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Boldstar Dec 27, 2005 4:15 PM

I've had my Canon PowerShot A85 for about a year now and I still can't produce consistently good images. At first I thought I needed to learn how to use it, but nothing seems to work.

About half of my pictures are good, meaning clear, natural-looking colors, etc. The other half are blurry and skin tones are reddish. And red-eye is a huge problem, even with the red-eye reduction turned on.

I've tried different ISO speeds, turning the auto-focus off, different scene modes... the list goes on. Don't get me wrong, some of my shots are excellent, but way too many of them are duds. AndI never had an issue like this with my trusty ol' Canon SureShot film camera. All the photos I took with that camera were great; no settings to play with, no asking the subjects to hold still for 3 or 4 shots hoping one would be clear. I'm very frustrated.

I wonder if something could be wrong with the camera. I did drop it once. And my warranty isn't up yet. Or maybe this particular model is crap. If anyone has insight, I'd love to hear it. I'm about ready to scrap it and buy something else.

Greg Chappell Dec 27, 2005 4:53 PM

Most folks don't realize until they replace their film cameras with digicams just how convient those film cameras were!

The problem is, with film you had a lab that automatically handled the dirty work- some labs are great, others are not. With film, especially print film (vs. slides), exposure latitude was/is huge. The camera does not necessarily need to nail the correct exposure. The lab processes, thenfeeds the processed film into the automated printer and it analyzes each negative, adjusts for over and underexposed frames, and out comes prints that are, for the most part, "good". In some cases, negatives can be way less than optimum, in reality you may have never known how many problem negatives you had,but those automated printers make the necessary adjustments, adjustments you or I never needed to know about, and gives you the finished product.

Now you've got a digital camera and YOU are now the one that has to make all those adjustments. No lab is in charge. If you have an overexposed image, it's just that- digital has almost no overexposure latitude, and I've not seen too many labsthat can take an underexposedimage straight off a card and automatically print it correctly. The other difference is white balance. With film, you loaded daylight color negative film and that's the "white balance" that was used. With digital cameras, they constantly attempt in auto white balance to determine what the "right" color temperature is to use, so there can be exposures off due to inaccurate white balance, something you didn't have with film unless you intentionally didn't use a flash indoors.You have to download the image to your computer and work out the levels, color balance adjustments and get it right, burn it to a CD and take it to the lab or upload it to an online service and then get the prints made. I love the digital process because I am the ultimate person in charge and I can get my images the way I want them to look instead of an automated printer making all those adjustments- problem is, not everyone wants to have to do that and don't understand that digital, while it eliminates the film cost and gives you something to look at NOW, introduces a whole new set of responsibilities on the photographer that in the past he/she didn't need to know.

The redeye affect is and always will be a problem. Have you ever wondered why makers don't call it "redeye elimination" instead of "reduction"? Redeye reduction is the most overhyped and non-performing feature I've ever seen on cameras, film or digital. My girlfriend's Olympus Stylus Epic 35mm point & shoot had it bad too, even with "reduction" enabled.Redeye is a result of the flash being positioned too close to the lens- that's a physical problem digicams cannot escape and all will have it. Some do a slightly better job, but none eliminate redeye competely. The only way you can eliminate redeye is to get the flash away from the lens. Even the new models will have that problem. Read some of the recent posts regarding the Canon A620 and A610 models. They are the best, fastest digicams I've ever tried, but the redeye problem is very evident in many posts because the technology cannot get rid of it short of having a redeye fix available in camera after the picture is taken, and I've seen some models that actuallyhave that feature, but even that isn't 100% effective.

The A85/A95 series of digicams are slower than the newer models that have the Digic II processor. The A620 and A610 bothfocus very fast, even in low light. The startup is much faster and the delay from pressing the shutter release to the time the picture is taken is much, much faster than the A85/A95. The exposure systems are very advanced, but how that all equates to a higher percentage of keepers straight from the camera than you get nowis hard to calculate. That's why so many digital SLR users shoot RAW and deal with gettingmany of the variablesright after the fact.

