Question

Camera Upgrade

I am in my first digital camera (4.5 years now) - Canon SX130is, 12x zoom, f-8 maximum. I've had no formal training - and there will not be any.
I do a lot of hiking with groups and take all their pics. I need something that will not slow me down any more than I already am - they are not patient.
I take lots of landscapes and macros, some video.
I love the video I have; the macro refuses to focus too many times - I understand this is a Canon problem.
I have been encouraged to get away from camera presets and learn to use the manual settings; however, Manual, AV & TV, at f-8, give lots of mud. A photog advised I need at least F-22 - if this is not so, please advise.
I have checked a few reviews: Nikon Coolpix L830, L840 & D5500. All of them have a lower maximum F-stop than currently.
I'm not necessarily looking for anothter Canon but I am familiar with its terminology.
I order 5x7 & 8x10 prints for gifts, so I need excellent color reproduction and image quality.
I don't have a $$$ amount - but would like to keep it as far under $500 as possible. It does not have to be new - I'll shop Craigslist.
I need some good, solid information on particular brands/models.
Thank you for any help you may be able to provide!

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Comments
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Answer
re: Camera Upgrade "lots of landscapes and macros"

You may be able to find a used Panasonic LX100 for under $500. But a couple of things to be aware of: you may want to buy an extra battery (the LX100 uses a proprietary model, not AAs) and it only has 3X zoom (unlike the SX130's 12X, but I don't see why you'd need more than 3X for landscapes and macros).

But I haven't heard anything about Canon having a macro focusing problem. So if you'd like to trouble shoot the SX130: zoom all the way out (widest possible angle) and place the camera on the floor (or sturdy table) about in inch away from a table/chair leg (or salt/pepper shaker). If the resulting picture is in focus (at least partially; macro photos are almost never entirely in focus due to the shallow Depth of Field -- and as an aside, stopping down to f22 can cause defraction), the issue is either camera or subject movement, neither of which will be solved by upgrading.

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Answer
Upgrade

You don't have to have formal training but you have to be open to learning what exposure is all about. This site can be helpful:
http://www.shortcourses.com/use/

Regarding F-stops:
To use F/22
you need lots of light and/or a slow shutter speed.
A balance between Shutter speed and F/stop is what it takes to get perfect exposure.

With your present camera, look and see what shutter speed and F/stop the camera picks in Auto Mode. When lighting changes so will the settings change.
If you change F/stop you have to also change shutter speed to maintain perfect exposure.

Lots to learn, take one subject at a time.

Regarding Macro:
The camera must be held very steady when taking macros, for it to get good focus.
A tripod is suggested for Macro photography.

...

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the thing about presets is...

Snapshot2 - If I use presets, they contain settings that I cannot access manually. For example: ISO can go off the charts; shutter speed, ditto.
Last night, I was taking pics of the moon. One setting (P - no other setting) was: ISO 100, f-5.6, exposure compensation -1. A preset Low Light setting: ISO 2500, f-5.6, speed 1/200.
The highest ISO I can access is 1600 - not 2500.
The other day, under cloudy conditions, I was changing ISO as light saturation changed. Thus, the shutter speed had to be raised or lowered accordingly. All of the landscape pics are mud.
So, I get all that. I'll see what the Web site, you provided, has to say.
Thanks.

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Manual Modes

I was thinking Manual Modes.
I would start with "Shutter Priority Mode" or "Aperture Priority Mode."
Those will keep your exposure correct and you can adjust other things.

For Picture quality, ISO should be kept low (not much over 150).
It is like a volume control for light.
It is like the volume on a cheap radio. The higher you turn it up, the more distortion you get.

I still suggest you take the short course:
http://www.shortcourses.com/use/

..

