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I just purchased a Canon Powershot SX240 HS.

I took a few pictures indoors (with the lights on as it is dark outside) and I am unimpressed. Zooming in on this on my PC, I can see they're grainy and bad quality.

I tried doing this with the fine setting and the superfine setting on my camera.

Does anyone know if I can expect better quality outdoors? What else can I do to get the picture looking better/higher quality? Thanks

I did some research, but what ISO is recommended for what situations? It would be annoying to have to change the ISO every time it's sunny outside to when it's dark outside to low light inside to lots of light inside..

  • "Zooming in on this on my PC, I can see they're grainy and bad quality." What do the images look like printed at normal size, or viewed at normal zoom? – mattdm Oct 27 '13 at 5:17
  • "It would be annoying to have to change the ISO every time..." perhaps you would like it better using the camera in full-Auto mode? – Esa Paulasto Oct 27 '13 at 5:31
  • If you don't want to have to keep changing ISO while in dim light, I'd suggest using flash – Dreamager Oct 27 '13 at 12:05
  • @mattdm At normal size they're fine. But I recently saw a 41 megapixel phone (Nokia Lumia 1020) where you can zoom in and the detail is great.. – user22903 Oct 27 '13 at 14:45
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    Possible duplicate of Why are my photos not crisp? – mattdm Feb 16 '17 at 4:32
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It doesn't matter what JPEG quality settings you have selected, when the shooting conditions are dim enough to require high ISO and slow shutter speeds, your results will suffer. In order to deal with the excessive noise due to a low Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR), the camera applies Noise Reduction which results in loss of detail. Additionally, the slower shutter speeds means you may be getting blurring due to camera movement during the exposure.

Does anyone know if I can expect better quality outdoors? What else can I do to get the picture looking better/higher quality? Thanks

You should expect much better quality outdoors in daylight. The light of the sun provides a much brighter scene outdoors than you normally have indoors under artificial lighting. The brighter light increases the Signal side of the SNR, while the noise side of the equation basically remains constant. The answer to get higher quality is simple: add light.

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Grain indoors does seem like an ISO issue. What may seem like adequate light to our eyes indoors may require ISO higher than 800, which is where many cameras will start showing a lot of digital noise. And yes, unfortunate as it is, different light will need different ISO, which means you may need to shoot higher ISO indoors than outdoors unless you have fast enough glass to open up the aperture or steady hands to lower shutter speeds. At least changing ISO in a digital camera is much more convenient than switching rolls of film!

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The "superfine" setting is only controlling how much compression you want applied to JPEG files (trading off gradations between colors against file size). Noise comes from underexposure and high ISO settings.

Cameras need more light to see by than your eyes do. Shooting indoors at low light, any 1/2.3" format sensor (like the one your camera uses) is going to exhibit noise. And then zooming in to see individual pixels will make that noise more apparent than they would be at the image level.

If you want to improve the image quality indoors in low light, and you're shooting a stationary subject, you can use a tripod and timer (so you don't shake the camera during the exposure), and use a longer shutter speed with a lower ISO setting. If you're shooting a moving subject, then adding flash or some other form of light to the scene is your only recourse. You might also try using some form of post production to do noise reduction.

Superzoom bridge cameras, like the Canon Powershot SX series, trade off low-light performance for reach. The longer the lens can reach, the faster your shutter speed needs to be to avoid camera shake blur, and the smaller the maximum aperture (how wide the lens opening can go) will get. For low light, you typically need a lens with 5x zoom or less, and the bigger the sensor the better. That's why, at the other end of the spectrum, there are large-sensored compacts like the Fuji X100S, which have APS-C sized sensors like dSLRs, and fixed lenses that don't zoom at all.

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To answer the second half of your question: the ISO that is recommended is that which correctly exposes the photo given your choice of shutter speed and aperture. In general, this is what auto ISO will do for you, so the recommendation would be to leave the camera in auto ISO, at least until you've got an understanding of when auto ISO will do the wrong thing.

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I concurred with the last poster that superfine setting is only telling the camera how much compression to use for saving the JPEG file. More compression, camera discard more visual data. However, when the lightning conditions is bad, whatever image you took with the camera is what you get regardless whether you use super fine or not. Superfine would at least make the output JPEG better than if not use superfine mode, but you never going to get a better picture because you use super fine mode.

The only way to get a better picture in this case, is to try improving the lightning condition. Like turn on a nice room light. Another thing to consider is that most compact camera just does not have the hardware to do well in low light settings. Even if you up the ISO setting, you would get very dusty and grainy picture.

Another way to possibly improve your picture in low light, to set the camera on a tripod and set the ISO high. The tripod makes the camera more stable, so you can use a slower shutter speed.

  • "Another way to possibly improve your picture in low light, to set the camera on a tripod and set the ISO high. The tripod makes the camera more stable, so you can use a higher shutter speed." you have that backwards. The tripod would allow you to use a lower ISO which would in turn give you longer shutter speeds. That is if the OP isn't " annoyed " by learning how to use his camera. – Alaska Man Feb 15 '17 at 13:56
  • Yes, thanks for @Alaska man. For pointing that out. Having the tripod allow you to open the shutter longer with more stability, which allow more light in. – rvpals Feb 15 '17 at 13:59

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