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Old Jul 16, 2004, 12:08 AM   #1
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I've held out this long getting a newer digital camera, been pretty happy with my Kodak DC290 except it was too darn slow. Just bought the Sony W1 because of the responsiveness, 5.1MP, AA batteries, and large - easily seen in the daylight LCD.

However every picture I've taken with this W1 is somewhat soft in comparison to the Kodak. I expected a noticeable difference for the better because of going to 5.1MP, but I have yet to take a picture that makes me say "Wow!"

Low light/indoors is grainy and usually slightly out of focus even when taking pictures of subjects fairly close.

Outdoor pictures too are not so hot.

Is this expected because of the lack of a RAW output? I'm very happy with everything else about it, but I feel it doesn't live up to it's 5.1MP specs andam thinking of returning it. Am I off base here?

(WARNING - BIG files)

http://dschmidt.com/images/DSC00009.JPG

http://dschmidt.com/images/DSC00014.JPG



Dave







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Old Jul 16, 2004, 5:51 AM   #2
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Dave,

There is something a bit oddin yourimpression of the W1.

I have actualexperience of Sony P52, P93, V1 and P10, I currently own the 5MPP10. I've handled the W1 but never taken images with it. However a couple of months ago I looked into it very carefully with a view to purchase.

My Dad has a 2MP Kodak of a similar age/spec to your DC290 so I'm aware of the type of results to expect...yes, boy is it slow!

The long and short of this is that the Sony images should blow the Kodak ones away....but I wonder how you are vieweing them? This makes a huge difference. The Kodak has a rather bright rendition of all colours and quite a smooth image character. The Sony image should be sharper with overall less dramatic colour, and a mass more genuine detail from the true 5MP.

If printed out to 6x4 it is possible you might actually prefer the Kodak colour?? This might even be the case if you view "fit to screen" on a smaller PC monitor. But if you are looking into the detail or cropping at all the Sony should be a huge amount better.

I test download one specific image from this site (Marina Bar)for each camera I'm interested in and I've just done that for the DC290, I already had the W1 saved. The W1 image is colourful, very sharp and full of detail. The DC290 is colourful but soft and lacking in detail. One particular textured surface is so badly softened individualrooftiles are merged into a blur whereas the Sony is fine.

Also I'm amazed that you are disapointed with the images you took and linked to. The W1 is a point and shoot (nothing wrong in that) with a small flash. Yet the exposure of the childs face is good, and that is the main subject. I rarely find images straight off camera (any camera) are 100% as I want them, and have developed a 3-click procedure to lift them a little. I have taken the liberty of doing this with one of your images and pasted it here. I think it looks anice shot. We have girls of a similar age so take loads of images like yours.

Do bear in mind the Sony has three levels of sharpness/contrast/colour you can set, I wonder where they are set now? Also does the Kodak have similar settings and could it already be set to extra sharpness?

If you really want to take a definitive test check right through the camera menu to see all the settings are correct, thentake one on a good day, light behind you, onauto andwith a tripod. Then post that so we can see.



David
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Old Jul 16, 2004, 11:26 AM   #3
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Thanks for the reply.
I've been viewing and comparing the pictures on my 19" CRT monitor which is set to 1280 x 1024 resolution, using ACDSEE to view and zoom in and out to check the details/pixels.

The Kodak is not set to any sharpness levels, I believe that capability is accessible via a program in the system folder on the CF card which the Kodak can access. Those options were deleted when I formatted the CF card the first time.

Yes, I probably am used to the bright colors from the Kodak. I remember going from a 1MP camera to the 2MP DC290 and going "WOW" at the results. So far I've not taken any pictures with the Sony that make me say "WOW".

Now thinking this over, most of my picture taking is done closeup - portraits, products, indoor shots, pets. The DC290's focusing seems to be much better than the W1 - my black Chow Chow dog is amazingly clear with the DC290 so much so you can see each individual hair. With the W1 - he's just a fuzzy black blob.

I'll have to take outdoor shots with both cameras and compare their pictures. I suspect that the Sony's softness is due to the focusing, and that with outdoor shots, the 2MP Kodak's limitations shows up and underwhelms the picture quality, and the 5.1MP of the Sony helps it.

FWIW I took some flash pictures in the dark with the W1 and they came out REALLY fuzzy due to being out of focus. The subject was close, saturation was good, the AF light was on.

Thank you for your modification of my daughter's picture. Definitely has the "WOW-ness" I'm was hoping to get right out of the camera - clarity wise.

Dave
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Old Jul 16, 2004, 1:44 PM   #4
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I have the W1, and I have alsomentioned the photos look "soft" and "smooth."Indoors, for best results, I have been taking all pictures on full wide angle for maximum aperture.There seems to be ample depth of field with these small cameras. I have set P-mode to ISO 200, sharpness to + and contrast to –. When the room is big and the background dark, I try to use that (full wide). I have downloaded a trial of Focus Magic from www.focusmagic.com. It has improved the sharpness and on-screen appearance of some of my photos, but I haven't tested it extensively. It allows you ten free images, but you can easily use that just experimenting on the first picture. Hint: To get a decent trial, you need to reset a registry value called ImagesProcessed, and also a value in win.ini called IP, to zero.

I also have the DC290. It is so slow, I have missed many shots. Many of the photos were out of focus. It was a craps shoot whether the next picture would be blurry or not. I, tooexpected the W1 photos to be much sharper, but it's truly a dinty point and shoot with a toy lens. My wife, on the other hand, is thrilled with the W1 and has claimed it as her own, referring to it as "my camera." She's not so hard to please, and that's probably how she ended up with me...
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Old Jul 16, 2004, 2:36 PM   #5
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Guys,

I would be amazed if the "slightly smooth" image of the W1 could actually be worse in detail than an earlier generation Kodak 2MP camera....surely not.

