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Old Apr 21, 2009, 1:31 PM   #1
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First of all, my knowledge of cameras is very limited. I want to buy a camera that lets me manually adjust the exposure settings, not sure if thats the right term, but I have seen some long exposure night shots that are really neat and I'd like to be able to do that myself.

Also, a high optical zoom is very important to me. I worked at circuit city briefly before they went under and we had a display of a camera with an optical zoom of 30 or so. For the life of me I cant find it anywhere, and I am starting to think I imagined it. I have done research on my own, and the best I can find in my price range (not too far above $300) is 18x, but none of them say anything about adjustable exposure settings.

Perhaps if I explain what I want to do it will be more helpful. Like I mentioned, those long exposure night shots, like the two below, are what really caught my interest. I will be using the camera for everything from family gatherings, to pretending I am Ansel Addams. I want a good image quality for the basic picture taking tasks, but if I come across something that strikes me as particularly beautiful I want to have a camera that can capture motion, with a good zoom, or night shots.

So, in this order:
exposure settings,
optical zoom
overall value

Here are the links, and while I have no expectations of being nearly as good as any of these photographers I want to get my feet wet.

http://www.lostamerica.com/signs/vista01.6.jpg

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hjxkari...l-longexposure

Thanks!



**edit**

Of what I have found so far this appears to be the best. your thoughts?

http://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-DMC-.../ref=de_a_smtd
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Old Apr 22, 2009, 3:15 PM   #2
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30 some views, but nobody has any advice?
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Old Apr 22, 2009, 5:40 PM   #3
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That first image was taken with a Canon EOS-20D at ISO 100 and f/5.6. It was a 102 second exposure.

I think it's probably unlikely you'd be able to get an image that good with a non-dSLR camera model. But, I don't know of any images showing what an exposure that long would look like from the Panasonic you're considering. The Panasonic also has a slowest shutter speed of 30 seconds from what I can see from it's specs (although it may have a bulb mode that I overlooked).

Now, you could use a wider aperture to reduce the exposure time needed with that Panasonic. For example, you could shoot at ISO 100 and f/2.8 (only available if you don't zoom in much) and you'd get the same exposure (brightness) using a shutter speed of around 25 seconds (within the slowest shutter speed allowed of 30 seconds). But, I don't know of any samples available with exposures that long from an FZ28 (although they probably exist, I just haven't seen any).

Most non-dSLR models like that Panasonic are not going to do very well at longer shutter speeds because of noise and hot pixels (multi-colored dots scattered throughout an image). The longer the exposure, the less likely a photosite will be linear in it's response. So, you end up with pixels that reach maximum brightness too soon, scattered throughout the image.

It's not uncommon to see hundreds of hot pixels on some newer camera models with exposures much longer than a second or two with noise reduction turned off, and it gets worse from there as exposures get longer. It tends to be more problematic as photosite sizes get smaller (higher resolution within the same size sensor will mean that each photosite must be smaller in order to fit more in).

Most newer cameras have a built in dark frame subtraction noise reduction system now. Some models engage it automatically on longer exposures, and some models don't have the feature.

It works by taking two photos when exposures are longer than about 1 second. The second (shutter closed) photo is designed to simulate a lens cap on exposure, using the same settings for shutter speed and ISO speed as the first exposure. So, if you take a 30 second shot, the camera needs another 30 seconds to take a dark frame shot.

The reason it works that way is because both photos are taken at approximately the same time, at the same temperature (which will impact noise and hot pixels), using the same settings, the hot pixels are likely to show up in the same place in both images.

Then, the camera's processing maps out the same pixel locations in the actual exposure that it found hot pixels in the dark frame exposure (since these are the only pixels that would be much brighter in the dark frame). Basically, it replaces these pixel locations in the actual exposure with values interpolated from adjacent pixels so that you don't see them anymore. This process is known a dark frame subtraction, and the longer the exposure, the more degraded the image, and the more likely you're going to have hot pixels that are missed by this dark frame subtraction process (because the actual and dark frame exposure may not have always hot pixels in the same place, once you get a lot of them).

Even if you don't see any hot pixels, the image tends to lose detail from the noise reduction algorithms being used. So, I would not expect to be able to get those kinds of results with a non-dSLR camera model at exposures that long. Again, I haven't seen any exposures that long from an FZ28 to tell how well it stacks up in that area (it could be better than expected).

Even with a dSLR, you'd want to carefully compare results if that's the type of photo you want to take, as some models may be able to perform much better than others with exposure times that long.

