Newbie questions about camera settings

Discussion in 'Digital Point & Shoot Camera' started by Newbie, Sep 3, 2006.

  1. Newbie

    Newbie Guest

    Just starting with my first digital camera. Please help with a few
    newbie questions:

    1. What should be the pixel setting if I mainly wish to view the
    pictures on 15" screen and print at most 5x7 prints? The choices on my
    Contax i4R are:

    2272 x 1704 ("A4" size)
    1600 x 1200 ("A5" size)
    1280 x 960 ("Postcard)

    2. I have the choice of Spot Focus (will focus on the center) and Multi
    Zone Autofocus (I guess camera picks where to focus, although it will
    show a rectangle around teh part it has focused on). Is one better for
    generic travel, safari, portrait situations?

    3. Similarly, I can have "Spot" metering, "Center" metering, and
    something called "Evaluation" in which scene is divided into 256 zones
    and the camera evaluates how to meter...Any recommendations?

    Newbie, Sep 3, 2006
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  2. Newbie

    Jim Redelfs Guest

    You should shoot at the HIGHEST and FINEST resolution available. That allows
    for the greatest latitude when cropping. With a 1gb card, this shouldn't be a
    problem. You will, of course, consume hard-disk storage somewhat more quickly
    with the larger files but, IMHO, it is worth it.
    I suspect Multi Zone would be preferable for general use. Again, you should
    RTFM (Read The Fu****g Manual) for recommendations specific to your camera.
    Many use evaluative metering for much of their needs. It works well for me.
    Jim Redelfs, Sep 4, 2006
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  3. Postcard is closest to your 5x7, but it's easier to discard data than
    add it. If you're not going to be shooting for print (newspaper or
    magazine) then I recommend the 1600x1200 setting unless storage is a
    real problem.
    I would try shooting a bunch of test pictures, with single elements as
    the focus and multiples (ie: a statue versus a bunch of kids playing
    soccer, a bird in a tree versus a flock of geese) and see what gives
    you the best results. When it comes to focus I distrust the camera
    making decisions for me, even though it may actually be better at it.
    Again, I'd do a bunch of test shots to get a better understanding of
    how the camera actually behaves.
    Dave Balderstone, Sep 4, 2006
  4. Always shoot at the highest resolution (2262 x
    1704), you can always decrease the resolution
    later with software, but you can't increase it. If
    you want a lower resolution (don't know why you
    would) then buy a really cheap camera. If you
    view the pictures on a computer with Microsoft
    media player (just double click on the the file)
    it will automatically be sized to fit the monitor.

    Spot focus works for most people because you put
    the important part in the center of the picture.
    Complex pictures may benefit by Zone focus.
    Metering is much the same.

    BUT, it's a digital camera, it doesn't cost
    anything (except batteries) to take a bunch of
    pictures. Just use it and take pictures with
    different settings and see what you like!
    George E. Cawthon, Sep 4, 2006
  5. Newbie

    Hugh Watkins Guest

    take the photos

    2272 x 1704 ("A4" size)

    and fix them onn the computer

    300 dpi wil give great prints

    72 dpi for web use

    Hugh W

    new computer = new blog

    daily blogs with new photos

    family history
    Hugh Watkins, Sep 5, 2006
  6. Newbie

    Mr. T Guest

    When I tried my first digital camera, a Canon A520, I tried several test
    shots of the same subject at 2272x1074, 1600x1200, 1024x768 and 640x480.
    I printed them all on 4x6 prints. To my surprise, the sharpest print was the
    shot at taken at 1600x1200. I was expecting the sharpest shot to be at
    2272x1074, but it wasn't.
    The difference between the 2 was very minimal and you really had to look
    close to see any difference.
    To this day I only use 1600x1200.

    Just my experience...
    Mr. T, Sep 5, 2006
  7. Newbie

    jeremy Guest

    Did you say 2272 by "1074"????

    That can't be correct. your next-lower resolution is 1600 x "1200"

    Are you certain that it isn't 2272 x 1674?
    jeremy, Sep 5, 2006
  8. Newbie

    Tom Stiller Guest

    Your experience says more about the print image scaling process than the
    camera. Shooting at higher resolution is beneficial when enlarging a
    cropped image.
    Tom Stiller, Sep 5, 2006
  9. Newbie

    Mr. T Guest

    Sorry, it was 2272x1704
    I'm a newbie too...
    Mr. T, Sep 5, 2006
  10. Newbie

    Mr. T Guest

    Sorry, when I said "prints", I mean getting the photos developed from a
    camera store, not printed on a home printer.

