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Old Aug 31, 2010, 8:31 AM   #1
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Default Nikon S6000 flash/shutter speed

Hello. I was experimenting with the Nikon S6000 I bought, and noticed that it seems to select a much slower shutter speed than I would have expected with flash. For example, I took a photo of a box of crayons, and the exif data shows a shutter speed of 1/25, f/3.7 ISO-200. I ended up having to return that camera because there was a huge speck of something inside the lens. I'm considering repurchasing it, but I'm concerned about this slow shutter speed. My Canons never seem to want to go below 1/60 with a flash, and the same shot with a flash from a Canon A3000 was taken at 1/60 f/8 ISO-200. Will 1/25 sec. stop normal action (say, kids moving around, but not actually running)?

Also, I am wondering about the "motion detection" Nikon advertises. Their write-ups mention "subject movement" as well as camera shake. Does anyone have any experience of when/if this works?

Thanks

Jen
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Old Aug 31, 2010, 8:56 AM   #2
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Jen:

It depends on how dark the room is (if it's darker like a typical home at night would be with average lighting, then 1/25 should be fine for freezing action when using a flash at lower ISO speeds). If it's brighter (like you may have with sunlight coming in through closed blinds during the day), then a slower shutter speed might cause some issues.

The idea is that the settings being used should result in an underexposed image (too dark) without a flash if you want the flash to freeze the action.

Then, when the flash fires, it properly illuminates the subject. Because the flash burst length is very short (usually 1/1000 second or faster), and the subject is only properly illuminated during that short flash burst length, it has the same impact as using a very fast shutter speed (e.g. 1/1000 second), freezing action.

Where a slower shutter speed can get you in trouble shooting moving subjects is when the camera settings allow too much ambient light into the image (as in a brighter interior during the daytime). Then, you may run into blur from subject movement and ghosting issues if the subject is properly exposed from light sources other than the flash.

They probably decided to select a slower shutter speed by default to let a bit more ambient light into the image (so that the background is not as dark). But, you'd have to try it in various conditions to see if they're adjusting shutter speed with flash to better match the conditions you're shooting in.
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Old Aug 31, 2010, 10:29 AM   #3
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Thanks for your reply. I double-checked and the photos of the crayons were taken in the same location (kitchen table) at roughly the same time (1pm) with moderate light coming in from the east-facing deck door. I did find one other test photo I kept that used the 1/25 shutter speed f/3.7 and ISO-400, when I took a picture of my son inside the car on a bright day (I was standing in front of the car door, I don't think I changed the metering either). In this case, it did not freeze the motion of his hand as he was playing Nintendo. Theoretically, do you know if the Nikon's (or any cameras ) logic should be different if set to AutoFlash vs. Fill Flash, or is flash always treated the same? I'm torn about returning the A3000 and getting the Nikon, since the latter has a movie button and 720p video, which is nice. I have an A95 which stills works good but no decent video mode, and an SX20, but needed something more portable and not too pricey for day trips with kids when I have alot of other junk to carry. And my kids never sit still, ever!

Thanks again
Jen
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Old Aug 31, 2010, 10:40 AM   #4
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Try the modes to see how they behave.

Fill Flash is probably exposing for ambient light (so, it may use slower shutter speeds than desired, resulting in more blur from subject movement). Auto Flash may work differently, depending on how a given manufacturer decided to implement it. In darker conditions, 1/30 to 1/60 second is going to be typical for how most cameras set shutter speed with flash.

With cameras that Manual Exposure, you may find that it's much easier "dial in" the look you want, versus figuring out the differences in how they're auto modes work.

For example, use higher ISO speeds and/or slower shutter speeds and/or wider aperture settings (smaller f/stop numbers) if you want the flash to contribute less and ambient light to contribute more.

Or, do the opposite and use lower ISO speeds and/or faster shutter speeds and/or narrower apertures if you want the flash to contribute more of the light versus ambient light from other sources.

That way, you're making the decisions instead of the camera (as sometimes I would prefer more ambient light to help prevent a "deer in the headlights" look you can get in darker conditions using the built in flash with many models, since you don't have enough ambient light contributing to an exposure).

So, with a model that has manual exposure, just set the ISO speed, aperture and shutter speed to match what cameras you like better would use in the same conditions. IOW, if you find that the Auto modes don't do what you prefer, I'd consider a model with good manual exposure features.
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Old Aug 31, 2010, 11:05 AM   #5
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Thanks again. I'll have to experiment with the Canon and an old Nikon L20 we have and see if it they use different settings/logic for Fill vs. Auto Flash. So far this morning I haven't been able to detect any. Of course, since I am looking at inexpensive P&S cameras (<=$200), I realize I won't be able to get fully manual control. If my trusty old A95 (which Canon repaired outside of warranty for faulty CCD, thank you Canon!) had a decent video mode, I probably wouldn't be in the market for a new camera at all!

And thank you for pointing out how ambient light affects the ability of the camera to stop motion. I didn't know that, though now of course, it seems obvious! And also something a P&S probably can't overcome.

Jen

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Old Jan 17, 2011, 10:52 PM   #6
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-->OneMorePic, I hope you found the answer to your question. The trouble I have with the S6000 is that it has no manual modes and just a few over-rides. I did find an interesting correlate to your observation, though.

In low light, at maximum wide angle, flash "always on," the default settings of the camera become f3.7, 1/25. This actually worked well inside a dimly-lit skating rink because the flash froze the action. What I have been disappointed with are high-ambient light conditions where the camera decides to use 1/25 and I get motion artifact.

Strangely enough, in looking through a series of shots at that skating rink, I noticed that when the camera was at maximum telephoto, the settings became f5.6, 1/60. This makes no sense to me, but it does suggest that one way of gaining control over your shutter speed is to turn on the flash and go to maximum zoom. I tried a few variations of this and it seems to work. Unfortunately, you can not get a faster shutter speed than 1/60.
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Old Jan 17, 2011, 10:55 PM   #7
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Oh, and by the way, ISO made no difference in those settings. They remained the same at 400 vs 3200.
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Old Jan 20, 2011, 12:32 PM   #8
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As noted, the flash duration is of the order of 1/1000 or faster. The problem with trying to use a fast shutter speed with the flash is that the shutter might not be completely open when the flash goes off. That is esp true with focal plane shutter found in dSLRs.
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