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Old Jan 18, 2004, 2:19 PM   #1
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Default Night shots/no flash-what are the best settings? S414

I am new to the forum so please bear with me as I do not see any other posts relevant to my question.
I just bought a Minolta S414 and I wanted to know what the best Manual settings would be to take an outside night shot with just lighting from a street light. I tried taking 2 shots.
The first shot I used the finest/largest settings (JPEG) in full auto mode, with no flash and used the 10 second timer.
The second shot I used the TIFF setting in full auto mode, no flash, 10 second timer. Both shots I used a tripod.
Both of these shots came out blurry! Forget about the noise.... The TIFF shot was the worst.

If anyone can give me some advice it is appreciated. If you would like to see the picture I shot (I deleted the TIFF but can re-take), plese let me know. Thanks in advance for your input.

-Ed
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Old Jan 18, 2004, 2:45 PM   #2
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Ed:

I don't own your camera, but here are a few general tips:

Try shooting using a smaller aperture. This helps to reduce any CA.

Your problem may also be focus related. It's my understanding that your camera has manual focus. You may need to use it, setting focus to infinity (since it may not be able to focus outdoors at night).

You will need to experiment with shutter speeds. Often times, if you overexpose a photo with night lights in it, you get too much in the way of halos around the lights, which makes it look out of focus.
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Old Jan 18, 2004, 6:59 PM   #3
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I've got a S414. It can make really nice pics - BUT you have to drive it and it's prone to mistakes in its auto modes!

.......Try shooting using a smaller aperture. This helps to reduce any CA. ........ Sorry Jimc but this cam has lower CA than the A series Canons I tried, that was why I chose it. This little hard to drive cam has the Minolta special lens.

Mr Ed. The shooting mode, TIFFS/JPEG shouldn't make much difference at the mo. Choose highest quality JPEG (just over 2Mb file sizes for 4 Mpix). Use manual. Set 200 ASA, use a tripod. Auto white balance is useless in low light, use tungsten if that's around in your shot, or you could set a custom setting - BUT make it fixed. Sodium discharge street lights are tricky. Next comes the focus. Forget Auto. Set the approx distance manually using the distance display. Remember that with the lens wide you will get lots of tolerance - use zoom sparingly as your distance estimate needs to be more accurate as you go tele.

Now for flash - forget it, unless you're close (like no more than 2 metres!) then preset the white balance manually to 'daylight'. If flash fires taking any outside shots, you must have set the flash to auto flash mode. I found this a disaster in full auto mode (you can't preset a daylight white bal), as their flash white balance seems wrong and can make your outdoor pics look too warm. Now I only use Manual Program or full Manual modes with a daylight WB when shooting flash.

As I said, the S414 is a nice (bit heavy) camera with a few criticisms and flaws. But for its Mpix and price it has a nice lens. It will fall down if you push it on difficult shots (which night shots can be) - this is probably true of most other compacts. What I liked about the S414 when I take general pics, is the clean edge detail and low jpeg artefacts in SHQ mode. Although compared to other cams, I felt Minolta have been conservative with sharpening. That's OK, you just add a but more in editing. Once you can get focussed pics, you may have to consider noise reduction software like NeatImage to improve your night shots. VOX
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Old Jan 18, 2004, 7:39 PM   #4
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VOX,
Glad you have the same camera! I am new to the digital camera scene, and chose this camera wisely. So far it has not let me down, I have mostly been using it in full auto mode, and decided to play around with it for night shots.
I will take your suggestions tonight and see what happens. I'm sure as I go I will have other questions, but I just want to solve this one for now. I'll be in touch!
Thanks also to Jim!

-Ed
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Old Jan 19, 2004, 12:57 PM   #5
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VOX,
I took your advice yesterday and re-took the shot with your suggested settings. The picture came out great! I also shot it again, but this time I changed the manual zoom to infinity, and adjusted the aperture to aperture priority and came out with the same results.
Two questions: 1. The lights look as though they are "exploding", the lights come out really bright. If I adjust the exposure compensation, can I reduce this "exploding" lighting effect? 2. How can you set a "custom" white balance?
Thanks again.

-Ed
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Old Jan 19, 2004, 8:37 PM   #6
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The 'exploding light effect' sounds like too much exposure (shutter or aperture). It sounds like you are still using auto exposure mode even with aperture priority. Run everything manual, you can still see the 'normal' exposure indicator - but don't assume it will tell the truth because it assumes an even average brightness in multi segment mode. Have a look at the spot metering option and read up on it. Exp compensation is only an offset for this. Because night shots can be a few highlights and darkness, auto exposure metering often goes wrong in most cameras - fireworks are a good example. Start to use the histogram feature. It's not an exposure indicator as such, but gives added useful info since you can't always spot over exposure easily on the lcd. For what you're doing, try under exposing IN FULL MANUAL to move the height of the spike on the far right a bit to the left - preferably, shortening shutter time with full aperture, but if you've no movement in low light - then best to reduce ISO first to keep noise down, then correct exposure upwards afterwards in editing.

Custom white bal is at the bottom of the white bal choices. Haven't used it, but usually on most cams you point the camera towards a light source or grey card and capture a frame to set it, some cams allow you to put in numbers corresponding to the light colour temperature. See what's in the manual. Don't expect to get absolute perfect balance with difficult lighting. Editing can bring back reasonable errors easily.

What I am suggesting takes you off point and shoot fly by wire Auto mode, because the type of shots you seem to be doing do need some photography knowledge and skill. But with a digicam you could take 20 shots at different exposure and get some good one's. Shooting outdoor fireworks is a bit like this as well. Good luck. VOX
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Old Feb 12, 2004, 10:22 PM   #7
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Default S414 and Night Shooting

MrEd, I would suggest that before shooting; you get a spot reading in aperture priority mode at f8 on the area in the photo that is most important to you. Then use the shutter setting it displays after you change to full manual mode for taking your shot. Make sure it's not an area that is lit very low or very much. It should be somewhere inbetween the lighting extremes in the photo - or the rest will be very over/under exposed.Choose an area of lighting that is a "happy medium".I'm new to the S414 myself but not photography . I'm rather disappointed with the camera's performance - myself. It's ok for subjects that are relatively close and dont have a lot of detail like brick buildings or skyline pictures of a city from across a river. A lot of digital hash with any thing with close "lines" in the subject. I also find it doesnt focus well at all in "infinity" (landscape). Nothing seems to be sharp or in focus enough. When a digital camera can produce sharpness like a 35 mm lens I'll be convinced. Until then its just a convenience for certain non- challenging situations and not much more can be expected from digital cameras in general- unless of course- you have 10 grand to spend on a pro Kodak, Nikon, or Canon digital camera. I don't lol Good luck with your night shooting !
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