    Agreed that a high resolution is best for cropping, but for those of us who
    only want 4x6 photos, 1600x1200 seems to be ok.
    Mr. T, Sep 5, 2006
  11. For the same reason that a high-end gaming machine is not needed for
    word processing.

    However, I have noted that there are a lot of 'experts' who fail to
    realize this and look down their noses at digital cameras without
    mega-megapixel ratings.

    You don't need a $1000 9 megapixel SLR to take photos of your kids so
    you can email them to grandma.
    Little Sir Echo, Sep 5, 2006
  12. Several questions.
    Did you use a tripod? evaluate several pictures
    at each resolution setting? note the shutter speed
    and f-stop? Your comparison should have been of
    at least three different subjects and 3 different
    distances, and should have used a tripod. The
    comparison should have been only among shots using
    the same f-stop and shutter speed. You could have
    eliminated some factors by comparing flash shots.
    And there is no way you could compare sharpness
    using 4x6 prints since that is such a moderate
    enlargement. And indeed one would not expect a
    person with average eyesight to see any difference
    in a 4x6 once the resolution was greater than 1600

    One problem is the concept of sharpness. The
    point of having a high resolution is so that you
    have more information, so that you can enlarge
    just a portion of a shot. More information often
    translates into a smoother picture (more gradual
    gradient) and that can be perceived as less sharp
    compared to less information where the edges may
    have more contrast.

    But whatever floats your boat. If you ever want
    to print one of those shots as an 8 x10, you will
    probably be very disappointed.
    George E. Cawthon, Sep 5, 2006
  13. Newbie

    jeremy Guest

    OKAY--That's a better number.

    So, here is the math:

    2272 x 1704 = 3.8 MP.

    1200 x 1600 = 2 MP

    1024 x 768 = .78 MP

    640 x 480 = .3 MP

    As you can see, when you shoot at 1200 x 1600, your camera is operating as
    though it were a 2 MP camera. You are foregoing almost HALF of the
    resolution you paid for.

    Now, let's look at the math for a 4 x 6 print. It is generally admitted
    that it takes 300 ppi for a photo quality print on small prints, where the
    print is viewed close to the eye (larger prints, which are often viewed from
    a greater distance, can get by on less than 300 ppi, depending upon how much
    tolerance you have for a somewhat softer print).

    6 x 300 = 1800
    4 x 300 = 1200

    1200 x 1800 = 2.16 MP

    So, using 300 ppi as your standard, you can produce an excellent-quality
    (resolution, that it) print of 4 x 6 using a 2.2 MP camera.

    But let's see what it takes to produce an 8 x 10 print at 300 ppi. This
    will probably stun you:

    8 x 300 = 2400
    10 x 300 = 3000

    2400 x 3000 = 7.2 M!

    To produce a 4 x 6 print at 300 ppi requires only 2.2 MP, but to produce a
    300 ppi print in the 8 x 10 size requires 7.2 MP--over 3 times as many

    That is one reason why you should ALWAYS shoot at your camera's maximum
    resolution and minimum compression. You might not be able to tell the
    difference at 4 x 6 print size, but if you ever enlarge one of those prints
    to 8 x 10, the quality difference should be quite noticeable.

    If you absolutely KNOW that you will NEVER want to print a given image at
    more than 4 x 6, then it is okay to use the smaller resolution. But how can
    you always know what your future print requirements will be? There is an
    element of risk in presuming that you'll never want to print at a larger
    size in the future.

    In principle, you paid for a 4 MP camera, so why would you use it at a 2 MP
    resolution? To my mind, it is analogous to buying a new car, but never
    shifting beyond the second gear.

    I know of only one reason why you might consider shooting at reduced
    resolution: if you are running low on memory in your card, and you
    absolutely must fit in a few more shots, even if they will be at reduced
    quality. With memory cards being so cheap these days, you really should
    carry a couple of extras, making it unnecessary to compromise.
    jeremy, Sep 6, 2006
  14. Newbie

    jeremy Guest

    You are right, but you could sometimes be wrong.

    If all one shoots are prints for web use or emailing, then virtually any
    cheapo digital camera will suffice. But that implies that the camera will
    be used only for mundane types of shots.

    What many shooters overlook is the historical value of their everyday
    mundane family shots. Before they know it, the kids in the photos have
    grown, and have children of their own. The family pets have passed from the
    scene. The older folks have been taken from us. The homes we once lived in
    have been sold and we move into assisted housing. Our automobiles have been
    replaced several times over. The furniture has been at least partially
    replaced. And our memories have faded. Things that we used to see every
    day have become clouded and fuzzy. Try and remember your first car. How
    much detail can your mind conjure up? Or, go and try to write down
    precisely what is inscribed on your family headstone at the cemetery. Or,
    make a list of all the telephone numbers, landline and cell, that you have
    had over the past 25 years.

