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Old Jan 4, 2006, 10:51 PM   #1
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When I got home from work last night it was rather comfortable outside (for this time of year), so I went out and played with the FZ30 as the sun went down. By the time I got out the door the sun was already too far gone to get a sunset picture, so I used the opportunity to test out the low light capabilities of the camera, particularly how far the image stablization could be pushed.

All these shots were taken hand held, standing up, not leaning on anything. They've been brightened up a bit and obviously resized, but no cleanup was done.

This was one of the first shots I took. ISO 200, 1/13 shutter speed... I think it was about 4x zoom. Can someone explain how to translate the EXIF data as far as zoom goes? Full zoom tends to show up as 88mm. Anyway, 1/13 is kid's stuff with this camera. Let's push a bit harder;

ISO 100, 1/2 shutter speed, zoomed all the way out. When you get slower than 1/13 you really gotta cut back on the zoom, like go as far back as you can. At 1/2 second, don't zoom at all if you want any hope of getting a clear image.

The shot is a bit deceptive, it was much darker than it appears in the image. Here's the same scene a few seconds later with the flash;

Even with the flash, I did a 1/3 second exposure. I don't know if that was really necessary, but I think it might be the cause of that surreal look in the background.

Don't try this at home kids, you might hurt yourself. ISO 100, 1 second exposure. Yep, hand held, standing upright in the middle of the road. It took a bunch of tries to get a good one, but most of the other tries were portraits which I don't think is nearly as easy to do.

I think luck had a lot to do with that capture. You can do a 1 second exposure and get a clear shot even if there is too much jitter because sometimes the jitter only shows up as a faint ghost when you zoom in real close. When you photograph bright lights however, it isn't quite so forgiving.

Too bad the white balance made everything so orange. Fortunately, that was just the JPG that accompanied the RAW file I took. Here's what ACR did with the image;

I prefer to shoot in JPG with this camera, but RAW is a good idea if you're unsure about your white balance. Later that night I corrected the white balance and then my JPGs were looking just as good as the RAW images. From what I can tell, RAW does not enable any additional recovery from low exposures, at least nothing I can detect. A severely underexposed JPG or RAW file will both have too much noise to be able to clean it up.

Anyway, back to the long exposure thing, if you're curious about the technique I used, it's basically this:

Use stablization mode 2. Before you shoot, prepare the focus, white balance, and exposure. Manual mode or shutter priority mode are probably the only good modes for this. For shots slower than 1/13, the less zoom you use the better. Even at 1/13, full zoom is possible but tricky and may take a few tries. For 1/2 second and slower, I never succeed unless I zoom all the way out.

Use the histogram when you preview the shot to get an idea of how much detail you'll be getting. If you're using ISO 80 or 100, getting half the histogram to fill up will get you a nice exposure. I don't recommend using ISO 400. ISO 200 seems ok for shots 1/2 speed or faster, but if you can do ISO 100, definitely go for it. If you're not sure that your white balance is accurate, use RAW and fix it later.

When you preview your shot and you think it looks good, prepare by standing upright, facing directly towards your target. Your feet should be somewhat spaced apart. Bring your elbows close together so that your arms are tight against your sides. Hold onto the lens barrel tightly with your left hand (about as tight as you'd grip a soda can), hold the grip firmly with your right, press the camera to your face and peer through the EVF. I think it helps to push your face forward a bit as well, but maybe that's just my preference.

If you are doing a very long exposure, try either holding your breath, or what I prefer, slow your breath and either inhale or exhale through the duration of the shot. If you inhale then exhale while shooting, that can shake the camera. When you're ready, press and hold the shutter button. Don't let go, just use that pressure as part of the pressure you're applying to your face to steady the camera. If the screen blanking disorients you, you can try keeping both eyes open and looking at the bottom left corner of the screen. You may be able to line it up with something you see with your left eye.

That's pretty much all I've figured out for steadying my shots. I don't know if my hands are steadier than anyone else's, but I hope that this technique can be helpful to whoever tries it. If anyone finds success while trying this, especially if you couldn't achieve good results before, please let me know, I'd really like to hear about and see some samples. If anyone knows any better techniques definitely let me know.
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Old Jan 5, 2006, 3:36 AM   #2
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Thanks for interesting details and photos, Corpsy!

According to Panasonic, the stabilizer should be able to handle hand-shake of up to 10% of the image surface which is another way of telling the qualitythan the more usual'3 exposure steps'.

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Old Jan 5, 2006, 10:38 AM   #3
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Interesting info, thank you.
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Old Jan 5, 2006, 11:12 AM   #4
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1 second exposure, f5.2, iso200, 48mm zoom, FZ20

The Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal Canada.

Using a steel fence post as a quasi-monopod with the camera balanced on top (no flat area to help it stay still), 2 sec countdown timer to trigger shutter (to avoid shake from finger on shutter button), and breath held. Post processed with levels, high pass USM, cropped.

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Old Jan 5, 2006, 11:23 AM   #5
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Good stuff now if I can just put it in practice.
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