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Author Topic: Image quality... What's good enough?  (Read 12832 times)

enthill

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Image quality... What's good enough?
« on: October 13, 2013, 01:00:06 pm »

 Newbie here. I am looking to buy a camera that is fun and easy to use. Something that takes good pictures and is versatile. I only take pictures of day to day stuff, family, events at he school where I teach (including yearbook), vacation photos etc. I only view the pictures on computer or make small prints for a photo album (but would like to make some bigger prints for house decoration). Cameras that come to mind are the Fuji X20 and the Sony Rx100. My question really isn't however about what specific camera I should chose so much as will these cameras provide "good enough" image quality or do i need at least a micro 4/3s sensor? To be more specific, I understand that noise creeps in at lower iso's on the smaller sensor cameras but is that noise detectable at normal viewing or only when cropped? What size prints, given decent lighting and lower iso values, could I expect to make with those cameras before noise becomes an issue?  Many questions!  Any guidance would be appreciated!

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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Image quality... What's good enough?
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2013, 01:24:38 pm »

I have 24x30 prints made (on canvas) from my p&s Canon G10 (which is from 2008, with a 1/1.7" sensor, vs. the whole 1" sensor of the Sony Rx100 you have in mind). No interpolation, no special software, just careful post-processing in Lightroom. Absolutely good enough. Actually, gorgeous. As a matter of fact, barely distinguishable at that size (and canvas) from, say, an 18 Mpx APS-C  camera I also have. With the modern software we have these days, noise concern is overrated.

enthill

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Re: Image quality... What's good enough?
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2013, 01:39:09 pm »

Thank you Slobodan.  I am very pleased that you were able to get those results, with careful post processing as you suggest.  I suspect that this noise issue is a bit overblown too, although I am far from an expert.  I wonder if others feel the same too?  I have to remind myself of these things so that I can simply buy the equipment I need and nothing more.
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Dale_Cotton2

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Re: Image quality... What's good enough?
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2013, 03:25:53 pm »

It's no longer a matter of non-bargain-basement cameras producing clearly unacceptable results at high ISO numbers, but merely a matter of how much detail smearing happens due to the automatic noise reduction that takes place when shooting in low light without a flash. With megapixel counts now routinely over the 10 MP mark, you're almost never going to run into detail smearing that remains visible when a picture is sized down for monitor viewing, and only rarely when sized down for small printing. Which only leaves the question of the occasional wall-hanging-sized print. So here's what you do:

Review sites have albums of full-size sample shots taken with each camera that's reviewed. Scads more may be available on photo sharing sites that allow searches by camera make/model and allow posting of full-size JPEGs. Select the camera you're most interested in for all other considerations other than image quality, then download a variety of sample shots at various ISOs from that camera. Print a few of them at album size and at the wall-hanging size you have in mind. If they work for you, that's really all that matters. This saves you trying to wade through the morass of conflicting opinions you'll inevitably get when you post a question on the web that involves a judgment call.

Tip: whether you do your own printing with a letter-size inkjet or get your prints made at a kiosk, you may not want to spring for one or more custom-printed wall-hanging-sized prints just to do a test shot. What you do is size the picture for wall hanging in software, then cut out (crop) just a portion of the picture that will fit on to a smaller print size, then print that.
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enthill

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Re: Image quality... What's good enough?
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2013, 04:42:00 pm »

Thank you Dale!  What you suggest sounds eminently practical!  Exactly the advice I was seeking.  As you suggest, making some example prints at the desired size should help make my decision clearer.  I have read in a few reviews before how different camera manufacturers handle noise reduction. By the way,  is noise reduction some algorithm that kicks in at specific low light circumstances (low light, no flash) or is it applied to a certain degree in all shots?
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Image quality... What's good enough?
« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2013, 05:05:31 pm »

Automatic noise reduction is a problem only if you shoot jpegs. Shoot RAW. If not, switch to RAW for low light shots or shots with deep shadows.

enthill

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Re: Image quality... What's good enough?
« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2013, 05:38:30 pm »

Got it!  Thanks again!
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enthill

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Re: Image quality... What's good enough?
« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2013, 07:00:38 pm »

Are there any other considerations I should make before purchasing a camera based on IQ?

Disclaimer: I am a newbie to this forum and also to photography.  Just trying to acquire some knowledge before investing in a better camera. 
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Image quality... What's good enough?
« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2013, 07:19:32 pm »

I dare to suggest something rather controversial: the last thing you should pay attention getting a camera is IQ.

How come? Today's cameras are, even at the lower end, better than 99% of photographers. What you should pay attention to instead is how you feel about a camera, how it feels in your hands, do you prefer menus or dials, do you prefer to compose on the back screen or in the  viewfinder (and if so, should it be optical or electronic one), etc.

Another reason IQ should be the least of your concerns is that you, and the people around you, are going to judge your photos based on EQ not IQ. That is, emotional impact.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2013, 08:44:19 pm by Slobodan Blagojevic »
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Floyd Davidson

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Re: Image quality... What's good enough?
« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2013, 07:51:51 pm »

Another reason IQ should be the least of your concerns is that you, and the people around you, are going to judge your photos based on EQ not IQ. That is, emotional impact.

Emotional impact is highly dependant upon the quality of an image...

Buy the camera that produces the hightest quality for the style of photography most important to the photographer, and then learn to use it as a tool.  How it "feels" for the first several weeks or even months has nothing at all to do with the quality of the images, or the emotional impact, it can produce after the camera operator has learned how to use it.
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enthill

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Re: Image quality... What's good enough?
« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2013, 08:31:18 pm »

Thanks for the different perspectives Slobodan and Floyd.  I imagine that both points have elements of truth.  A good photographer probably doesn't need the best equipment but it surely must help some.

