DSLR harder to handhold than P&S?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Derek Fountain, Apr 5, 2005.

  1. Since I got my 20D I've noticed more blur than I'd expect in many landscape
    shots. I attribute this to camera shake. I notice at, for example, 1/50sec
    I can get a clear picture with a 4MP P&S, but it's blurred with the 8MP

    The DSLR is heavier, and of course it has more pixels (and so is sharper),
    so perhaps this is to be expected?
    Derek Fountain, Apr 5, 2005
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  2. The extra weight of the dSLR should help, but the mirror should hurt.

    Here's how to test it. Pick an (equivalent) focal length, e.g. 100mm. Set
    your P&S camera lens to that length and take 20 shots at 1/25, 20 at 1/50,
    and 20 at 1/100. Repeat for the dSLR. Compare every shot to a standard shot
    taken on a sturdy tripod for sharpness and determine what percentage are
    sharp at each shutter speed.

    David J. Littleboy
    Tokyo, Japan
    David J. Littleboy, Apr 5, 2005
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  3. The extra weight of the dSLR should help, but the mirror should hurt.

    For some reason I'd assumed the mirror action wouldn't really have much
    effect on the photograph. Once you guys had told me what mirror lockup was
    (see threads passim) I kind of thought "deal with that if I ever see it."
    Are you telling me it should be a consideration for most shots? I'd already
    figured more frequent use of a tripod is in order, so perhaps I'd better
    get used to this mirror lockup feature!
    OK, thanks. That's tomorrow's project. :)
    Derek Fountain, Apr 5, 2005
  4. Any SLR (whether digital or film) will have an advantage and a
    disadvantage compared with a P&S. The advantage is that the camera is
    significantly heavier; this gives it a higher moment of inertia
    (effectively, resistance to twisting). Up to a point, this will help
    prevent shake; the "point" is where it gets so heavy it makes your
    muscles tremble. (Note that in rifle target shooting a heavy gun is
    preferred; in fact there are *maximum* weight limits for competition to
    limit the advantage.)

    The disadvantage is of course the mirror slap which others have
    mentioned. However, modern designs are very well damped, and the effects
    of this are not as great as they were 20-30 years ago.

    The often quoted limit for hand holding (1/focal length in mm) is
    historically related to 35mm cameras. A reduced-sensor DSLR like the 20D
    actually magnifies the image rather more than a 35mm SLR, so the effects
    of shake will also be magnified. I agree this will not apply to a
    comparison with a digital P&S. However, I recommend that wherever
    possible one should use the next-higher speed or faster. Thus at 50mm
    focal length, use 1/100 or 1/125. Or, of course, use an IS lens if

    Finally, most DSLRs by default apply little or no in-camera sharpening,
    whereas most P&S digitals apply rather a lot. Thus, the unprocessed
    results from the DSLR can often look softer. Make sure you are comparing
    like with like.

    To get to the bottom of the issue, David Littleboy's suggestion is good.
    However, do bear in mind the sharpening issue above when evaluating the
    results, and either switch off the sharpening from the compact, or apply
    optimum sharpening to the DSLR images.

    David Littlewood, Apr 5, 2005
  5. Derek Fountain

    Ed Ruf Guest

    Besides David's comments, are you viewing the comparative images at
    the same size or 1:1? Could the additional resolution be capturing
    enough additional detail to allow you to see the blurring?
    Ed Ruf Lifetime AMA# 344007 ()
    See images taken with my CP-990/5700 & D70 at
    Ed Ruf, Apr 5, 2005
  6. Derek Fountain

    Ed Ruf Guest

    Also, remember P&S cameras typically process their images more in
    terms contrast and sharpening. So if you are comparing default auto
    jpeg this may also be a factor w.r.t. the dslr images not appearing as
    Ed Ruf Lifetime AMA# 344007 ()
    See images taken with my CP-990/5700 & D70 at
    Ed Ruf, Apr 5, 2005
  7. Derek Fountain

    Pete D Guest

    Very true, took a group photo for a friend on the weekend with an old Pentax
    ME, the thunk when it took a shot was huge compared to my Pentax *ist Ds.
    Pete D, Apr 5, 2005
  8. Derek Fountain

    Mick Brown Guest

    I wll go out on a limb here and suggest maybe a back focus issue. In your
    shots does it appear that the back ground is in focus but the main subject
    is soft?

