Image Enhancement Example Comparisons

Are images even real any more? Are they a true depiction of what a camera is capable of? The answer is, in most instances, probably not. The amount of people and companies that now add enhancements to their pictures is at an all time high. The percentage, estimated at around 70%, is staggering. Given the fact that most cameras (and up-to-date Smartphones) these days have a good selection of effects and filters built in, this is completely understandable.

Art Photograph Image Enhancement Example

So why not take full advantage of what's on offer. Add to that all the photo editing software that is available in the form of both downloadable programs or photo editing enabled websites, with a lot of them being free to use online or offline for basic but effective editing, and you can see why I ask the question of - Are images even real any more. Technically, yes they are. But the large majority of them on the Internet have been, in one way or another, manipulated to some degree.

Is this a bad thing?


No, I don't think it is. On the one hand it does take some of the skill of photography away, because now, even a mediocre image can be edited to look great. But on the other hand it gives people who don't own high-end DSLRs, or have much shooting experience the opportunity to enhance an image so that it looks close to professional. Or at least much better than it originally was. And if, like most average picture takers, those images are only going to be used somewhere on the Internet, like a website, blog, or on social media, why not make them look amazing with the free tools you have at your disposal. it's a free for all, and due to this image standards have become much higher.


Unfair Advantage


With someone who has an average point and shoot camera, and is not using any type of enhancements, it makes it much harder for them to compete with someone who has the same camera but is applying different effects and filters to their images. This has made it difficult for the person not taking advantage of this free-for-all enhancement boom to compete.

Is it an unfair advantage for the people who use effects. Well, given the fact that, like mentioned above, with so much of the editing software actually being free to use online, or built into the device the person is taking a picture on, the advantage isn't unfair at all, because everyone the enhancement tools available to them in some form or another. If they choose not to use them, then its to their own disadvantage. When it comes to adding enhancements to images, it's now so widespread, that you have to adapt and roll with the times.


The (Mostly) Fake Selfie


Image enhancement goes hand in hand with another boom that has taken the Internet by storm. That is, of course, selfies. With selfies in mind, if we combine picture editing to the degree it is used today, it begs the question.. Are people even real any more? When I say this, I really mean, do they look as white teethed and blemish free as they appear to be in the image. Couple that with how its just natural for people to want to look at their best and most flawless when on display (posted somewhere online , e.g. on social media), especially in a world where looks / appearance is so important, and I think you know the answer to this question.

Let's be realistic, how many people do you know who you can honestly say are not going to use a blemish free or beauty mode (that removes imperfections) which is present on many cameras, and available to be used for free online, if its quick and easily available for them to do so.

Take Instagram for instance, the selfie capital of the Internet. This website has an excellent built in editor that can add some serious "pop" to an image. It's quite a transformation. And today I want to show you a quick example of just what using a few very simple enhancements / effects can do to an image. I won't be using selfie pictures. For the test I will be using some pictures that have already been posted on this website.


Enhancement Picture Examples


I'll explain. Not long ago I wrote a post reviewing the Samsung WB500 point and shoot camera. This was basically a brief review about the camera because I had been using it for a few months and was fairly impressed with how versatile it was considering the price. For that post, because it was a mini review of the camera, and people want and deserve to see the images that the camera can produce with absolutely zero enhancements added, I left the images in that post completely original.

But now I want to show you a comparison between the original images and the same images that have had just a few of the most simplistic enhancements applied to them. Also, I should point out that I have quite a big interest in Graffiti / Street Art and Urban Photography, and that these niches are some of the many where you will find a lot of image enhancement taking place. So unless you have some top-end camera equipment, chances are you will need to make use of the effects available to stand any chance of competing. For years I was against using any effects on images, as I seen it as cheating in some way. But that changed last year some time.

