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Old Dec 7, 2005, 12:20 PM   #1
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Hi All...

I have been lurking for a few weeks on this and other boards while I was trying to decide on a new camera to purchase. I ended up deciding on the FZ20, which I love so far. I'd like to introduce myself first, since I hope to post more frequently now that I have become a Pana owner. My name is Cathi and I live in Tennessee with my husband and two boys, age 3 and 8. I am a very amatuer photographer - but I am addicted and desperately want to learn more. Most of the photos I take are of my kids and a lot of action shots - hey... they are BOYS! :-) I also love to have my camera handy at all times just to take shots of interesting things I see while I'm out and about. <p>
I'm trying to learn the best setting for action shots outdoors, such as my son playing football. Also, we went out of town this past weekend and attended a night parade where I had terrible luck getting shots of any of the parade entries. I know this was because I had no idea what I was doing. I had planned to read my manual on the car trip and forgot it, so Iwas guessing at everything and likewise they are all blurry or dark. There is another night parade this weekend near our home, so I would like to try again. Any suggestions on night parade (action) shots?<p>

This board seems great - I'm excited to join and hope I will be welcome. I can't wait to post pics for you all to critique if you are so inclined and please know I am alway open to suggestions. I don't know much about cameras so probably won't be able to contribute much to those types of posts, but I can't wait to get to know you all and view your interesting shots!
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Old Dec 7, 2005, 1:44 PM   #2
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hi Cathi, and welcome! i'm sure you'll find this forum interesting, informative and entertaining... i sure did!

i've had my FZ20 for a year, and still love it. it may not have some of the horns and whistles found on the FZ30, nor the resolution, but i think most here will agree that its image quality is every bit as good, and when used properly it can produce stunning photos.

to start out with your questions about outdoor action pictures... first off, you need a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action, or you'll get blurry pics. for kids playing football, that probably means about 1/250-1/500 second, depending on the level of action. to get those speeds, you need fairly good light, and on cloudy days, you may not be able to get those speeds in auto program mode, or without raising the ISO (sensitivity)setting. if you have decent light, i'd start by selecting "S" mode (shutter prirority) and setting your speed at 1/250-1/320 to start. try a few shots and see how they come out. if you have enough light, the camera will pick an aperture that will produce a correct exposure. if not, it'll show up as red in your EVF or display, telling you that it can't get enough light to properly expose the image at that shutter speed. you can either take the shot anyway (often, the image is still acceptable, just not "optimum"), or try to improve the exposure by either setting a slightly slower shutter or raising the ISO. a word to the wise... don't slow the speed down below about 1/200 as a minimum, or you'll get blurry pics, and try to avoid ISO 400 if you can, because noise (which shows up as a grainy look to the image) can become a problem at that setting.

night parade shotscan be prettychallenging. you will probably need a tripod, unless the parade route - or the parade itself - is sufficiently welllitto give you a decent exposure. i've found that in any low-light situation,a tripod or some kind ofsupportefinitely helps, even with OIS. the problem with parades is, if you have poor light, moving objects in the scene can be blurry. fortunately, things generally don'tmove that fast in parades, and there's usually a fair bit of light from streetlights or the parade entries themselves, so freezing the action isn't as hard as it is in a sports event. initially, try setting a minimum shutter speed of 1/125 or so, which should be enough to stop most of the action, especially slow-moving floats and the like; if there's not enough light, you can try increasing ISO setting to see if that helps, but be aware you may get more noise in the image. you can try using the flash as well, which automatically sets the shutter for 1/60 in program mode. the flash on the FZ is pretty strong for a built-in unit, and will work out to about 20-25 feet. if you're farther away than that, it won't do as much good.

good luck with your new camera. we look forward to seeing your first pictureposts!


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Old Dec 7, 2005, 8:21 PM   #3
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Gosh, THANKS Squirl033, for taking the time to answer and give such great detail for me!! I can't wait to try it out this weekend.

Here is a picture I took last weekend that I was pretty pleased with - this was a VERY cloudy day, and the karts were going about 25 mph. Not sure what I did, but it worked.
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Old Dec 7, 2005, 8:46 PM   #4
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Welcome to the forum, Cathi. The FZ20 and the entire FZ series have a real big fun factor asyou demonstrated so well with the go cart shot. The key is light - as much as possible to get decent shutter speed. The night parade didn't have enough, thus the poor results as a result of slow shutter speed couple perhaps with the camera automatically going to high iso to compensate. Likewise, don't expect too much from night time football in a poorly lighted stadium.

The go cart shot has plenty of light and the shutter speed of 1/200s is fast enough to almost stop the action. The fact that the car was angled towards the camerahelped some as well. Actually this shot is over exposed a little, which means there was too much light. The shutter should have been even a little faster to allow in less light.That fast shutter would have stopped the action even more. The fz series tends to over expose slightly. Many users keep the exposure compensaton to-1/3ev. That would have worked nicely here. Even perhaps -2/3ev. That would have brought the shutter speed to around 1/250s.

Good luck and much fun with your fz20. Looking forward to seeing more shots.

Fred
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Old Dec 7, 2005, 9:04 PM   #5
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Welcome Cathi, Squirl and Fmoore have already provided you with some great suggestions on using your FZ20. I didn't see in either of their comments where they mentioned the Sports Mode, which you can get to thru your Scene Menu ( if I remember right). Anyway it's an auto mode where the Shutter and Apeture are set automatically for action shots. As Squirl and Fmoore pointed out you need lots of light for action pictures and the Sports mode may only work well for you during the daylight hours. Good luck and post some of your work! Jim
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Old Dec 7, 2005, 9:05 PM   #6
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wildcatrush wrote:
Quote:
Gosh, THANKS Squirl033, for taking the time to answer and give such great detail for me!! I can't wait to try it out this weekend.

