Gary’s Parries 23/07/06

July 23, 2006 | Mark Goldstein | Gary's Parries | 13 Comments |

Gary's ParriesThis week’s Gary’s Parries topics are:

1. Different Horizontal And Vertical Resolutions
2. Digital Dust Revisited
3. Olympus Stylus 710, A Good Choice

Introducing this week’s Gary’s Parries column. Everything you always wanted to know about digital cameras, but were afraid to ask. No question too difficult, or too easy. As a Senior Principal Software Engineer, and a former Assistant Professor of Computer Information Systems, as well as a recording studio owner/operator, inventor, and now, a digital camera enthusiast, GARY has more digital camera knowledge in his entire brain than most people have in their little finger. In the unlikely event that GARY would not know the answer to your question, he will answer it anyway, true to the spirit of the word “Parries”, a fencing term which, in this context, implies “cleverly evasive answers”. So let your imagination run wild. Email all your nagging digital camera questions to: garysparries@photographyblog.com , and then, En Garde!

You may also attach to your email an ORIGINAL PHOTO of your choosing. A preview of the photo will be displayed with your question, and a full-sized version will be just a click away. No personal information will be published with your question unless you specifically include it in the text or attached photo of your email, which may be further edited for grammar, content, or other reasons.

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*** QUESTION 1—- DIFFERENT HORIZONTAL AND VERTICAL RESOLUTIONS
***

Gary,

I wonder why many cameras have a different resolution vertically vs. horizontally? It was my understanding that the standard test chart has been adjusted to compensate for differences in the number of vertical vs. horizontal pixels.

Regards,
Anders Tiberg


***
*** ANSWER 1
***

This is a good question, Anders. Thinking aloud, what does cause different horizontal and vertical LPH (Lines per Picture Height) measurements for the same camera? I can tell you what it isn’t. It is NOT the image sensor’s aspect ratio since, as you suggested, LPH measurements are normalized to remove any dependence on physical measurements and proportions. Also, the phenomenon has occurred often enough that we can certainly rule out human error.

There are many factors that can affect the directional resolving capabilities of a digital camera, not just horizontally and vertically, but diagonally, as well. The diagonal is easy to understand. If a camera with square pixels has an equal number of pixels per unit length in both the horizontal and vertical directions, it will have 1.4x less pixels per unit length along the diagonal (i.e., the same number of pixels will cover 1.4x the length, as calculated using the Pythagorean ratio of the hypotenuse length to the side length in an equilateral right triangle).

Most cameras actually do have square pixels equally spaced in all directions (notable exceptions being the Nikon D1X and cameras using a Fujifilm SuperCCD or Foveon X3 CCD), so you would expect their horizontal and vertical resolutions to be equal. But, as you pointed out, that is often not the case, and understandably so, as there are many other physical factors besides pixel density that can affect resolution, including the position within an image, the image brightness and contrast, the focal length and aperture of the lens, the camera’s ISO setting, and the camera’s anti-aliasing filter and color filter array.

The thing of it is though, all of these factors, while significantly impacting resolution, would do so in a uniform manner, and could not introduce the observed directionality of resolution.  Did I mention that this is a very good question, Anders?

The are also a number of internal firmware processing algorithms that can affect a camera’s resolution, including its sharpness control, its color intensity interpolation (in conjunction with the color filter array), its image size interpolation and compression, and its JPEG compression. However, except for fact that JPEG compression algorithms have a directional nature whereby horizontal and vertical patterns are compressed differently, I would not expect any of these factors to influence resolution in a directional manner. Did I mention, Anders, that this is an excellent question?

So what about JPEG compression? Is it single-handedly accounting for the measured differences in a camera’s horizontal vs. vertical resolution? Well, here’s the thing. Even when resolution tests are performed using the camera’s uncompressed TIFF or RAW mode, comparable resolution differences occur.  You know, Anders, this may have been the best Gary’s Parries question, to date. :)

***
*** QUESTION 2—- DIGITAL DUST REVISITED
***

Hello:

I have been a semi-pro Nikon user for some time, and have heard about the digital dust problem. With my film cameras, I sometimes change lenses in a dark changing bag with two openings for hands when I’m on the beach or in dusty environments, and/or when loading infrared film. I have also seen a clear changing bag. Would that help to lessen dirt on the DSLR sensor while changing lenses? I am thinking of purchasing my first DSLR, the Nikon D200.

Regards,
Terry Stick
Florida


***
*** ANSWER 2
***

Yes, Terry, a clear changing bag will definitely help to postpone the inevitable, namely, having your sensor cleaned by an authorized service representative. It’s really not that terrible if you have film cameras to use while your digital is being serviced. :)

With a D200, you will be able to use Nikon’s Capture software to automatically remove dust in post-processing, but only if you shoot in RAW mode. Good luck with the D200, and please let us know how the dust situation works out.

