leaves. I can post dozen of photos taken with the H1 showing very high contrast with absolutely no purple fringing, unless you crop the heck out of it (see other examples below). I think the S2 problem is much more evident.I've read Steve's reviews and I've seen hisphoto comparisons. Although I agree with you that "theoretically" speaking,comparing two shots of the same exact subject taken at the same exact timeisan ideal way to compare results,I don't believe they are 100% representative. You don't find problems withAF takingshots of a building or a restaurant or a playground but of difficult subjects (like a bird on the feeder). The same applies with purple fringing. Most of Steve's photo samples do not have areas of very high contrast, reason why both cameras did well in this area.

Tullio Apr 27, 2006 1:46 AM

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Where's the purple fringing? The edges of the heavily lit white fence should present some!

Tullio Apr 27, 2006 1:53 AM

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This one I increased contrast and added sharpening and although some fringing can be seen, it's very minor despite the high contrast.

mchnz Apr 27, 2006 5:54 AM

I've taken heaps of bird images with my S2 - so long as you choose a good pre-focus target and use focus-lock, the main issues are subject-motion-blur, camera-shake, and depth-of-field.

When zoomed to the max any amount of shade will require an exposure that is too slow to freeze all movement and elimate shake. Flash can help - but the subject then looks flashed - an improvised difuser (piece of paper) might help.

The S2 is slower to auto-focus than the H1 - so use pre-focus. The S2 is faster at taking multiple shots - use this advantage - take bursts of shots.

In poor light focus hunt can occur, but this is much less of an issue than subject motion and shake (for birds/wildlife).

If you zoom to the max and then open up the lens to f/3.5 to let in more light, depth of field will be very limited. Unless the subject is small, some part of the subject is going to be out of focus. If the depth-of-field is limited, accurate pre-focus becomes even more important. Using less zoom greatly increases the depth of field.

If the subject is in the shade and you're not using flash, use less than maximum zoom if you can. Have the camera locked on ISO 100 to minimise noise and grain. Have it set to continous shooting at the highest speed - let at least two shots fire for every press of the shutter button. For any kind of moving subject you should be aiming to achieve 1/1000 sec or at least 1/500 sec - but at full zoom this almost never possible if the subject is in the shade.

If there is a lot of constrast in a scene it can pay to move to around f/5.6 and underexpose a bit - this minimises any purple-fringing.

See my samples at[email protected]/
In some cases I've included some brief notes on technique.

sue6389 Apr 27, 2006 6:37 AM

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Thank you for all of your help - advice - suggestions. Here's the photo imported using Irfanview. This shot was taken using the camera defualt settings - auto mode with no filters. After taking about 40 distance shots last night, I was never able to get even 1 good clear shot. I did try using P mode with Vivid set, and didn't notice any difference. My friend came over who's used his brothers S2, and he wasn't able to use the Manual focus either. It seems that the only chance I have of getting any good shots in Sanibel Island is to go spend Mega bucks at the local camera store to either buy a good HD zoom lens for my digital Rebel EOS 300D, or to buy something different. Maybe I'm too dense to figure out this S2.

You guys have been great...

Uggg. I pulled the picture directly from my SD card and resized it using Irfanview to 640 x 480. It won't let me attach - says file too large. Please see screen shot and tell me what I'm doing wrong so that I can send you the picture.


JimC Apr 27, 2006 6:57 AM

When you use the File, Save As menu choice to save the image after resizing it, move the quality slider (you'll see it popup) down to around 85 and it should be small enough.

Make sure to give it a new filename and attach the resized image, not the original.

If you don't click OK when you resize (the screen shot you posted), then save the image to a new filename (use File, Save As), you won't have changed anything.

sue6389 Apr 27, 2006 7:06 AM

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I'm going to try attaching directly from my SD card. Hope this works.

sue6389 Apr 27, 2006 7:15 AM

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Jim - you're the best. I think I got it this time. The slider only apperared when I chenged it to a JPEG.

sue6389 Apr 27, 2006 7:19 AM

After reading all of your posts and seeing your amazing shots, I'm feeling really inferior right about now. When I was using my Minolta, people used to comment on how good my pictures where. Now I can't even get a decent photo of a stickin' bird on my feeder. I'm pathetic. I may as well be using a disposable for as bad as I am.

