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The Tao of Small Sensors

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by drd1135, Jul 13, 2014.

  1. drd1135

    drd1135 SC Hall of Famer

    Jul 13, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Steve
    The members of this forum are no doubt the small sensor ninjas of the photographic world. What techniques, tips, and other secrets have you discovered that are most important for good work with small (<= 2/3 ") sensors?
     
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  2. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    I don't claim to be a master, but . . .

    1. You will be pleasantly surprised what small sensors can do.

    2. Don't be afraid to try anything; you may well be astonished by what small sensors can do.

    3. It's useful to try a variety of post-processing software. I use Picasa, DXO Optics Pro 9, and Perfect Effects 8.

    4. You can throw the background out of focus with a small sensor camera, but it's natural tendency will be to keep a great deal of the scene in focus.

    5. Sean Reid's take is that each camera type -- including small sensor cameras -- has its own look, and that once you accept that a photograph doesn't have to look a certain way, there is no hierarchy of sensor sizes or camera types.

    BTW, I love the title of your post. The Tao of small sensors; it has a ring to it!

    Cheers, Jock
     
    • Like Like x 2
  3. val

    val SC Regular

    177
    Jan 2, 2014
    I won a Nikon P340 and I gotta say, despite it's laggy/slow operating performance, the IQ of the images are quite good although my Nokia 920 sometimes beats it in low light shots.

    I had to change numerous settings however to maximize the IQ.

    1. shoot in raw
    2. single centre point AF
    3. -0.7 exposure compensation. (highlights tend to blow easily)
    4. Av mode.
    5. Auto ISO - 1/60s min shutter, the stabilization is very good but not good enough to leave it on 1/30s default.

    JPEGS are good but I want to maximize what the camera can do.
     
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  4. Rhino123

    Rhino123 SC Veteran

    201
    May 11, 2014
    Singapore
    Tiew Chong Yi
    I have used my Nokia 1520 quite extensively and the result is pleasing to me... even in low light situation. The main thing I find useful currently is - stable hand and shooting in RAW (yep. Nokia allowed that). In future, I have invested in the beastgrip which should be arriving soon. And I can mount my Nokia on a tripod stably and comfortably, which will extend my capability.
     
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  5. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    It's taken me a LONG time to make peace with small sensors. And I still prefer NOT to use one.

    My main bit of advice is that I don't try to force the camera to take shots it that it won't succeed at. And I prepare myself mentally that it will look terible so if it looks halfway decent, I'm satisfied.
     
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  6. Biro

    Biro SC All-Pro

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Steve
    Ditto on the shooting raw if you can, watching the highlights and maintaining realistic expections. Steve, is there a story here that's worth sharing? Is the Q proving a challenge? Another small-sensored camera that I'd recommend: the Olympus XZ-10.
     
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  7. val

    val SC Regular

    177
    Jan 2, 2014
    Nokia is doing a smashing job with their smartphone cameras, I love being able to shoot in native 4:3 aspect ratio since that matches my M43 cameras.
     
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  8. john m flores

    john m flores SC All-Pro

    Aug 13, 2012
    Don't push ISO in low light. Learn to use flash.
     
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  9. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. SC All-Pro

    Nov 8, 2012
    New Mexico
    Larry
    Raw, raw, raw. -- Except for the Fuji X10, which makes incredible jpegs.

    But I just got my 3rd XZ-1, and it is up for sale already. The "under 2/3 inch" seems to be where I have a hard time being satisfied. The X10, X20, the old Olympus C8080, all with 2/3" sensors worked well for me. Under that I struggle to be satisfied. I'll be getting another X10 or X20, cameras that don't fit into the those under consideration here, but they are the small sensor cameras I have been most satisfied with - even if the x20 jpegs don't thrill me.

    Thus: Shoot raw.
     
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  10. val

    val SC Regular

    177
    Jan 2, 2014
    Aye, if I had to buy a compact camera, I'd be going for the XQ1 for it's 2/3" sensor and good RAWs but I'm in no rush as M43 is small enough for me to take everywhere, if Panasonic can make the LX8 a bit thinner than the RX100 MK III while retaining the rumoured 1" sensor then that would be very nice
     
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  11. ReD

    ReD SC Hall of Famer

    Mar 27, 2013
    I've never shot with anything bigger than 2/3 & those are only recently (last few weeks)
    only just started RAW last week

    Sensor size doesn't bother me too much - I learn more about composition from cropping but too much is where small sensor starts to fail - or more accurately gives a different quality which can then be worked differently
     
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  12. pictor

    pictor SC All-Pro

    Jul 14, 2010
    Shoot raw and try to do the shot as carefully as you can. That is, use the lowest ISO possible and don't stop down too much because of diffraction. Don't underexpose, but watch the histogram to avoid blown highlights and overexpose a little (if possible) and correct that afterwards to reduce noise.
     