Boldstar Dec 27, 2005 5:43 PM

Hey Greg,

Thanks for your reply and for taking the time to explain all that stuff. I've heard that before, the part about me being the developer now that I've got a digital camera. The main problem there being that I don't know much about Photoshop. Usually I pop the memory card out of my camera and take it to a kiosk at a local grocery store and print off the pictures. The kiosks have some software, so I can play with the red-eye reduction and all that, but adjusting the brightness and contrast after the fact seems to be no substitution for taking the image right the first time.

Also, whenver I've tried to adjust images with Photoshop and then re-load them tothe memory card, the format is no longer recognized. I don't have a CD burner so I'm unable to use the method you suggested. But I suppose I could invest in some of that stuff, and get a book or take a course about Photoshop.

All that being said, my main problem is still "blurry" images. And no software can fix a blurry photo. I will certainly take your advice and learn about white balance, etc. I'm sure that can help with my over-exposed images the reddish skin tones. But I'm still hoping to figure out the blurry image thing. I realize there's probably a certain degree of camera-shake, and that some of the blurry pics are my own fault, but my hands aren't that unsteady and I should be getting fewer blurry pictures than I am now.

Thanks for your help, I really appreciate it. And if you have any input on the blurry issue, I'd love to hear it. Cheers.

Greg Chappell Dec 27, 2005 11:44 PM

Canon has an answer for the blurry images- Image Stabilization, but that requires buying a camera like the S2. The other thing that will fixblurry imagesis fast enough shutter speeds where the image is sharp....or of course a tripod (but I hate those things myself). The cause of blurry images must be too slow a shutter speed. Everyone has alimit when it comes to the ability to hold a camera steady enough for sharp pictures. Of course, that's with a static subject. Sports shots require amuch fasterminimum speed to stop action.

Do a test. Shoot an image several times, but adjust the shutter speed by one step at a time so you have the same subject at 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 shutter speeds, then look at them on a screen enlarged to 100%. If you shoot enough test subjects this wayyou'll probably start to see a pattern whereyou can hold the camera still enough at a certain speed to keep the subject sharp, but once you fall below that speed your ability to handhold is costing you sharpness. Once you know that speed, either up the ISO to keep things fast enough or utilize the flash. Of course, the A85 starts getting pretty noisy once you pass that ISO 100 setting so you've got to balance your hand-holding ability with the cameras ability to produce the quality images you want. You also need to check the way you're holding your camera, and that you are smoothly pressing in on the shutter release and not poking the release button. All of that can have an affect on your image sharpness. Do you use the optical viewfinder, or are you holding the camera out in front and using the LCD? By far, it is MUCH easier to get a steady hold by using the optical viewfinder and pressing the camera against your face.

If you were to look at one thing in Photoshop to learn initiallyin making adjustments, make it the Levels command. You can fix many exposure problems and color casts if you only make the proper Levels adjustments. You can adjust levels in one step, or you can adjust the separate RGB (Red, Green, Blue) channels. If you need to make a color adjustment, simply adjusting each channel separately to where the graph begins and ends at the two extreme points can correct that.

skylark Dec 28, 2005 4:39 AM

Boldstar wrote:

All that being said, my main problem is still "blurry" images.

If you haven't already tried this, maybe give it a shot to help with your blurry images. Shoot with your camera like shooting a firearm. In firearm training classes they teach taking a breath, letting some air out, hold your breath and "squeeze" the trigger. Do not press the trigger. Proper squeezing of the trigger means you don't know when the shot will be fired so no reflex jerking of the firearm.

Shooting with a camera do the same thing.Take a breath, let some air out, half press the shutter to focus lock and thenSLOWLY press the shutter button the rest of the way down while trying to hold the camera as steady as possible with two hands. You should not know when the shutter will trip if pressing the shutter button SLOWLY.

One example is my son and me taking photos with the same camera at a party. My photos come out fairly sharp while half of his photos are blurry with observablecamera shake directional blur. He likes to quick snap the button while holding the camera with one hand. I know you are not doing what he is doing as he is an extreme case.