I have several websites and blogs that specialise in Graffiti / Urban Photography (it's just a hobby really), and over the last few months I have experimented by comparing how many likes, re-tweets and re-shares my images get that are not enhanced in any way, in comparison to how many the same image gets when effects are added. For me this type of work its fairly random (what I can grab from my travels), and most of the time I don't set out to purposely discover Graffiti locations, so I travel light and only use point and shoot cameras most the time.

So as you can imagine, enhancements are a very welcomed and much needed addition. Can you guess which pictures get the most shares and likes. Hands down, it's the enhanced images that get so much more engagement on social media. The non-edited pictures get on average a quarter of the shares and likes. But when you consider the engagement of an enhanced image, which was taken with an average point and shoot, to some degree, for photography like Graffiti and Street Art (and many other different types), where its only going to be displayed on a website or shared on social media, do you even need a top-end DSLR for this type of imagery. To be honest, while its always great to have top-end equipment, I don't think you do.

Anyway, enough about all that. See below for the first example. The image in question: An unedited picture that was used in a previous post to show a sample of what the Samsung WB500 (HZ10W) is capable of producing.

Graffiti-Characters-Samsung-WB500-Sample-Image-Unedited

Compared Below: The edited / enhanced version. Here is the same image, but this time using just 4 simple enhancements. Brightness, Contrast, Saturation and Sharpness. Which one do you think looks better and will get more engagement.

Image Enhancement Example Comparison
 All images in this post Copyright © Still Paused


And again below. Another original, unedited image below that was used in a previous post.

Super-PASE-Multi-Colour-Explosion-Wall-Art

Edited below using the same four image enhancements as the one above. Adjustment of the brightness, contrast, saturation and sharpness. The difference in this one is amazing. And just bear in mind that these 4 simple adjustments are the absolute basics of image enhancement. Literally everything, and I mean everything, can be changed / adjusted.

Popped Image Enhancement Example
A transformation: Pase has been brought to life in comparison to the original

These are just a few quick examples, but they certainly show how easy it is to make a picture taken with a little point and shoot look much better than what the camera is really capable of producing. Of course, under different conditions, such as lighting, etc, results will vary. But that's why this test / example is even more impressive in terms of what simple editing can do. These pictures were taken under hazy, misty conditions with quite a lot of sun glare, and still the editing can make them show virtually no signs of this and really brings the pictures to life.

Samsung WB500 Digital Camera Review

Samsung WB500 digital camera review. Well more of a revisited / overview really. While I have owned quite a few DSLR's and Bridge Cameras over the years, I also use, and in many ways actually prefer to use on a daily basis, capable point and shoot cameras. Whilst not as high-tech as the many DSLR's, and usually with smaller sensors than both DSLR's and Bridge Cameras, point and shoots can still deliver some impressive results. Add to that how small most of them are, and that most of the newer models can also record HD video, and you can probably see why I prefer them as an everyday carry camera compared to their other, much bigger, and usually much more expensive counterparts.

I'm a simple man. I see, I like, I shoot. Straight shooting: All images in this post have been taken with a Samsung WB500 and have not been enhanced in any way. The only edit has been to make the original images smaller as to not make this post too slow to load (image heavy).

One model that I have been using quite a bit lately is the Samsung WB500. I bought it some time ago from eBay used. Paying a little under £30 for it basically brand new in the box, I wasn't expecting that much from it in terms of performance. After the initial purchase I used it for a little while but was then distracted by other cameras I use more regularly. First impressions were that the WB500 was a decent little point and shoot, but lacked a few key qualities that I look for in certain areas. One of those being the ability to produce great close up / macro shots.

Graffiti-Characters-Samsung-WB500-Sample-Image-Review

After revisiting this camera, and now using it again for the past few months regularly, I still stand by that finding. Close up shooting, whether in manual mode, auto, or even scene mode using the specific "close up" settings, is one of the WB500's weaker points. It has a hard to time picking up the super sharp detailing when trying to take a close up image. Overall, I would say the auto focus on this camera is not the best and the user has to work that bit harder to get the results they are looking for.