Another way to get the same type of image to take multiple images and then combine them together to simulate a single long exposure. Here is one software package designed for that purpose. So, using shorter exposures and combining them with software may be an option if the results are not satisfactory from the camera.

http://www.tawbaware.com/imgstack.htm

The second image in your examples was taken using a Nikon D70s (another dSLR model) at ISO 320 using an aperture of f/22 and a shutter speed of 1/13 second.

The subjects would have been *very* still for that photo to reduce the amount of motion blur being seen at shutter speeds that slow. A lens on a non-dSLR model would not have f/22 available. Most are limited to a smallest aperture (represented by a higher f/stop number) of around f/8.

If you reduced the ISO speed to ISO 100 and used an aperture of f/8 with a camera like that Panasonic, the slowest shutter speed you could expect to achieve would be around 1/30 second in that same lighting.

However, you could use a Neutral Density Filter to block some of the light to achieve the same effect. So, that type of image is possible

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Old Apr 22, 2009, 6:38 PM   #4
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Shorter answer...

The FZ28 is a very good value right now compared to similar camera models.

But, if you really want exposures that long (making a large area at night look more like daytime, with only one street light in the image), I'd try to find some long exposure samples from one to see if you find the images acceptable at the viewing/print sizes you'll want to use.

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Old Apr 22, 2009, 7:39 PM   #5
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JimC wrote:
Quote:
That first image was taken with a Canon EOS-20D at ISO 100 and f/5.6. It was a 102 second exposure.

I think it's probably unlikely you'd be able to get an image that good with a non-dSLR camera model. But, I don't know of any images showing what an exposure that long would look like from the Panasonic you're considering. The Panasonic also has a slowest shutter speed of 30 seconds from what I can see from it's specs (although it may have a bulb mode that I overlooked).

Now, you could use a wider aperture to reduce the exposure time needed with that Panasonic. For example, you could shoot at ISO 100 and f/2.8 (only available if you don't zoom in much) and you'd get the same exposure (brightness) using a shutter speed of around 25 seconds (within the slowest shutter speed allowed of 30 seconds). But, I don't know of any samples available with exposures that long from an FZ28 (although they probably exist, I just haven't seen any).

Most non-dSLR models like that Panasonic are not going to do very well at longer shutter speeds because of noise and hot pixels (multi-colored dots scattered throughout an image). The longer the exposure, the less likely a photosite will be linear in it's response. So, you end up with pixels that reach maximum brightness too soon, scattered throughout the image.

It's not uncommon to see hundreds of hot pixels on some newer camera models with exposures much longer than a second or two with noise reduction turned off, and it gets worse from there as exposures get longer. It tends to be more problematic as photosite sizes get smaller (higher resolution within the same size sensor will mean that each photosite must be smaller in order to fit more in).

Most newer cameras have a built in dark frame subtraction noise reduction system now. Some models engage it automatically on longer exposures, and some models don't have the feature.

It works by taking two photos when exposures are longer than about 1 second. The second (shutter closed) photo is designed to simulate a lens cap on exposure, using the same settings for shutter speed and ISO speed as the first exposure. So, if you take a 30 second shot, the camera needs another 30 seconds to take a dark frame shot.

The reason it works that way is because both photos are taken at approximately the same time, at the same temperature (which will impact noise and hot pixels), using the same settings, the hot pixels are likely to show up in the same place in both images.

Then, the camera's processing maps out the same pixel locations in the actual exposure that it found hot pixels in the dark frame exposure (since these are the only pixels that would be much brighter in the dark frame). Basically, it replaces these pixel locations in the actual exposure with values interpolated from adjacent pixels so that you don't see them anymore. This process is known a dark frame subtraction, and the longer the exposure, the more degraded the image, and the more likely you're going to have hot pixels that are missed by this dark frame subtraction process (because the actual and dark frame exposure may not have always hot pixels in the same place, once you get a lot of them).

Even if you don't see any hot pixels, the image tends to lose detail from the noise reduction algorithms being used. So, I would not expect to be able to get those kinds of results with a non-dSLR camera model at exposures that long. Again, I haven't seen any exposures that long from an FZ28 to tell how well it stacks up in that area (it could be better than expected).

Even with a dSLR, you'd want to carefully compare results if that's the type of photo you want to take, as some models may be able to perform much better than others with exposure times that long.

Another way to get the same type of image to take multiple images and then combine them together to simulate a single long exposure. Here is one software package designed for that purpose. So, using shorter exposures and combining them with software may be an option if the results are not satisfactory from the camera.

http://www.tawbaware.com/imgstack.htm

The second image in your examples was taken using a Nikon D70s (another dSLR model) at ISO 320 using an aperture of f/22 and a shutter speed of 1/13 second.

