Chrismakwanzakah 2007 Photos

Dad Smiling on the Couch

I saw my parents and brother over Chrismakwanzakah (well, mostly Christmas, in this case) and I took some shots during my visit. As it worked out, I took 44 shots and I’ve posted six of those. (Ok, laugh it up, fuzzball. Yeah, I know it’s March.)

I like to post just those shots that I’m happy with, so it’s par for the course that I end up posting fewer shots than the number of times I happened to have hit the shutter. Still, I usually aim for a higher ratio than this. What happened, as I discovered, is that while some people can hold hold a shot at 1/30 of a second, well, I’m apparently not one of those people. Candid shots are my bread-and-butter and hand-holding the camera goes right in line with that.

You may have heard that old adage about taking 1/ focal length to estimate the minimum shutter speed at which a handheld shot can remain acceptably sharp. (For instance, according to the adage, an 80mm focal length would need at least a 1/80 sec shutter speed in order to have a good chance of being sharp.) That’s said to be true for 35mm film, but the math does need to be updated a bit for digital cameras. Due to their smaller sensors, the “1/ ” part needs to multiplied by the crop factor of the camera (which is typically about 1.6 for Canon bodies and 1.5 for Nikon bodies).

Since I was shooting most of the time with my 50mm lens, the rule would suggest that I’d need a shutter speed of at least 1/75 sec. in order to get a good chance at a sharp image. Well, with the caveat that everyone is a little different — and some people may be able to hold a camera more steadily than I can — I can confirm that the rule is a pretty good guideline. Or, put another way, that would explain why the dozen or so otherwise-good shots (that happened to have a shutter speed of 1/30 sec.) didn’t have the sharpness I was looking for.

If I’m in a similar situation again, I think I’ll try increasing my ISO speed; most of my not-sharp shots were taken with an ISO of around 200-320 and there probably wouldn’t have been much to lose if I had increased the ISO to 400 or even 800. (Since doubling the ISO value captures twice as much light, those forget-about-it shots at 1/30 sec. might have been saved by a 1/60 sec. shutter speed.) I’d probably hesitate to use ISO 1600 if I could help it (as that’s when digital noise can start getting in the way), but from what I’ve read, most modern DSLRs can handle ISO 800 with only trivial (if any) levels of noticeable noise.

5 thoughts on “Chrismakwanzakah 2007 Photos

  1. I have a Pentax K10D, which I like a lot for its in-body image stabilization. Pretty much the only time I get blurry pictures is when the subject is moving or if I’m shooting in very low light and the shot requires a very long exposure. I think my camera gives me about 2-3 extra stops of hand-holdability, which would be like going from ISO 200 to ISO 800 or 1600, without the noise penalty.

    The thing that’s great about in-body stabilization is that you don’t have to re-pay for stabilization capabilities with each lens you buy and you can take advantage of stabilization even when using old 35mm film lenses. From what I gather, theoretically, optical stabilization can be better (and has the benefit that you see its effects in your viewfinder) but having to pay extra for it with every lens you buy is painful. Plus, it seems to me that while in-lens stabilization can fix shaking in pitch and yaw, only CCD shift stabilization could theoretically fix shaking in roll (that is, rotation around the optical axis) as well.

    I’ll be interested in seeing whether Canon and Nikon introduce CCD shift stabilization into any of their cameras. It would be a compelling feature on their consumer DSLRs – a market segment in which people are unlikely to spend as much again as they spent on the camera body for a lens with optical stabilization.

    In any case, I like the pictures that you posted (especially the champagne flute in front of the lights), though I’m a little disappointed there aren’t any pictures of Adrian…

  2. You make some good points there, Colin. Indeed, it would be convenient if I didn’t have to buy image stabilization as part of every lens. As it would happen, I went for a Canon body for some of the features it offered, but I may have lost out in this area.

    Oh, and fwiw, I probably took about half a dozen pictures of Adrian, but as it turns out, those were some of the shots that I lost due to camera shake. D’oh :(.

  3. It’s interesting to me that you switched from Nikon to Canon. People often talk about being “married” to a particular brand because of the investment they have in lenses. What features were important enough to you to switch and what did you do about lenses?

    I ended up going with the K10D mainly because it offered great build quality, a large and satisfying grip, and a broad (and useful) feature set at a great price. The price was actually a big factor, since I’m still operating on a graduate student stipend. Once I graduate, I would consider a more expensive camera (maybe full-frame sensor if the prices come down a bit), but I do like the in-camera stabilization, so I’ll be interested to see how the Canon and Nikon lines develop over the next few years.

  4. There were a handful of features that swayed me from my Nikon D80 to the Canon 40D. The primary one, as it turns out, was Canon’s exposure philosophy (or Nikon’s, depending on your point of view). What I found was that the D80 tended to expose for the shadows within a scene and let the highlights fall where they may. That’s one way to do things, but it also meant that it tended to blow out my highlights very easily if it was dealing with a scene that had both light and dark elements.

    The 40D, from what I had read, was more likely to expose for highlights (and, especially for landscape shots or even just ordinary sky shots, that helped me get more shots that were properly exposed). As an additional feature, the 40D also has an optional “Highlight Tone Priority” which explicitly makes an effort not to blow out highlights.

    Those were the main bits, but there were also a few smaller features which were nice to have. The 40D offers an image preview option in which it can blink any highlights which have been blown. Admittedly, the 40D isn’t the only DSLR with that feature, but what I found especially nice is that the 40D’s “blinking highlights” can be enabled for any of the image preview modes; so, for instance, the histogram mode can also display any blown highlights by blinking those parts of the image within the smaller thumbnail that’s shown next to the histograms.

    Another feature (and this might not be exclusive to Canons, either) is that — if you’re in aperture or shutter priority — the 40D will blink an indicator within the viewfinder if you’ve selected an aperture or shutter speed which isn’t able to properly expose the scene. So, for instance, if you’re taking a picture of a waterfall and you’d like to blur the water with a low shutter speed, you can select Shutter Priority and then just dial down the shutter speed, notch by notch. If or when you get to a point where the shutter speed would be too slow, where there’s no longer an appropriate corresponding, the camera blinks an indicator within the viewfinder just to let you know. (And, at that point, you can just back it off a notch.)

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