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Old Sep 27, 2005, 7:29 AM   #1
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Hi, I am new here, and new with my FZ5. I had a Easyshare DX4330 before and couldn't get night sports shots (high school football) really good. Too dark, too blurred in sports mode.

I have been playing around with the manual settings on my FZ5 and still haven't found a good combination for night football games.

Can anyone help? I am guessing a shutter speed of 1/200 or so, ISO at 400 apeture at?

Thanks in advance, still learning this camera!

Viper
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Old Sep 27, 2005, 9:27 AM   #2
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I inherited an old light meter when my father died. These devices are really worth having for this kind of circumstance. You can read the light levels of the field from all the different angles you're likely to be interested in beforre the game, and plan accordingly. Then, when the play develops in a particular spot, you already know what you want to set the camera for. There's really not a good substitiute for a manual light meter if you're going to use manual mode on your camera. The meter will have a table of setting combinations for a given film speed, and you just decide the combo that makes sense for the context. They're pretty fool-proof. Just don't wait until the big play to start trying to read the light level!
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Old Sep 27, 2005, 9:58 AM   #3
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If you try to shoot with shutter speeds at 1/200 second for night sports,you're probably going to get photos that are too dark to use.

In low light, your camera's autoexposureis already going to be selecting the largest available aperture (represented by the smallest f/stop number), then adjusting the shutter speed for proper exposure). So, unless you want to deliberately underexpose your images to try and increase shutter speeds, manual modes won't help.

I don't recommend that, since you'll probably want to shoot at ISO 400 (and that's pretty noisey, even with a properly exposed image). If you underexpose at higher ISO speeds, you'll probably find the noise to be so bad the photos are unusable (just as if you'd used even higher ISO speeds when you brighten up the photos later).

The camera has got to leave the shutter open long enough to properly expose the image (or you'll have underexposed photos). How long the shutter needs to stay open for proper exposure depends on the lighting conditions, the ISO speed (which controls the sensitivity of the sensor to light, just like buying higher ISO speed film), and the aperture of the lens (rated as f/stop).

The problem with night sports is that light is very dim to a camera, even though the stadium mayappear to be very well lit to the human eye with all of the huge lights overhead.

The blurry photos you got with the Kodak were due to slow shutter speeds. If it tried to use faster shutter speeds, instead of blur, you'd get very dark photos.

The lens on your Panasonic is much brighter compared to your Kodak when using much optical zoom (larger available apertures, represented by smaller f/stop numbers).

It also has Optical Image Stabilization (which helps to reduce blur from camera shake). In addition,it has ISO 400 available (your Kodak only goes to ISO 200). Each time you double the ISO speed, a camera can use shutter speeds twice as fast for the same aperture and lighting conditions.

Unfortunately, despite all of the improvements with your new camera, it's really not a good toolfor night sports. This kind of shooting normally requires a DSLR model with a bright lens. They can shoot at much higher ISO speeds (up to 1600 or 3200 for most). This combination of higher ISO speeds and a bright lens, helps to get shutter speeds up fast enough to stop most of the motion blur.

But, a longer focal length (more zoom), bright lens (f/2.8 or brighter apertures throughout the focal range) can be quite large, heavy and expensive (starting out at around $800.00 discountedfor one of the70-200mm f/2.8 zooms from third party manufacturers, and going up in price from there).

Zooms from major manufacturers (Canon, Nikon) with similar specs, usually start out at over $1000. But,that doesn't include the camera, only that one lens, and a lens like that won't have the focal range (wide to telephoto) that your Panasonic does.

A prime (non-zoom) lens is usually less expensive (not to mention a bit smaller and lighter). That's the route some DSLR owners use.

But, all is not lost. If you set your Panasonic to ISO 400 (the Auto ISO won't go that high), it will double the shutter speeds you'll get, and the Image Stabilization will help with the blur from camera shake (but, make sure to try and hold the camera as steady as possible anyway, as you'll probably be "pushing" the limits of the design trying to shoot night sports with it at longer focal lengths due to slow shutter speeds). Camera shake is magnified as more optical zoom as used. So, try not to use any more zoom than you have to (or, turn off stabilization and use a tripod or monopod).

You'll have much slower shutter speeds than you'd have with a DSLR model set to something like ISO 800 or 1600 using a bright lens (i.e, f/2.8 throughout the zoom range), so you can expect some motion blur. But, it will be *much* better compared to your Kodak.

If you use the continuous mode features on the Panasonic, and take lots of photos in bursts, your percentage of keepers without any blur will go up (try to capture photos when the players are relatively still, and chances are, some photos in a burst will have less blur compared to others).

