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Old Jan 26, 2003, 1:10 PM   #1
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Default Canon A40 Assistance Please!

I take pictures at our Cub Scout events and at the end of the year we put together a slide show presentation. About half the pictures I take are portrait, but the other half are fast moving Scouts. I have always taken pictures with my point and shoot, but film and developing is expensive and then I have to scan all the images. I convinced the pack to purchase a Canon A40 to save time and money. I've only used it a few times in our school cafeteria but have not been extremely happy with the results. In all action shots, they are completely blurry, in portraits with an accidental movement, they are clear and blurry. At our Pinewood Derby, I used the program AE mode and used the following settings:

medium resolution
fine compression
light metering - evaluative
ISO - auto
AiAf - off
digital zoom - off
AF-assist beam - on
I've tried auto to slow synchro flash
white balance - flourescent lighting (3 wave-lenth)
exposure - 0

What's interesting is that I can take great pictures of my moving ceiling fan at almost any setting. Albeit, auto flash and ISO were the clearest. But I can't use that setting in flourescent lit cafeteria.

Any suggestions?
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Old Jan 27, 2003, 9:46 PM   #2
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Scouter,

Interesting problem. I'm no expert, but I do know that for action shots, the most important factor is shutter speed. The A40, it's been reported, always uses the lowest ISO setting (50 being the lowest) it can when ISO is set to auto and using auto or program modes. This produces better quality photo, but would force a slower shutter speed. What I'm not sure about, is the flash. I would think the flash would allow a faster shutter speed. However, if you use auto flash in a well lit room like a cafeteria, it's possible that the flash wouldn't even fire.

I would suggest experimenting with the following settings in Program mode:

ISO: 100-200 (should allow for a faster shutter speed)
White Balance: Flourescent (WB shouldn't be a factor here)
Flash: On (Always flash....not auto)
Focus mode: Portrait if within 8 feet of subject, or Landscape if beyond 8 feet.

Note: The focus modes can help if the camera can't get a "focus lock". Also, the higher the ISO, the more noise (grainy photo), so start with 100.

Another option: Manual mode:

WB: Same
Flash: On
ISO: Auto is not available in manual mode, so 50, 100, or 200. (400 is available, but produces a lot of noise)
Shutter Speed: Frame the shot and adjust to fastest speed that allows a good exposure as viewed in LCD screen. Repeat with each ISO setting.
Aperture: Only two will be available. Use larger number if you can to maintain good depth-of-field.
Focus mode: Same as Program mode.

As I said, I'm no expert, and I haven't had to shoot this exact situation, but these are settings I would try.

Dan
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Old Jan 27, 2003, 10:04 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply, I'll try your suggestion.
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Old Jan 29, 2003, 12:46 PM   #4
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If you have used a P'n'S 35mm camera and had good results, you can get about the same with digital, as long as ALL factors are the same: flash power, ISO setting, shutter speed, ambient lighting.
You cannot really "freeze" action unless it is in bright light where a high shutter speed can be used, or indoors with sufficient illumination (floods or spots), or a very strong flash unit within it's coverage area (usually an external one works best, if you have a prosumer camera that accepts it). A slave flash helps but is best suited fro portraiture, not action.
What our eyes perceive as sufficient light indoors or sometimes even out of doors, is frequently too dim for action stopping photography, even at ISO 400. One easy way to know the amount of light present is to buy a cheap exposure meter, and set it for the ISO your camera is using. It will tell you the highest shutter speed possible with the widest aperture your camera has available (usually f/3.5 with inexpensive P'n'S). If that shutter speed isn't at least 1/250 sec, you probably won't stop any action.
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Old Jan 29, 2003, 8:08 PM   #5
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I'm also the school's historian and take pictures of various school events (plays, activities, etc). I use the school's Sony Mavica 92. You're right about sufficient light in the cafeteria; while the light in the cafeteria appears the same throughout, I have noticed that the pictures that I take on the perimeter are always dark. It takes great pictures outdoors but I've had to tweak with it alot to get acceptable indoor pictures.

I guess I'm just going to have to play with it a little bit, I just hope I didn't waste the pack's money. Is there another camera you would suggest for the same price (250.00)?

