DPR Forum

Welcome to the Friendly Aisles!
Register now and use your old dpreview username.
Enjoy this modern, easy to use software. Look also at our Reviews & Gallery!

Coolpix 5400 sharpness quality


New Member
I am having trouble with the sharpness on my 5400; I am using the following settings:
size - 1600X1200
sensitivity ISO 200
Focal length 7.2mm ??
metering - multi-pattern
AF-Mode AF-C
sharpening - high
With these options, the picture(s) are not clear; however if I use the Nikon editor to change the sharpness to high, the picture achieves good sharpness; Is this standard behavior i.e. does one have to use the editor to sharpen the image? Or should I expect the image to be sharp without having to edit?
The DSC can have the best resolution when it used in the original resolution, I mean just setting 5MP with 5MP camera. If you use 5MP DSC with 2MP setting, the result will be worse than origianl 2MP DSC. This is because the 2MP from 5MP DSC is generated by the DSC firmware, and any artificial calculation can only make things worse.
Almost all digital cameras use a Beyer mosaic sensor that s&les each colour channel from a slightly different spot for each pixel, The camera's computer combines these readings through a huge number of calculations, interpolating them into the pixel colours that make up the digital image.

Only the Foveon sensor in the Sigma s&les all three colours in the same spot like film does. Given the method of deriving the image, sharpening is simply a fact of life with digital photography.

I shoot with the CP5000 with sharpening turned off. The result is very soft images. I do this because I believe that each image has its own needs so I do ALL my sharpening after the fact in Photoshop.

I switch from RGB mode to Lab mode which allows me to sharpen only the Lightness channel without any impact upon the colour channels. I sharpen using the unsharp mask filter on a sub-pixel level. The default settings are amount - 350%, radius - 0.25 pixels. This works with a lot of images, but I assess each visually and adjust the amount up to 500% or down as low as 100% as the image requires. If I am making a very large print, once at 500%, I will increase the radius as much as is needed.

The effect is subtle. The resulting image looks "sharp" - not "sharpened". All the images on my web-site are done this way.

For specifics and an ex&le see "Volleyball" which also deals with noise control in Lab mode at http://www.larry-bolch.com/ephemeral/

ICQ 76620504
Thanks Larry,
I needed the confirmation that "sharpening is simply a fact of life with digital photography". I had seen the images on your site before you posted this, and could not figure out how you acheived this level of clarity. I certainly don't pretend to understand what you have done to sharpen them in Photoshop - all I currently have access to is the Nikon Editor... do you think this editor is very amatuerish and should I invest in Photoshop?
I just need to get used to the idea that taking the picture is only the start of the process...

In fact it starts earlier. There are four steps involved in the creation of a classic photograph. Concept, exposure, processing/interpretation and presentation. The goal in the exposure is to gather the best possible raw material. One uses all the strengths of the camera. In the case of digital, the data of the histogram should be such that there are no significant highlights blown out, and plenty of shadow detail. White balance should be as accurate as is practical to get on location, and that which should be in focus is in focus. Shutter speed should be such to stop motion that should be stopped, or slow to blur backgrounds to indicate motion while keeping the subject sharp.

Processing is where you recreate the feeling you had for the subject when you conceived of the photograph. As Ansel Adams said in musical terms, the exposure is the score but the processing is the performance. If my pictures move the viewers, it is through the introspection that goes on while interpreting and fine tuning the material capured by the exposure.

That which can not be done best with the camera is done during processing. Sharpening is one of these things, along with fine tuning colour balance in the shadows, mid-tones and highlights, since the camera can only give an overall balance. Digital cameras have settings for contrast, but I find it a bit intrusive on location. In processing, I decide just where I want shadow detail to disappear into blackness, and where I want the white of highlights to begin to make the image sparkle. On location, I live by the histogram for exposure, and in the digital darkroom, I live with the histogram in Levels to recreate what I felt.

In my case this happens in Photoshop. However, Photoshop is very expensive. If you are not quite ready to take the full plunge, I would suggest Photoshop Elements as a start. It is a subset of Photoshop tools and aimed at digital photographers who are entering the pursuit. Moving from Elements to the full Photoshop is direct. No time is lost along the learning curve and the interface and number of features is less intimidating. It was bundled both with my CP5000 and again with an Epson 4870 scanner I just purchased.

When you are feeling cr&ed by Elements, then it is time to upgrade, and Adobe often has deals that mean little or no monitary loss in doing so. On the other hand, there is no hype about Photoshop. It has earned its solitary place on the mountain-top.

Just as I would not do without Photoshop, I would also be lost without Paint Shop Pro. It has a set of distortion and perspective correction tools that are full worth the cost of the whole program. I also love the way it handles type. If I am doing titles for a slide show or multi-media, I naturally reach for PSP. Generally, if I just feel like playing with image processing PSP is where the most fun is.

However, as I find Photoshop awkward for doing graphics, I find PSP awkward for doing fundamental image processing. Both are generally open all the time on my content creation machine.

Two more that I consider essential are IrfanView which is freeware. Some church should make Irfan a saint. The other is ACDSee, a lovely and versatile program for media management. On the drives of the big machine, I would guess there must be a good 50,000 images. With ACDSee, I can find any of them in an instant, without doing any clerical work - all drag and drop. A single key combination sends the selected image to the editor of choice. It is a veritable swiss army knife of media handling utilities.

All of these fully compliment each other.

ICQ 76620504
Dear Larry,
Thank you for an excellent and informative post. I also enjoyed your impressive web site and have added it to my favourites so I can refer back to it.