Olympus TG-2 Super Resolution Zoom vs Digital Zoom
Friday 28 June 2013 — Category: Equipment
This is the fifth in a series of articles exploring the capabilities of my new Olympus TG-2 “tough” pocket camera. If you missed the past articles, you can view a list of them here.
Olympus’ advertising and user’s manual for the TG-2 camera tout their “super resolution zoom” — which is somehow different from the normal digital zoom feature — but they never explain the difference. Today I took some test shots in an attempt to get to the bottom of this marketing mystery. The results were quite interesting and enlightening!
I took a picture of a newspaper page at four different zoom settings — 1x, 4x, 8x and 16x — each of which has a full-frame version and a cropped 100% magnification version below. At 8x, there is a choice between “super resolution zoom” and the regular digital zoom, so I made a version at each setting.
Contrary to the method I used in my macro test shots, I didn’t not “improve” or “fix up” these images in Photoshop. The only processing I did was to reduce the full-frame versions down to the 500-pixel-wide size shown below. Well, let’s take a look at the photos now and see what we can see.
When I first starting processing images digitally in Photoshop, I was so excited about its sharpening capabilities that I went way overboard. It has only been more recently that I’ve been pulling back significantly in an attempt to give my photos a more natural and realistic look. Pictures look too fake if they have razor sharpness, especially since sharpening often adds artifacts to the image which make it look even more unnatural. Most people’s faces simply look better if they are slightly less in focus!
The Olympus TG-2, like most consumer-level cameras, performs too much image processing, which often gives the resulting photos an overprocessed, unprofessional look. I much prefer shooting RAW images, and controlling the processing myself, using a lighter touch. This heavy-handed overprocessing is even more evident in Olympus’ highly-promoted “super resolution zoom,” as shown in the examples above. For someone like me, who is a serious amateur aiming for high-quality images, the resulting images are unsatisfactory.
In order to please its target audience, heavy image processing is one of the compromises Olympus chose to make. “Super resolution zoom” is a lot more effective as a marketing term than as a way to improve image quality! I’m having to make a lot of compromises already just to use the TG-2. I don’t need to add to that by engaging its “super resolution zoom.” I’m definitely turning that option off in the menu, and sticking solely to the 4x optical zoom, except in the case of rare photographic necessity!
On October 1, 2013, Mit F. wrote:
Thank you very much for doing this test. I just bought this camera and wanted to know whether I should turn the "Super-Res Zoom" on or off. You did just the right test and gave a great presentation of your results. I will be turning "Super-Res Zoom" off. If I want something sharpened I will do it myself in Photoshop. Excellent work. Thank you!
On April 24, 2017, Petr Baum wrote:
Thank you very much for doing this test. I just bought a TG-4 and I was curious what exactly this marketing slogan offers. You saved me lot of work. Stays OFF!! Well done, Brian.