Irondad (Musings of an Intrepid Commuter) (<-- click link) recently asked me a question about a mannequin in a window and what settings I used to take the photo. Unfortunately I was on my way to a Ukelele meeting (as an observer and backup singer) and I was more interested in taking video and only had my small point & Shoot (P&S) and cell phone in my pocket whist I was walking towards the cafe. I am always on the lookout for Blog material so it occurred to me to take photos along the way. Back in the film days I used to burn a lot of B&W film and spent considerable time processing them in my dark room. Digital cameras are easier and more cost effective. I don't know if this will make sense to anyone who is not a photographer or advanced amateur but I do have professional grade equipment (Film based) which mostly sit unexercised in a drawer or camera bag somewhere, but I usually carry more than one camera with me. Most often my Canon G10, and to protect it I also have a small Canon SD780is which I use as a sacrificial lamb. The problem with P&S cameras is that they are disposable. When they break they are not worth fixing. I dislike the fact that plastic gears are used to open and close the lens and I do turn my cameras on and off a lot to conserve battery power so I decided a while back to have another small less expensive camera which I can turn on and off to my hearts delight and save the mechanism of my better camera. On my Nikon dSLR I am able to leave it on all night or all day without draining the battery, and there is no opening or closing of the lens except that you cannot easily pack it in your pocket.
What I am trying to say in a long winded way is that when Irondad asked me what settings I used, I cannot say with certainty as I have no control over the exposure function of that P&S which does all the thinking for you. The exposure values flash on the screen as soon as you achieve autofocus lock (half button press). I have been noticing that the SD780is shoots wide open at F3.2 and the shutter was probably around 1/8" or 1/4"sec
I don't use my Nikon very much but tonight decided to ride down to False Creek to take a few night shots using a couple of different lenses. To give you an idea of where I was and a glimpse of the light conditions (or lack of light) here is a short video which sets the stage.
This started out as a standard definition video 480p using a Canon FS200 flash camcorder but reduced to 230p for uploading to YouTube
For timed exposures you need a very stable tripod. Tonight I am using a Manfrotto 055 tripod. It is medium duty but very stable and I also use it for my Toyo View 45A (4x5 view camera) without any problems. For motorcycle use I mounted a tool tube and carry a Manfrotto 714B. It is very small and will fit completely inside of a backpack without protruding.
(Manfrotto 055 tripod)
In order to establish a baseline for comparison I first used the kit lens on my Nikon D80 and took this first shot
(Nikon D80, 18-135 AF G-ED: 4.5 sec @ F7.1)
I am still not used to the digital F stops. In pre digital days it would have been: F2.8, 4, 5.6,8,11 & 16 . The sweet spot of the lens is between F5.6 - F8, so I manually selected the midpoint of F7.1 . Your lens is generally sharpest at this setting and sharpness drops off on either side.
I decided to change the lens and took another shot of the same scene
(Nikon D80, 60mm AF micro Nikkor D2.8: 6 sec @ F8)
The 60mm AF micro is a Prime lens and outperforms the 18-135 AF G-ED. I tried to change the white balance to Incadessant from Auto WB but while in the field, I did not notice any difference on the camera's screen. There is mixed lighting in the photo
I decided to try the same shot using my Canon G10 in manual mode. The problem with P&S cameras is that you cannot select a specific focal length (except for the new Canon S90). I know that the Canon G10 is great in daylight with Iso below 200, but this is the first time that I have used it for night exposures
(Canon G10: 6" sec @ F 5.0)
I decided to photograph a section of the Cambie Bridge with the apartment buildings on the left
(Nikon D80, 60mm AF micro Nikkor: 8" sec @ F8)
Here is a similar shot using the Canon G10 with a wider view to see how it handles the shadows with direct lighting on the bridge
(Canon G10: 5" sec @ F5.0 WB set to Tungsten)
I pointed my camera to the left away from the bridge where there was less ambient light and used a much longer exposure to compensate
(Canon G10: 15" sec @ F5.0)
and to finish off this series of photos, I mounted my 20mm AF-D Nikkor for this last shot
(Nikon D80, 20mm AF-D: 3" sec @ F8.0)
Life is full of compromises. Sometimes it's not convenient to take your best camera with you because of weight, size or convenience and we end up using our cell phone camera because that's all we were able to stuff in our pocket. Remember: a fuzzy picture is better than no picture. Happy photographing to all of you. If you have any questions, just ask.
EDIT: I forgot to mention: The Nikon D80 was set to ISO 200,
the Canon G10 was set at ISO 100, & the SD780is was set at ISO 200
The Canon FS200 was on standard mode, without using slow shutter.
The D80 and G10 were tripod mounted. The FS200 and SD780is were handheld