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09-08-2016, 01:49 AM   #1
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Help desperately required – terrible image quality making camera unusable

Hello all,

I'm hoping to get a bit of advice regarding my Pentax Q, as the pictures I'm currently able to take are shockingly out of focus despite fiddling with almost every setting imaginable. I'm sure the problem is user-related – I'm no photographer and just use the camera as a point and shoot. The trouble is, my job requires images to be print quality, and what I'm getting at the moment falls a long way short.

The results seem to be the same whether I use the prime or zoom lens – everything in the image, both background and subject, soft and out of focus. I've included a couple of sample photos to illustrate what I mean. Both were shot in automatic mode in the 'portrait' setting – it seemed to be the best fit for shooting stationary cars, which is most of my subject matter.

Anything you could suggest to help me get sharper pictures would be very much appreciated. No suggestion too stupid – I really know nothing about cameras.

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09-08-2016, 02:21 AM   #2
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I don't own a Q, but my guess is that a lot of your issue has to do with shooting at iso 1000. The Q will do best between iso 100 and 400. Higher than that and your images will tend to get soft. Your one photo was shot with a shutter speed of 1/1000 sec and the other with a shutter speed of 1/800 second so you would definitely have room to lower your iso without too much problem. Otherwise, I don't think photos look too bad.
09-08-2016, 03:21 AM   #3
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Could you post a shot or two that you were happy with for comparison?
09-08-2016, 03:36 AM   #4
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The first image I posted is one of the best of the set, the bottom fairly representative of what I'm getting. Here's another example which perhaps demonstrates better due to the writing on the car. When I zoom in there just seems to be a lack of sharpness around the front of the car, where I'd expect it to be much better.

I'll definitely try adjusting the ISO. Is there a reason the camera is getting it so wrong while in automatic mode? Perhaps I'm just expecting too much of it.

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09-08-2016, 04:24 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by GregMac Quote
The results seem to be the same whether I use the prime or zoom lens – everything in the image, both background and subject, soft and out of focus
I don't see exactly what you mean. Maybe the photos attached on the forum are too small for detail, but I don't see any horrible OoF problems. What I would suggest is you press Info and go into the jpeg mode menu and maybe choose a different jpeg mode (film reversal?), and maybe even add some sharpness, contrast.
If you want blazingly sharp photos, like some of the ones I posted in my 500px gallery (sig), you will have to take photos in raw dng image format and then develop them using software like Lightroom, Aftershot, FastStone, etc.

The other things that make photo sharper is choosing optimal aperture, lowest ISO, making sure the AF has enough time to settle where you wanted it to, choosing a high enough shutter speed so that handhshake blur won't be apparent,.. adding a flash is usually the easiest way to make photo look stunningly sharp, but flash has many limitations. In outdoor photos like that, a little fill flash might help, but it takes some experience.
09-08-2016, 04:29 AM   #6
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The exif shows that the camera is set at very high shutter speed which is causing some ill effects like full aperture and high ISO. (These settings are more like trying to shoot action sports.) I would change the setting to maybe landscape or try manual. I'm guessing that the Q lenses aren't so good at full aperture so you want a setting that will give you about F/8. This is usually the best for most lenses. Also, you don't need 1/1000, 1/2000 sec shutter speed, especially for stationary subjects. I've taken sharp images at 1/15 sec. Thirdly, you want the ISO as low as possible if you want a quality image. Unless you're operating under low light - cloudy day is not low light, you should be able to have a ISO of 100.

The Sunny16 rule of thumb says that a picture taken on a sunny day at F/16 will have the same speed/ISO - i.e. speed=100/ISO=100. So for your shots which are quite cloudy, you should adjust by 2 or 3 stops. F/16 to f/11 to f/8 is two stops. If you up the ISO from 100 to 200, thats another stop, totally 3 stops.

So try F/8, ISO=200, speed=100 (on a similar cloudy day - I'm sure you get a lot of them and see how the pic looks. If its dark then lower the speed to 60. If its bright then lower the ISO to 100.

So bottom line is you should pic a profile like landscape and I think you will end up with these kind of settings and the pic should be higher quality. You need f/8 and low ISO.

Cheers.
09-08-2016, 04:54 AM   #7
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The problem is that it's not an easy point and shoot camera and your knowledge in photography doesn't help you.

There are too many things I could tell you to write here... So just 3 things:

Reduce your SS so you'll get lower ISO pics
Don't shoot with the lenses wide open (especially the zooms)
Turn the SR off (I'm sure it is on on those high SS photos).
09-08-2016, 05:08 AM   #8
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The camera should not be selecting ISO 1000 for every shot when it's in auto mode. That's not normal.