JimC Apr 27, 2006 7:23 AM

Tullio wrote:

Jim, if you look at the back of the squirrel, there is a very brightopen spot between the leaves, similar to the background of Sue's #1 shot. However, you see no purple fringing around the leaves. I can post dozen of photos taken with the H1 showing very high contrast with absolutely no purple fringing, unless you crop the heck out of it (see other examples below).
I've been doing this for a long time, and in the right conditions, they all do it (and the conditions were very ripe for it in the samples posted). It didn't take me but a couple of minutes to find similar fringing from an H1 on Pbase:

When you have a difference in focus between foreground and background, it's more likely to occur, and virtually no digicam is immune to it.

You can also find lots of examples without it from the Canon. The only way to tell how much better one camera is compared to another is to take photos of the same subjects in the same conditions.

You may also have a defective camera. I've seen S2 IS owners with problem cameras that Canon calibrated.

You see QC problems from all manufacturers, and it's not uncommon to see optical misalignment and AF calibration issues (it probably occurs far more often than most people realize).

You can find great photos and poor photos from either camera. But, when someone gets a brand new camera and the first time they ask for help, someone suggests that they return it for a different model, that usually doesn't sit well with me.

Steve noticed fringing in both models, too. From the S2 IS review:

"I also noticed a slight amount of chromatic abberation (purple fringing on highlights) in high-contrast areas throughout the zoom and aperture ranges. "

From the H1 review:

"I also noticed a slight amount of chromatic abberation (purple fringing on highlights) in high-contrast areas throughout the zoom and aperture ranges."

With two models with image quality this similar, you're "splitting hairs". If you like your H1 that much better, great. But, I suspect a lot of it is subconcious because some of your first photos didn't turn out right from your Canon.

Steve noted that the H1 was better in some areas. But, it's not *that* much better (and an untrained eye probably wouldn't see the image quality differences at most viewing sizes).

So that visitors can understand the difference, Steve posted samples taken of the same subjects at the same time, not hand picked samples designed to put one camera in a better light.

JimC Apr 27, 2006 7:57 AM


I see your problem. That blurry image was taken at maximum optical zoom (equivalent to 432mm) + 4x Digital Zoom.

As I suspected, shutter speed was one contributing factor. In that lighting, the camera was using a 1/100 second shutter speed.

You effective focal length was approximately 1700mm after the Dgital Zoom (which is basically cropping an image, then enlarging it again).

The "rule of thumb" for hand holding a camera is 1/focal length. So, with that lighting and ISO speed, you'd have wanted shutter speeds of 1/1700 second (17 times as fast as the camera used) without IS. Even with IS, you'd be well outside of the design tolerances of the system.

For that matter, even without Digital Zoom, some users need to take extra care at focal lengths that long. Not everyone holds a camera as steady as others. You would have been right on the "edge" of the design tolerance for IS, even without using digital zoom.

Digital Zoom also degrades an image. Basically, when you use it, it's cropping a photo to make it look like more optical zoom is being used. Then, it enlarges it again to the image size you're shooting at. I keep it turned off on cameras I use with it, just to make sure I don't use it by accident.

If you use 2x Digital Zoom, you end up with only 1/4 the number of pixels captured by the camera's sensor (not 1/2 the number, since resolution is like area where you multiply width x height to compute it).

With 4x Digital Zoom, you end up with 1/16 the number of pixels captured by the camera before it enlarges again.

So, basically, the camera cropped the image to 648 x 486 (less than 1/2 megapixel) then enlarged it again back up 2592 x 1944.

