I take photos of computer hardware for sale on ebay. I had been borrowing a camera for photos (Olympus SZ-16) and the camera will be able to focus while very zoomed in to a device while relatively close. But since it was borrowed, I ultimately needed to buy my own camera. I'm not savvy on technical specs or anything like that. I just wanted a point and shoot camera that was modern and had good zoom. I didn't know about "Minimum focus distance" when I went to make my purchase.

So I bought a Canon SX740 HS. Took me a while to figure out the camera... turns out it has REALLY BAD minimum focus distance. The camera refuses to focus when zoomed in. How can I fix this? If I can't fix it, what stat should I look for for focus distance when zoomed in?

Here is a picture I took with the SX740 on a tripod. The object is about 40 inches away from the camera body. This is the closest I can zoom in before the camera refuses to focus. I can't even manually focus it to be in focus if it is zoomed in any further. https://i.ibb.co/k6zhShy/IMG-0725.jpg

And here is a picture I took with the SZ-16. I can zoom in to the maximum 24x and it'll focus perfectly. Same deal, on a tripod, object is 40 inches away from camera body https://i.ibb.co/fxCghgy/P5090355.jpg

So why does the SZ-16 have much better minimum focus distance than the SX740? What stat should I look for with respect to focus distance while zoomed in? What camera would you recommend for close-up telephoto images? Sorry if I used the wrong terminology. I think I'm going to return the SX740, because getting these super narrow field pictures is critical, especially if the item has a tiny defect that I need to display.


2 Answers 2


I would suggest trying your SX740 again, but use a far more conservative zoom setting. It should reduce your minimum focus distance to a workable level.

The long telephoto setting is for making distant objects as large as possible in the camera, but you really only need to work with things that are close to you. The macro mode and wide angle [ie, not zoomed in] should allow you to move the camera closer to make the objects you're photographing fill the frame cleanly.

Focusing Range
Auto: 0.4 in. (1cm) – infinity (W), 6.6 ft. (2.0m) – infinity (T) Normal: 2.0 in. (5cm) – infinity (W), 6.6 ft. (2.0m) – infinity (T) Macro: 0.4 in. – 1.6 ft. (1–50cm) (W)
- Canon SX740 HS Specs

Canon's spec sheet is 'delightfully unclear', but appears to be showing a 6.6 foot minimum focus range for its (T) [full telephoto] setting, but only 0.4 inches for its (W) [wide angle] setting.


I agree with TheLuckless - point and shoot cameras like yours have Macro settings and can actually get quite close to things. As you zoom in, the minimum focus distance increases. You'll have to experiment but there's probably a balance between zoom and MFD where you'll get the shot that you want.

The other option is to crop. That P&S has ~20MP - far more resolution than one needs for an online image of an item to sell. Take the image as "zoomed in" as you can and then crop to meet your need.

Your image to me looks...not as good as it could be...The EXIF info shows an ISO of 800 and shutter speed of 1/10 second. Getting the ISO down will make for a cleaner image. 1/10 second is very slow - tough to handhold without getting some camera shake (are you using a tripod?).

You can get much sharper, cleaner images (where cropping becomes a good option) by drastically increasing the amount of light hitting your object. Try covering a window with a thin white sheet during mid-day and then shoot your image. If you can't get natural light - increase your artificial light by 4x whatever you're using (got 1 60W bulb lamp? Add 4 more). Your camera will automatically decrease the ISO and increase the shutter speed when there is enough light available - so make sure to feed it what it needs.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thing is, I don't really want a fish-eye effect like what you get when the camera is up close to an object. yes, I know, its not actually on a fish eye setting, but still the edges of the object will appear curved/distorted compared to being tightly zoomed in from a distance (it appears flatter) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 9, 2019 at 17:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PaulReissmann what you're talking about is called "field curvature" and yes, it's typically worse with wide angle lenses than telephoto. That being said, it's fairly easy to mitigate in post processing (Lightroom, photoshop, gimp, etc.). What are your goals and how much do you want to invest? If it were me, I'd buy a consumer camera (Canon Rebel/Nikon/Pentax), a cheaper prime (50mm or 85mm), a tripod, and a Lightbox (build one, it's cheaper)...and set up a shooting station for your objects. This way, you have consistency (which means quality and speed) \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 17:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you want to just snap photos for eBay, keep on as you're keepin' on. But, if you want professional-ish images...then you need to start shooting more like a pro. \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 17:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd want to do as minimal editing as possible in order to speed up the process. Right now, I only do cropping, and maybe some brightness change, but that's it. And yeah, field curvature, thats exactly what i'm having. for example, if I take a picture up close (so "macro" mode), it distorts the left/right as indicated by this picture i.imgur.com/y6jzFFH.jpg But if I zoom in, it removes the distortion i.imgur.com/GmG3bBx.jpg I don't want to spend a huge amount. I spent $309 on the SX740. The olympus sz-16 works good, but its not mine and I would like somethign modern. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 9, 2019 at 18:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PaulReissmann Trust me, I feel ya. I work, these days, with small businesses on marketing - and there's never enough time in the day for it. Do some research on photographing artwork, as it's the closest thing to what you're doing (need for lighting, lack of field curvature). Using a tripod and setting up a shooting station will aid you A LOT. I honestly believe that the SX70 zoomed in is just fine - you just need to crop out what you don't need. The image quality will get dramatically better when you increase the lighting. \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 18:38

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