First “Z” stories voting reminder . . . and Note 20 Ultra photos

The “Z” stories voting block is live and running . . . and not getting much love (votes). Likely, it’s because so much time had passed between the end of the “Y” stories and this round, the last of the Alphabet Challenge.

That’s right . . . as a reminder to them for whom it may not have registered, this is the last round of the challenge — hard to believe three writers wrote 26 short stories each and posted them all here, for all to read. For them who procrastinate, this really is the last chance they will have to participate in voting for their favorite.

If you’ve been a loyal reader of our offerings and someone who votes, you have the writer’s unending gratitude.

Links to the stories and the poll for voting for “Alphabet Challenge Z-Stories” are HERE(link). Votes will be accepted until  Noon (Central Time) on Thursday, April 8th, 2021.

So, Note 20 Ultra . . . .

Once again, these are presented without any editing on my part . . . no post-processing of any kind . . . and today I want to address macro photography with the Note 20 Ultra.

Let me cut to the chase . . . as pleased as I am with the phone, I’m a tad disappointed with the results when shooting Macros.

Don’t get me wrong, some of those are fine . . . but many are not focusing where I want them to, and some have foreground elements that are soft or out of focus. I’m reading that’s because of the f/1.8 lens and its narrow depth-of-field, but the Note 8 had a similar f-stop and handled closeups without any problems.

Note 8 photo of pieces of animal crackers (no animal crackers suffered during the shooting of this photo . . . although all were eaten).

Make no mistake, I’m still enjoying the phone and its cameras, but as we’ll see below, it requires more than just the usual point-and-shoot. I have some ideas as to why, but I’ll explore that later. 

For now, let me say that these two photos are better than I could have done with the Note 8 (see the setting moon beyond the trees?).

10X zoom from the 5x telephoto lens.
Main camera – the original file is 26MB and if you go to SmugMug, you can see the moon if you zoom in 100% (1:1 ratio)

As I sat outside, the 5x zoom captured this next photo of a rabbit that stood frozen for at least 3-4 minutes in the hopes its immobility would render it invisible. In fact, I was waiting for it to bolt so I could capture it in slow-motion, and I gave up before it did.


By the way, all of the photos are output at 1280-pixels for their longer dimensions. Click on them to see the larger version. 

The thing is, at the screen resolution, these macro photos look fine, but at full size, they are soft and with fewer details than I would expect. 

Plus, these were shot carefully whereas I used to just point the phone at something and capture stuff that looked good even at a mild magnification. 

So, here are two photos where what I saw on the screen — sharp subject with decent depth of field — did not translate into what you see here. 

Now, these next two photos are of the same rock, but I shot them in “Pro” mode where I controlled the focus, aperture, and shutter speed.

Now, this is a little larger field-of-view, so the object appears smaller, and thus, sharper.
. . . but no. I could focus closer in the “Pro” mode and the results were better (sharper with more details).

I don’t understand why I can’t get the same results that I get in the second set when shooting in “Auto” mode. As sophisticated as the cameras are (they recognize various settings and switch to the appropriate camera), they should do better than I can do employing cumbersome manual settings. 

Now, I have an idea as to why this is happening . . . but, before I put forth my hypothesis, here’s another photo taken earlier this month using the Note 8.

Note 8 photo.


Here’s a similar photo from this morning taken with the N20U . . . 

Note 20 Ultra photo


OK, it’s difficult reproducing the same conditions, angles, and focus distance three weeks after the original was shot. But, comparing the two, I prefer the first photo over the second. It looks cleaner, sharper, neater, showing more details. 

And, it’s not like I didn’t try multiple times, attempting to snap a “good” photo . . . Here’s a gallery of the Note 8 photo and my attempts using the “Photo” (automatic) option for the camera(s).

I then resorted to the “Pro” mode and got these two shots . . . which, again, look OK here but are less impressive at their native sizes. 

N20U Pro mode
N20U Pro mode

My hypothesis? It has to do with the density of the receptors in the sensor and the size of the sensor. I see a similar thing when I compare the photos from the D100 DSLR and the D7500 DSLR. By any metric you want to look at on paper, the D7500 is miles ahead (or 20 years ahead) of the D100, but many of the D100 photos look very good and, depending on the photo, look better than the equivalent D7500 photo . . . and the reason is that the D100 is a 6MB camera, and the D7500 is a 20MB camera.  

Remember where I said that smaller pictures look sharper? That’s mostly true when looking at something on a screen, but it’s an illusion . . . smaller photos don’t offer the opportunity for you to zoom in and see that the subject is blurry or out-of-focus. That’s because your brain takes up the slack when your information is limited.

I don’t know if this will show on a phone, but here’s an example. 

Output as a smaller photo.


click for larger size

Notice how much softer the second photo is when viewed larger. Here’s another example:

Output as a smaller photo
click for larger size

Anyway . . . I plan to keep playing with the phone and master it to where nearly all the photos I shoot will satisfy my . . . pickiness. 

Here’s a gallery of the above:

This LINK will take you to the SmugMug gallery that has the full-size versions of the above.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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