My experience with the HX300 (pic intensive)

Started Feb 17, 2014 | Discussions
pro botanist
pro botanist New Member • Posts: 20
My experience with the HX300 (pic intensive)

I've had my HX300 for 2 months now, been using it a lot in the field, so I wanted to post some photos and write a little about the whole experience. Being a botanist, photography is one of my main accessory activities and one I take very seriously. I am, however, a bit limited by both the equipment and skills (but I'm getting there:-)). On average, I take 150 photos in 3-4 hours (on one field trip) and I do it every 2-3 days, from March to October. That's plenty of photos to process at the end of the year. When I took my first dozen of 20 MP photos with the HX300, I immediatelly noticed the overall graininess which is more pronounced in darker areas and at high ISO. I would expect the HX300 to have better image quality, or at least equal quality with more megapixels than my old cam...This photo looks like oil painting when viewed at 100%:

(20MP, but I cropped the margins)

Usually I've no need for 20 MP, instead I use just 10 MP so the noise is not that visible. Of course, with lots of practice and some noise correction, one can learn to get the most out of this camera. I use my HX300 on either P or A modes, 10 MP, RARELY higher than ISO80, all processing options are standard, except for contrast which I set to low (normal contrast gives me too dark browns and reds). For bird photography I use my memorized setting (MR) which is P mode, ISO80, 20 MP, autoWB, center focus. If the bird isn't about to fly away, I'll have enough time to modify WB, focus, metering mode, etc.

(Most photos presented here are hand-held shots with no post-processing, unless stated otherwise.)

HX300 does very nice landscape shots. I usually do manual panorama stitching of 2-4 photos because I don't like the built-in sweep mode. From what I've seen so far, it uses a bit high ISO setting for my taste.

Hunting lodge

4 photos stitched together. A lot of purpe fringing around the branches above.

I've never been much into bird photography, but with this amount of zoom, it's just calling for it. So, for bird photography, the following group of guidelines is what I've found to be optimal. As already mentioned, I always use 20 megapixels, ISO80 and pretty much 50x zoom all the time. In most cases, I shoot hand-held, but that's just my preference. Now, pictures viewed at 100% are really too grainy for my taste, even at the lowest ISO, so I compensate by shooting at 20 MP while trying to get as close to the subject as possible. This way, I can downsize to 50-70% (depending on the blur and noise), use a mild NR (Topaz NR is quite good) and still be left with a decent size photo.

I did some small-bird shots from very far away. Many times the 50x zoom helped me figure out the species of birds, but such photos are not much use for anything else. It's just too smudgy, especially on cloudy weather. With larger birds, it IS possibe to get a good end-result. The following photo was taken with a tripod, from at least 200 m away (trying to figure it out by looking on the map, so not sure), with ClearZoom on:

Common Crane (10 MP; looks like oil-painting at 100%)

Seems fine at about 50% and a bit of PP.

So even though you have 50x zoom at your disposal, the idea is really to get as close as possible, 50 m at most, preferably 20 m or less for small birds (like sparrows), and have plenty of light to minimize grain and give you enough shutter speed. As I do most of my shots hand-held, there is often the need to take plenty of shots and then a few of those would certainly come up acceptable. It is interesting that sometimes I get blurry photos with 1/600 and other times I make pretty good ones with as low as 1/100. This one was taken in a forest (at 1/100) on a cloudy day, so we're talking low-light, and because it was an opportunity shot I didn't have much time to do anything except turn the camera on, go into P mode and just take it:

Eurasian Nuthatch (cropped)

I guess it all depends on whether my hands are still enough and the bird isn't too nervous. Here are a few other shots. The first one is a complete 20 MP, on a cloudy day - just notice the amount of noise at 100%! Other pics are cropped, but no other modifications.

Eurasian Collared Dove

Great Tit

European Robin

?

?

And this one I took earlier today. Had the camera on the roof of my car, on 2 sec. delay, and used ClearZoom:

Great Cormorant (cropped and downsized, some NR and fringing removed)

Many times I stumbled upon different birds of prey, which are not only uncommon to see, but very alert and easily startled. Sometimes it's hard to get a clean shot so I would instead record a short clip and extract a few stills afterwards. Just na opportunistic idea...

No noise at 100%, but very soft in overall appearance.

A male Hen Harrier

Northern Goshawk

? (I like this specific moment in the video. It does look a bit plastic though.)

A couple of roe deer shots...

About 50 m away

(downsized - highres photo was very grainy)

Now onto some close-ups... These are hand-held as well and turned out very good I'd say.

?

A shrubby lichen, Evernia prunastri

Various lichen species

One at high ISO:

Additionally, I've noticed a few issues as well:

1) I get a lot of purple fringing, especially when the object is positioned against the sky. This is most noticable around birds and tree branches. I can fix this in Photoshop, but I wish it wasn't so obvious in the first place. Anyone else experienced this?

2) I noticed that the amount of noise, besides in low-light, increases with higher f values (very noticable at f/8) and with longer zoom (because of the longer focal length?). These were taken with a tripod in low-light. Notice how the margins of white letters lose their sharpness at f/8. Also the letters on the exhaust become softer. The same is with other fine details such as grass tufts, for example.

