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Thread: best aperture for a point and shoot camera

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    Default best aperture for a point and shoot camera

    I bought a Panasonic LX-5 for use on a trip to the Grand Canyon I'll be taking in a while.

    I have been trying the camera out, and as with my DSLRs, I've been using Aperture Priority. With the DSLRs, I generally use F8 as my "standard" aperture and seldom vary it unless the conditions require (I'm more apt to change the ISO, especially with my Canon 60D, with better noise control than my old E-520). From everything I've read, F8 is the "sweet spot" for sharpness, lack of distortion, etc for practically any lens you use, so that has always seemed like the best standard aperture to me, especially for wildlife photography.

    However, I am wondering whether this is true for P&S cameras. The reviews seem to NEVER mention what aperture they used for their tests, so I am wondering whether perhaps a wider aperture (F5.6 is waving its arms at me) is more appropriate. Since I won't be using a tripod, and mainly taking landscape snapshot type pics, I'm thinking a wider aperture might be better. Any thoughts?
    Rich
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    m4/3 lenses: Oly 75-300; Oly 14-42 f3.5-5.6 II R; Oly 17 f1.8; Oly 40-150 f4.0-5.6 R; Oly WCON-P01 adapter; Rokinon f7.5 fisheye; Sigma 19 f2.8; Pan 20 f1.7; Pan 12-35 f2.8; Pan 12-32

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    Default Re: best aperture for a point and shoot camera

    Referring to a camerlabs.com review of the LX-5, specifically a comparison of the LX-5 and the Canon PowerShot S95, there is a paragraph in the section on resolution and noise testing that states:

    "Before starting though, a quick note about apertures. We additionally tested each camera at a variety of focal lengths with each of their available aperture settings to determine the optimum settings. Both cameras performed respectably at their maximum apertures, but enjoyed a boost in contrast and sharpness across the frame with their apertures closed by a stop. We'd say the optimum settings for each were between f2.8 and f4.0, so are satisfied to use the samples taken in Program at f4 as a fair comparison. Both cameras did however suffer from softening due to diffraction at f5.6 or smaller apertures though, so we'd only recommend using them if you absolutely need a larger depth of field."

    From this I would say that you want to stay at F4, plus or minus one stop.

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    Default Re: best aperture for a point and shoot camera

    Just as a side note, you are really limiting yourself if you always shoot at f8. the "sweet spot" varies from lens to lens. As an example the 35mm is very sharp from wide open all the way up to f11 with diffraction setting in around f16. If you only use f8 you are limiting your possibilities especially if you are using it for macro or closeup work. One test I saw actually said the 35mm was sharpest at f4 and f5.6.

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    Default Re: best aperture for a point and shoot camera

    Thanx for the info. We'll use f4 to f8 on my wife's lx5. I tend to go for the added dof of a higher f stop. dof blurring far exceeds any diffraction blurring. Any higher f though and camera shake and diffraction get worse.
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    Default Re: best aperture for a point and shoot camera

    Yes, thanks very much for the info, Steve (I guess I shouldn't have said they never mention aperture in p&s reviews!). That's exactly what I was looking for. I kind of figured diffraction would start at an earlier f-stop on these small lenses, but couldn't find any info on it.

    I agree that limiting yourself to f8 is a poor idea. I do use other stops, especially with closeup work, as you say.
    Rich
    Olympus E-M10; Panasonic GM5
    m4/3 lenses: Oly 75-300; Oly 14-42 f3.5-5.6 II R; Oly 17 f1.8; Oly 40-150 f4.0-5.6 R; Oly WCON-P01 adapter; Rokinon f7.5 fisheye; Sigma 19 f2.8; Pan 20 f1.7; Pan 12-35 f2.8; Pan 12-32

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    Cool Re: best aperture for a point and shoot camera

    In general these days point & shoot cameras are diffraction limited by most of their apertures. Lets see, the TG-2 I just picked up uses a 1/2.3 sesnsor, and has 12 megapixels. If we go to Cambridge in Colour's sensor size page which includes diffraction limiting calculators. If we plug in the numbers, we see that the 1/2.3 sensor begins showing diffraction limiting effects at f/3. Fortunately, the camera has a f/2 lens, so if I take a picture with the lens wide open shooting wide angle (equivalent to 25mm field of view in a 35mm camera, or 12.5mm field of view in a 4/3rds or micro 4/3rds camera), the image does not suffer from diffraction effects. But if I zoom out to 100mm equivalent field of view where the lens is f/4.9, it does start to show diffraction effects.