Thanks for the post
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Old Jan 29, 2003, 11:11 PM   #6
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I would stick with the A40. Just make sure it has neither of the focussing issues that seem to be prevalent with that model. (Blurred at one 'step' down from full teleatch available from Canon, and noticeably more blurred on one edge than the other: need to exchange or fix camera.) If you can get one without either of those, it's a terrific little camera for the price. Use the Program or Manual setting to try the ISO at higher settings to get a faster shutter speed. The higher the ISO the more "grain" you will see in the picture, and it loses a bit of an edge in sharpness overall, but it's better than a total blur. You will have to find an ISO compromise that works.
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Old Jan 30, 2003, 6:28 PM   #7
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Mentor Ron,

Thanks for the info; I'll keep practicing.

I'd like to ask you for your opinion regarding another camera situation. My son's school wants to purchase a digital camera for every grade level. The students will use the cameras to take pictures to reinforce a particular subject. Example: If they're studying angles, they can use the camera to photograph angles and play with them in powerpoint. I liked the Kodak Easyshare system because the camera dock makes downloading easy and the cameras would be charged whenever the children needed them. However, I have since learned that the charger might drain the battery if it sits in the charger too long, do you know if this is true? I can get the the discontinued EasyshareDX3215 from our neighborhood Wolf Camera store for $149.00 each. For another $50.00, I can get the Easyshare CX 4230 from Walmart. I don't think they need anything more than the 3215, but the 4230 seems like a better deal. The 4230 has 16K internal memory versus 8K, so the students may not need to use a memory card, which can easily be misplaced by the students. What do you think?

Thanks,
Scouter
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Old Feb 7, 2003, 12:01 PM   #8
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What the children need is a camera that has an easy learning curve. Although my wife teaches grades 1/2, she is the one who has used digicams to take pictures of them and their activities. Her school district uses older Kodak and Sony digicams. I use Fuji FinePixes (1300, 2300, 2800) at home.
If the intent is not "how to operate a digital camera", but to use software to manipulate images and image structures, then the simpler the better. I also agree that, at the quality of today's cameras, an inexpensive one may do the trick. Especially if you need to buy several. Camera power, as you mention, is an issue with today's models (alkalines lose power too quickly, and NiMH lose power as they sit idle and shouldn't be overcharged or quickly charged).
The docking system is a good attempt at making it easier for the masses, both for charging and uploading. Without having actually used either Kodak model you mention, I can only suggest you read Steve's comments in his appraisal of these units. Maybe there are items of interest in the Kodak forum (I haven't checked).
Low-end cameras without docking systems require a bit of dexterity, carefulness, and understanding of how the computer recognizes devices and what to do if there is a problem with that recognition and where it is appropriate to upload the images to. They also need battery chargers, so if non-Kodak models are chosen, you don't get away with no additional cost (many people think the cost of the docks is expensive, but then they pay 2/3 of that for a good charger and lose the simplicity).
I usually don't push the low-end Kodaks for people who should get a camera to "grow into" with manual settings and adjustments, but from what I comprehend your main focus is not on camera operation and photgraphy. The picture quality the Kodaks provide should be sufficient for your current goals.
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Old Feb 7, 2003, 5:01 PM   #9
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I wanted to let you know that I've been able to practice a little more with the A40. I seemed to have the best luck in the cafeteria without the flash and using ISO 400. They are definitely grainier, but they're not blurry and washed out. I was wondering if you know of a photo editing software that might assist with the graininess problem. For what I need, Paint Shop Pro has always worked fine, but I thought if there was something else available, I'd give it a try.

Thanks for your opinion about the Kodak. It seems Steve liked both models, and I think I'm going to recommend the CX4230. I have since discovered that the teachers will using the cameras for activities as well, so the larger megapixel will be beneficial for nicer larger pictures.

Regards,
Scouter
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Old Feb 7, 2003, 9:18 PM   #10
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With my Fuji FinePixes, I got Adobe PhotoDeluxe Home Edition 4.0.
I didn't install all of my friend's A40 software on my PC, so I don't know if there was a manipulation program incuded there too.
With PhotoDeluxe:
It has three methods of removing noise:
Graininess: slider with 127 points of increasing smoothness.
Moire: 127 point slider with 360 degree angle setting
JPEG: 127 point slider with a 1:1 to 1:6 magnification viewer.
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