2592 / 4 = 648
1944 / 4 = 486

That process degrades image quality. So, the use of digital zoom, combined with very slow shutter speeds for the effective focal length, resulted in a blurry image.

You would have experienced the same problems with another camera using the same settings.

My advise would be not to use Digital Zoom unless you really have to. Then, get out and take some photos so you're more accustomed to the camera.

Make sure you've got IS turned on (Shoot Only mode is probably your best bet), and if shooting into shadows, keep camera shake in mind (IS can help a LOT, but it's designed to work miracles at focal lengths that long. Technique still comes into the picture (smoothly squeeze the shutter button to help the camera out).

Camera shake is magnified as your focal lengths get longer (more zoom). You were not shooting at focal lengths anywhere near this long with your Maxxum. You were probably using film speed that was higher than the ISO speed these ultra zoom models use too (the higher the ISO speed, the faster the shutter speeds can be for the same lighting and aperture).

IOW, I would practice some with the camera so that you're more familiar with it's behavior. Your skill as a photographer, especially when trying to take shots at focal lengths that long, are going to be far more important than the differences between very similar camera models.

That's going to take practice.

JimC Apr 27, 2006 8:21 AM


If you leave digital zoom turned off, you can crop an image using software to accomplish the same effect.

But, you'd want to keep degradation in mind if you need to enlarge it again for printing. More often than not, if I need to use this technique, I'll use the Lanczos algorithm in the resize screens in Irfanview (you'll see it as one of the slow choices on the resize screen).

sue6389 Apr 27, 2006 8:30 AM

Thanks Jim. So anything past the 12x is best to avoid (for now anyhow). I've printed out your advice/suggestions, and will go out tonight and do my homework.

And thank you for being so patient.

JimC Apr 27, 2006 8:35 AM

Right. Short Answer:

Don't use the Digital Zoom.

It's going to degrade your image quality (for more than one reason) in many conditions. Digital Zoom is a marketing scam. It's only cropping an image then enlarging again. ;)

Sony has a "smart digital zoom" feature which can crop only (cuts out the center portion to make it look like more optical zoom was used). But, you have to shoot in lower resolution modes to use it.

You can do the same thing using software with your Canon (crop an image).

JimC Apr 27, 2006 9:34 AM

One more comment...

In addition to the samples we have showing photos of the same subjects from both cameras (Sony DSC-H1 and Canon S2 IS), you can sometimes find some other examples around the net.

Here is someone else that took photos of the same subjects in the same conditions with both models:

Canon S2 IS and Sony DSC-H1 Shootout

If you look for things like fringing, you'll see it in both cameras in some conditions. For example, this image from the Sony:

Same subject with the Canon:

In the end, this person chose the H1 (but found pros and cons to both). Each user is going to have their own preferences in a camera,.

There is very little difference in these two cameras from an image quality perspective, and an untrained eye probably wouldn't notice any at all at most viewing sizes.

I'd practice with it before going on your trip. No camera is going to give perfect results in all conditions. ;)

Tullio Apr 27, 2006 11:42 AM

I think Jim covered it all, Sue. And yes, no digital zoom! Good luck with your S2 and happy shooting. I'm looking forward to see the photos from your trip.

mchnz Apr 27, 2006 2:40 PM

If you want a quality shot you can't use digital zoom and you must get close. Even then, taking photos of highly active small birds with the S2/H1/FZ7 in anything but good light at anything more than about 4m or 12 feet is really a hit and miss afair. Maybe 1 shot in 30 is worth keeping. The hit rate would be higher in open country - if you can get close enough. If a subject will keep still, the problems are greatly reduced. The same Stitchbird/Hihi image I posted was the result of several days attempts - on each trip I'd have to speed up to half and hour sitting at feeders and up to 3 hours walking between them - so this is what you're up for.

Don't use manual focus - use auto-focus, but pre-focus and focus-lock on the branch or feeder. If you do use manual focus, with the S2 you can use the manual focus to get in the ballpark, and then use the Set-button to let the auto-focus fine tune the focus point.

