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by evan-pak

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I am using a Canon 550D and I am not satisfied with the image quality that it offers. By image quality I am specifically concerned with a general feeling of better color.

I have used different lenses on it: 50mm, 70-300mm, 10-22mm, 18-55mm. All have the same image quality (I am not talking about sharpness of the images).

Should I change the camera body?

I have seen photos from Nikon D3100 which to me appears to exhibit has far more range of color than Canon 550D (or is it just appearing to me?).

What could be the cause of this difference?

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Hi Anoop, welcome to the site. To appreciate what's going on, some example where the problem is clearly evident would be very useful. In what conditions are you observing issues with image quality? Keeping in mind that cell phone and compact cameras are able to take excellent images (in the right conditions of light, for example, and for a large class of images), it should be expected that a DSLR like your 550D should be able of providing very good images. Are you sure that you are comparing apples to apples when you look at those nikon D3100 samples? – Francesco Nov 5 '12 at 18:14
By "color depth", do you me subtlety of different shades, or some more general feeling of better color, or do you mean better range from shadows to highlights? – mattdm Nov 5 '12 at 18:18
Thanks for the comments. @mattdm "some more general feeling of better color" yes this is what i mean. – Anoop Nov 6 '12 at 10:13
Can you post an example of an image you're not happy with? (Along with basic info like ISO, lens, and aperture.) – mattdm Nov 6 '12 at 11:57
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I suspect that the difference here comes down to tone curves, part of what Canon calls "Picture Styles". These are things like "Standard", "Neutral", "Portrait" and so on. Some cameras also have settings like "Bright" and "Vivid".

A digital sensor is a linear device, and counts photons in a flat way. Human vision follows a curve, and so in order for the data from the sensor to look nice, it needs to be adjusted as well. This curve can be more flat or it can be dramatic. And, it can introduce color shifts (extra saturation, for example). These settings in-camera apply to JPEG, but there's similar adjustments in any RAW conversion software.

I suspect that your camera is set to something rather plain, and the samples you've seen have been punched up. You could do the same with your camera — you don't need to buy a new one.

But, take a long look at those more vivid photos, and consider how much they correspond to real life. There's a tendency for new photographers to prefer the immediate punch of "over-cooked" processing, but if you take time to appreciate the nuances of realistic color, you may prefer something more accurate. (Not flat, but neutral.)

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I agree with this guess, it seems probable that this is the cause. – Francesco Nov 6 '12 at 12:54
@mattdm Thanks for the insight. It will be great if you can suggest the exact "setting" in my SLR i need to fiddle with. – Anoop Nov 7 '12 at 12:45
Found a similar story mentioned here - – Anoop Nov 7 '12 at 12:47
and this - – Anoop Nov 7 '12 at 13:01
@Anoop If you post an example, we can be more specific. :) – mattdm Nov 7 '12 at 15:25

Would help if you could elaborate on what exactly do you mean by better "color depth". You could also post links to the images from the D3100 which you feel have this characteristic.

Generally speaking, with similar lens, you should be able to get as good pictures with the Canon 550D as you would with the D3100. Any significant difference in output between the two is more likely due to technique (or the lack of it) than anything else.

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I am talking about better/more colors. Can you please suggest techniques that i can experiment to improve things ? – Anoop Nov 6 '12 at 10:18
I think your camera is a fairly decent model and should be able to take great pictures if you can get to grips with the basics of photography. Try working on understanding lighting, composition etc.. – Peng Tuck Kwok Nov 7 '12 at 3:28

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