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I have an Olympus FE-190. When I take a picture with flash in Digital Image Stabilizer (DIS) mode, I get white spots in pictures. This doesn't happen always.

There is an option called Pixel Mapping, but I am not sure what it does. I have attached two pics, to give you an idea. The dots can be more prominent than what you see.

enter image description here


enter image description here

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you do some tests to make sure that image stabilization is involved? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Mar 11, 2011 at 13:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, I wanted to note that pixel mapping isn't going to help here. See photo.stackexchange.com/questions/2078/… for what that's for. (Unrelated, but kudos to Olympus for including that feature in an entry-level camera.) \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Mar 11, 2011 at 13:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm how do I do a test? Does taking a picture while I am moving count? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 11, 2011 at 13:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Take a picture with the "DIS" mode on that demonstrates the problem. Leaving all other settings the same, turn off stabilization and take the same picture. Ideally, do this a couple of times in different situations. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Mar 11, 2011 at 13:58

10 Answers 10

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I think it would also be interesting to share some ideas on avoiding those spots.

When the spots are in different places on each frame as it seems to be, it's dust in the air combined with a flash too close to lens. The strong light near the flash makes the particles visible and the closeness to lens front makes them very out-of-focus and therefore blurred bigger than they really are.

Using an external flash would avoid the spots, unfortunately most compact cameras do not have any means for connecting one and while using one off-camera is still possible (by using manual mode, an optical slave and shielding the on-camera flash), it's too awkward and inconvenient in social situations where a compact camera is typically used.

Sometimes it might be possible to find another place with less dust or more light so that flash would not be needed.

You could try holding a credit card between the flash and lens as a shield keeping the flash from lighting the immediate front of lens; when doing so, check that the lower part of photo is still correctly illuminated.

Bouncing the flash away (using a reflective surface) or using a diffuser might also help. In those cases, maximum reach for the flash will be shorter.

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It's either a dirty lens, or particulate in the air (moisture or dust).

Image stabilization has nothing to do with this.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Dirt on optics being a more probable option. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 21, 2011 at 19:52
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This looks to me like it might be dust spots or speckles on the lens, which are getting highlighted by the reflection of the flash back onto the surface of the lens.

Obvious first step: try cleaning the lens with lens cleaning fluid / wipes.

If this doesn't work, we might need more information. You mention this happens when using the flash with the Digital Image Stabilizer (DIS) switched on. Does it stop happening when the DIS is turned off?

Also, do you get a similar effect when shooting towards a bright light?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That was my thought too, but the outside of the lens is clean. And since the lens is not removable, I am going a to hazard a statement, and say that there wont be dust inside it :) If I give the camera to repair, what exactly do i tell the guy to look for? 2. I will take a few pics in different modes, in combinations flash and w/o flash. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 11, 2011 at 13:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kaustubh The fact that it doesn't have a removable lens is no guarantee that there isn't dust inside the camera. Unless your camera is weather sealed (and the vast majority of P&S cameras aren't...) it's completely possible for dust to get into your camera based simply on using it... \$\endgroup\$ Mar 11, 2011 at 17:03
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Taking pictures with compact cameras using built-in flash often results in such bright spots. They are usually caused by reflection of the flash off small particles in the air (dust, water droplets etc.) I don’t think stabililization has any effect on this.

See also Orb (optics) on Wikipedia.

It might also be caused by dirty lens or sensor, in which case, you would probably see similar patterns of those spots on all photographs.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What I find is strange is that the dots are so big. Especially in the upper image it looks like on the inside of the lens -- or like snow. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 12, 2011 at 16:47
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This isn't terribly likely but I'm going to put it out there: It is possible that there's a light leak inside the camera. Light from the flash is getting through a crack and hitting the back of the lens and bouncing around in odd ways, causing the weird artifacts.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can i open it up, and check? Or will it be TOO complicated an unclean in an home environment? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 11, 2011 at 13:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ If this were the case, I'm afraid you'd be most likely to make the problem worse. These things really aren't made to be user-serviceable. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Mar 11, 2011 at 14:12
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I have similar issue with a Panasonic DMC-3D1K 3D camera. On 3D this is a big problem since the white spots are not identical on both left and right pictures.

