Articles & Tutorials
The Detail Killer for Compacts
The biggest improvement however may come from simply eliminating camera movement during exposure and in fact if this is an issue for you, going to the latest hi-megapixel wonder cam is unlikely to reap any real resolution benefits at all.
The accepted wisdom is that camera movement is only an issue at lowish shutter speeds, say 1/30 or less, but this is actually both a gross simplification and an untruth, let me explain.
Firstly, some people are just far steadier than others so making blanket statements is quite pointless.
Secondly, when you press the shutter of a hand held camera there will always be some movement in response to the shutter depression and on modern compact cameras this is actually a greater problem than ever.
In the past most cameras weighed far more than the modern digital compact camera so there was a certain degree of damping built right into the system by the sheer heft of the camera, the heavier the camera the less a problem the movement was. These days most compacts are only a couple of hundred grams or so and the spring loading of the shutter makes a really steady release near impossible.
I suspect part of the perceived advantage of DSLR shots is that the DSLR being so much more substantial weight wise yet having a similar shutter release pressure tends to dampen camera movement better and thus yield sharper images.
This camera movement is always there, even at 1/1000 of sec or faster, it is just that the distance the camera moves in the shorter time is less so the effect is not as obvious, so it doesn’t just suddenly become an issue at 1/30 sec or so.
The cruel reality is that as the megapixel count goes up, the need for steadiness becomes greater in order to realise any benefit and that "new camera" is likely to be lighter than the old one so the problem will be further exacerbated.
Serious photographers tend to use tripods as much as possible, myself included, but of course they are cumbersome contraptions and carrying a tripod around that weights 20 times that of your compact camera seems pretty daft.
But there are a few neat little things you can do that I think I can guarantee will give you sharper shots, so try these on for size and I hope they help.
1) Train your shutter finger to be a smooth operator, I have noticed most digicam users are shutter jabbers rather than squeezers, think of your shutter release as a rifle trigger, smooth release is the way to go.
2) Holding the camera at arms length is easily the most fiendishly simple way yet devised to ensure that your shots are more like paintings than photographic images, so “bend ze arms” and put on some reading glasses if needed so you can see that viewfinder. Bracing your elbows against the sides of your tum tum is worth at least an extra shutter speeds’ worth of clarity.
3) If the subject is a still one then try using the self-timer, even whilst still hand holding the camera, this is worth an extra shutter speed at least.
4) Try using the continuous drive and take multiple shots of the subject in quick succession. Due to variations in your breathing and the fact that the shutter pressing will have stopped by the time the first frame fires it is highly likely that the second or third frame will be much sharper. All you need do is dump the duds once you have checked it out on your computer after loading the files up.
5) Those dinky little mini-tripods are of course great for desktop macro shots but they are also great attached to the bottom of the camera and used as a hand grip, trust me on this, until you try it you cannot conceive just how much more secure this set-up is when you go to press the shutter. Basically the vertical hand position largely negates the twisting movement induced by the shutter pressing, this is probably worth 2 shutter speeds at least!
6) A golden oldie is to take the shot between breaths; well in the digital age of tiny lightweight cameras this is even truer.
7) Finally it is usually possible to find some solid object to rest your camera on or against, if the object is really solid like a door frame, shutter speeds as low as 1/2 sec are even possible, the problem however is that most modern cameras being smooth bodied slip around like a drunken ice skater, but you can solve this. Just buy a packet of those small clear rubber dots that are used under ornaments and glass coasters, and stick them in a few spots on your digicam, such as on the bottom plate and the two ends, viola you have a camera that still looks neat but stays put under pressure.
So there you go sharper shots every time and no big tripod in sight, heck you may not need that new camera after all!