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Old Nov 19, 2011, 1:04 PM   #1
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Default Digital camera to shoot plays/musicals

I know an SLR is what I need, but my budget is digital (@$100 - $250), so I know there are limits to what I can find.

I need a camera to take photos of stage performances from the audience. My kids are in choir and school plays.....so dark theater and at a distance are my challenges.

Any suggestions?

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Old Nov 19, 2011, 1:44 PM   #2
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There are three factors that affect exposure:
  • Aperture - The amount of light that is allowed to pass through the lens to the image sensor
  • Shutter Speed - The length of time the sensor is exposed to light
  • ISO - The sensitivity of the sensor to light.
When you increase the ISO too much, you get image noise. The range of acceptable ISO settings varies with the camera, but generally, larger sensors produce less noise at the same ISO than smaller sensors.

When you decrease the shutter speed, you get motion blur due to subject movement. The shutter speeds you can get away with depend on the activity you're trying to capture, the distance from the subject and the angle of view (the 35mm equivalent focal length) of the lens. If the activity is fast paced (sports, dance, etc.) you'll need a fast shutter speed, especially if you're close and zoomed in. If the subject is standing still, or far away and you've zoomed out, then you can get away with a longer shutter speed.

If you're not going to go with a dSLR, there's not much you can do about the aperture. At telephoto focal lengths, you're largest aperture will be f/5.6 or so, so you'll need to make up for using less light, by using a longer shutter speed (risking motion blur) and/or by increasing the ISO (risking image noise.)

Good luck.
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  • 'Full Frame' is the new 'Medium Format'.
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Last edited by TCav; Nov 19, 2011 at 1:51 PM.
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Old Nov 19, 2011, 1:53 PM   #3
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G'day Theresa

Firstly - Welcome to Steve's ... there is lots of knowledge & experience here and others here are happy to help beginners like yourself

Theatre photography - incl school productions can be fun, tho it does need a bit of practice and a capable camera certainly does help

My specs for a "capable camera" would be:-
> zoom lens of 10x to 18x range
> ISO [film speed] range up to 1600
> EV adjustments to +/-2 EV
> viewfinder/eyepiece preferred to only LCD screen
> tripod mount available [all cameras have one]

At an initial glance around, the following cameras have the above AND are in your price range [There may well be others]
>> Canon SX150
>> Fuji S-2950
>> Olympus VR320 [but has no eyepiece, only LCD screen]

From many years of shooting school productions, you will need your camera off to the side of the auditorium and on a tripod. You will need to set the camera to "White Balance = Tungsten and EV = -1EV and ISO = 1600 and on-camera flash = OFF". These settings are easy to find in the camera's menu &/or someone can help you set them.

Hope this helps - and happy shooting !
Regards, Phil
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Old Nov 19, 2011, 6:53 PM   #4
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TCav and Phil-
Thank you so much for the explanation and the recommendations. I had been reading reviews and because I am unfamiliar with the terminology, it all starts to get jumbled together.

TCav, your explanations help so much!! Now I can start to understand what I am reading in the reviews and know what is pertinent for my needs.

Phil, your "checklist" of what I need to look for and recommendations are terrific. I also appreciate your help in knowing how to set the camera once I find one.

I will print out your posts and go searching!

Thanks so much!
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Old Nov 20, 2011, 7:01 AM   #5
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Honestly, it's very difficult and costs a lot more than you have in your budget to get high-quality stills in the circumstances you describe.

I would look for a video camera with your budget.
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Old Nov 20, 2011, 9:55 AM   #6
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I have a dSLR and found such shots difficult. We asked, the the school obliged, to turn the gym's lights on during the show and the photos turned out much better for everyone.
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