After some investigations, I have found that most of the compact camera with the flash very close to the lens present this issue.

http://faq.fujifilm.com/digitalcamera/faq_detail.html?id=110200137

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These are dust orbs caused by backscatter. The light from the flash is being reflected by the (out-of-focus) dust particle back to the lens. Because the dust is out of focus, its reflection looks like a soft circle.

To avoid this while using flash, the light source needs to be moved and the angle adjusted so that any reflected light doesn't come straight back at the lens. Using a speedlight to bounce the light, or off-camera flash (a PITA with a fixed-lens P&S camera without a flash hotshoe like your FE-190, but not impossible) can help you do this.

The built-in flash placement right next to the lens is what causes not just these dust orbs, but also red/green-eye reflections, and that flat white look of flash, since the shadows from the lens's point of view are all blasted away. And shadows are what give depth and shape cues to a viewer.

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Fingerprints on the front lens (especially of a point and shoot) can cause this. The light from the flash bouncing around outside the lens' field of view or other light sources at high angles will emphasize them. You are not actually seeing the skin oil from the fingerprint itself, you are seeing the high angle light refracted by the shape of the oil on top of the lens. Since this light is grossly out of focus, the points look larger due to bokeh. The brighter the high angle light, the larger the "spot". The reason they are different in different shots can be due to zooming the lens as well as the fact that not every spot is catching bright light from the edges in every shot. They will also be more visible in darker areas of the photo, and that changes from one picture to the next.

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I've owned a handful of digital SLRs and more with film SLRs. I've had this problem too. I've only had this problem with the digital camera pop up flashes even on semi professional DSLRs that cost $3k. I like to use the pop up flash indoors and sometimes outside. I use center-weighted metering for portraits and if I do have to use that pop up flash I've never figured out how to keep it from putting a white spot on anything reflective. Nikon on camera speedlight flashes… I've never had a problem with those. But if there is anything reflective, most of the time a flat screen TV, it gets whited out by the flash.

In your photos, I would use matrix metering as it isn't a portrait. I found that if you change the setting in your camera to light only the background you usually avoid whited out faces and other white spots on semi-reflective things.

I bounce the light from the speedlight at an angle off the white card you can pull out of the flash specifically to bounce. But even without the bounce you really need a speedlight. They are big, but I'm a recreational photographer.

I don't set up a studio when I go to family events. Usually though, no flash is necessary using a full frame digital SLR. Sometimes I still shoot film Nikon SLRs with a pop up. Never a problem. I also like to set the iso on a film camera at 400 or lower if the shutter speeds aren't too slow. Then I'll use Portra 800 and in an average lighted house that works great. Sometimes I use Ilford Delta iso 3200 film and set the camera on iso 1200-2000 or so. Sometimes a flash. I don't shoot much monochrome digital. The images look like photocopies that way to me and I like the grain.

But yes, I look at the pop up flashes on digital cameras as toxic. You have to just learn when and how they can work for you. I recommend the setting where the fill flash will not illuminate a subject you're metering off to illuminate only the background.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Dude. OP stated they used an Olympus FE-190. Not a dSLR, and no flash hotshoe on their camera. Also it looks like you posted two answers? \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    Feb 13 at 21:50
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At the risk of writing too much, each of your photos have compositions with very dark backgrounds that aren't even a wall. It looks like there's a dark room behind your friend. It looks like something no pop up flash could eliminate. So, I actually would meter off someone's face and use that exposure. Then set the flash so the fill flash is adjusted only to illuminate the background. I probably would then compose, and intentionally overexpose the shot by just one stop and und underexposed the flash only only one stop.

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