    See what I'm getting at?

    And then, one day, we realize that the ONLY THINGS left to remind us of the
    activities and milestones in our lives are those thin pieces of paper upon
    which are printed the photos we took, or the CDs that contain the image
    files. And that is when we look back and wish that we had bought the better
    camera, with the better lens, and had made bigger prints, rather than those
    drug store discounted ones.

    You see, a camera is more than just an optical instrument, it is a time
    machine, a memory maker. And, if you one day regret having cut corners, you
    can't go back and re-shoot. Time waits for no man.

    So, I would suggest that if at all possible, one should buy the best he can
    afford. The price is soon forgotten. The memories will be appreciated many
    years into the future.
    jeremy, Sep 6, 2006
  15. Newbie

    Paul Rubin Guest

    What I've seen in those situations is that a low res print of Grandma
    makes the viewer every bit as happy as a high res one does, as long as
    the subject is identifiable.
    Paul Rubin, Sep 6, 2006
  16. ---clipped---

    I am in agreement with most of what jeremy wrote, BUT--

    1. In nearly four years with my 3.2 megapixel camera (average, I think,
    at the time I bought it), I have never cropped or enlarged a photo, and
    I suspect there are thousands,no millions, like me. Not the final word,
    but something not to be overlooked.

    2. My pictures look great as 4x6 prints and also on my 19" crt monitor.
    My wife likes the prints for viewing and I prefer the monitor. And yes I
    am aware of the limited number of DPI or PPI on monitors. That's the
    point. For on-screen viewing one does not need a lot of pixels.

    3. It seems no one ever discusses lens quality any more. It can make all
    the difference in the world in a film camera; doesn't it matter to
    anyone in digital photography? Or are we keeping up with the Joneses in
    a pixel race now?

    I always shoot at maximum megapixels available on my camera which means
    that my shots may be better than those taken by someone who shoots less
    than max on a camera with more megapixels than mine.
    Little Sir Echo, Sep 6, 2006
  17. Newbie

    Mr. T Guest

    Thanks for the lesson.

    Another newbie question:
    What would you consider more important in a point and shoot camera? High mp,
    high iso or a high quality lens?

    It seems that everyone advertises their high mp cameras but say little about
    the lens...
    Mr. T, Sep 6, 2006
  18. 1. Lens
    2. megapixels

    The higher the ISO (nee: ASA) setting, the lower the quality of the
    image, just like with film.
    Michelle Steiner, Sep 6, 2006
  19. Newbie

    jeremy Guest

    Well, I'm not so sure that my particular circumstances would make for a good
    model for anyone else, so take this advice with a grain of salt:

    1: I have shot with only two digital cameras: a 1999 Ricoh RDC-5000 and its
    replacement, the RDC-5300, which was introduced in 2000. Both of those
    cameras are 2.3 MP! They have excellent 9-element all-glass lenses and they
    are quite convenient. I do not have a color printer. I have Kodak Gallery
    (formerly OFOTO) handle all of my digital prints, and they have produced
    very pleasing results up to 8 x 10.

    2: I have accumulated a very large film setup over the past 30+ years--all
    Pentax M42. I have 9 Pentax SLRs and 18 SMC Takumar prime lenses, and I am
    not about to abandon my film setup for digital. I scan my negatives and I
    figure that my film bodies and lenses yield the equivalent of 20+MP digital.

    3: I use my Ricohs for trivial work, home inventory documentary photos,
    snapshots, web use, etc. They are all the digital cameras I need and I have
    no plans to "upgrade."

    4: My more intuitive, more serious work is done by my film SLRs. I enjoy
    working with those legacy lenses. Since I am an amateur, with no need to
    meet photo deadlines for an editor, I don't mind the 48-hour turnaround for
    film processing. I am a relatively low-volume shooter--a roll per week.
    The cost of film and processing is minimal. I usually buy my film at my
    warehouse club for a dollar a roll, and processing and proofing through
    Qualex costs me $5.00 per roll. So my annual film costs are under $600
    annually. It would cost me a fortune to replicate anything near my current
    setup in digital, and I am turned off by plastic lenses and autofocus. I
    really like those Pentax manual-focus lenses, with their smooth bokeh and
    excellent descriptive characteristics.

    That having been said, I think that the megapixel race is all but over. My
    present 2.3MP cameras make excellent 4 x 6 prints, and I do not believe that
    there would be any improvement in resolution by switching to a higher
    megapixel camera. I rarely enlarge digital images beyond 4 x 6.