Have a look at the sample images on this site from the reviews. Download any two of the same subject and see how much sharper/more detailed the Sony looks.

I've taken a section of the W1 and DC290 Marina Bar image and cropped/set it to the same size, but without any other manipulation.


The Sony is below, Kodak on the next post.





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Old Jul 16, 2004, 2:38 PM   #6
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And here is the Kodak (how do you get two on the same post?).

Far worse than the Sony....yes?

David


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Old Jul 17, 2004, 11:26 PM   #7
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Okay, you're right, it is better than the DC290. I've taken portraits with both cameras this weekend and the resolution from the W1 is better. Still the DC290 focuses clearer than the W1.

I also compared the W1's pictures to that taken with a friend's Sony DSC-S85, the pictures from the S85 were much better than the W1. With the S85, pictures of cats for instance - the hairs and eyes were nice and clear and 'bright'. The W1 was fuzzy - almost slightly out of focus for EVERYTHING! Also portrait shots of people's faces were much clearer on the S85.

It's such a shame. I like the W1 a lot for its size, responsiveness, LCD display, but not the pictures! Even with playing with the sharpness setting, contrast, AF area didn't help.

Why pay $100 more for this 5.1MP camera that takes lousier pictures than someone else's 4MP camera?

Dave
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Old Jul 18, 2004, 1:39 AM   #8
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I don't know much about how digital cameras work. That said, isn't it possible that the softness Probedude describes is due to noise- suppression by the W1 software. The quote below is from Dave Etchells review of the W1 at <http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/W1/W1A.HTM>

"Image Noise: Very low noise, but somewhat heavy-handed noise-suppression. Overall, I was surprised and impressed by how "clean" the W1's images were, as its noise levels were lower than I'd generally expect from a five-megapixel camera, let alone a compact model. BUT, the low noise came at the cost of flattened subject detail in areas of subtle contrast. (Very visible in Marti's hair and features, on the Outdoor Portrait test.) There was also some odd behavior in areas where a bright, highly-saturated color abutted a dark area, almost a "glow" fuzzing out from the colored region. (And no, it wasn't lens flare, nor was it a focusing issue.) I give the W1 high marks for low noise levels, but wince at how much subject detail is swallowed up by its noise-suppression processing."

If the hair of Dave's blond female subject suffers from lost detail of noise-suppression then couldn't the hair of Probedude's black Chow Chow have the same problem?

If noise-suppression is the problem will Sony issue a firmware update to correct this?

Thanks to anyone knowledgeable who negate or support my suggestion.
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Old Jul 18, 2004, 2:35 AM   #9
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More 'soft' W1 examples (all ~2MB) plus 1 S85 picture, all unretouched.

Another portrait. Where's the detail?
http://www.dschmidt.com/images/DSC00028.JPG

Outdoor blah picture. No depth, too soft
http://www.dschmidt.com/images/DSC00024.JPG

Outdoor, pet cat - fuzzy/soft

http://www.dschmidt.com/images/DSC00020.JPG





Here is a picture taken with a friend's Sony DSC-S85. 4MP, nice clarity

http://www.dschmidt.com/images/DSC00163.JPG





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Old Jul 18, 2004, 11:42 AM   #10
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PD,

Understand I don't own a WI and have no axe to grind, I'm just puzzled that you are finding such fault with a camera that should bepretty good...if not 100% perfect.

Girl portrait: You were at about 2x zoom with no flash. The shutter speed was just 1/30th. If handheld you did well, there was good cause to get motion blur. I see the ISO cranked up to 160 which will have given you some extra noise. All in all the camera did a reasonable job. I've done my usual 3 clicks and pasted it here.....looks OK at a sensible display size...yes? To get this any better you needed more light, the camera did its best with what was available.#



Outdoor shot: You were at maximum zoom with a shutter speed of just 1/100th, again if handheld you might have expected some blur so you did OK. Note the image seems sharp right in the foreground at the truck windshield edges and on the laurelbush right at the front. To be honest I think the focus may have been on the wrong part of the frame for what you wanted...ie sharp building etc?? It would have been better to have focussed on the sign set in the red flowers, then the depth of field may have extended back to the truck and out to the building. I do note the excesssoftening/fuzzing of the fir tree to the left...bit odd!

Outdoor pet cat: Again you are at maximum zoom. The shutter speed is the standard 1/50th with flash. The camera upped the ISO to 160. To be honest all these smaller digitals struggle a biy when you ask a lot of the flash. Taking with flash at maximum telephoto can be a bit beyond them. You can see that the flash has only managed to properly light the head, even the body is dark...never mind the background. It isquite soft though, the hair very much so.

Your friend's S85 cat image: This was at almost max zoom withdecent natural light. The ISO is up at 200 which might have given rise to more noise than you actually see. The shutter speed was only 1/30th but the image is sharp enough that the camera may well have been on the floor for stability?? It's a nice image but note even on this one the fur detail is lost from the ears backwards.

I still think to prove the W1 performance one way or another you should take an outdoor image in good light from a tripod and ensuring the focus is on the correct part of the frame. Do the same with the DC290 and compare.

It maybe that you need to slightly modify your use of the W1 to avoid certain image character traits.

Having said that it could be that apnymph has a point about the extra noise processing of the W1 compared with earlier Cybershots. If it is a bit fierce I wonder if it is "taking advantage" of blurring due to motion or focus errors, seeing that as noise and smoothing it. Interesting thought.

I have to say, despite defending the W1 and trying to find an answer, it seems your results are actuall below those I'm getting with my previous generation 5MP Sony, for clarity in particular.

David


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