Picture-Of-A-Tree-No-Leaves-WB500-Test-Image

On a side note: I've had a few point and shoot Samsung's over the years, and have found that while the Schneider - KREUZNACH lenses (that's what this model has) are generally good all rounders and are highly regarded by many people, I've found that in my experience the Samsung S.H.D lenses are far better when it comes close up / macro shots. Just something to be aware of.

Anyway, considering how cheap this camera is to buy used, and the value on offer here, those are the only negative things that really stand out to such an extent at which they are the most noticeable and worthy of pointing out. Now, in 2019, the Samsung WB500 could be considered as a little bit dated. And in some ways it is. No WiFi, a maximum resolution of 10.2 mega pixels, 10x optical zoom, and the ability to only hold up to an 8GB SD card.

CAT-D6T-LGP-Dozer-Front

However, all is not bad. 8GB is plenty to play with, a cable is perfectly fine for transferring images and footage to a computer, and 10.2mp is more than adequate of producing good quality images, at a size significantly larger than needed for most people. For such a cheap camera to buy used, there are some areas where it makes a great purchase for those on a very tight budget.

First off, the build quality. For a camera in this price bracket the build quality is really good. It looks like a more expensive camera than what it really is. The power up time is really quick, so if you see something passing by that you want to photograph, from the camera being off - to ready to go, is an extremely quick transition. It's ready to capture in 1 - 2 seconds. Battery life is also impressive, lasting anywhere from 2 - 5 hours with continuous usage. Of course, this really depends on how you use the camera, as in, how much are you using battery zapping features like zooming in and out constantly, etc.

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All images in this post Copyright © Still Paused

As mentioned above, other than close up shots being hard to complete with success, the image quality for other scenes is good, with dull days definitely being the best for picking up crisp shots in auto mode. Sunny conditions can be harder to capture in auto mode, but there are quite a few manual and scene settings built in that help eliminate glare and excessive brightness that direct sunlight can bring.

Some of the modes are excellent, but its the beauty mode "beauty shot" that stands out the most for me. It does a superb job of removing blemishes from the subjects skin. So much so, that even someone with fairly bad acne actually appears to have a smooth, largely blemish-free complexion. Great news for those who love taking selfies! Furthermore, beauty mode can also be used for capturing other subjects, not just faces, and gives certain images a nice soft, smooth look that really gives them an extra level of depth, quality and overall softness. This is a great mode.

Like most cameras the Samsung WB500 also has some common image settings that can alter how an image is capture in its entirety, like vivid, soft, forest, retro, cool, calm and classic (black and white), and of course, normal. The two that really stand out here are soft, which gives a nice smooth, almost old SLR feel to an image, and Classic (black and white). This camera can produce good results. Black and white shots are very impressive. And I have to say, in all honesty, I've seen and used some older DSLR's with image quality that can't match what the WB500 is capable of producing. That's not to say the WB500 can rival top-end DSLR's or some of the excellent Micro Four Thirds of today, because it can't. But it can still produce very acceptable results for such an easy to carry, low priced point and shoot.

Sample-Photo-WB500-Wall-Art

OK, so I've talked about the WB500's image quality and versatility, but now I want to quickly touch upon what I think is one of the best features of this camera. I've saved the best till last. The one area that has impressed me the most with this camera is its video recording capabilities. Bad points first. Again, as mentioned above regarding close up imagery, even while recording video the auto focus is somewhat slow, and it can have a hard time when filming a close up subject. The lens zooming in and out while recording video can also be heard on the clip when replaying the footage. However, for anything else, like filming a broader area, and not using the zoom, the results have been very impressive. Lately I've been using this camera to record car dashcam footage, and it has been surprisingly good.


Video quality and size can be set to 320, 640, 1280 and 1280HQ. The highest frame rate is 30 frames per second, which at 1280HQ, is capable of recording fairly smooth HD footage. Definitely good enough for uploading to websites like YouTube. Using the WB500 on the highest quality settings (1280HQ @ 30fps) I'm getting 1 hour 6 minutes of video footage from an 8GB memory card, which is not bad at all considering the quality.