    My film gear gives me results that equal or exceed the best digital cameras
    out there. Admittedly, I do not get the advantages of immediate access to
    my images, and I can't shoot hundreds of shots on a single memory card, but
    as I've pointed out, I am not that kind of photographer. In my particular
    case, the disadvantages of film ore not relevant to my shooting style.

    My film scanner has, essentially, turned ALL of my cameras into digital

    If I were just getting into it now, I'd probably buy a Nikon DSLR. And, in
    a year, it would be pretty-much "yesterday's technology." I am an
    economical person, with a bent for efficiency, and that would bother me.
    But I was fortunate in that I acquired my equipment at very low prices, and
    amortized my collection over three decades. I could not do that today. For
    one thing, the cameras and lenses that I use are not being produced anymore,
    unless one wants to buy the Leica R system. Contax RTS recently went out of
    production, as have virtually all Nikon film cameras and lenses. By
    contrast, digital gear is plentiful, even if it is "plasticky."

    Clearly, if you want to capture better images with digital cameras you
    cannot rely upon a 2MP or 4MP camera. The only reason that I can get away
    with it is because I have the film option as my safety net. If ever you
    want to try out film, you can get an excellent camera/lens combination for
    around $100.00 and you can pick up a good film scanner with Digital ICE3 for
    under $400. IF you can live with having to buy and process film, you're
    looking at a system that will yield top-notch images for about $500.00. And
    lenses are dirt cheap these days, because everyone is "upgrading" to

    I do have what I see as a major advantage: if in the future we get better
    scanning equipment (a virtual certainty) I can re-scan my film and get even
    more information in my images. Digital does not do that--whatever your
    digital camera produces today cannot be improved upon in the future.

    Bottom line: there is no right choice. You need to determine what your
    objectives are, decide on a budget, and then put together a system that
    works for YOU. Well-meaning people will be all to quick to criticize your
    choices, because they cannot conceive of the idea that what might be right
    for THEM is not also right for anyone else. My advice is to ignore them.
    The one person in the Universe that knows what is best for you is YOU.

    And, if you intend to print at no higher than 4 x 6, your present camera may
    be just fine for that purpose. Instead of spending money on a continuous
    upgrade path, get some books on photography and go out and shoot pictures.
    Your present camera may not offer all the bells and whistles of more
    expensive models, but it does have a range of competence where it can
    produce excellent results. You should exploit that range. If you
    subsequently feel the need to broaden your horizons you can upgrade at that
    time. The world will not stop turning if you do not use a 16MP DSLR.
    jeremy, Sep 6, 2006
  20. Newbie

    jeremy Guest


    I'll tell you a quick story.

    My maternal grandfather died in 1947--5 years before I was born. So I never
    knew him, although my family often spoke about him. I never even saw his

    A few years ago, an elderly aunt went into a nursing home, and a "cleanout
    service" was brought in to inventory and dispose of her home furnishings in
    anticipation of selling her condo, as she was not able to return there.

    My brother happened to be walking past the dumpster at her complex, and he
    caught sight of two large, old photo albums at the top of the heap of trash.
    He picked them up and they turned out to contain hundreds of OUR family
    photos, from the 40s, 50s and early 60s. The cleanout service had deemed
    them to be of no value, and had chucked them into the trash. My brother and
    I did not even know that those albums even existed.

    There were photos of the grandfather that I had never seen, along with shots
    of my own father, taken in Paris during WWII. Also tons of shots of my
    mother, aunts and uncles. For me, a real treasure trove!

    Most were taken on inexpensive box cameras of that time, and the photos were
    amateurish, but they remain precious.

    I have scanned them, burned them to CD, made new prints and have distributed
    copies of the CDs throughout the family. They will not be lost again.

    The incident drove home a point to me: the most important photos to amateurs
    like me are not the ones of "interesting shapes and colors," but the photos
    of the PEOPLE and PLACES and EVENTS of our lives. In the case of my
    grandfather's photos, who could have thought that those pictures would be
    cherished 60 years later, by someone that had not even been born at the time
    the shots were taken?

    That is why I say, if you own a camera, don't let it gather dust on a shelf.
    Use it. Don't worry if the exposure is not spot on, or if you weren't
    paying attention and didn't hold the camera exactly level. Just shoot
    photos. Lots of them. And distribute them. Gone are the days when only a
    single print could exist, stored away in an album that not many others knew

    Most of the people that appeared in those two photo albums are now gone, and
    I cannot find words to express how grateful I am that my brother happened to
    walk past that dumpster and take a look at what was on top of the pile.
    jeremy, Sep 6, 2006
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