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Old Jul 24, 2009, 2:31 PM   #1
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Default Ultra zoom sharpness

I tried searching this question out but difficult to find considering the subject matter and how to word it.

This year sometime I want to purchase one of the super or ultra zoom cams like Kodak Z980-Nikon P90-Olympus 590UZ-Pentax X70.

In viewing the dcresources review for these four cams I was surprised that the sample pics did not show any sharp long zoom pictures. However, on Steve's Forum there seems to be many sharp ones by members-not pro photographers!

Can you please explain, if this is so, why dc resource pics are not sharp- at least compared to the members' pics on Steve's forum for the same cams?

I do want as sharp an image available on a super zoom but am not yet decided if any or which cam gives that shaprness.

Thanks for your comments.
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Old Jul 24, 2009, 6:44 PM   #2
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Most people who post pics to a forum use post processing to tweak them up a bit. Most professional reviewers post the pics as they came out of the camera. Also, looking at some of the long zoom pics in the review you mentioned were of very challenging subjects...night baseball game, aircraft over a large body of water, etc. If you need better images then what you're seeing, you might want to scrap the mega-zoom idea and go right for a DSLR.

warning: this will not guarantee you will get sharp pictures.

the Hun
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Old Jul 24, 2009, 9:44 PM   #3
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There are quite a few factors involved in getting sharp pictures from long zoom shots. Reviewers generally take pictures that indicate what an average photographer would get from the camera alone.
Using a tripod will help tame camera shake, even with stabilization systems.
Shooting in clear weather makes a big difference when the distance to the subject is long. Many people don't consider how much atmospheric haze and dust can soften a picture.
Light, light , light! More light! (as Rembrandt, I believe it was, said on his deathbed) Dim lighting requires longer shutter times, higher ISO settings, and almost always results in soft looking pictures. Good for artsy portraits - bad for sharp results.
Polarizing filters can help with sharpness and contrast in some outdoor lighting conditions, especially around water, though you will lose some light.
Shooting using RAW mode, and using a RAW converter with built-in sharpening, such as Raw Therapee, can make a pretty big difference in results.
Whatever I forgot to mention, I'm sure someone else will fill in.
Have fun.

brian
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Old Jul 25, 2009, 12:39 AM   #4
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Thanks to the Hun and Brian for responding. Point in fact-the posters claim the pics are right from the camera with no pp (in most instances). I found the differences in the pics were quite a contrast as to being acceptable.
Thanks again.
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Old Jul 25, 2009, 5:43 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by picsgalore View Post
...the posters claim the pics are right from the camera with no pp...the differences in the pics were quite a contrast as to being acceptable...
Pictures posted here or elsewhere on t'net will usually have been resized, even if no post-processing has been done.

Resizing, just on its own, can have a big effect on apparent sharpness. When resizing my own images (from 7 or 10 Mpix superzooms), I usually have to apply a bit of USM (unsharp mask) sharpening to make them look 'on-screen' at 800x600 as much as possible as they do from the original at full screen on a good monitor, or as a large print. Most non-dSLR cameras will apply some degree of sharpening (sometimes adjustable) in the invisible process of producing a jpg from the raw sensor output.

Sharpness is often an optical illusion, created by emphasising edges. That's why resizing can have a dramatic effect on apparent sharpness - the illusion becomes the wrong size for the way the image is being viewed. There are many different algorithms for resizing images, each providing a slightly different result. Sharpening should be the last process, and performed by trial and error on the image at the size (literally in millimetres or inches) at which it will be viewed.

There is no easy answer to this, for comparative tests posted on the web. The best that's easily available is to post an image sharpened to look as good as you can get it, PLUS an unmodified, 100%, pixel for pixel, crop of a section with some fine detail, as well. This will look terrible at full size, but allow fair comparisons.

Other answers as to why some shots look much better than others are (as noted in other posts above as well)...

...long zooms are often a bit 'soft' at the long end;

...the subjects are often a long way away, and subject to atmospheric haze or other interference.

Last edited by Alan T; Jul 25, 2009 at 5:49 AM.
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Old Jul 25, 2009, 8:48 AM   #6
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Alan T,
Thanks very much for your reply. That does explain things for me. I didn't know or think that resize and sharpening would cause as you say. Really appreciate all my responders' comments.
Pics.
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Old Jul 25, 2009, 3:59 PM   #7
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Default Superzoom Sharpness

pics-

You have to keep in mind that any of those cameras will be hard pressed on the sharpness issue at max zoom. The only real answer, as brian mentioned, is to use a tripod, and hope that you have very clear skies with no smoke, haze, or smog present.

Most super zoom cameras perform at their very best degree of sharpness at about midway through their zoom range. Here is a sample photo from the Sony HX-1 at about 10X of its 20X full zoom capability.

www.dcresource.com did a recent review of all the superzoom cameras that you mentioned.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Jul 25, 2009, 10:07 PM   #8
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MtClimber, Thanks for your response. Yes, I did see the dcresources review. That's really what prompted my question. Your great seagull pic is really sharp and brings home your point.
Thanks again.
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Old Jul 26, 2009, 3:32 PM   #9
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Default Sony H-2 Sharpness and Resolution

Hi Pics-

Here is another super zoom sharpness example. This one was take with an older Sony H-2 super zoom. I have two H-2 cameras that I lend out to students in my classes.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Jul 26, 2009, 3:35 PM   #10
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Default 100% Crop of the Above Posted Photo

Pics-

Here is a 100% crop of the above photo. It really demonstrates very well the sharpness and resolution of the Sony H-2 camera.

Sarah Joyce
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