The subjects would have been *very* still for that photo to reduce the amount of motion blur being seen at shutter speeds that slow. A lens on a non-dSLR model would not have f/22 available. Most are limited to a smallest aperture (represented by a higher f/stop number) of around f/8.

If you reduced the ISO speed to ISO 100 and used an aperture of f/8 with a camera like that Panasonic, the slowest shutter speed you could expect to achieve would be around 1/30 second in that same lighting.

However, you could use a Neutral Density Filter to block some of the light to achieve the same effect. So, that type of image is possible
Boy Jim that's a really good explanation, and it seems these little computers that help take images are getting very advanced helping amateurs like me take some nice , or at least acceptable shots. My hat is off to the professionals. I keep reading or hearing of these software / improvments like dark frame subtraction and I am amazed.
Bob Greer
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Old Apr 23, 2009, 10:28 AM   #6
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Wow, thanks. You just increased my knowledge of cameras exponentially. I'll search for some long exposure pics here shortly, but I wanted to thank you for the detailed response.

Considering my price range is very limited and this camera will at least let me get my feet wet I think I may purchase it.

Assuming the long exposure features are worthless with this camera, would the rest of the features or quality justify the price?
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Old Apr 23, 2009, 10:56 AM   #7
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The reviews of longer exposures for the FZ28 are not favorable. People say there are is a lot of image noise, but so far I haven't found an article that demonstrates side by side the difference. I did come across someone who posted a picture of a night time highway shot from a moving vehicle and it was far superior to anything I have taken in the past.
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Old Apr 23, 2009, 11:51 AM   #8
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TsarNicholas wrote:
Quote:
Wow, thanks. You just increased my knowledge of cameras exponentially. I'll search for some long exposure pics here shortly, but I wanted to thank you for the detailed response.
No problem.

I could tell you were a bit anxious to find out what camera may be better suited for that purpose. Patience. ;-)

If someone thinks they can help out, you'll see responses (sometimes days later).

Taking photos using shutter speeds that long (102 seconds in your first example) is not a very common practice.

Now, you may not need shutter speeds that long to achieve the desired result (depending on how much light is coming from other sources like city lights, moon, etc.), and exactly when you take them can make a big difference.

For example, if you take photos right after sunset (versus waiting until the middle of the night to take them), you'll be able to use much faster shutter speeds.

Here's one I've posted before, taken 20 Minutes after sunset with a hand held Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D using a Minolta 28mm f/2 AF lens at f/3.5 and ISO 1600. Shot in raw and converted using Adobe Camera Raw 3.3 Beta defaults with no further post processing. Of course, a better way to approach is use a tripod and keep ISO speeds set lower to keep noise in the sky down. It was a quick snapshot while my wife and I were waiting to get on board a boat for a dinner cruise.





With that Panasonic FZ28 you're looking at, you could use ISO 100 and f/2.8 and get shutter speeds of around 1/2 second in that same light (and you'd want to use a tripod at shutter speeds that slow). You could also boost ISO speed for even faster shutter speeds (but, that would mean higher noise levels).

A little later, and shutter speeds would have been slower for close to the same exposure.

Quote:
Considering my price range is very limited and this camera will at least let me get my feet wet I think I may purchase it.

Assuming the long exposure features are worthless with this camera, would the rest of the features or quality justify the price?
I wouldn't assume long exposures are bad until you see some samples , and you may not need exposures that long anyway, depending on what you want to shoot and when you want to shoot it.

Yes, that Panasonic offers a lot of "bang for the buck" in that class of camera right now. It doesn't have a hotshoe for an external flash like some models. But, it would be hard to find another model that compares as well in most other areas for $300.

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Old Apr 23, 2009, 1:12 PM   #9
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I apologize for the impatience. My tax return is burning a hole in my pocket, and since its probably the last one I will ever get (I graduate this year, and its off the the real world after the summer) I decided to blow it on something fun.

I had narrowed my ideas down to a new TV, a new gun, or a nice camera.

Tv's are still a little out of my price range, and I already have enough guns, so I decided on a camera.

I already have a few tripods and some lighting equipment, I got into amateur film making as a hobby, so that should lend to the quality of my pictures.

I think I will go with that camera unless anyone has any better ideas or is violently opposed. It may not be professional quality, but it will be a good place for me to start, considering I have no idea what I am doing.
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Old Apr 25, 2009, 11:32 PM   #10
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I bought the FZ28 and it arrived today. Here are a couple shots I took.

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pi...p;id=629795216

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pi...p;id=629795216

The first is a 6 second exposure, the second a 60 second exposure. Both were done in the "shutter priority" manual mode.
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