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course too general

It appears much of this information (as it pertains to what I need) is far too general.
I have been encouraged to get away from presets, and that is where the problem lies.
If I could attach an image, you would see exactly the problem. This course assumes the images will be crisp, if the instructions are followed. The instructions are what I do any way.
Every, single image taken in Manual, AV or TV, is all mud; there is no crispness in any of the images. It has been that way for always.
I pulled up one image as an example: Manual setting, f-8, shutter speed 1/40, ISO 400 (very cloudy day), focal length 10.99mm. All I could do with it was adjust the color saturation to just where it starts to have to much yellow. The pic is of a huge field, mowed in squares, with mountains for a backdrop.

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Focal Length

Your example shows Focal Length of 10.99 mm.
That is puzzling because that camera's zoom lens is rated at 28-336 mm.
Was the camera set to Macro?
Macro is for close-up only.

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Camera shake (and you can link to a photo hosted elsewhere)

1) Sounds like camera shake*, which is what I suspected, and why I posted the scenario -- camera on floor 1" away from table leg -- I did previously. (And note, again, that this will not be solved by upgrading.)

2) While you can't attach a photo to a post here, you can link to a photo that's hosted elsewhere (e.g. Flickr).

*~11mm actual = ~60mm effective which ideally should use 1/60 or faster.

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no camera shake - would not use pics
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no camera shake in these pics
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I beg to differ.

"071 does anyone see a problem with this scene" especially looks like camera shake to me. But I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

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car running

The problem with that scene is that there is an idiot in the field following the bear. I was in my very small car, running, stopped in a long line of traffic. It was very near dusk (the road closes then); I was at an extremely bad angle. You should have said the same thing about 072, because it was the same thing.

The original post was seeking suggestions for a camera upgrade. I have received nothing but assumptions and insults from both of you. Which leaves me to believe that the two of you work for Canon.

Again, I would, if I could, post two pics - one taken in a manual setting and the other in a preset. The preset is fine (because the camera is not shaking - or being shaken) but the image taken in a manual setting is horrible.

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EXIF data - Exchangeable Image File

Assumptions and insults are not intended, but it may seem that way because we were working in the dark without photos. The word muddy is not enough.

Your photos are examples of good photography but one more thing is needed - EXIF data.
The EXIF data was stripped our of the examples photos we have seen.
Probably done by the source displayer (Flicker, etc). They often do that to save space. The EXIF data has all of the camera settings.

You will find the EXIF data in all of your original photo files.
It would help if you can provide the EXIF data for photo 072.

If you are not familiar with EXIF data, there is information here:
http://www.digicamhelp.com/glossary/exif-data/

We need to understand the problem before we make recommendations.


...

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First - another album before going manual
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EXIF Data #1

X/Y Resolution 180x180dpi
YCbCr Positioning co-sited
Exif Offset 240
Exposure time 1/10 second
F-8
ISO 400
Exif Version 230
Components configuration YCbCr
Compressed Bits per Pixel 3
Shutter Speed Value 1/10 seconds
Aperture Value F-8.00
Exposure Bias Value 0.00
MaxApertureValue F-5.02
Metering Mode multi-segment
Flash not fired, compulsory flash mode
Focal length 48.11 mm
Flash Pix Version 0100
Color Space sRGB
Exif Image Width 4000
Exif Image Height 3000
Interoperability Offset 3762
Focal Plane X Resolution 16393.44
Focal Plane Y Resolution 16393.44
Focal Plane Resolution Unit Inch
Sensing Method one-chip color area sensor
File Source DSC - Digital still camera

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EXIF Data #2

Custom Rendered Normal Process
Exposure Mode Manual
White Balance Auto
Digital Zoom Ratio 1.00x
Scene Capture Type Standard
Macro Mode Normal
Self-timer Off
Quality Fine
Flash Mode not fired
Sequence mode continuous
Focus mode single
Image size Large
Easy Shooting Mode Manual
Digital Zoom none
Contrast normal
Saturation normal
sharpness normal
ISO 400
MeteringMode Evaluative
Focus Type Auto
AF point selected Manual AF point selection
Exposure Mode Manual
Focal Length 5000 - 60000 (1000mm)
Focus Mode 2 Continuous
Auto ISO 100
Base ISO 400
White Balance Auto
Sequence number 1

