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Old May 4, 2012, 11:15 AM   #1
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Default Digital Terminology and How To Use

I was a photographer in the late 60s and early 70s. I knew apertures, shutter speeds, film speeds, light meters and the basic things we used.

Now I have owned several P&S cameras, most recently Optio, DMC TS1 and TS2. Some of my photos were quite acceptable, but many had problems that I could not figure out why. Old farts like me, who knew basic old stuff were not of any help.

For example, many photos had colored pixels in the wrong places. I'll attach a sample. In this case I was zoomed in and may have cropped the photo. I see red and green dots in the bark of dark tree limbs, and it is quite pixelated. I don't remember problems like these 40 years ago.

But, my problem is much larger. I know nothing about using white balance and other features I see on the cameras. The manuals that came with the cameras did not help at all. Can any of you direct me to a place or places, like web sites or books, where I can get simple explanations. I'd rather read than look at slowwww videos.

I'm about to buy a new camera in the $400 to $500 dollar range (better lens and some manual controls), will soon be retired, and would like to learn to use it better than I am currently able to. I'd rather dig in all at once than just wait for a series of articles in a magazine. I'll do that later, after I have a better base of knowledge.

Thanks.
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Old May 4, 2012, 1:00 PM   #2
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First of all, everything you know from your days with film still applies. There are some new things going on with digital cameras that film isn't capable of, however.

For instance, "White balance" is an attempt to digitally correct for variations in color temperature. In the days of film, you'd select a film for the type of light you expected to shoot in (Daylight, Tungsten, etc.) or use filters to correct it (80A, 85B, etc.) Now (for the most part) the camera can figure it all out after the fact, using the Auto WB setting. And if you want to correct for yourself, you can dial in the correction, or set a custom white balance by shooting a neutral (white or gray) subject as a sample.

As for the little colored dots in the darker portions of your image, that's "Image noise". Digital image sensors consist of millions of tiny photoreceptors that count photons. Photons aren't very big, and sometimes photoreceptors get the count wrong, and sometimes something causes the count to be distorted. There are many sources of image noise, but most cameras have most of them well controlled. They will appear occasionally in the dark portions of an image, especially when using a higher ISO setting. There's always some noise, but sometimes it's more noticeable.
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Old May 5, 2012, 8:05 PM   #3
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Digital noise shows up more in dark areas for the same reason static on radio is more noticeable during quiet passages in music - the signal is weaker,(light level is lower) but the noise level remains the same.
Besides having adjustable White Balance, digital cameras can adjust the ISO sensitivity, giving you the ability to change 'film speed' at any time. It adds another factor when determining exposure, allowing you to balance your shutter speed and aperture differently based on whether you need the higher speed or not. Higher ISO settings are achieved by adjusting the gain of the amplifiers from the sensor -'turning up the volume', so to speak. This tends to make noise more noticeable, as well, so it's not a free lunch.
You have found as good a place as any to get answers to almost any question you have, with quite lot of knowledgeable people happy to reply.

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Old May 7, 2012, 12:59 PM   #4
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