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Old Mar 31, 2007, 3:14 PM   #1
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Hello to all forum members,
This is my first post. I've been on the website to read reviews before, but never registered.

Unfortunately I think my Canon Powershot S410 just died and I'm looking for a new camera.

I liked the camera, but all the pictures seem to look a bit soft. Even at 1600x1200, I feel they are lacking detail.

Now I don't know much about photography, but the lack of detail my photos as well as some of the horrible results I get from different conditions(night, up close) has made me want to learn more about the craft.

Is the lack of sharpness and detail inherent in the camera itself, or do I simply need to adjust settings like aperture and shutter speed etc.

I've included some samples, but these have all simply been point and shoot with no tweaks at all.

I want to know how much further I can go with a camera like this, or is it time for me to upgrade to something better. And if I do need to upgrade, should it be to an ultrazoom, or should I bite the bullet and get a dslr?

Thanks in advance!

Enjoy the photos, I took them 2 weeks ago when I was in Miami =)







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Old Mar 31, 2007, 3:40 PM   #2
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anen-

The photos that you posted are resonably sharp. They just needed a bit of contrast and a bit of sharpening. I have attached your #1 photo after minor tweaking.

Naturally, as you go upward in the digital camera food chain, the images will become sharper and show the effect of great resolution. ADSLR is an excellent choice and would surely give you measurably better quality and sharper photos.

The Canon A-410 is pretty physically small. The Nikon D-40 and Canon XT cameras are among the smallest DSLR cameras but certainly larger in physical sizethan the Canon A-410.

MT/Sarah
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Old Mar 31, 2007, 3:41 PM   #3
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anen-

The photos that you posted are resonably sharp. They just needed a bit of contrast and a bit of sharpening. I have attached your #1 photo after minor tweaking.

Naturally, as you go upward in the digital camera food chain, the images will become sharper and show the effect of great resolution. ADSLR is an excellent choice and would surely give you measurably better quality and sharper photos.

The Canon A-410 is pretty physically small. The Nikon D-40 and Canon XT cameras are among the smallest DSLR cameras but certainly larger in physical sizethan the Canon A-410.

MT/Sarah
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Old Mar 31, 2007, 3:45 PM   #4
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anen-

For comparison purposes here is a photo taken the the Canon XT equipped with the Canon 18-55mm kit lens.

MT/Sarah
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Old Mar 31, 2007, 3:51 PM   #5
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Thanks for the input Sarah!
How much money am I going to have to spend to get considerable improvement? Will a D40 with a lens under $500 get me close to magazine quality?

Also do you have any books/website guides you can suggest for me to learn more about photography?
Thanks!

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Old Mar 31, 2007, 4:45 PM   #6
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Anen, what you're seeing isn't really a lack of picture detail. If you took the full resolution versions of those images and printed them to 4x6 I'm certain they would appear much more detailed than they do on screen.

The lack of sharpness that you're seeing is the averaging out of the image detail across the visible pixels on your screen. If you were to set the resolution of your monitor much higher, your images would appear much sharper as well since it would be able to display more of the detail.

To make images appear sharp on screen, people use programs like Photoshop and apply a sharpening filter. Here's a crop of one of your photos before and after a simple sharpen filter:






Here's a close-up of a small area so you can see what's really happening:







Post process sharpening is also referred to as "edge enhancement". Notice the underside of the truck. In the sharpened photo, the underside and the shadow are darker, while the area in between has been brightened. This adds contrast to the adjacent pixels which gives the appearance of sharpness.

In order for sharpening to be effective, it should be done after an image is resized to the size it will be viewed at. If your original image is 3000 pixels wide and has been sharpened, once it's resized to 800 pixels wide those adjacent pixels will be blended together and the sharpening will be lost.

Sharpening can also improve the apparent sharpness of printed photos, but to a lesser extent since the individual pixels on a 4x6 would be so tiny. You can use an "unsharp mask" filter on these, which allows you to specify values greater or smaller than a single pixel to enhance.


So basically, your camera was never taking unsharp pictures, you just weren't applying the adjustments to make the images appear sharper on screen.

Every digital camera has a sharpness setting that is adjustable that will apply this kind of effect within the camera. This is great if the photos will be sent straight to print. How much sharpening you have the camera apply depends on your tastes, and how much work you intend to put into the photo on your computer. If you like to apply filters and effects and make lots of changes, it's usually best to set sharpness to it's lowest setting and apply it on the computer.

The first thing most people notice when they get their first DSLR is that the images appear much less sharp than they do on a typical digicam. This is because DSLR users are more prone to making adjustments to their images before printing and will tend to want to apply their own sharpening. If you shoot RAW photos, no sharpening will be applied by the camera, but these images allow for the greatest flexibility as far as applying changes afterward.

So, if you see yourself as the type who likes to process your photos and tweak them until they're perfect, and then might want to get larger sized prints out of them, a DSLR would be a pretty good choice for you.

If however all you really want are images that will look sharp on screen and make decent 4x6 or even the occasional 8x10 prints, you probably don't need a DSLR. I'd suggest you figure out the features that are most crucial to you (zoom, shutter lag, size, etc...) and just go with the camera that is the most fun to handle.
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Old Mar 31, 2007, 6:24 PM   #7
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anen-

All of the consumer level DSLR cameras have excellent image quality. Below I have listed the low internet costs for some of the consumer level DSLR cameras, each equipped with the standard kit lens.

Nikon D-40 $550

Canon XT $595

Pentax K-100D $530

The biggest bang for the buck is the Olympus E-500 two lens kit (the Zukio 14-45mm and the Zukio 40-150mm) selling for $580. Remember that themultiplier for Olympus is 2.0 due to the silghtly smaller imager used by Olympus. So that will give you coverage (in 35mm terms) of 28mm to 300mm.

The Nikon D-40 has been one Nikon's best sellers ever.

MT/Sarah
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Old Mar 31, 2007, 8:01 PM   #8
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Can someone reccomend a book or a guide on the web where I can learn more about the basics?
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Old Mar 31, 2007, 8:43 PM   #9
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Scott Kelby's Digital Cameras book is highly recommended by almost everyone. Amazon.com stocks it.

MT/Sarah
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Old Apr 5, 2007, 2:43 PM   #10
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I just finished the book Sarah recommended. It was very practical and taught me some good stuff......if ya can get by the droll humor, its great.

http://www.amazon.com/Digital-Photog...641&sr=1-1

There are a ton of camera review sites out there.......in addition to Steve's [google digital camera reviews]....you can drive yourself nuts if you read them all!

john
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