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EXIF Data #3

Flash Bias 0EX
Subject Distance 0.00
Image type IMG: Powershot SX130 IS JPEG
Firmware Version 1.01
Image number 1477543
Sharpness (EOS 1D) 0
Directory Index (EOS 450D) 37376
AF Point Selected single-point AF
Num AF points 9
Valid AF points 1
AF image width 100
AF image height 100
Compression 6(JPG)
X Resolution 180
Y Resolution 180
Resolution Unit inch
JpegIFOffset 5108
JpegIFByteCount 3842

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EXIF data

Thanks for the EXIF data
The 072 photo did not appear to have a sharp focus.
The EXIF info tells me possibly why.
Your shutter speed was too slow (1/10) for a hand held photo.
Image Stabilization helps, but it has its limits.
Anything slower than 1/30 of a second should be with a Camera support (tripod) A bean bag can be used as a camera support when you have something to set it on.

If you raise the ISO to 1600 you could raise the shutter speed to 1/40 or 1/60 second. But raising the ISO adds noise to the photo.

( http://www.digital-photo-secrets.com/tip/136/iso-explained/ )
Note: Edited link to add a space after and before parentheses.

so I would suggest you change the Aperture from to F8 to F4 and a shutter speed of 1/40 or 1/60 second. That should get you a sharp focus and maintain the same exposure.
...........................

I am still interested is seeing a "muddy" picture and its EXIF data.

I don't need the entire EXIF. Just the following will probably do:

Exposure Time
ISO
Aperture Value
Exposure Mode
Quality
Flash Mode
Digital Zoom (this should always be none}
White Balance
Image Type (this describes the camera).

..

Post was last edited on October 3, 2015 9:03 AM PDT

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signed up for 21-day photo course

The link you provided has been taken down. But, I did sign up for free email photo tips, a 21-day (Thursdays only) program.

I'll get some pics together and post them in a sample album on Flickr.

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Bad Link

I guess we created too much traffic for the link owner.
Too bad, it was an accurate concise statement about ISO.

Back in the film days we had ASA which was the film speed.
High speed film resulted in visible film grain.
With digital cameras we don't have to change the film to get more speed. The ISO setting provides that. But higher settings can cause noise, which is somewhat like film grain.

A higher megapixel rating on a small camera will also cause noise under low light situations.
That is why I prefer a 12 megapixel small camera over a higher megapixel small camera. When you crowd more megapixels on a small sensor assembly, you have to make the pixels smaller. and smaller pixels produce less light.

DSLR (Digital Single Lens Cameras) have a much larger sensor assembly which can handle more megapixels and higher ISO settings without noise. But that calls for much larger cameras and lenses.

I am looking forward to seeing more samples.

...

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I fixed the link by adding a space here and there.

Works now.

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sample pics

Sorry this took so long - CPU froze up for the 18th time in 6 months, and I had to start over!!!!

There are some settings that are constant for all these pics: Quality: Fine; White Balance: Auto; Image Type: IMG: PowerShot SX130 IS JPEG.

First 2 pics are from Cades Cove and are as muddy, if not worse, than the rest of the landscape pics from this album. I used the settings that gave the best representation of an image - I did play with the settings, because I had the luxury of time.
Image #1: Exposure Time: 1/1250 second; ISO 800; Aperture Value: F4.51; Exposure Mode: Manual; Flash Mode: not fired; Digital Zoom: None.
Image #2: Exposure Time: 1/40 second; ISO 400; Aperture Value: F8; Exposure Mode: Manual; Flash Mode: not fired; Digital Zoom: None.