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  13. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    Graham Houghton has done a very nice downloadable manual for the FZ200 (which I think is the most versatile small-sensor camera on the planet). It is available as a free download here http://www.grahamhoughton.com/download-section/ , and while much of the manual is camera specific, there is a great deal that could be applied to almost any small sensor camera.

    I suggest downloading it, giving it a read and see what might prove useful to you.

    DXO Optics Pro 9 has a pretty slick noise reduction feature called PRIME. If you shoot in raw, it can help reduce noise at high ISOs, although you may lose some detail.

    You might also want to check out this thread: https://www.photographerslounge.org/showthread.php?t=22814 There are people who use compact cameras professionally, and there are links within that thread to see some of their work.

    Every camera has its advantages, disadvantages, and compromises. The choice really comes down to what is important to you.

    Cheers, Jock
     
    • Like Like x 1
  14. Biro

    Biro SC All-Pro

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Steve
    Not to hijack this thread, but I've noticed a number of Internet posts recently expressing renewed interest in the X10. Interesting. I think it's a great camera and one can argue that it's still better than the X20 in some ways. But I wonder if the X30 and other camera with one-inch sensors will finally render the X10 obsolete. The EXR technology is interesting and it works. But it does require a learning curve in order to get the most from it.
     
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  15. ReD

    ReD SC Hall of Famer

    Mar 27, 2013
    In the meantime the X10 works & is way more affordable
     
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  16. pictor

    pictor SC All-Pro

    Jul 14, 2010
    Don't sharp too much at high ISO. In Lightroom don't use high numbers for the slider "Details" (or the equivalent of other programs), because that sharpens only the noise and nothing else. I change the default value of 25 to 10 for low ISO and 5 or even 0 for high ISO. That makes a huge difference.
     
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  17. drd1135

    drd1135 SC Hall of Famer

    Jul 13, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Steve
    A bit of a a story, and you're close with the XZ-10. Like Luke, I usually become dissatisfied with small sensors. However, I recently picked up a refurb Stylus 1 and I really like shooting with it. In a rural area, I find that I often need the reach of the lens since things can get far away quickly. The RAW files clean up pretty well, but I thought I would ask since many here produce nice work with small sensors and a tidbit of new info might surface. Since you mentioned it, I like the Q but the XF1 has replaced it as my pocket camera. Q7 is tempting, however.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  18. Biro

    Biro SC All-Pro

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Steve
    I hear you. I have the Stylus 1 myself and am only just getting to know it. I had a full Q kit (the original) with 01, 02 and 06 lenses. But I sold it off because it was never my first choice for anything and really wasn't completely pocketable with a lens on it (at least anything other than the 01 prime). I'm waiting to see the next Q - whatever replaces the Q7 - before finally letting go completely and selling my Q OVF (47mm) and the Pentax Q-to-K adaptor.
     
  19. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I think the best tip or bit of advice I can offer for users of small sensor cameras is to avoid using big sensor cameras. I was pretty locked in with the little guys a couple of years ago, with various S90s and LXX5 / 7s and GRD3s and X10s to my name at one time or another. Then the Coolpix A and RX1 came along and put incredible APS and full frame sensors in fairly tiny little bodies. Now I can't go back. I ABSOLUTELY and FULLY realize that the image is 99.9% of the battle and the technical stuff is ultimately almost meaningless to making a great photograph. But nonetheless, once you try the big guys you get really spoiled by them. Partly in terms of WHAT they can help you shoot, partly in terms of the IQ of the final image, and a LOT in terms of just how malleable the raw files are to work with and how far you can push them.

    So if you like whatcha got and don't want to mess with it, by all means don't go trying other gear. It just won't do you any good and will fill your head with temptations and however many other of the various sins...

    -Ray
     
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  20. kyteflyer

    kyteflyer ~@¿@~

    Jan 31, 2011
    Newcastle, Australia
    Sue
    Small sensor? Like everyone else says... shoot RAW. And don't forget that if you decide to drop the camera into an auto mode, it will likely drop to JPG. My black shouldered kite was shot on auto everything and jpg. Don't be afraid to do some editing. GEtting it right in camera is all very well but few of us are that good. Don't be afraid to crop. DO keep the ISO as low as possible. If, like me, you hate using flash and prefer to use ambient light... dont use a small sensor camera.