[Note: For a complete discussion of digital dust, see last week’s Gary’s Parries. Thanks to Nick in Japan for submitting the accompanying photo. This one also seems to have the previously mentioned (magenta) blotch pattern in the sky. – Ed.]

***
*** QUESTION 3—- OLYMPUS STYLUS 710, A GOOD CHOICE
***

Hello Gary,

A while back, based on the extreme environments in which I was intending to use my camera, you advised me to purchase the weatherproof Olympus Stylus 710, rather than the FE-140 I was intending to buy for its AA battery compatibility. I just got back from Alaska (my first trip with the 710) and wanted to give you some feedback as to how the camera performed.

Its small size was very convenient - more so than I had previously imagined. The picture quality was average, but as long as it is not poor, it will be acceptable to me. The limiting factor on picture quality for all my photos will be me, not the camera. :)

Olympus did a reasonably good job of making the camera’s controls easy to understand and use. The only documentation I have read thus far is the Quick Start Guide. I have not read the Users Manual or the Advanced Users Manual. Since I was not very demanding of the camera, this was okay. There were a few issues that I could not figure out, but I got by.

Over the course of my 2 weeks vacation, I shot about 60 photos, and I did not deplete even the first of my two batteries. So battery life is going to be fine. The proprietary batteries are okay; however, I still would have preferred using AAA Lithium batteries in combination with the AAA to AA converters you found for me. But that obviously would have increased the camera’s size and weight a bit - the proprietary battery is very compact.

All in all, the Olympus Stylus 710 was a good choice. Thank you for steering me in that direction.

(A note on camera philosophy: For the first few trips I took to distant locations, I did not take any camera at all. I think that says a lot about my stance on cameras. Frequently I buy post cards of places I visit. A talented person has already captured the image, so what value would it be for me to make yet another, lower quality image? I have read recommendations from some others suggesting not to take cameras on such trips. Their reasoning is that the purpose of the trip is to be ‘in’ the moment, not thinking about how you can capture and ‘relive’ the moment later.)


***
*** ANSWER 3
***

Glad to hear the 710 worked out well. My biggest concern was with its mediocre image quality, but your environmental considerations made its recommendation a no brainer.

Regarding your camera philosophy, I can relate to that, and have even taken it a step further. Whenever my wife sees an exotic vacation spot on television, and then tries to get me interested, I always tell her, what’s the point, we’ve already seen it on TV. :)

P.S. Great shot of a great view, summertime in Alaska, and the Olympus captured it beautifully !!!

***
[Column photo “The Photographer” by Brenda LaFleur of Brenda LaFleur Photography.]



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#1 rikin

Hello Garry,

I am a amateur enthusiast about photography and am looking forward to purchase my first camera, for this I have finalised Sony H5. The camera would mostly be used for city life, night life, close ups and nature photography. So I would like if you could please comment on my decision and or suggest some other camera as well, my budget is till £350. Thank you in advance.

Cheers,
Rikin

3:49 am - Sunday, July 23, 2006

#2 nick in japan

Those pesky clouds in the distance, being water laden, and at a bit more right angle to to sun, tend to show up more with a picture, than the eye. Polorization and the slight western view did indeed forecast the following day being rainy. "Red sunsets, sailors regret" may apply here....or not!
Probably just red noise, Gary, I wouldn't fret about it, shirt happens!

5:16 am - Sunday, July 23, 2006

#3 terry chay

First the guy needs to know when to clean his thing. The trick about dust particles is that they get sharper focused the more you stop down (because light only comes in from one angle). To see them, take a photo of a uniform light source stopped down (like a white piece of paper and focus at infinity). Then load the photo into Photoshop and do auto-contrast. Pow!

In most cases a good blow with a Giotto’s Rocket will do the trick. (You don’t want to use canned air because of the residue in the propellant.)

If that doesn’t work, I've used a sensor brush on my D70 about for about 30 cleanings so far with no problem. I made sure my batteries were charged. Just lucky? The way a sensor brush works, you first charge the bristles with compressed air or a Giottos rocket and then swipe once across the sensor and it'll pick up most dust particles (some of the larger ones might get swept into the trap area (the dark part of your D200 that is devoted helping it do noise reduction).

Beyond that, there is the Wendy’s Knife Trick (which is now called the CopperHill Method by those who don’t know where CopperHill stole the method without acknowledgement). That is the same way the Nikon cleans the sensor when you pay $30-$50 and lose your camera for a number of days.

I never had to go that far.