I threw in a few pics of my beautiful cat. She was my willing experiment subject. The full sun was shining on HER right rear; I was in front of her, with her face in shadow.
Images #1&2: Exposure Time: 1/60 second (the faster speed did not let in as much light); ISO 200; Aperture Value: F8; Exposure Mode: AV Priority; Flash Mode: not fired; Digital Zoom: None.
Images #3&4: Exposure Time: 1/13 second (slower speed let in more light); Aperture Value: F8; Exposure Mode: AV Priority; Flash Mode: not fired; Digital Zoom: None.

Also, would you please tell me the difference among: ISO Value, Auto ISO, and Base ISO? All those are part of the EXIF data. Which is the true ISO, I, or the camera, would have chosen?

Thank you.

The last two images were from this past Thursday.
Image #1: Exposure Time: 1/60 second; ISO 200; Aperture Value: F4.00; Exposure Mode: Easy Shooting (I was using the Foliage setting in Scene); Flash Mode: not fired; Digital Zoom: None.
Image #2: Exposure Time: 1/40 second; ISO 160; Aperture Value: F 4.0; Exposure Mode: Easy Shooting - Auto; Flash Mode: not fired; Digital Zoom: None.

I want to add: When I use Manual for waterfalls, I do not have the ability to control shutter speed. I have access only to an exposure compensation grid, which will determine how much light is allowed in and, therefore, the speed of the shutter. But... but the background is always mud - no matter how perfect I get the waterfall. So, mud seems to a part of this camera.

For the person who said I needed to put the camera on the floor, about 1" away from a chair leg, and Zoom all the way in, I would say: On this camera, there cannot be even the slightest bit of Zoom when taking macro shots. My Macro shots are not at issue - only that the camera decides not to focus far too many times. Others (photographers) also have this trouble with their Canon cameras, no matter their experience, or the cost & toys attached.

The link to the samples, in Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/35825793@N08/albums/72157659004708000

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re: "For the person who said...

...I needed to put the camera on the floor, about 1" away from a chair leg, and Zoom all the way in ... My Macro shots are not at issue - only that the camera decides not to focus far too many times."

I suspect that the two issues are related, but if you'd rather not pursue this, that's fine.

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Regarding Sample Pictures

Since there are several different questions:
I will answer them separately.

Regarding the last two pictures.
Both exhibit the same problem.
Since they are taken from a covered porch the exposure needs to be controlled. The situation is much akin to taking a picture from inside a house through a window. The darkness around the edge of the photo need to be ignored.
See sample photo ZZ2.
Canon calls it metering method
There are three:
Evaluative, Center weighted Average and Spot.

You want the exposure to ignore the edges and use the center part of the scene.
So you set the metering method to Spot or Center Weighted Average.

But most of the time you wont recognize this problem until later, then it is too late to take the shot again.

Then you have to use a program like Photoshop to correct the problem. The sample picture ZZ2B was done by using Adobe Photoshop Elements 13
Expert mode.
Open the photoZZ2, Click Enhance - Adjust Lighting - Shadows & Highlights - Adjust Highlights Slider to 95%. Saved as ZZ2B

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v159/randol9p9/zzz2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v159/randol9p9/zzz2B.jpg

....

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Thank you...

... for your efforts but, it still is not a good pic. There is no crispness to margins. Also, I am not in a $$$ position to spend any money on any software, for any reason. My free-ware offers so very much that I don't know about - not patient about learning it.
I have thought, a time or 3, that there may be something wrong with the camera. And, I'm OK with that.
At your suggestion, I did sign up for the shortcourse - on digital photography. One of the lessons was on Programming Mode and how I should not avoid using it. I am now using that full-time (it includes Macro and Manual). I am getting a whole bunch of really, really great pics, with lots of happy light in them; distance shots show lots of definition. The Programming Mode has great DOF, ability to change ISO, use the Exposure Compensation, and several other necessary features.
I am happy with the way things are right now. I will continue to learn from the digital photo course and am enjoying it - so far, he's keeping everything really simple - a bit too simple.
I also received dps (digital photography school) emails, which are much more in-depth and difficult for me to process without anyone showing me hands-on.
Thanks for your help.