    If I had bought the TG-2's little sibling cameras: TG-830 (16 megapixels, lens is f/3.9-5.9), and TG-630 (12 megapixels, lens is f/3.9-5.9), these are both diffraction limited for all settings (f/2.6 and f/3.0 respectively). So, yes, if you look close at the image you will see the typical signs of heavy handed noise removal and diffraction. By and large, people shooting with p&s don't edit pictures at 100%, they are concerned about how the picture looks like on their monitor/TV (1920x1080 for instance), or printed to 4x6 (maybe 5x7, 8x10, but rarely to larger sizes). When you reduce the photo to those sizes, it looks a lot better.

    Lets see what the calculator gives for 4/3rds and micro 4/3rds cameras:
    • 5MP E-1: f/13.1
    • 8MP E-300: f/10.3
    • 10MP E-3: f/9.3
    • 12MP E-5, E-P2: f/8.3
    • 16MP E-M5, E-PM2: f/7.3


    Now as the site says, even if a camera is diffraction limited, it is a gradual process, and you can push it a stop or two before it becomes noticeable. But in general, I feel when shooting with a p&s, you need to reset your expectations in terms of overall sharpness. Other things come to play with a p&s. I bought the TG-2 because I didn't have the budget for an E-M5 (and even so, I don't feel it is that tough of a camera), and a lot of times, I didn't want to carry the E-5.


    Edit:
    I forgot to link in the CiC calculator: Digital Camera Sensor Sizes: How it Influences Your Photography

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    Default Re: best aperture for a point and shoot camera

    This comes from Cambridge in Colour's web site as well:

    "Even when a camera system is near or just past its diffraction limit, other factors such as focus accuracy, motion blur and imperfect lenses are likely to be more significant. Diffraction therefore limits total sharpness only when using a sturdy tripod, mirror lock-up and a very high quality lens."

    Don't get hung up on diffraction limitations. There are a lot of other things that are going to have more impact on the quality of your pictures especially at middle aperatures.

    Take a look at the NOTES ON REAL-WORLD USE IN PHOTOGRAPHY section at the bottom of this web page: Diffraction Limited Photography: Pixel Size, Aperture and Airy Disks

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    Default Re: best aperture for a point and shoot camera

    I just bought a TG-2 for our lab work. We build computers and often take photos either for presentations or to show details (describing rework for example). The microscope mode is great for the later. I could have easily spent more and bought a DSLR, but my theory was that the small sensor on the TG-2 would give better depth of field, which is usually a problem in the photos taken in the past. The lab down the hall uses a Canon DSLR and they've done some work for us, usually lacking in DOF.

    I have the tech's step the lens down as much as possible for more DOF. We shoot into one of those white light cubes, with a tripod when the shot angle allows it. The results, so far, have been okay but not as good as I had hoped. I think the softness at small aperatures you mention may be part of the problem, but it could very well be that the sensor/lens combination just doesn't have a great deal of sharpness and resolution. I may bring my EPL5 in just for some comparison shots.

    Getting the lighting right seems to be 95% of getting a good shot anyway.
    Last edited by DanielH; 06-24-2013 at 09:45 AM. Reason: minor correction

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    Default Re: best aperture for a point and shoot camera

    right.From this I would say that you want to stay at F4, plus or minus one stop.

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    Default Re: best aperture for a point and shoot camera

    True, talking about diffraction only. In "real world" shooting the lack of dof @f5.6 and bigger causes way more blurring than diffraction does. Maybe good, maybe bad. IMHO diffraction is overrated. I say forget it and compose and shoot based on the result you want.
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    Default Re: best aperture for a point and shoot camera

    I've looked at a lot of lens tests over the years and I've come to the conclusion that **most** are the sharpest approximately two stops down from the widest aperture.

    I realize this is of course a wildly generic statement but I think it proves true in most cases (unless you're starting with an f5.6 lens):

    - You avoid diffraction on the small aperture end.
    - You avoid a majority of spurious internal reflections and other nasties that you get wide open (use that hood!).

    So for instance, my 50-200 I think is best 5.6-8 or so. That doesn't keep me from shooting it at f11 when I need the DOF for macro.

    On the flip side in the case of huge aperture lenses, focus accuracy is going to kill you long before anything else. Expecting an autofocus system to work at f1.4 is IMHO a stretch. Besides, if you're hand held, just an imperceptible movement in your body will rip that plane of focus off your previously AFed subject

    I think for general photography any aperture from f4 to f8 is a good, safe, range to use given diffraction and DOF/AF issues.

    Just MHO.
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    Default Re: best aperture for a point and shoot camera

    I have to disagree with that to some extent. It really depends on the lens and what type of shot you are making. If you are using a 25mm lens at f1.4 on a 4/3 camera and focusing on something 25 feet away, your depth of field should be about 13' 9.68" with a close focus point of 19' 10.51" and a far focus point of 33' 8.19". Along the same line that is why some manufacturers do not bother to put IS in lenses with short focal lengths. The argument is that IS doesn't really help with wide angle lenses since your DOF is so great.

