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11-18-2012, 11:02 PM   #1
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How to view a digital picture

This may seem like an odd question, but it's one that I've wondered about for a while.
Back in the "Good old days", you snapped a pic, developed it and then printed it out on whatever size paper you wanted, usually somewhere from wallet size to 8x10.
I didn't usually go bigger than 8x10 to keep the grain smooth.
Along comes digital and HD LCD monitors and things get more complicated, but still similar to the grain issue.
When I take my SDHC card out of my newly acquired K-30, I stick it in my computer and Voila, the Windows Picture and fax viewer pops it up so that it fills my 27" monitor without cutting any part of it off.
At that viewing size, they look FABULOUS!!! (I have my viewer set up to shrink the pics to fill my screen.)
Now when I click on the expand button, the pic expands to it's full 100% size and I can only see a portion of it so I have to scroll around.
If I want to check for the actual picture clarity/sharpness/resolution of the pic, is this expanded 100% view what I need to be looking at or is it the version that is shrunk to fit my monitor?
I can zoom in until I get 2" pixels, so at what zoom/viewing size do I need to be at to realistically judge the quality of the pic?
Thanks for any comments and thoughts!


11-18-2012, 11:55 PM   #2
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You need to judge it based on how you normally view it, if it looks good scaled down to fit your screen and that is how you normally view it then it is good.

What do you plan on doing with your photos? Printing them? How big? What distance will they be viewed from? If you print it poster size and someone puts their nose 2 inches from it and points out a flaw, will you be there to smash their face into it for looking that close?

Leave the pixel peeping to the measurebators, just enjoy your photos as they were meant to be enjoyed.
11-19-2012, 02:08 AM   #3
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I think Elliott is pretty much right.
When you look at a photo 1:1 on your computer screen, you will probably have a hard time printing it at that same size and quality. There will also be other differences like colour (depending on monitor/printer calibration) and brightness (monitors make a photo appear brighter than when printed) that will depend on the medium. So a digital photo is merely some information that then gets interpreted, much more radically than back in print days. But this also gives you more freedom.
Oh, and photographers usually take photos in a raw image format and then use software that interprets this and displays the photos in its way (also allowing editing), and then make a print or a smaller digital file (jpeg) for sharing. What must guide you is the context.
11-19-2012, 11:33 AM   #4
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Original Poster
Thanks for the great comments guys! I appreciate the clarifications.
When reading the camera reviews in various Photo magazines, and they get to the subject of "Image Quality", I wonder what they use as the resolution on which to pronounce their opinions.
If I look at the results from my new K30 at the camera's native maximum resolution of 4928 x 3264, the results, even on my large 27" monitor, are less than what I would call razor sharp.
Let me additionally clarify that I am talking about the camera in it's default settings in "Auto" mode.
I guess this is the area I'm needlessly fretting over, right?

11-19-2012, 11:59 AM   #5
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I don't like to view my images resized to fit the frame--it makes them look unsharp because the number of pixels on my image doesn't divide evenly with the number of pixels on my monitor.

At 100%, one screen pixel = 1 monitor pixel--good for checking sharpness.
At 50%, one screen pixel = 2 image pixels -- divides evenly so it looks good.
At 33.3%, one screen pixel = 3 image pixels -- doesn't divide evenly and looks crappy.
At 25%, one screen pixel = 4 image pixels -- looks good.

I don't know what the ratio is when my photo is displayed to fit the screen, but it sure does look awful.
11-19-2012, 12:01 PM   #6
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When talking about image quality there is more than just sharpness, there is also color rendering, contrast, distortion and chromatic aberration to consider. I think most of the reviewers have the images at 100% zoom when judging, but usually their job is to be a measurebator, that is expected of them. You don't need to judge your photos like that, you should be judging the image, not the equipment. A razor sharp image of a boring subject that is poorly composed is still a bad photo, but a well composed image of a good subject that is a little soft is still a good photo.

Getting a "razor sharp" image depends on more than just the camera and lens, having a good camera and lens will help, but poor technique will give you an unsharp photo with any camera. To get a sharp image handheld you need a fast shutter speed to eliminate any camera shake or subject movement. Having the lens stopped down helps too, no lens is at its sharpest with the aperture wide open.

Also, a lot of photos you see posted online and printed have had the sharpness boosted in post processing, so it is perfectly understandable if the JPGs straight from your camera seem a little soft to you, especially if you have the JPG processing settings at the defaults. I shoot in RAW and process in Darktable, all of my images get a sharpness boost, some more than others.

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