I am using a mirrorless Sony nex 3N camera. It has a APS-C sensor and other bells and whistles of an entry level dslr (except the mirror of course) . I upgraded from a point and shoot and expected better image quality.

Here is what I did. I fixed the ISO to 400 and made Raw only shoot mode. Next I went near a river in afternoon, the sky was overcast and it was about two - three hours before sunset. I took photos of some plants with fine leaves and also photos of water Buffalo. I came home quite happy with what I saw in the camera.

However, after boosting some contrast and saturation in Light room ( the photos were very dull), I became disheartened when at 100% zooming, the photos showed a lot if grain. A lot, like a mobile phone photo. Also, the fine leaves were nowhere close to fine when zoomed in. Quite a huge gap from any kind of photos in digital magazines.

Please if you can share some tips. Also, is there a good auto develop settings in light room?

100% crop from center (and link for non-web-resized version):

center crop

Entire image (and link for non-web-resized version):

complete scene

Exif Info:

Camera:   Sony NEX-3N
fstop:    f/4.0
focal:    16.0mm
shutter:  1/160
ISO:      320
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Can you provide a photo for us so we can tell if something is wrong? I doubt that something is wrong though. If you look at the photo at 100 %, the optics and the sensor has to be very good in order to be tack sharp down to pixel level. There will also be some grain at ISO 400. It should not look like a mobile phone shot though as those images are usually have been ut through heavy noise reduction. Also you won't get image quality similar to those in magazines easily as those are carefully lit and usually shot at low ISO:s with good optics and large sensor sizes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Hugo
    Oct 12, 2014 at 16:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please link to a photo. At dropbox, google+, flickr, whatever you have. Please. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Oct 12, 2014 at 16:20
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @user32335 Lens smudge can explain dull images but not the grain. If you're using a large aperture a smudge not covering the entire lens won't make much difference though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Hugo
    Oct 12, 2014 at 16:44
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ The JPEG appears to have 8 compressed bits per pixel, which is a huge level of compression. You should choose compression level 1 when you produce the JPEG using Image Data Converter. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 12, 2014 at 19:44
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ When I opened it in Preview (a Mac image program) the histogram was compressed at both the right and left ends. When I stretched it out the photo immediately got better. My point (which I admit I didn't phrase very well) was that this image would benefit from better post-processing. \$\endgroup\$
    – user4894
    Oct 13, 2014 at 0:00

2 Answers 2


I agree that is quite dull and grainy.

The first concern I have is that you shot this at f/4.0 and 16mm. This is the widest focal length that this lens can go and very near the widest aperture as well. How do shots at f/8, 35mm, and ISO 100(with tripod) look? I bring up these things because it is possible that the lens is just at its limit and looks poor in that range. Also, the sky looks very overcast, isn't the image dull because that was the scene shot?

Here is a very similar shot with the same camera. The biggest difference is that the scene had much more contrast. But it also was shot at f/11.0, 50mm, and ISO 200 - much more optimal settings for high IQ: http://www.dpreview.com/galleries/reviewsamples/photos/2445383/dsc04979?inalbum=sony-nex-3n-preview-samples

Have you tried to look at the RAW file at 100% and compare? The JPEG conversion might be the issue so you could take that out of the equation.

Overall I think you are expecting results beyond what this camera is capable of with the settings you chose. I would modify the settings to more a more optimal range, find a better test scenario, and take a few more test shots, then compare the RAW and JPEG versions and also see if the Sony JPEG conversion is the issue.


This is my quick edit of your jpeg. Lightroom 4. I stretched out the histogram by increasing exposure and darkening the blacks. I pulled down the highlights, increased the shadows, increased the contrast, and increased the clarity. Ten seconds max. It's pretty much exactly what I do on every image when I'm in a hurry and don't want to slave over it. The Clarity slider, which increases midtone contrast, is close to a magic bullet. It makes almost every image look better.

It looks like you focussed on those stalks in the center or left-of-center that are sharp; and at f/4 it's not surprising that the background is out of focus. That's a feature. If you want everything sharp, stop down to f/8 or f/11. (And use a slower shutter speed to compensate).

And remember, this is all about learning plus experience. Keep learning, keep shooting!

enter image description here

ps -- I cropped in so you can see that there really isn't any technical flaw with your image, you just need to learn to use the Lightroom sliders. Composition-wise, notice that putting the horizon smack in the middle is the worst place for it, so I filled the frame with the grass or wheat or weeds. Sorry I'm not a botanist :-) In this image I added a bit of sharpening. Maybe a little too much.

enter image description here

  • \$\begingroup\$ I have an import preset that applies a bit of clarity, vibrance, contrast boost and a bit of sharpening. Every single image that Lightroom imports from either my DSLR or my phone camera gets the same as a starting point. After tweaking the preset a bit I get a much better idea of which images have potential when scanning through them after import \$\endgroup\$ Oct 13, 2014 at 9:01

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