Of course, the size is a dead giveaway, but sometimes this isn't exactly 100% accurate to the quality displayed when replayed in real time. Or when a loss of quality occurs by uploading the clip to websites like YouTube. However, I would estimate that 1280HQ is about the true equivalent of 720p in terms of HD quality. I say this because when uploading videos made with this camera to YouTube, that's the highest quality available from the settings once the video is live, and the videos themselves are labelled as HD by YouTube.

UK-Graffiti-Wall-Green-Blue-Sample-Picture

Moving on, there's also an optional image stabilizer which is much needed if you are filming in-hand without a tripod. For dashcam footage, although good to help with bumpy roads, it's not desperately needed due to the camera being mounted securely on a holder on the dashboard, or in my case, the front window (windshield). One negative worth mentioning regarding recording is that the camera does not save the stabilizer "on" setting. So if you want to use the stabilizer in a hurry, you will need to turn it on manually each time you turn the camera on. Unless its just my product, for some reason it doesn't save this setting once the camera has been turned off.

All things considered, the Samsung WB500 is a great little versatile camera that is definitely worthy of being on anyone's shortlist who happens to be looking for a cheap, portable camera for taking shots or recording video quickly and mostly hassle free while out and about. I've been having a lot of fun with mine. It's also been dropped a few times, but thankfully hasn't suffered any damage to the exterior or shown any electrical faults. So it's clearly well made and pretty sturdy. This is an essential, must have for me, as I'm forever dropping cameras. Great value for the money.

UK Motorway Sign Reads "Six" MPH

Just a quick picture that shows the M6 motorway speed sign showing 6 MPH. Thought it was quite strange. Six miles per hour is obviously not correct. This image was taken with a Panasonic DMC TZ3, and I believe its the camera that's at fault here. The signs not broken, and the operators of the digital sign aren't drunk. At least I hope not.


Some cameras have a hard time picking up the colour red for some reason. Pretty sure this is one of those times and the sign itself actually read 60 MPH at the time of the photo. Thought it looked quite funny though. Click the image to enlarge if you can't see it clearly.

Rollei (Rolleiflex) Historyline 98

The Rollei Historyline 98 digital camera has so far flown somewhat under the radar in countries such as America and the UK. People into camera history will no doubt be well aware of the Rolleiflex name, and hopefully, most of those people will be pleased to see the introduction of yet another digital addition to the growing Rollei product line with the Rollei Historyline 98. Old Rolleiflex cameras are iconic and instantly recognisable, and that has somewhat carried over to the present day with the Rolleiflex 24611 Mini Digi Twin Lens Reflex.

Rolleiflex-6008-HFT-Distagon

But while they look similar, some see the digital mini version (it's really small) as a bit of a gimmick and more of a novelty piece rather than a dedicated picture taker. Rollei's Historyline 98 is very different. Being fitted with a much more practical housing, it looks the same as most point and shoot cameras you see for sale these days. Feature wise, compared to the Rolleiflex 24611, it's much better too. It has a 20 Mega pixel Sony CCD Sensor, 2.7 Inch TFT Screen, 12x optical zoom, 24-288mm wide angle lens, built-in WiFi and can record HD video in 720p @ 30 fps (frames per second) at its highest setting. Image stabilizer, rechargeable battery and SD card slot also come as standard.

Like most compacts, they are well suited for taking pictures on the go. Easily concealed with minimal fuss, you don't need a big bag or holdall to take it with you on your travels. The Rollei Historyline 98 is no exception. It's a fairly small point and shoot and has all the features needed to make a good companion for taking quick snaps while out and about.


Should you buy this one over the hundreds of others?


When it comes to cameras, regardless of how much they cost, that is the million dollar question. There are just so many to choose from. However, from a price point of view, this model is not that cheap, and there are many excellent compacts that sit within its price range. Some of which are much more tried and tested, and have much better customer reviews.

