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My camera is a Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1. I made a very quick decision buying this camera. I was amazed due to its 10x zoom and its amazing Image stabilizer. And of course by its low price. But after getting it delivered and using it in person, I am not really happy.

When I am trying to capture the sunset sky, that is again a horrible experience. The sunset mode captures decent images, but it lacks all the details and doesn't look what the sky looks in naked eyes. It doesn't produce the same colours and the excellence of that sky is not captured in the image. So far I have tested this twice, and I am totally disappointed. I tried to capture sunset sky without the "sunset mode", but again horrible experience. Please share your experience or any advice to make my camera usable.

N.B I am a beginner in photography.

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    You now have the reputation needed to include a sample photo with your question. Showing a photo may help to better understand what is the trouble. – Esa Paulasto Dec 29 '13 at 14:48
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From my experience with point-n-shoot cameras shooting sunsets/sunrises I would say the problem is in overexposure. When you try to catch more of what's in front of you the automatic exposure measuring happens on this dark foreground and leads to too bright sky and that really eats out the colors.

There is two easy ways to counteract for this.

  1. Composition:
    Aim your camera higher so that the brightest part of the sky, where the sun was, is almost in the middle of the frame. Your camera's live view LCD will show you how the exposure changes due to the spot you are aiming at. Press the shutter release button when the scene looks good to you. Do not worry if the foreground is almost black in the live view, as it is beyond the ability of that LCD to show anything so dark. It will be (a little bit) better when you see it later on computer screen.

  2. Exposure compensation:
    In the four-way button on the back of your camera the top button is for exposure compensation (a square with +/- marking). Use it to set underexposure with automatic metering. This may not be possible in the Intelligent Auto -mode, so change mode to Normal. Select -1.0 on the exposure compensation to begin with. To have deeper colour you can go lower, even to -2.0 setting. You see the changes directly on the rear LCD display.

With both cases you should remember to turn the flash Off. That can be done with the same four-way button on the backside of your camera. Shooting mode "intelligent Auto" may not let you set the flash Off, so you must use Normal mode.

If you still want to use the Sunset-scene mode for more vivid colors, then I suggest you explore if the exposure compensation is useable. It should be, but I'm not familiar with this camera model to say for sure. Use -1.0 exposure compensation to begin with.

Here an example of using both advices together:
- Aim at the bright part of the sky for faster shutter speed (and dark foreground)
- Exposure compensation of -0.3 with camera in "Normal" mode.
sunset with a point&shoot camera
JPEG straight out of camera. Exp: 1/80sec - f/3.4 - ISO50 - EV-0.3
It was taken with an Olympus SP-550UZ having a 7 MP CCD sensor of 5.75 x 4.32 mm.
The Panasonic DMC SZ1 has a 16 MP CCD sensor but a tiny bit larger 6.08 x 4.56 mm.

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This is to be expected due to the low dynamic range common to cheap point and shoot cameras. The dynamic range is the difference between the darkest and brightest part of an image that the sensor can capture. Something like a sunrise or sunset has a very bright object in the middle surrounded by very dark objects (the darkening sky and terrain).

When figuring out the exposure settings, the camera tries to guess what should be exposed properly, often using an average of the overall brightness of the image however if the dynamic range of the scene far exceeds the dynamic range of the sensor, the exposure chosen may be in the middle between the brightest and darkest parts such that the camera doesn't capture detail in the darker parts because they are near black and doesn't capture detail in the bright parts because they are too bright and become white.

Using Sunset mode likely tells the camera to focus on the darker parts of the image to capture the detail of the landscape, but the sensor still isn't capable of capturing details of the bright part.

One trick you might be able to use to get around this is to "bracket" your shots. If you can use a tripod, you can take a photo with the background properly exposed, but with the sun very bright and then take another photo where the sun is properly exposed, but the scene is very dark. A third photo that is in between those two can also be helpful. You can then use HDR (high dynamic range) software to combine the two images in order to use the detailed area from both of them. Higher quality cameras have a wider dynamic range and thus have an easier time capturing scenes that have a high dynamic range.

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