Please disregard this post if youare already shootingcameras like firearms, Skylark.

Boldstar Dec 28, 2005 11:46 AM


By shutter speed I assume you're talking about the ISO level. And you're right, anything over 100 is very noisy. What you said about using the viewfinder as opposed to the screen makes sense. I never even thought of that. Maybe holding my old camera up against my face worked to stabilize it. But then again, half the fun of using a digital camera is using the screen, so I don't think I'll return to the primitive method. I might check out a different camera though, one with that image stabilization thing. And in the meantime I'll certainly work on holding the camera steady.


Thanks for your firearm advice. I've never fired a gun but I'll try using your tactic. I'm usually good at holding the camera with both hands, but maybe there's a better way to do it.

Boldstar Dec 31, 2005 11:51 AM

"Canon has an answer for the blurry images- Image Stabilization, but that requires buying a camera like the S2."

Hey Greg, I wonder if you know of any other "image stabilized" cameras that aren't as bulky as the S2. I went out and looked at one the other day and it's much bigger than my A85. I'd hoped to move toward the Elph-size camera if I made another purchase. But maybe the higher-quality cameras are bigger?

skylark Jan 2, 2006 9:13 AM

Boldstar wrote:

Hey Greg, I wonder if you know of any other "image stabilized" cameras that aren't as bulky as the S2.
I'm not Greg but I've recently discovered (not bought)the Panasonic FZ5. The professional reviews seem positive and I have not found even one user post mentioning soft photos so far. It is said to be about the smallest long zoom (12x) digital camera.

Boldstar Jan 2, 2006 12:42 PM

Thanks for the advice skylark. I'll check out the reviews for the FZ5. (I'm skeptical about Panasonic though, since I was recently the victim of a crappy Panasonic TV.The shadow maskblew a few days after the warranty ran out. I know they're completely unrelated, but sometimes bad experiences can make me shy away from a particular brand.)

Maybe I should figure out a percentage that I can live with. For blurry photos I mean. I was looking through some old photo albums the other day and realized that Itook the odd blurry pic with my old film camera too. Maybe it only feels like I'm getting more of them now because I'm taking way more pictures. Like I said, I should do some math.

I tookjust under a hundredphotos at a friend's New Year's Eve party the other nightso I'll count up the good vs. the bad see what number I come up with. (I know, that's a lot of photos. I think I'm obsessed now, trying to take more shots so I'll get more clear ones.)


slipe Jan 2, 2006 2:09 PM

Stabilization helps you shoot in limited light without a tripod, but it does nothing for subject movement. Since you are shooting at a lower shutter speed assisted by the stabilization, anything that moves is going to blur.

Another approach to the problem is high ISO. The same shot you could handhold at ISO 100 with optical stabilization you could handhold at ISO 800 with a camera like a Fuji F10. The ISO 100 shot with stabilization would be better unless there was subject movement, in which case the high ISO is the better solution.

The new Sony T9 seems to be a good compromise in a tiny camera. It has both true optical stabilization and better than average high ISO capability. It also has a much better than average LCD since you don't use an optical finder.

The Panasonic FX9 is also a good camera. It has optical stabilization but isn't as good at higher ISO as the T9. It also has a good LCD and no optical viewfinder.

Light that looks good to your eyes isn't necessarily enough for a small digital camera. Most cameras will show the shutter speed it plans to use when you half depress the shutter. If it is less than about 1/30 second at wide angle or less than 1/100 second zoomed you have to turn the flash on. That is especially true if you are holding the camera out in front of you and using the LCD to frame the shot. There isn't a magic setting to compensate on your camera. It will have the lens wide open by the time it reaches the minimum shutter speed for the light and zoom setting. The only thing you can do to increase the shutter is to boost the ISO, which is going to give you a lot of noise.

Edit: Both the T9 and FX9 will give you red eye.

So will the Fuji F10 and Z1. The Z1 doesn't have the great high ISO capability of the F10. It is about the same as the T9 but without optical stabilization.

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