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Old May 22, 2004, 6:27 PM   #1
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I like to take photos at night in the city. Is it important to be able to manually set a long shutter speed or will the "night portrait" scene mode found on many cameras be sufficient??

I'm trying to choose my first digital camera and have narrowed it doen to the Nikon coolpix 3700 or the Canon Powershot SD110.
The Canon lets you set the shutter speed manually, the Nikon does not, but maybe the "night portrait" scene mode would be sufficient.
Any info appreciated
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Old May 24, 2004, 11:37 AM   #2
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If you really take the night shots seriously (which it seems like you do, you asked this question after all) then I think that the night portrait scene mode wouldn't be good enough.

I don't know how it works in that camera (I haven't used it) but it seems to me that different cities and situtions would require different settings, so unless that night portrait" scene mode is really good about detecting differences in the scene and choosing the propler settings (proper for you) I wouldn't go with it.

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Old May 24, 2004, 2:34 PM   #3
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I think I'll go with the Canon, at least with the ability to alter the shutter speed manually I could experiment and find something that works.

If anyone has used either of these cameras, or something similar in the same price range, at night I'd be grateful to hear about it.
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Old May 24, 2004, 4:29 PM   #4
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Being able to set the shutter speed manually and not the aperture is called shutter priority. You need the ability to set aperture manually, also. (e.g. full manual mode). For a typical city street scene at night, a good starting point is 30 seconds at f8 using ISO 100. If your lowest ISO setting is 200 then try the exposure at 15 seconds at f8. Plan on bracketing your shots. Try varying the time (e.g. 5, 15, 30 seconds) while leaving the aperture and ISO unchanged. If you find that all three are too bright, try 1 sec, 5 sec and 15 seconds. f8 will usually give the sharpest image.

Another important point on night shots is to use manual focus. Most auto-focus systems don't work too well at night.
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Old May 26, 2004, 3:11 PM   #5
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The night portrait mode on most cameras is designed for taking a picture of someone against a night background. It uses a flash to illuminate the subject, then keeps the shutter open for around 1 second usually to let the background details burn in. You have to tell the person to be still after the flash fires. If you have no person in front then the flash is awaste. I say get the Canon. I wouldn't ever geta camera that doesn't give me P, Av, Tv, M because it's nice to have the control when you need it and most of the Nikon coolpix digicams don't offer that. Actually the SD110 doesn't either. It only gives you limited controls to get to a long shutter and you have to go through a few menus. I would suggest looking at the Canon A75. It has the same resolution and price and the manual controls are way better. Maybe a little larger in size but it is still quite compact.
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Old May 26, 2004, 6:57 PM   #6
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jbmh wrote:
I like to take photos at night in the city. ...
The meaning of f/stops, shutter speed, and ISO are the same for digital and chemical cameras. Since you take pictures with a chemical camera, you know what settings you need. You will need the same for digital.

Likely you are using a tripod, fairly low f/number, slow shutter speed, and reasonably high ISO. The problem with many digital cameras is noise: roughly analogous to grain in film. Unlike film, long exposures with digital increases noise so watch that issue in any digital camera you are considering.

You might also be interested in Max Lyons' synthetic long exposure technique: see http://www.tawbaware.com/imgstack.htm
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Old May 27, 2004, 4:49 PM   #7
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Thanks for all the help. I've been reading around and came across some reviews of the Canon A75. I didn't expect to find so many manual controls on a compact digicam at that price.

I've got to make sure it's not too bulky for me (this camera will be travelling around Europe in a tent, so it has to be compact and inexpensive) but i reckon the A75's features are worth a little extra size/weight.

That image stacking technique looks very interesting indeed, i will definitely try it out.
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