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First two sample photos

The first photo is just under-exposed
The shutter speed is several steps too fast.
That is a danger when shooting in Manual Mode.
You have to rely on the small camera screen to determine the quality of the photo.

In the old days (before electronics) photographers always shot in Manual Mode but did use an exposure meter to ensure getting a perfect exposure. Now the camera is the exposure meter, Except when in Manual Mode.

I glad you found Program Mode, it is more user friendly than Manual Mode. I only use Manual mode when I want to do something that steps outside the acceptable photographic limits.

The second photo seems to be out of focus. I can't tell for sure. Would need a larger image to determine.

Keep reading and learning.

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Program Mode

Previously, I had been having such wonderful success in Program.
Today, I was using it, and every single pic was out-of-focus (seemed so), lack of color...) -I was using auto ISO. Maybe Exposure Compensation would have helped!?!

I was hiking with a photog on Wednesday & was telling him about the difficulties I've been having. He thinks the sensor may be bad, or going bad. With the difficulties I was having today, I tend to agree - at least, something is probably wrong with the camera. After all, the camera has taken well over a million images.

Today, I took many pics of sunrise and had to use the preset Foliage in the Scene button, to get great color. I was able to keep a number of them SOOC, no post-processing. Program gave me lavender and pale yellow where I should have had pinkish/red to eye-popping yellow. Even post-processing didn't help.

After the sunrise pics, I went into a mountain-top cove, where all the fall colors are at peak. Auto really made the colors pop (unusual for Auto on my camera), but the colors were very loud and margins were not crisp (not camera shake).

I took a few using AV, but they, too, were muddy - as usual.

Someone on this thread suggested looking in to a Canon 6D - but they are far too expensive and way above my ability to use.

I'm going to check into a bridge camera - no brand determined yet. They seem to be doable in price, and I may find a used one.

Thanks for all your help.

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Macro Mode

Many years ago I wasted a spring morning taking Macro photos.
Most were out of focus.
I learned that I had to use a tripod to get good results.
The DOF (depth of field) is very narrow depending on the aperture setting and hand holding the camera did not permit me to focus accurately enough.

I took some test photos with a Minolta camera.
The point of focus on the truck is the O in the word Corn.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v159/randol9p9/IMG_0187B800.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v159/randol9p9/IMG_0184800.jpg

Notice the difference in the DOF between F/11 and F2.8

The picture of the car was focused on the dashboard of the car:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v159/randol9p9/PICT0442E.jpg

The DOF is very narrow on the car

,,,

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Canon EXIF for ISO

Your question: "Also, would you please tell me the difference among: ISO Value, Auto ISO, and Base ISO?"

I had never looked into this and it looks to be a barrel of snakes.
Auto ISO and Base ISO are not useful to the average person. It may be useful to Canon Engineers. they are results of determining the ISO Value.

As a side line Nikon does not report ISO in the EXIF. ????

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Cat pictures

All of the cat photos have a wide range of high and low exposure.
I have never found a satisfactory way to capture this. So I now just avoid taking that type of photo.

While I was in Hawaii, I took some photos under a huge banyon tree.
It was partially shady with beams of strong sunlight filtering through the leaves.
I was unable to get a good result. The pictures were blah!

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Waterfalls

A usual waterfall photo during the day will cause the water to freeze and it doesn't look right.
Waterfalls seem the best when taken with a slow shutter speed.
This causes the water to blur and seems to give it movement.

But this is difficult to pull off on a bright sunny day.
Because you can not set the shutter speed slow enough.
Then you have to use a neutral filter on the lens to darken the entire light. Neutral filters are rated 1 thru 9 with 9 being the darkest.
And a tripod is usually needed due to the slow shutter speed.
It may take a little trial and error to get the shutter speed right.

Most good waterfall shots are done this way.

......

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