Furthermore, it must be said: While the older Rolleiflex models are great, and looked at as a key part of camera history, their digitised future generations do not fare as well where user opinions are concerned. Could the 98 be an exception? There aren't too many reviews out there yet, and what is out there is quite positive, so perhaps it could be. If you want something a little bit different, from a brand steeped in tradition and history, this might be worth considering. Along with the Compactline 800 (another point and shoot by Rollei), it's available to buy on Amazon UK.

Stoga Dfun SC001 Digital Camera

The Stoga Dfun SC001 digital camera is one on a long list of cheap cameras that are produced and sold by companies located in China. The actual design of the Dfun SC001 is not unique either. It's a generic housing that many companies also operating from China are using. Other than Stoga, there's also Aberg Best, Treetech, PYRUS and PowerLead to name a few. The only real difference between them all is the occasional variation in specification, such as mega pixel count. In appearance they all look exactly the same except for the different brand names that appear on the front of a select few.

DSLR-Lens

In terms of specification the Stoga Dfun SC001 appears quite impressive for the price. 18 mega pixels, 8 x Zoom, 2.7 Inch TFT LCD screen, built in flash, SD card slot (32GB max), Lithium Ion rechargeable battery, an adjustable ISO range from 100 - 400 (as well as auto mode), and it claims to have built-in anti-shake technology. Judging by the reviews and questions most widely asked about the Stoga Dfun SC001, one of the main reasons people are interested in purchasing this camera is for their young son or daughter. This is so they can give them a cheap, early introduction into the world of taking pictures with a camera rather than using a Smartphone.

This is great, but as is the case with many cheap products such as this, what they claim to have in terms of specification usually doesn't live up what you would get in comparison to if you bought one of the top branded cameras (for the same price second hand) with the exact same specification. The image quality just isn't the same. And their track record for reliability is also not that great.

That's not to say that all branded cameras are excellent, far from it. As many people have found out the hard way, they have their fare share of poor products out there too, and some horror stories to go along with them. However, eight out of ten times you stand a much better chance of buying a good reliable camera from a well-known brand than you do from a no-namer.

The electrical components, including the image sensor, LCD screen, housing and battery are almost always far inferior to those used in the top brands, and even in Smartphones. The price may make the unknowns seem like a bargain, but its much wiser to go with something from a renown brand. And just because its a well-known brand don't think that you can't pick one up for around the same price as a brand new Stoga Dfun SC001.

You can, only it will have to be second hand. However, this is certainly the much better option. I buy second hand cameras all the time, most of which are in excellent used condition. If you haven't done so already, take a look on eBay and I think you might be surprised at just how cheap some of them are selling for.

As well as the low price, the other good thing about buying a used, well known digital camera other than getting a far more capable and potentially much longer lasting product is the reviews. Buying an old, top branded camera already has hundreds, if not thousands of customer reviews, and because the camera in question was very popular in its day, you know that the large majority of those reviews have a good chance of being genuine. A top camera brand is far less likely to write fake reviews for their products, they don't need to.

Whereas the smaller, widely unheard of brands need sales, and to get the ball rolling so to speak. So some of them pay people to write fake reviews. I'm not saying that Stoga has done this with the Dfun SC001, but in my opinion, some of their reviews on Amazon do look suspect. It's probably not a bad little camera for kids, or adults who want something cheap and cheerful to take with them on their travels, but when you can buy something better for around the same price used, or even cheaper in many cases, from a brand like Canon, Panasonic or Samsung, why take the risk.

CRYA Graffiti Orange Wording

Nice one worder. A quick Graffiti piece from the long forgotten about photo archives that I'm now finding the time to look through. CRYA, done by C.R.Y, or Jinks. Captured with a Samsung WB500 point and shooter. Location: Birmingham, UK.