One last inquiry.  I prefer shooting black and white.  Are there cameras that produce better black and white photos right from camera or is achieving good b&w photos simply a matter of post processing with the proper software?  And if the latter, what is the best software available?
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Floyd Davidson

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Re: Image quality... What's good enough?
« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2013, 09:09:17 pm »

Thanks for the different perspectives Slobodan and Floyd.  I imagine that both points have elements of truth.  A good photographer probably doesn't need the best equipment but it surely must help some.

The biggest differences in cameras amount to which different types of photography they are best for.  I commonly use two different but fairly similar cameras. The difference is somewhat enhanced by typically having two distinctly different lenses mounted.  The point is that I rarely have much trouble deciding which to use for any given shoot.  The camera I use 3 out of 4 times costs half as much as the "backup".  They are both Nikon DSLRs.  I use the best camera for the work at hand.

Quote
One last inquiry.  I prefer shooting black and white.  Are there cameras that produce better black and white photos right from camera or is achieving good b&w photos simply a matter of post processing with the proper software?  And if the latter, what is the best software available?

Generally all DSLR's shoot color and all BW images are thus the result of software rather than hardware.  That is, the RAW image is made using the same Color Filter Array and data recording hardware that produces color images.  The BW image is desaturated using software.  You can virtually always do better with post processing.

There are some serious exceptions to the above.  Leica makes at least a couple of DSLRs that do not have the CFA for color, and directly produce monochrome images.

I have no experience with a monochrome digital camera, but would not recommend one for a very specific reason.  With a CFA it becomes quite reasonable (and more so as the pixel count goes up) to produce high quality BW that emulates virtually any BW film.  That cannot be done unless color information is recorded.
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telyt

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Re: Image quality... What's good enough?
« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2013, 12:39:16 am »


There are some serious exceptions to the above.  Leica makes at least a couple of DSLRs that do not have the CFA for color, and directly produce monochrome images.


Leica makes one camera model that produces only monochrome images and it's a rangefinder, not a DLSR.
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: Image quality... What's good enough?
« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2013, 12:52:10 am »

Hi,

There is something to it...

Best regards
Erik


I dare to suggest something rather controversial: the last thing you should pay attention getting a camera is IQ.

How come? Today's cameras are, even at the lower end, better than 99% of photographers. What you should pay attention to instead is how you feel about a camera, how it feels in your hands, do you prefer menus or dials, do you prefer to compose on the back screen or in the  viewfinder (and if so, should it be optical or electronic one), etc.

Another reason IQ should be the least of your concerns is that you, and the people around you, are going to judge your photos based on EQ not IQ. That is, emotional impact.
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Erik Kaffehr
 

enthill

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Re: Image quality... What's good enough?
« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2013, 01:18:29 am »

I came to the right forum!  The decision seems clearer now.

In my mind I have two cameras competing for my attention:
The Fuji X20 and the Panasonic Gx7.  Gonna try and rent them both and do some comparisons. 

Thanks to all! 
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Jim Pascoe

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Re: Image quality... What's good enough?
« Reply #15 on: October 14, 2013, 06:53:10 am »

I dare to suggest something rather controversial: the last thing you should pay attention getting a camera is IQ.

How come? Today's cameras are, even at the lower end, better than 99% of photographers. What you should pay attention to instead is how you feel about a camera, how it feels in your hands, do you prefer menus or dials, do you prefer to compose on the back screen or in the  viewfinder (and if so, should it be optical or electronic one), etc.

Another reason IQ should be the least of your concerns is that you, and the people around you, are going to judge your photos based on EQ not IQ. That is, emotional impact.

Absolutely right!

Jim
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enthill

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Re: Image quality... What's good enough?
« Reply #16 on: October 14, 2013, 08:40:47 am »

Agreed Jim.  Slobodan's insight really steered my thinking in the right direction.  Based on his comment I'm now most likely to spend at least half of what I was prepared to on a new camera. 
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Herbc

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Re: Image quality... What's good enough?
« Reply #17 on: October 14, 2013, 11:58:30 am »

If all your shots are going to be handheld, the Olympus offering with 4 (5?) way stabilization is very helpful. There are VR and other mfg offering stabilization, and for candids that would really help, keeping you on the subject rather than fretting about settings.
 I agree with the others about IQ being a  bit over hyped.
Photography is about the shooter and his skill much more than the gear.  The old guys who are revered had really crappy equipment compared to some of the stuff available today.
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Floyd Davidson

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Re: Image quality... What's good enough?
« Reply #18 on: October 14, 2013, 04:50:28 pm »

Photography is about the shooter and his skill much more than the gear.  The old guys who are revered had really crappy equipment compared to some of the stuff available today.

Photography is about producing photographs.  If you have crappy equipment, you'd better be as good as "the old guys"!  If you aren't that good, it might make a lot more sense to buy the best equipment available (which is exactly what every single one of "the old guys" did) because the difference isn't in how it "feels" so much as it is how easy it is or isn't to produce high quality photos with less operator skill.

Buy a "feel good" camera, and you can walk around profiling how good you feel!

Buy a camera that produces the best images for the type of photography you want to do, and you can show off your great photography.
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telyt

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Re: Image quality... What's good enough?
« Reply #19 on: October 14, 2013, 06:20:34 pm »

Buy a camera that produces the best images for the type of photography you want to do, and you can show off your great photography.

Unless its user interface rubs your fur the wrong way.  I get my best photos when using a camera that I like using.
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