Here is a picture I took last weekend that I was pretty pleased with - this was a VERY cloudy day, and the karts were going about 25 mph. Not sure what I did, but it worked.
this shot was taken at 1/200, f2.8 with ISO at 80. the camera picked a wide-open lens, to let in as much light as possible, and a shutter speed of 1/200, which was enough to freeze the action, though a slightly faster shutter would probably have resulted in a bit crisper image.in auto ISO mode, the camera will automatically pick settings between 80 and 200, depending on light... in thiscase, it thought there was enough to justify the lowest sensitivity setting, which would also have yielded the lowest shutter speed. you might try manually setting the sensitivity to 100, which is what i use a lot, and see if that helps with keeping your shutter speed up.

as you can see from this pic, 1/200 is about the minimum shutter speed needed to freeze action, but if this shot was taken on a very cloudy day with dull light, your FZ did a fairly good job of giving you a decent exposure. that might also serve as a guide for the settings to look for at your son's football games, assuming he isn't playingat night, which at age 8, he probably isn't.
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Old Dec 7, 2005, 9:47 PM   #7
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Cathi,

i'm sure you'll be reading the owners' manual to learn how to work the FZ20, but since you're a novice photographer, there are a few other basics that the manual doesn't cover very well, that you might want to learn more about. please don't take offense if you already know this... from your introductory comments, i'm assuming your experience in photography in general is pretty limited. many people, especially those who are really new to photography and who have only taken pictures using automatic settings, don't really know why some exposures work and others don't, so here's a short primer on the subject...

the amount of light that enters the lens is controlled by two factors - the shutter speed (how long the shutter is open) and the aperture (how wide the lens opens up when the shutter is released). the lower the f-number ("f-stop", from the old camera days when lenses had mechanical detents, or "stops", in the aperture ring), the wider the lens opens. this lets in more light, and helps when the lighting is poor. a slower shutter speed has the same effect, by leaving the lens open longer.

the ISO setting, or sensitivity, isa measure of how sensitive the image plane is to light. with film, this is determined by the chemical makeup of the film emulsion, and the only way to change it is to remove the roll of film from the camera and insert a new one with a different ISO rating. with digital, it's selectable electronically, and has to do with the degree of light amplification that's performed in the sensor. the higher the ISO number, the more sensitive the image plane is to light, and the shorter the time the shutter needs to be open for a given aperture (or, if the shutter speed is the same, the smaller the lens opening can be, to reduce the amount of light hitting the image plane.).

in short, decreasing the sensitivity (ISO) setting, increasing the shutter speed, or reducing the lens aperture (or some combination of these three) are all things that reduce the amount of light, or the "exposure", of the image. these things all happen in bright light, and the camera does them automatically in "P" mode. conversely, increasing the ISO setting, lowering the shutter speed, or increasing the aperture size (smaller "f" number)all let more light in, andare things you want to do when shooting in poor light.

as you've gathered from previous posts, a faster shutter speed is needed to freeze action. 1/250 or so will usually beadequatefor most sports, while freezing a bird in flight or an airplane propellerusually takes speeds of 1/1000 or faster. you'll learn with experience what speeds you need to stop what kind of action. the main thing is that those shutter speeds require more light to achieve, which is why shooting sporting events - or even parades - at night is so challenging. as you saw with your go-cart pic, even in daylight (cloudy, but daylight nonetheless), the camera needed a wide-open aperture to give you a good exposure, and even then it only selected 1/200 second for the shot! you can see why it would slow way down at night, and why stopping any kind of action in low light is so difficult!

something else to bear in mind (though it has nothing to do with actual exposure, but may affect your compositio) is that as you open up the lens (smaller "f" numbers), the "depth of field" decreases. this means that the part of the picture that's clear and sharp -from front to back in the image- gets shallower as the f-stop gets smaller. at f2.8, for example, the subject you focus on will be clear, and some background detail immediately behind it, but most things in the background will be blurry. at f8, the subject will be clear, and much more of the background farther behind the subject will also be in focus. youcan learn to use this to your advantage by adjusting the shutter speed and/or sensitivity to let you choose the depth of field you want for a given photo.

hope this isn't "information overload", but it's all stuff that you'll need to know to fully utilize the capabilities of your camera. the FZ20 is a marvel of optical engineering, andis capable of some amazing photos, but you do have to take some time to learn how to use it, and how to maximize its strengths and minimize its weaknesses. good luck, and don't be shy about posting or asking questions. this forum is about as helpful and informative a place as i've found for folks who want to learn how to get the most from their Panasonic cameras. in know in the year or so i've been a member, i;ve learned a TON of stuff about Panasonics, and some very helpful folks have helped me "re-learn" a lot of things i'd forgotten about photography over the years...
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Old Dec 8, 2005, 1:51 AM   #8
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Squirl033 - to say I'm a novice is being generous, so another big thank you for explaining this all to me. It is a lot to take in, and it may sound crazy, but I'm going to print this entire thread off so I can sit down with camera-in-hand and try to put it all together. I'm not easily offended - so PLEASE share what you know!

Thank you Fred and Jim, too - I love getting feedback. What a great way to learn. I can't wait to try out my camera and post some more pictures for you all to check out - I'm sure you have nothing better to do, right? :-)

We are expecting snow tomorrow - maybe that will provide some interesting and challenging opportunities for me.
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