CRYA-Graffiti-Orange-Wording-Lettering

Nikon P900 For Bird Photography (Birding)

When it comes to Bridge cameras, they are now widely accepted as the more versatile and affordable option for a large majority of non-professionals when it comes to features, zooming capabilities and image quality for the price. So many people want just one camera that can do it all, and with a good Bridge camera, that is basically what you get. Don't get me wrong, just like with DSLR's and everything in between, there's still a mountain of poor Bridge cameras to sift through to find the really good ones. But do some research online, read lots of reviews, and I'm sure you'll discover some of the true greats that are out there from brands like Nikon, Canon and Panasonic.

super-house-sparrow-p900
All images in this post were taken with a Nikon P900

There are so many fantastic models to choose from, but not many really blow you away like the Nikon COOLPIX P900 does. Fair enough, it has no RAW option, is rather bulky (although not overly heavy), the battery life could be better, and is far from the cheapest option out there. But that 83x optical zoom (2000mm) is something special. If its an incredible zoom you're after, you really need to look no further than the Nikon P900. Whether it be Astrophotography, Travelling, Safari, or Wildlife in general, the P900 ensures the user has the ability to get up close and personal, right in on the action. It's one of the best - one camera does it all options currently available.

chiffchaff-caught-a-fly

Most people are aware that with most cameras, the more you zoom in (especially free-hand), the harder it is to eliminate camera shake and achieve a really clear, non-blurred image. However, what's even more amazing about the P900, is that the stability when shooting without a tripod at super distances (close to full zoom) is almost as impressive as the zoom itself. Of course, excellent stabilization is no guarantee of a 100% success rate, especially when shooting at considerable zoom ranges, but it does give even novice users a significantly better chance of being able to capture spectacular images some of the time.

So as you can imagine, with an extensive zoom and superb stabilization, using this model for Bird photography (Birding) gives the user an incredible advantage for achieving crisp, sharp images that give the impression that the user was much closer than they really were. Whenever I think of the P900 I automatically think of Binoculars. Bionic Binoculars! When Bird watchers go on the look out with only a pair of Binoculars they may see a rare bird, or a species not usually seen in their location. Now, armed with just a set of Binoculars the Bird spotter will only be able to tell people about what he saw, but with the Nikon P900 the watcher can not only photograph, but actually film the whole scene and show it to interested parties whenever he or she desires.

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So in terms of capturing wildlife, it's like having a very powerful set of Binoculars that can take excellent pictures when in close to full zoom, and record high definition video footage too. Yes, you may be able to pick up a decent pair of Binoculars much cheaper, and they are lighter to carry around, but being able to actually record the event rather than just see it yourself and talk about it afterwards is so much more pleasing and rewarding.

The best settings for birding are really down to the situation, as there are an unlimited number of different shooting scenarios you may find yourself encountering. A good place to start, though, is with Birdwatching mode. Yes, the Nikon COOLPIX P900 actually has this mode built in. But be aware, this is not always a - set and forget - mode. It will work well in many situations, but be aware, that exposure levels in this mode can, and sometimes will, need to be adjusted to suit the scene. But that's the case really with any camera, regardless of what mode is being used.

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This is not hard to do, but just something to be aware of if you end up using this mode and are left disappointed because the pictures came out either really dark or with overexposure (too light). A simple adjustment was most probably needed. You could always use the clever scene auto selector mode that this model has, which is basically an auto-mode that will detect the best settings that the camera thinks most suit the subject you are shooting.

As you get to know the P900 better you can start testing out some of the different modes, and manually begin tailoring your settings to fit the subject. Settings such as shutter priority, manual / single focus, center point focus, ISO and even burst mode are fairly simple but sometimes very important tweaks for achieving the best possible image clarity and picture satisfaction (burst should give at least one or more excellent images) when birding. Like with any model, the more you learn the camera the more in-tune and familiar you will become with it, and will start to instinctively know what settings and features to use for specific scenes and subjects. Buy one, you won't regret it.