Speaking of noise, here's an experiment with the 3 different NR settings. This is a church about 5 km away.

NR- (too grainy)

NR standard (a fine compromise, I prefer this)

NR+ (too soft, less detail)

3) For some reason the direction of flashlight is different in M and P modes.

M mode

P mode

As you can see, on M mode it sort of fires downwards and creates a shadow of the lens. In P mode it doesn't create a shadow. Is it me or the camera?

Well, thanks for reading this, I'd appreciate any comments and tips to improve my skills. I hope I'm not obsessing too much over noise? I find photography to be very interesting and fun so I'm always open to learn more. Hopefully, I'll switch to larger sensors soon (thinking NEX7 or A6000)

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cchen2
cchen2 Senior Member • Posts: 1,174
Re: My experience with the HX300 (pic intensive)

Welcome!  Nice long post :D.  I don't have too much to add, but I suspect that if you used a slightly higher ISO when you are zooming out, you might be able to get more keepers.  Some programs like Lightroom let you automatically edit out purple fringing if it bothers you.  Other than that, I don't have anything to offer, but I did enjoy your pictures!

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pro botanist
OP pro botanist New Member • Posts: 20
Re: My experience with the HX300 (pic intensive)

cchen2 wrote:

Welcome! Nice long post :D. I don't have too much to add, but I suspect that if you used a slightly higher ISO when you are zooming out, you might be able to get more keepers. Some programs like Lightroom let you automatically edit out purple fringing if it bothers you. Other than that, I don't have anything to offer, but I did enjoy your pictures!

Thanks, glad you liked the pics. I'm still not finished with experimenting, always on the lookout to improve my shots and get more keepers. I had Lightroom installed for a short period, but now I use AcdSee Pro (the lastest version) for my processing and I think it can do almost all things that Lightroom does. It also uses less memory and I believe it's more responsive (on my machine at least).

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WaltKnapp Forum Pro • Posts: 13,857
Re: My experience with the HX300 (pic intensive)
1

pro botanist wrote:

Well, thanks for reading this, I'd appreciate any comments and tips to improve my skills. I hope I'm not obsessing too much over noise? I find photography to be very interesting and fun so I'm always open to learn more. Hopefully, I'll switch to larger sensors soon (thinking NEX7 or A6000)

I use an HX300, also a Alpha 700 DSLR A mount system. The HX300 is for not so important photos, except for having the potential of a 1200mm long tele which my A mount system does not have available.

What you call noise is actually JPEG compression artifacts.  Sony applies way too much JPEG compression pretty much all across the HX line and other cybershot cameras as well. Emphasis to them seems to be on how many images can be packed on a card.  But it's quite a price to pay for that. If they would back off the amount of compression applied the images would be way easier to work with and way better.  The camera with it's zeiss lens produces very good images and then all you get to see is after Sony's compression setting stomped on them.  Nothing wrong with shooting jpeg, just wrong with that final step in saving the file.

There is software that specializes in "removing" JPEG compression artifacts.  My experience is you won't remove it completely but you can tone it down a lot and greatly improve HX300 photos that way.

I use Topaz DeJpeg as a filter in Photoshop.  It will do the best job if you apply it as the first step with the Jpeg out of the camera, before any other PP.  Then go on to other processing. All my HX300 photos I take through this while in contrast the jpegs I shoot with the Alpha 700 don't need that and my processing from that camera the artifact removal on it's jpegs shot at it's finest resolution  is not necessary.

Note my next step is always to change the image mode in photoshop from 8 bit to 16 bit. This gives much finer control in pp, and at the end when it's converted back to jpeg it will be a much cleaner image with less of the negative effects of digital filtering showing.

100% is not the way to have or judge photos.  At 100% you are looking at mostly the result of combining the monochrome pixels that were the original data from the sensor to make a full color image.  2/3 of the color you see in each pixel was not recorded in that pixel but was derived from adjacent pixels. 100% is excessive magnification of the image which makes matters worse, not better. To get what is closer to real data don't enlarge more than about 50%.  And even that is generally way bigger than the image to display.

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ric63
ric63 Senior Member • Posts: 2,557
Re: My experience with the HX300 (pic intensive)

Great series.

Who does'nt love a nice super zoom???

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Enjoy Your Photography,
Ric.

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Bill Borne
Bill Borne Forum Pro • Posts: 35,667
Re: Here is Indian Pipe

I've only seen them a few times out and about...

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Aisse Gaertner
Aisse Gaertner Contributing Member • Posts: 871
Re: My experience with the HX300 (pic intensive)

Great series.

Who does'nt love a nice super zoom???

Mr. Stephen McDonald

Just kidding!

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pro botanist
OP pro botanist New Member • Posts: 20
Re: Dutchman's pipe

Bill Borne wrote:

I've only seen them a few times out and about...

Nice find! Generally rare.

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Dodge_Rock Senior Member • Posts: 1,885
Can you ID this Fungus?