And if you are so paranoid of the mirror flip down, then just get a external power supply. They sell them you know.

Just my opinions,

terry

9:04 am - Sunday, July 23, 2006

#4 nick in japan

Terry Chay got it right on, altho when the dust/lint permeates the upper area of the mirror box, it's time for the company cleaning! Here in japan, my annual cleaning takes about 5 days, the entire camera is inspected, cleaned and even the wafer battery is replaced.
A large diameter, hand held rubber blower, will usually take care of most stuff, IMHO

9:24 am - Sunday, July 23, 2006

#5 Gary's Parries

Terry, your suggestion for minimizing the visibility of dust once it has
attached to your image sensor is well taken; however, with regard to
your tips for 'removal' of said dust, for every success story, there is a
corresponding disaster story. Even Nick's tip, which seems harmless
on the surface, can lead to disaster. Once you've gone that far, there
are bound to be stubborn dust particles that will tempt you to go even
further.

All I can say is, not recommended for the faint of heart. :)

2:26 pm - Sunday, July 23, 2006

#6 Gary's Parries

Rikin, bridge cameras like H5 are great for getting the most bang for
your buck. Their only real drawback is their large size compared to a
compact or ultra-compact digicam. The one great thing about having
an ultra-compact is that you can carry it with you wherever you go so
you will not miss any photo opportunities. Their major drawback is the
lack of manual controls (for most) and the lack a high-zoom lens (with
a few recent exceptions) compared to bridge cameras.

If having your camera with you at all times is a high priority, I wouldn't
go with a bridge camera. Otherwise, the H5 is a good choice. Another
one that looks promising, but I would wait until it has been reviewed, is
the Fujifilm FinePix S6500fd. Same goes for the Panasonic FZ50. Not
sure about the pricing of these two.

2:29 pm - Sunday, July 23, 2006

#7 nick in japan

Gary is absolutely correct also! The temptation to touch, ie. wipe the hot filter that is directly in front of the sensor, can be disasterous, especially if someone uses a "q" tip. Canon, as well as others have the cleaning procedure as a "mirror-up" function, what they should include is that it should only be tried for minor, maybe, routine light blowing of the sensor area, NOTHING more for the average shooter. People that have had experiance with mirror cleaning can get away with brush, and other methods , depending on their proficiency. It should be mentioned that blowing just displaces the dust, exactly WHERE the dust is displaced TO is really unknown until the camera is tested to see if it is in a place other than the spot on the sensor filter where it was originally!

10:33 pm - Sunday, July 23, 2006

#8 Gary's Parries

I would feel better if the mirror were double spring loaded, such that
it would require power to flip both up and down. That way, you could
flip the mirror up and then remove the battery during cleaning.

8:06 am - Monday, July 24, 2006

#9 nick in japan

...or, a complete mirror disconnect, electromechanical pin retract, disables the mirror. Design feature so that when the camera is inverted, the mirror free-falls into a slot, as to protect the pentamirror area from free-flying dust particles. Upon completion, camera is re-inverted and electomechanical pin is activated to re-engage the mirror mechanism, simple and effective.
The major design problem would be a spring-locking to a stationary position during the pin extract/insert.. no problem!

8:29 am - Monday, July 24, 2006

#10 Gary's Parries

BTW, the reason I mentioned the blotches in the sky is because it was
an otherwise beautiful 16:9 landscape (for which my square crop does
not do any justice).

8:53 am - Monday, July 24, 2006

#11 nick in japan

I didn't spend much time with the pictures from that day, I do not have software to seriously do stuff with noise, just photoshop,which is pretty time consuming, just wanted to show you some of what I see over here. I noticed that the LX-2 starts off with ASA 100!
Sending you some pictures from today, as soon as I send this.
See if you can get a 16x9 format for blog pictures, Panasonic will LOVE it!!
Semper Fi!

9:24 am - Monday, July 24, 2006

#12 Gary's Parries

I wonder if Mark would go for a 150 x 267 format. I will have to check
into that.

I had not noticed the LX2 'starts' at ISO 100. That is definitely a good
sign with respect to noise. You may have to replace your LX1 for that
reason alone.

4:35 pm - Monday, July 24, 2006

#13 nick in japan

Because Panaleica decided to paint the area of the lens that surrounds the front element, obviously to lessen light bouncing around ( I wonder if it was a real issue, or just cosmetic make-up ), I consider that, alone, enough incentive to consider the new 10mp model....maybe!
Don't read me wrong, the noise issue is just a speed-bump on the highway of images, I love the LX-1, for what it has given me, no regrets at all, even with all the bashing!
Time marches on, the best is yet to come, Geriausia Dalis Ateityje !

11:22 pm - Monday, July 24, 2006