P330 Review: Tweaking for Best Image Quality

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lectrolink
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P330 Review: Tweaking for Best Image Quality
11 months ago

I have had this cam about 10 days, my gf bought it for me as a birthday gift. I wanted it for the larger than average sensor, 1.8 lens, pocketable size, RAW capability, macro capability, and decent price. Overall, I like the style and size of the camera (I have it in white), and it has an impressive array of settings and controls including GPS, wifi capability, and 1080P video. I will not address those bells and whistles in this review, only image quality.

The P330 is capable of very good image quality, but to get the best out of it, it takes some tweaking. Shooting in jpeg, I compared the different quality settings on my monitor. Even at 200% magnification, there really was not much visible difference between 12 MP and 8 MP settings. However, there was a more visible difference between Normal and Fine quality settings. I would say for casual photos that will be emailed or file shared with friends & family, or used for web publishing, stay with the 8MP Fine setting (file sizes average 3 MP). You will not be able to tell the difference from 12MP Fine, even at 100% image size. But if there is a chance the photo will ever be blown up and printed larger than 8 x 10", definitely shoot full resolution.

Shooting JPEG, even in good daylight at lowest ISO (80), you can still see JPEG artifacts at high magnification on the computer monitor. It is not terrible, but it does not look as good as a DSLR photo, but no one expects it to be as good, since the P330 has a much smaller sensor. I also recommend keeping the noise setting on LOW, to help preserve detail, especially in dimmer light. I have assigned the front Fn button to access ISO because it saves two extra button presses when accessing via the menu.I usually have ISO set to auto range between 80-400. While some noise is evident at ISO 400, it's not bad and can easily be dealt with in post processing. The colors of the JPEG images look pleasing overall, but there is some evidence of hue shifts. If true color is essential, shoot in RAW-that seems to be very accurate colorwise.

I have set my User setting to be optimum for handheld low light conditions. My settings are: Aperture Mode @ 1.8 (incidentally, to keep the lens at 1.8 means no possibility of telephoto, since the 1.8 setting is only available at the widest 24mm focal length; you'll have to move in and out with your feet, not the zoom lever); ISO- auto range 80-400; Picture Control- Standard; Exposure Compensation- minus.3; noise-low; Active D-Lighting- OFF; Vibration Reduction- ON; Continuous Mode- BSS (Best Shot Selector). This last one has proved useful handheld in low light: keep the shutter pressed down and it will take a photo about every two seconds until you release and then automatically choose the sharpest version to save.

But to get the highest photo quality from the P330, you should shoot in RAW. For RAW, I use Picture Control set to Natural and the sharpness turned down to 0 (better to adjust these things in post). The RAW images will have more accurate color, fewer digital artifacts and will accept sharpening and noise reduction better for an overall creamier, smoother yet sharper result. The NRW RAW files generated by the P330 are BIG- about 26MP each. For comparison, my Pentax DSLR DNG RAW files average only about 11 MP--that with a 16MP sensor! The other issue with RAW files from the P330 is that there is an enormous amount of lens distortion at the wide end of the tele range. What are supposed to be straight lines curve like rainbows. With JPEGs, the camera removes the distortion; with RAW, you must use software to remove it. I use both Adobe Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS6. Lightroom 4.4 (which uses Adobe Camera RAW 7.4) does not have a lens profile for the P330, so you must use the manual controls to compensate for it. The current Camera RAW used in CS6 (8.2) does have the P330 lens profile, so it is one click and done.

To sum up, to get photos that look close to a large sensor DSLR with the P330, you will need to shoot RAW and use post-process software that can correct the lens distortion. Unfortunately, the corners of the P330 photos will never be as sharp as what a good DSLR lens will give you. The P330 also has other operational issues such as slow image process times and slow focus, which other reviewers have commented on. Nevertheless, this cam offers a lot of flexibility and quality for the methodical shooter willing to dive deep into the menus to get the best from it. I will also add that the camera is extremely good for close ups and macro style shooting with very deep depth of field and extraordinary sharpness. When I am photographing things like jewelry, the P330 is preferable over my DSLR.

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