If you want to do better my guess would be that a DSLR with a 300-400mm lens might increase the chances. With the right lens you may be able to achieve much higher shutter speeds - and if you can keep the shutter speed up high, image stabilisation might not be necessary. I haven't tried a DSLR - so this is pure speculation. I'd expect the hit rate to improve some, but in my case it might only drop to 1 in 20. I think a professional bird photographer was quoted at 1 in 100 hit rate for a professional quality image.

Tullio Apr 27, 2006 5:28 PM

I thought I was done discussing the S2 (vs H1) but I guess not. I totally disagree with you, mchnz. I have two out of the three cameras you mentioned (the S2 and H1) and my experience has been such that I hardly ever miss a shot with the H1, despite the light conditionand/or the subject.Ithink that1 shot in 30 is about right with the S2 but not the H1.I'm pro quality, not pro brand.The S2 can and does take wonderful pictures (see Shaun's postings on various forums). If I did not think so, I would not have bought it in the first place. However, I must admit that its performanceleaves a lotto be desired (unfortunately) and that became very obvious to me after I got the H1. Following Jim's rational (to compare photos taken by two different cameras, the subject and conditions must be the same), I think you can onlymake statements abouttwo different cameras if you owe them and have personal experience taking photos with them, not by their specs or simplyby their reviews. None of the reviews out thereshows sample shots of live animals. They are all static shots of buildings and boats. How you canaccurately evaluate AF from building shots is beyond me. Let's put this way, any camera producing blurred pictures of a building being photographed in bright daylight,is garbage and I very much doubt people will buy them.

mchnz Apr 27, 2006 9:18 PM

I was specifically talking about

taking photos of highly active small birds .. in anything but good light at anything more than about 4m or 12 feet ..

without flash and with a desire for results similar to the image I posted. Which is to say the image must look good at around 1280x1024 resolution. I wasn't promoting any one camera over another - but there are obvious limitations to x12 point and shoot cameras.

The sensitivity of these cameras at ISO 100 is such that at x12 zoom, with the subject in the shade, the shutter speed will normally be well below 1/500 sec. Really active birds are difficult to photograph under these circumstances - all shots will contain some subject motion blur. Birds that have a less active habit are easier. If you hang around a feeder, birds will often pause on near by branches on entry or exit - this helps heaps.

ISO's above 100 have unacceptable noise - so that's not an option. Perhaps ISO 200 is OK as a last resort - better than no shot at all.

When using x12 zoom beyond 4m, a subject like a small bird becomes quite small. Cropping becomes difficult because any amount of noise, shake, or subject movement becomes very noticeable. For many small birds in bush/forrest, x12 zoom is probably not enough - how many birds allow you to get within 4m? Only a DSLR has the sensitivity to allow more than x12 in less than good light - plus with a DSLR's sensitity you can crop more. Note that with a DSLR, post-processing is said to be almost a necessity - so you have to be comfortable with that.

As for other larger subjects. I don't have much trouble with shooting any of the other subjects on my flickr pages ([email protected] ) - mainly noise in the shadows (which is par for the course on these small sensor, high mega-pixel cameras). I normally underexpose - I don't like overblown highlights - so I do expect to post-process images for contrast/brightness/gamma.

To sum up - get close, hope the bird holds still, and take your chances. Here is an example subject in total shade, x12 zoom, ISO 100, under exposed to keep the speed up, 1/30 sec, post processed to fix the under exposure):

Tullio Apr 27, 2006 11:18 PM

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I hardly ever use flash, specially when I photograph wild life. I have the H1 ISO set at 64 most of the time and I also use the Sony DH1758 1.7x tele as well as the full 12x zoom when I take pictures of live animals. As long as it's not too dark, I can focus on just about anything at any distance pretty accurately (see example - the bird is at the top of an 80 foot tall willow tree between all sorts of branches and in the shade. Obviously I cropped a bit to showit a bit closer). All I have to do is set the AF to spot. It's dead on!

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