Small sensor JPEG files - techniques?

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I have a long overdue vacation coming up for some much needed R&R with my wife, and as we are going to be at the beach for much of the time, I am considering bringing a compact waterproof camera with me for use in adverse conditions where I do not want to risk my regular gear. Unfortunately, all of these cameras use very small 16MP 1/2.3" sensors, do not allow you to save files in raw format, and heavily apply noise reduction and sharpening to compensate for the tiny sensor size. The sample images that I have seen from the best of these cameras are not quite what I was expecting in terms of IQ, but I am wondering if anybody has any techniques or suggestions to improve output, for print or screen. The specific camera I am evaluating is the Olympus TG-3. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

--Ken
 
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Hi Ken.

Based on your estimation of IQ with these cameras I doubt much could be done to improve this in post.
My suggestion is just to get a better camera for the purpose - bigger sensor and RAW capture, reasonable lens etc.

Tony Jay
Hi Tony,

Unfortunately, the jump up in IQ comes at big costs in terms of both money and size. With the exception of Nikon's 1AW1, you usually need a dedicated housing for a set-up that is better in IQ and safe/easy to use. As this is an R&R trip, and as I normally do not shoot underwater, this specialized equipment makes little sense for me. From reading posts on other forums, this seems to be a common problem for enthusiastic photographers visiting/hanging out on beaches and/or snorkeling (or scuba diving).

--Ken
 
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Ken, if you are actually going into the water this is a whole different ballgame.
As for just shooting on the beach and along the coast I use my usual equipment.
This does not change when the weather is inclement either.

Tony Jay
if conditions permit, I will be using my gear on the beach, but I suspect that we may be in and out of the water as we walk on the beach at times, and that is where I can either leave my gear protected, or use some type of waterproof camera. I had considered just skipping the compact, but much of this trip is going to involve exploring beaches.

--Ken
 
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Unfortunately, all of these cameras use very small 16MP 1/2.3" sensors, do not allow you to save files in raw format, and heavily apply noise reduction and sharpening to compensate for the tiny sensor size. The sample images that I have seen from the best of these cameras are not quite what I was expecting in terms of IQ, but I am wondering if anybody has any techniques or suggestions to improve output, for print or screen.
When working with a non-raw camera, there are a few things you can do. Look through your camera's settings, and the manual if necessary, and find the settings that control JPEG image quality. See if you can reduce settings like Contrast and Sharpening to zero. Do some tests and see how Noise Reduction should be set. Zero might not be the best setting if the camera actually does a decent job of noise reduction; you might just want to keep the camera from overdoing it. Also, check which picture mode is in use; don't use modes with names like Vivid or Dramatic. Look for a mode like Neutral or Normal. And of course, set JPEG quality to maximum and at the full sensor resolution.

Doing those things can help the camera save relatively "safe" JPEG images that are easier to work with in the Lightroom Develop module, instead of images that are so overworked by the camera that it's hard to undo the effects.
 
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I also have one of the waterproof Olympuses, and as with all compact cameras there are limitations on image quality. I've started looking at my photography as different "levels of seriousness". I don't always have to have to best possible quality. Sometimes "good enough" is enough. If I want to have some holiday photos as memories from the beach, then the Olympus will do fine. If I on the other hand am trying to take really good photos of the beach, then I would probably use my DSLR. But that is big, Heavy and clumpsy (Nikon D700) sp I've recently purchased a "quality compact" Sony RX-100 mk III. This will probably produce quite good quality photos, but still have a very small size. But not waterproof.

So, my camera line-up is currently this:
- Nikon D700, for seriuos high-quality shooting, or when I just simply want the feel of a "real camera"
- Sony RX-100 mk III, for all kind of shooting when I want a small camera that fits in my pocket but still give good quality
- Olympus waterproof compact, for those days on the beach, in the boat, in dirty surroundings, or whenever protection from water and weather is nice (or neccessary)
- iPhone, for all my everyday snapshots, and this is also the camera that is always with me no matter what

If I go on a trip, or whatever, I know I will always have the iPhone. Then I pack whatever camera I think fits the purpose of the trip, also regarding things like size, weight and so on. And then I simply live with the limitations I get. I'm not super-obsessed with quality-issues, but I like to get the best possible quality given specific circumstances. And everything boils down to making compromises. Size, weight and price compared to quality, handling and feel. But I like the idea of "good enough". It works for me.
 
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When working with a non-raw camera, there are a few things you can do. Look through your camera's settings, and the manual if necessary, and find the settings that control JPEG image quality. See if you can reduce settings like Contrast and Sharpening to zero. Do some tests and see how Noise Reduction should be set. Zero might not be the best setting if the camera actually does a decent job of noise reduction; you might just want to keep the camera from overdoing it. Also, check which picture mode is in use; don't use modes with names like Vivid or Dramatic. Look for a mode like Neutral or Normal. And of course, set JPEG quality to maximum and at the full sensor resolution.

Doing those things can help the camera save relatively "safe" JPEG images that are easier to work with in the Lightroom Develop module, instead of images that are so overworked by the camera that it's hard to undo the effects.
Thank you for the suggestion of rendering jpeg friendly file for LR. I will see what I can do, but Olympus greatly limits the important controls on these compact cameras, so I have no ability to control sharpening or noise reduction.

--Ken
 
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I also have one of the waterproof Olympuses, and as with all compact cameras there are limitations on image quality. I've started looking at my photography as different "levels of seriousness". I don't always have to have to best possible quality. Sometimes "good enough" is enough. If I want to have some holiday photos as memories from the beach, then the Olympus will do fine.
Hi Robert,

I guess over the years that I have got out of the habit of snapshots and good enough. It is a change in mindset, and if some test 5x7 prints that I am picking up later today look acceptable, then I will probably embrace the concept as I know that I can at least put together a small book if I want to create something.

--Ken
 
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Well, these posts prompted me to go pick up my 5x7 test prints, and they looked better than I expected. I did make some minor exposure adjustments in LR before printing, but I am a bit happier than I was when I was reviewing the files in LR. So, it appears that if I shoot under favorable conditions, that I can at least get reasonably good quality holiday snapshots.

--Ken
 
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