Except for the church, I think all your photos look good(I'm not a pixel peeper). 
This "fungus" popped up after a rain in a blackland north Texas field.  Snapped a pic using W end of the HX300.  Know what it is?

Aisse Gaertner
Aisse Gaertner Contributing Member • Posts: 871
Re: My experience with the HX300 (pic intensive)

Awesome topic! Really amazing information here!

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pro botanist
OP pro botanist New Member • Posts: 20
Re: Can you ID this Fungus?

Dodge_Rock wrote:

Except for the church, I think all your photos look good(I'm not a pixel peeper).
This "fungus" popped up after a rain in a blackland north Texas field. Snapped a pic using W end of the HX300. Know what it is?

Sorry, perhaps if it was an European species.

I don't know any such species with porous red stem and I'm not sure if the cap is moldy or just naturally white colored. I does resemble something in the Phallaceae family (which have porous stems). If it's foul-smelling, then probably fits in that family.

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Bill Borne
Bill Borne Forum Pro • Posts: 35,667
Re: One more for your viewing....Being a Botanist and all

Converted this into a Tritone .....Gotta love those "Tilt LCD's"

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Bill Borne
Bill Borne Forum Pro • Posts: 35,667
Re: One more I just remembered

I believe this is edible but at this size would be quite "Woody" Largest one I've ever seen....

Polyporus squamosus??

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pro botanist
OP pro botanist New Member • Posts: 20
Re: One more I just remembered

Bill Borne wrote:

I believe this is edible but at this size would be quite "Woody" Largest one I've ever seen....

Polyporus squamosus??

Wow, that one's huge! It IS edible, but only when young, before it goes leathery. I prefer boletes myself, others I just find unworthy of eating!

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Carole M
Carole M Regular Member • Posts: 135
Re - another fungi photo

I am also a Sony HX300 user, and not to take away from botanists original post, I couldn't help but throw in my unusual fungi photo too. Though this one was taken with Sony DSC-HX5V at the time. This was at Lamington N.P., Qld, Australia. Any ideas what type it might be?

For the record, I love the HX300 for birding especially; having that portable zoom without the weight is ideal for me.

pro botanist
OP pro botanist New Member • Posts: 20
Re: Re - another fungi photo

Carole M wrote:

For the record, I love the HX300 for birding especially; having that portable zoom without the weight is ideal for me.

You're right! Even if I buy a new camera, I'll keep my HX300 for birding.

I can tell you that it's not easy to be an expert on regional flora (just plants) and hardly on continental or even global. Throw in lichens and fungi and you have a few lifetimes of occupation.

If you're interested in plants (or fungi for that matter) that you photograph in the field, I suggest you get a good field guide. There are many out there and not too expensive.

Here's a nice guide of Australian fungi: http://www.amazon.com/A-Field-Guide-Fungi-Australia/dp/0868407429 There are others too. Keep in mind that some species cannot be indentified just from a picture and sometimes, especially in the case if fungi, a microscope is needed. If you plan to ID a fungus later, be sure to photograph it from all angles (underside!), check the smell, any discoloration after touching or cutting it, note the substrate that it grows on (soil or wood; what species?) etc...

Then, there are online sources, like this one: http://fungimap.org.au/

Happy hunting!:)

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Dodge_Rock Senior Member • Posts: 1,885
Cool Mushroom Shot

I like what you did with this photo.  The tilting LCD does come in handy too!

Dodge_Rock Senior Member • Posts: 1,885
Fungi Field Guide for US?

pro botanist wrote:

Carole M wrote:

For the record, I love the HX300 for birding especially; having that portable zoom without the weight is ideal for me.

You're right! Even if I buy a new camera, I'll keep my HX300 for birding.

I can tell you that it's not easy to be an expert on regional flora (just plants) and hardly on continental or even global. Throw in lichens and fungi and you have a few lifetimes of occupation.

If you're interested in plants (or fungi for that matter) that you photograph in the field, I suggest you get a good field guide. There are many out there and not too expensive.

Here's a nice guide of Australian fungi: http://www.amazon.com/A-Field-Guide-Fungi-Australia/dp/0868407429 There are others too. Keep in mind that some species cannot be indentified just from a picture and sometimes, especially in the case if fungi, a microscope is needed. If you plan to ID a fungus later, be sure to photograph it from all angles (underside!), check the smell, any discoloration after touching or cutting it, note the substrate that it grows on (soil or wood; what species?) etc...

Then, there are online sources, like this one: http://fungimap.org.au/

Happy hunting!:)

Thanks for the link - know of one for the united states?

pro botanist
OP pro botanist New Member • Posts: 20
Re: Fungi Field Guide for US?

try searching at Amazon.com... for example: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=north%20america%20fungi

Maybe aim your search at a specific part of the States...

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Carole M
Carole M Regular Member • Posts: 135
Re: Re - another fungi photo

pro botanist wrote:

Here's a nice guide of Australian fungi: http://www.amazon.com/A-Field-Guide-Fungi-Australia/dp/0868407429

Then, there are online sources, like this one: http://fungimap.org.au/

Happy hunting!:)

Just found your response and appreciate your recommendations; thank you.

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