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I'm using the "macro" mode in the Powershot G9X II. The macro mode is simply a shorter focus range, there is no magnification in place, like in aftermarket macro lenses for DSLR's. I've shot many photos of the subject but this is best one. I realize the right way to go about this is to use focus bracketing, since the camera most probably is focusing on the wall, and the spider is a few mm behind focusing distance, but I realized that at home in the evening. Anyway, that's not the point of my question.

I'm constantly struggling with smartphone noise and blur on this camera. The reviews claim it shouldn't be like that yet that's what I see. So I'd like to ask if this is another manifestation of the same problem or if I simply mis-focused.

Consider the 50 crop. It's nice and sharp. No problem whatsoever, there even is a nice background blur effect (probable simply focusing at extreme close distances and the wall went out of focus.) Now consider the 100% crop. It's not what I'd call sharp. It's not out of focus either, I think, becase I've seen the other images of the same subject that were truly out of focus and they lookked different. Instead, I'd call this "smartphone quality" where the sensor simply cannot produce an image that you can view at 100% magnification.

What do you think? Is my perception of th eproblem accurate? Am I expecting too much of the camera? Yes I know it's not a macro lens, and that the subject body occupies a way too small percentage of the photo, but why is it blurry anyway? I gget similar results with large subjects as well. It's all nice at 50% but once you go down to 100%, it becomes blurry and details are lost. As if a low pass filter was applied.

Edit: 1/60 f5.6 ISO 250 @ the widest FOV (lens fully retracted). The subject was as close as possible for the autofocus to work in macro mode ("flower" icon).

100% crop 50% crop original

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    That beast makes me shiver in awe – timvrhn Jun 18 at 9:17
  • Haha, thanks @timvrhn! It's cute IRL. And it's missing one leg (a common problem with that design). – iksemyonov Jun 18 at 9:23
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Pretty good picture given the camera. But it is likely that at very close range, the camera lens is soft (a true macro lens is designed to be sharp at very close range (and is not a zoom, which makes things easier...)).

When shooting handheld, you can also move a bit longitudinally between the time the camera focuses and the time the picture is taken, which alters the focus (not speaking of side moves, that require macro-specific stabilization)..

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This seems completely reasonable for a small-sensor camera when pixel-peeping. In fact, beyond reasonable: these are pretty amazing results all considered from a $400 camera.

Consider that this is a 20 megapixel camera — that's 5472×3648. You could print this at 18"×12" and have to look right up close to see the details. Pixel-peeping is probably more like printing this at large poster size.

In a modern compact camera like this, it's generally expected that noise reduction algorithms are going to kick in pretty heavily even at low ISO. That's one of several things making fine detail look soft when you examine closely. But I'd encourage you to just not do that. You note that you're perfectly pleased viewing the image at 50%. That's still 2736×1824 — more than TV "HD" resolution and perfectly good for very detailed 9"×6" prints.

Even with a more fancy setup, you're probably not going to get much better results without a lot more light — your shutter speed is too slow to hand-hold reliably for the detail you want.

Note that the secret to the "magnification" of designated macro lenses for interchangeable lens cameras is also that the focus closely. There's not actually anything to it other than that. See What is a macro lens? and How do zoom, magnification, and focal length relate? if you're curious.

  • Printing is a good idea, will do! (And send it to a friend as a gift.) As for "magnification" in the macro lenses, I was referring to the effect that the subject occupies its real size on the sensor, if I understand the reviews correctly. Thanks for the links, and for the explanation! Also, I didn't notice the relatively slow 1/60 when evaluating the photo, maybe I should've opened up the aperture a bit more, but the idea was to shoot the whole thing sharp at that extreme close range. – iksemyonov Jun 18 at 15:19
  • Yes, that's correct about magnification — it's just that focusing very close-up is what allows that to happen. – mattdm Jun 18 at 15:29
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    When pixel peeping a 5472x3648 pixel image at 100% on a typical 23" HD monitor with pixel pitch of about 96 ppi, you're looking at part of a 57x38 inch display size! – Michael C Jun 19 at 0:20
  • It is a 1” sensor so bigger than a typical compact camera. – Eric Shain Jun 19 at 14:22

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