I'd suggest, check your mode dial. . . Have you been shooting on AUTO or SCN or P? Those are all more-or-less automatic modes, but they don't work exactly the same. The P mode does allow you to set ISO manually, which means it could be set wrong. If using SCN, then it could simply be set in the wrong scene mode. For example, Moving Object mode when taking a photo of a motionless car? Not so good.

Another thing you could try is, switch to P on the mode dial and set the ISO to 100 manually, and leave it there when shooting outdoors in daylight.

As for focus problems. . . It's hard for me to tell much about your focus when looking at these smaller images. I know that the autofocus on my Q7 is among the most dependable of any camera I've owned. If your autofocus is working at all, it shouldn't be a problem for these kinds of shots.

Incidentally. . . I spent quite a bit of time learning to get the best images out of my Q7, and I did a fair bit of that shooting at car shows. Here's what I eventually ended up doing:
  • always shoot raw DNG and process in Lightroom
  • usually shoot in P mode with Highlight Correction on AUTO
  • switch on the ND filter when the sun is bright (I assigned it to the Quick Dial)

Time learning my way around Lightroom was well spent, for me.

09-08-2016, 05:09 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by gbeaton Quote
I'm guessing that the Q lenses aren't so good at full aperture so you want a setting that will give you about F/8. This is usually the best for most lenses.
F8 is heavily into diffraction territory on a Q. Stopping the lens down one stop from wide open will be reliably sharp.

I disagree that the OP's images are par for a Q. The quality is pretty terrible. I don['t understand why Auto mode would pick such dumb settings. My advice is to go into the menu and set everything back to factory defaults. Something is amiss there.
09-08-2016, 05:50 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
F8 is heavily into diffraction territory on a Q
+1.
And with focal lengths less than 10mm you're not going to be out of focus, the depth of field eg at 10mm, 5m distance, f4 will be from 2.5 m away to infinity.

A Flexible Depth of Field Calculator
09-08-2016, 06:45 AM   #11
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The "Q" has Shake Resistance, so if your hands are at all steady, a shutter speed of 1/100 should be plenty fast. If I were shooting that kind of picture, I would set the ISO to 400 or less and the mode dial to "P", "Av", "Tv", or "SCN". Watch the settings on the LCD so the aperture stays at f/5.6 or lower and the shutter speed at 1/100 or higher. Oh, and one other thing - I don't know what your experience is, but way too many people hold the camera "zombie" style - arms straight out with the camera as far away from their face as it can be. I don't see motion blur in these pictures, but "zombie" style turns your arms into long levers. amplifying any movement - hold the LCD as close to your face as you can while still seeing well.
09-08-2016, 07:02 AM   #12
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Thank you for all the advice chaps, very much appreciated. I just had a quick fiddle with the camera and the ISO seemed fixed at 1000 – reverting to factory settings seems to have it moving again. I'll see if the situation improves and will let you know.
09-08-2016, 07:36 AM   #13
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I own a Q and, like others said, ISO 1000 is way to high to get a good IQ. All the details will be smudged by noise. With the Q, don't go above ISO400 or, even better, just stick to ISO125, Which should be enough for outdoor picture with th 02. I would say that, with the Q, it's far better to use the 02 wide open than boosting the ISO.
09-08-2016, 10:39 AM   #14
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First off, why are you using the Portrait Mode?? That imparts a slight blur to the image and is meant to soften the features on a subjects face hence the term “Portrait” Secondly the ISO is WAY too high. The Q series does OK in the lower ISO brackets but when much over 400 it really starts to suffer.


Personally I believe that diffraction is an over exaggerated issue but it may have been compounded by the high ISO and using portrait mode. For such shots use the lowest native ISO, a shutter speed equal to the focal length and the resulting aperture. If depth of field is more important then shoot in aperture priority mode. Set the aperture for the depth of field you need and let the shutter speed fall where it might just make sure it is not less than the focal length which when using the 02 lens would be 1/30 if shooting at the widest or 1/100 if shooting at the longest focal length.


Now, having said all that make sure you have sensible expectations from the Q. It is OK for what it is but it is not going to produce an image like a camera with a larger sensor such as a 4/3 or APS-C sensor or for that matter the quality of image you can get from a Q7 which has a sensor a bit larger than the Q and Q10.
09-08-2016, 11:04 AM - 1 Like   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by GregMac Quote
Thank you for all the advice chaps, very much appreciated. I just had a quick fiddle with the camera and the ISO seemed fixed at 1000 – reverting to factory settings seems to have it moving again. I'll see if the situation improves and will let you know.
You probably accidentally changed from auto iso to a set iso of 1000 and the camera then stayed with that. Usually you can set you auto iso to a range and I would pick 100 to 400 unless you specifically know that you will need a higher iso.
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