Now, the downside of increasing your ISO speed to 400 is that noise will increase dramatically (similar to film grain, only you'll see lots of multi-colored grain in your images). That's one reason the Auto ISO feature doesn't go that high on most models (too much noise, degrading image quality). That's the downside of a smaller sensor (and in order to get that much focal range in a relatively compact lens design used in modelslike your Panasonic, a very small sensor is needed).

A DSLR model has a dramatically larger image sensor. So, it's able to gather more light, requiring less amplification of the signal for equivalent ISO speed sensitivity.

But, the larger image sensors also means that lenses will be MUCH larger and heavier for similar zoom range and brightness (you'll want f/2.8 or brighter throughout the zoom range). Smaller f/stop numbers are better (larger apertures). Cheaper lenses will be smaller and lighter, but they won't "cut it" for night sports.

So, using a camera like your Panasonic (which does have a relatively bright lens, with it's main limitation being ISO speed)at ISO 400, you'll need a way to try and clean up the noise. My favorite products for doing this are Noiseware and Neat Image

If you check their web sites, you'llsee a free "Community Edition" for Noiseware that works well as a standalone (and they have non-free versions that can work as plugins to Photoshop). Neat Image has a demo/trial version that doesn't expire (so, check it out, too).

These will remove a lot of the noise generated by trying to shoot at ISO 400, while trying to preserve as much detail as possible from the noise removal. Play with the settings until you get the best results (acceptable noise at the viewing/print sizes you want, without too much loss of detail from it's removal). Start out with the defaults, and you may decide that they're good enough for your needs.
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Old Sep 27, 2005, 10:49 AM   #4
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The short answer (I do sometimes tend to be "long winded")... :-)

Try setting your camera to ISO 400, then open and process the images later with a product like Noisewareor Neat Image, which will help remove the multi-colored grain (a.k.a., noise) you'll get at ISO 400 with most compact models.

P.S. - make sure you don't have the flash on (many models will automatically try to go to a preset shutter speed using flash, which can result in the wrong exposure since you'll be well outside of the flash range).

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Old Sep 27, 2005, 5:42 PM   #5
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JimC and tclune

First off, thank you both for the replies. I read into your reply Jim and it is making me better understand how the camera works, ie aperature settings, sensitivity (iso) and shutter speed. You are correct about the Kodak, it was -terrible- at best for night sports. I used the sport setting on that camera and it would make the shutter speed faster, but, like you said....very very dark pictures at best.

I am very happy with my FZ5. It is a great improvement over the Kodak. I went to a hot air baloon show (night) and used the ProgramAE mode. Some of those pictures turned out great, but they were noisy. Using auto mode produced some relatively good shots, although some were blurry. I am learning now how to be STILL when holding the camera at night. Also, I bought a small cheapy tripod to see how that works, which I imagine will improve things.

I understand the ISO setting, it is like the grain setting in the photo paper. The higher the number, the more sensitive to light it is. Same goes with the shutter speed, I understand that one pretty good. Fstop throws me a little because the smaller the number, the more the aperature is opened. But I am getting used to it.

I tried a little test last evening. I shot a ceiling fan in a dark room (action and low light). Set the ISO to 400, speed to 1/100 and aperature 2.8. I am able to freeze the blades on the fan with those settings, but I am using flash.I am going to repeat the test tonight with some things that you advise to try. I ran out of time last night playing with the settings!

I understand that this camera is doing all it is able to do. I did not want to spend $1000 on a camera (at least not yet!), so I am pretty satisfied with what it can do for the money. Maybe if I get good enough at this I might look into a better tool to use for these kind of shots.

I think I will get it if I keep playing around with the manual mode settings. Thanks again for the reply, and I will see if I can post a shot or two once I am successful at this.
Also, thanks for the link to noiseware! I tried it this evening and wow! What an improvement on the night shots!


Viper

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Old Sep 27, 2005, 6:27 PM   #6
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viper3two wrote:
Quote:
I tried a little test last evening. I shot a ceiling fan in a dark room (action and low light). Set the ISO to 400, speed to 1/100 and aperature 2.8. I am able to freeze the blades on the fan with those settings, but I am using flash.I am going to repeat the test tonight with some things that you advise to try. I ran out of time last night playing with the settings!
You can't test that way (with a flash). You're not going to be using a flash at the stadium (or if you did, it wouldn't help anything since you'd be exceeding the flash range).

Shutter speed has little bearing in a darker room using a flash, and you've got to know how much exposure you're getting from ambient light to judge if your settings are going to be effective.

You could shoot at ISO100 in a dark room withmodest lighting, use 1/30 second and probably still freeze the fan blades using a flash. Or, go to slower shutter speeds if the room is even darker.

The flash itself can freeze the action, provided ambient light is not bright enough to contribute too much to the exposure. That's because the subject is not being exposed long enough at some settings by ambient light, so the flash is the dominant light source.

