Image Sharpening

The 6900Z allows for control over the cameras internal sharpening algorithm with three different settings of Soft, Normal and Hard. I'd also like to have seen control over other internal algorithms such as contrast (tone) and colour saturation (as they've done for the S1 Pro).

Sharpening: Hard
Sharpening: Normal
Sharpening: Low

There is very little visible difference between normal and hard, I would personally have liked to have seen the normal sharpening somewhere between low (which looks like NO sharpening to me) and the current normal. As things are the normal sharpening introduces unwanted sharpening artifacts (see the white halos around dark detail) as well as enhancing noise too much. The low sharpening setting is very soft and would require a pretty significant unsharpen mask later to bring out the detail.

Aperture Priority

Aperture priority is where you designate the aperture and the camera calculates the best shutter speed, if the exposure is outside of the cameras range (either over or under exposing) the nearest shutter speed will display in red on the LCD screen. Used properly Aperture Priority can be invaluable as it has a direct effect on depth of field (the distance in front and behind the focal point which will be in focus when taking the shot).

The 6900Z has fairly good range of available apertures:

  • F2.8, 3.2, 3.6, 4.0, 4.5, 5.0, 5.6, 6.3, 7.0, 8.0, 9.0, 10.0, 11

Aperture Priority is an exposure mode is accessed by turning the exposure mode dial to A. You can change aperture by rotating the command wheel. A basic example of aperture priority is shown below for more read my digital photography glossary:

F2.8, 1/26 sec
Narrow depth of field
F11.0, 1/2 sec
Larger depth of field

Note that the 6900Z also has options for shutter priority and full manual exposures (S and M on the mode dial).

Manual Focus

The 6900Z's implementation of manual focus is an example of how it should be done. The electronic focus ring on the front of the lens barrel (which has some engineered resistance to give a mechanical feel) relays the amount and speed of rotation to the cameras focus system which then alters the focusing (motorized). Focusing steps are very fine and with the addition of the LCD / EVF magnify mode it's easy to manually focus on both near and far subjects.

The sample below is a basic example of using manual focus to pick the focus point in a scene:

Focus point: approx 3 cm on the ruler Focus point: approx 23 cm on the ruler

Macro Focus

Just like the 4900Z the 6900Z limits its zoom range as soon as you press the Macro focus button (limits to equiv. of 35 - 80 mm), the manual quotes an effective focus range of 10 cm to 80 cm. I found the maximum possible magnification at full zoom (equiv. 80mm) as close as possible to the subject as focus will allow (using manual focus and the focus confirm zoom).

Pop-up Flash

The 6900Z's flash has a specified range of Wide: 0.3 - 3.6 m (1 - 11.8 ft), Tele: 0.9 - 3.2 m (3 - 10.5 ft), which may seem less than last years 4900Z but it's just because its range measurements were made at ISO 200. The samples below show that the flash doesn't have any blue colour cast problems, though I did find it had a tendency to under expose (which on balance is better than over exposing).

Skin tone test - a little too warm for my tastes, and about 2/3rd stop under exposed. You could use the flash power adjustment to correct this. White wall test, 2 m from wall, full wide angle. A pretty good performance, there's a little drop off but it's not too bad, mostly on the left side. An excellent flash exposure of our colour test chart. Probably one of the best we've seen.

Exposure Bracketing

Bracketing is the automatic exposure of an odd number of frames, typically three or five, over and under exposed by equal steps to enable the photographer to select the best exposed frame at a later time. The 6900Z supports bracketing of three shots at either +/- 0.3, 0.7 or 1.0 EV from the metered exposure, it takes the normal shot first followed by the over then under exposed shot. This option is available in P, S (Shutter Priority) and A (Aperture Priority) exposure modes.

The samples below were shot with 1.0 EV bracketing and an exposure compensation of +0.3 EV.

Exp. compen: +0.3 EV
F4.0, 1/2 sec
Exp. compen: +1.3 EV
F4.0, 1 sec
Exp. compen: -0.7 EV
F4.0, 1/5 sec

Digital Zoom

The 6900Z only implements digital zoom in resolution modes less than six megapixels (3mp, 1mp, VGA). The digital zoom appears as an extra block of space on the zoom display (on the LCD), after full optical zoom you can smoothly move up the digital zoom range. With each successive decrease in resolution so the amount of digital zoom increases (logical enough). These are quoted (by the manual) as:

  • 3mp: 1.4x digital zoom
  • 1mp: 2.2x digital zoom
  • VGA: 4.4x digital zoom
3mp: 6x optical (210 mm eq.) 3mp: 6x optical & 1.4x digital (294 mm eq.)
1mp: 6x optical (210 mm eq.) 1mp: 6x optical & 2.2x digital (462 mm eq.)