    I use Nikon gear and have occasionally moved the focus point and not
    noticed, making the camera focus on items away from the main subject.

    Mick Brown
    Mick Brown, Apr 5, 2005
  9. That is one reason I always suggest actually picking up the camera you
    are considering buying and work all the controls. Some cameras just fit
    better than others. What fits me may not fit you. Many years ago when I
    sold cameras retail, I quickly learned that young children and older adults
    need larger cameras with larger buttons. They will be happier with them and
    they will get better photos.

    That is an oversimplification for your question but it still applies.
    Some people will do better with one camera than another. While general size
    is a good indicator it is only part of the story so it means checking each
    camera for each user.

    As for your issue. As noted mirror slap can play a role, but it is
    usually small at normal speeds. I suggest the following practice:

    Buy one of those cheap laser pens. Tape it to the camera so it will
    shine on the wall which will be your subject. Now practice and watch the
    movement of the light. You want to reduce the movement. Note: cameras with
    mirrors are designed to prevent shake before and during the exposure, but
    not after so this test may not work all that well unless you lock the mirror
    Joseph Meehan, Apr 5, 2005
  10. Did you set the shutter speed to bulb? At least in older Nikons there is
    quite a bit of shake when the mirror is released after the exposure.
    Philip Homburg, Apr 5, 2005
  11. I went from film SLR to digital non-SLR, and I was surprised by the
    difference. My experience was the same as yours. Shots which would have
    shown blur at 1/30 could now be easily hand-held at 1/8. We had
    discussions about this in this newsgroup a while ago, and I recall:

    - there is much less vibration in the non-SLR

    - there is much less acoustic noise in the non-SLR (the noise may cause
    you to "jump" slightly).

    - the design of cameras like the Nikon 990 and now those with swivel LCD
    viewfinders) allows you to brace the cameras in ways which are impossible
    for an SLR.

    - the taking posture may be different between the two camera styles.

    - having a finite number of pixels may show camera-shake less than on
    slides displayed on a big screen.

    Yes, the greater mass of the DSLR should produce steadier shots, but only
    if it's not so much mass as not to cause extra shaking in your hands. You
    may also find that the aperture of the DSLR lenses is rather restricted
    especially if you get the cheaper "kit" lens which comes with the camera,
    requiring longer shutter opening times.

    David J Taylor, Apr 5, 2005
  12. I think the following picture was taken with a 24mm at f/2.0 and 1/8:
    (larger version: http://misc.hq.phicoh.net/tmp/xl.3-96-6-28.jpg)

    I just wanted to take a couple of pictures. I was surprised how sharp they
    turned out to be.

    I wonder what percentage of camera shake is caused by the camera itself
    (mirror, shutter) and what is caused by not holding the camera steady

    Experience with video cameras suggests that even without moving parts, holding
    something steady is quite tricky.
    Philip Homburg, Apr 5, 2005
  13. Which is why some film photographers used rangefinders in addition to
    John A. Stovall, Apr 5, 2005
  14. Derek Fountain

    Ron Hunter Guest

    No, it shouldn't be more subject to motion blur than other cameras. You
    may have a lens problem.
    Ron Hunter, Apr 5, 2005
  15. Derek Fountain

    paul Guest

    P&S has more depth of field so hard to get things out of focus. You may
    also be noticing the relatively cheap kit lens and it's limitations such
    as being soft at either end of the aperture range and not particularly
    fast for low light action.
    paul, Apr 5, 2005
  16. Derek Fountain

    Alfred Molon Guest

    Well, I've noticed that it's easier to "freeze" an object in mid-air if
    it's very light, which means that a very light camera has an advantage
    here. It was easy to get sharp handheld 1/13s shots with an Olympus
    5050, but with the much heavier Olympus 8080 the limit seems to be
    around 1/20s.
    Alfred Molon, Apr 5, 2005
  17. Derek Fountain

    Giulia Guest

    I would say that P&S are more idiot proof and therefore more tolerant, but
    definitely not sharper than a properly used SLR. So, I am not saying you
    are an idiot, but you have all the controls to avoid it with an SLR.