Because the flash burst is very short (usually around 1/1000 second or so),it has the impact of freezing the action with typical compact camerasettings (because the subject is only properly exposed during the very short flash duration).

I once saw someone take a whole album full of photos at 1/8 second and ISO 100 at a wedding reception being held indoors at night (they accidently settheir camerato "night portrait" flash mode). Virtually all of the photos were sharp. Only a few had any blur at all (and those were because the subjects were standing underneath or close by a lamp).

In a very dark room without any lights, you could slow the shutter speed down as much as you wanted to and still freeze the action with a flash, as long as ambient light wasn't contributing enough to the exposure to expose the subjects without a flash.

If ISO speed is set too high, and you do get some ambient light exposure, then the flash may not be able to freeze the action (or, you'll get some ghosting from it, where you'llsee some exposure of the subject from ambient light sources, then a sharper portion exposed by the flash)

So, using flash with lower light, sometimes you actually do the opposite of what you think is needed to help with motion blur .... you decrease ISO speed or use a smaller aperture so that the flash is the more dominant light source. Otherwise (with ISO speeds set higher and the aperture opened wider), you can get too much ambient light exposure using flash, which canresult insome motion blur/ghostingif the camera's shutter speeds are not fast enough to stop the action at your chosen settings.

Here is an example of a photo taken at f.2.8, ISO 200, and 1/15 second using flash.

It was taken at a local restaurant withmy little Konica KD-510z (I bring it with me everywhere in a pocket). Trust me, the 1/15 second shutter speed didn't prevent the motion blur (they didn't all freeze at the same time while they were dancing).

The short flash burst froze the action (since in these conditions, and at these camera settings, the subjects were not properly exposed except during the flash burst). Straight from the camera except for auto downsizing at pbase.com (no cropping or corrections of any kind).






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Old Sep 28, 2005, 7:13 AM   #7
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Jim,

I did not have time to do much with the camera last night as work prevailed . I agree with you about the test, I won't be using flash at all at the games. I will see if I can come up with a dark/motion scene and do some more testing. I did get the community edition of noiseware. Very nice, and I appreciate the link! What a difference on the night shots after running that filter.

By this weekend I should have some shots of the game that we are going to on Friday night, and I will post them so I can get some feedback from you. I appreciate all the feedback so far, it is helping me learn all the different settings on this camera. Thanks again for the help!
Tony


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Old Sep 28, 2005, 7:40 AM   #8
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viper3two wrote:
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I did not have time to do much with the camera last night as work prevailed . I agree with you about the test, I won't be using flash at all at the games.
About the best you'll probably be able to do is setting it to ISO 400 and trying to clean it up later with software -- trying not to use any more zoom than needed (since camera shake is magnified as more zoom is used), keeping camera shake in mind when shooting (hold a camera very steady,smoothly squeezing the shutter button to half press -- then smoothly down the rest of the way --holding it still briefly after the shot is finished (sometimes it's easy to jerk the camera just as the button bottoms).

Using continuous mode and holding it for a burst of shots usually increases your percentage of keepers (since subsequent shots after the shutter button bottoms may be a little sharper if you're real steady). A tripod or monopod may help, too (but, you'd probably want to disable OIS with a tripod). OIS mode 2 probably works best if you use it with your model without a tripod.

If you can get the platform (your camera) steady enough to prevent motion blur from camera shake, then your remaining problem with be motion blur from subject movement (so try to take the photos when the players are relatively stationary -- again, taking lots of shots to improve your percentage of keepers).

You *could* try to underexpose deliberately to get shutter speeds even faster (if you set your exposure compensation to a -EV value, then you'll get faster shutter speeds as you underexpose more). Shooting at ISO 400 with -0.5 EV would be like shooting at ISO 600. But, I would not try it. Noise will probably be too bad for the photos to be usable doing that (even a well exposed ISO 400 is "pushing it" with a non-DSLR model).

Keep an eye on the shutter speeds you're getting, and don't increase ISO speed anymore than needed to get some keepers. You may even want to bracket it some (shooting at both ISO 200 and 400).

Quote:
I will see if I can come up with a dark/motion scene and do some more testing. I did get the community edition of noiseware. Very nice, and I appreciate the link! What a difference on the night shots after running that filter.
The free edition will strip out the EXIF from your images (a header in your photos containing the camera settings used). Ditto or the demo/trial of Neat Image (it strips out the EXIF). The paid versions don't do that. Make sure you don't overwrite your originals (you don't want ot ruin them + tools may be better in the future,and you may want to process them again at some point).

BTW, make sure to play around with the settings in Noiseware. Sometimes it's better to leave a little bit of noise (because it may not be very visible at the viewing/print sizes you need), versus smoothing more detail with stronger noise reduction. Try increasing the sharpening a tad with it, too (the algorithms are not bad at all).


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