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    Default Re: best aperture for a point and shoot camera

    FWIW - From slrgear.com for the old (non-SWD) version of the 50-200:

    "Sharpness
    Olympus has done some extraordinary work with this lens. Meant to be versatile across a wide range of apertures and focal lengths, the 50-200mm ƒ/2.8-3.5 is very sharp wide open at ƒ/2.8, though sharpness is at its best below 100mm. Set to a focal length greater than 100mm at ƒ/2.8, the sharpness profile becomes a little uneven across the frame. Curiously, according to our lab results, there is a ''sweet spot'' of sharpness at 70mm. When set to ƒ/2.8, even at its ''worst'', sharpness does not exceed 2 units on our scale.
    Sharpness improves at ƒ/4, and the uneven sharpness seen above 100mm settles down. Below that, sharpness registers at 1 unit, which is about as sharp as we can measure. Optimal across-the-frame sharpness is obtained at ƒ/4, 70mm. Diffraction limiting starts to set in at ƒ/16, but even here you're not exceeding 2 units on the blur scale. Even at its worst, ƒ/22 at 200mm, you're at 3 units on the scale. Superior results."

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    Default Re: best aperture for a point and shoot camera

    Quote Originally Posted by saburns View Post
    FWIW - From slrgear.com for the old (non-SWD) version of the 50-200:

    "Sharpness
    Olympus has done some extraordinary work with this lens. Meant to be versatile across a wide range of apertures and focal lengths, the 50-200mm ƒ/2.8-3.5 is very sharp wide open at ƒ/2.8, though sharpness is at its best below 100mm. Set to a focal length greater than 100mm at ƒ/2.8, the sharpness profile becomes a little uneven across the frame. Curiously, according to our lab results, there is a ''sweet spot'' of sharpness at 70mm. When set to ƒ/2.8, even at its ''worst'', sharpness does not exceed 2 units on our scale.
    Sharpness improves at ƒ/4, and the uneven sharpness seen above 100mm settles down. Below that, sharpness registers at 1 unit, which is about as sharp as we can measure. Optimal across-the-frame sharpness is obtained at ƒ/4, 70mm. Diffraction limiting starts to set in at ƒ/16, but even here you're not exceeding 2 units on the blur scale. Even at its worst, ƒ/22 at 200mm, you're at 3 units on the scale. Superior results."
    Couldn't agree more. It's the lens that keeps me in Olympus
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    Default Re: best aperture for a point and shoot camera

    I think we are talking about apples and oranges here, to a certain extent. The thread is very specifically about point and shoot cameras. I don't mind a little semi-hijacking, but we are very definitely not talking about DSLRs and their lenses.

    From what I understand, the DOF with P&S cameras is so high even with a large aperture, that it is kind of a non-issue, unless you are doing extreme closeups. I mean, whether you use f4, 5.6 or f8 taking a picture of the Grand Canyon with a P&S isn't going to matter much at all as far as DOF. Hence my wondering what I should use. I think f4 +- sounds good, considering what has been said above. F8 definitely sounds like a poor idea, whereas with my 400mm lens on my DSLR, it is a very good idea. So, totally different animals.
    Rich
    Olympus E-M10; Panasonic GM5
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    Default Re: best aperture for a point and shoot camera

    I'm going to guess that keeping your LX5 between f/2.8 and f/4 will give you the best results and keep the shutter speed acceptably high in most outdoor shooting situations. My reasoning is here:

    I have the Lumix LX7, which has a very similar sensor to your LX5. The lens on the LX7 is the 24-90mm (e) f/1.4-2.3. I did some thorough testing at all apertures when I first got the camera last fall. I found that the sharpest aperture throughout the zoom range was f/2.8. I tested 24mm, 50mm, and 90mm. There was a very slight loss of image quality at f/4, but so small it was really hard to detect even on-screen at 100%.

    So, because DOF control is essentially a non-issue with such a camera, I keep my LX7 fixed at f/2.8 unless conditions force me to change it. If the situation is too bright, I stay at f/2.8 and engage the built-in ND filter for a 3-stop shutter speed buffer. If the situation is too dark, of course I just open up with as much as two stops more of available light from that really excellent lens.
    Regards,

    Jim Pilcher
    Summit County, Colorado, USA

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    Default Re: best aperture for a point and shoot camera

    That's great info, Jim. It does seem that staying at 4 or below is the way to go with my LX5. The LX7 sounds pretty nice. If I hadn't gotten a good deal on the LX5 (because the LX7 had just come out), I probably would have gotten an LX7. Guess I'll have to wait till the LX9 comes out!
    Rich
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