    If you shot in RAW, check the focus points on your PC to see what it was
    focusing on. Maybe something in the foreground?
    Is your blurring due to depth of field? Or is the whole pic blurry?
    If the whole picture is blurry, were you holding the camera as steady as
    possible and gentle when you pressed the button?
    What was the lens focal length when the shot was taken?

    Do some test shots on similar scenes:
    What happens if you increase the ISO speed, and thus a faster shutter speed?
    What happens if you use a tripod and timer?
    If the focus points are correct and the problem disappears when doing the
    above 2 thing, then it is an operator problem. If not, a hardware problem.

    I use mirror lock-up, but only because the function is there and it has no
    negative aspects, not because I notice and difference when I don't use it.
    I don't think this is your problem.
    Giulia, Apr 5, 2005
  18. My Nikon F90x (yes a film SLR) works very nicely handheld, even when it's
    fully loaded with an added vertical grip and an SB28 flash. I even had
    a bit of luck with a 300mm shot once, but that was an exception. Can't
    comment on digital SLR's, my D70 hasn't arrived yet.

    The F90X doesn't have mirror lockup (which is a crying shame!) so I try to
    keep the angle as wide as possible and my shutter speed as high as
    possible when shooting out of hand. Also I am very fond of my tripod
    combined with the self timer set to just a few seconds.

    If you're shooting landscapes from a tripod, you'll hardly experience
    camera shake from the mirror. If you do and it's really bothering you,
    then I'm afraid you're going to need some higher class equipment that does
    have mirror lock-up.

    Another trick could be to stop down the lens as far as it will go and put
    the camera in its lowest ISO mode available. You'll get a _slow_ shutter
    speed which may also eliminate camera shake for the most part. Since the
    shake only takes place for a very short part of the total exposure (which
    could take seconds), it may get canceled out by the rest of the light
    from the exposure. Tripod and a static scene required though as you may
    now get motion blur in things like birds and waving trees!

    Bas v.d. Wiel, Apr 5, 2005
  19. Derek Fountain

    PCR Guest


    I haven't followed all the thread (maybe 20 contributions or so)
    but I am willing to make a point and apologise if it has already
    been said.

    The biggest difference between the P&S and the SLR is often the

    Let me explain, I live in a tourist trap (Paris to be precise) and
    I see a lot of pictures being taken. Obviously of late most of
    these have been digital. My feeling is that the average digital
    P&S'er hardly ever uses the viewfinder and takes their photo
    holding the camera at arm's length, looking at the screen, in a
    way almost perfect for maximising shake. Your SLR (digital or
    otherwise) user will brace themselves and thus produce a better

    Obviously a serious photographer will always try hold the camera
    in the correct manner but statistically P&S cameras are owned by
    P&S people!

    Having said all this I own a Coolpix 5400 (P&Sish) and love the
    Museum mode which just takes a load and throws away all but the
    sharpest. I have had lovely hand held shots in churches at 1/2 and
    1/4 second this way.

    All the best

    PCR, Apr 5, 2005
  20. Derek Fountain

    Ron Hunter Guest

    I agree with you about the holding at arms length, but I also noticed my
    nephew doing this with his 10D. Of course, he couldn't actually take
    the picture that way, but I wanted to know why he did it, and he said he
    wanted to get an idea how the picture would look. I don't see much
    value to that on the tiny LCD display on that camera, and he agreed
    after thinking about it. He had only had the camera a few days.

    Another thing I see is people stabbing the shutter button like
    contestants on a game show. Guaranteed blur.
    Ron Hunter, Apr 5, 2005
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