Listening to What I See and Read…

I’m trying to get a piece of this entry done before I head to workSmile

You know how some things you’ve been pondering about suddenly just sort of smack you in the head and the light shines or things suddenly become more unmuddled?  Well at about 2:00 a.m. that happened and I started to understand a few things that I really hadn’t thought of to a point.

Sooo.. here we go. This is going to be little more technical.  We all have habits.  One of mine is in the area of ISO.  Unless I’m in a situation where I’m forced to kick the ISO up, my preference to stay at ISO 100 or 200 for just about everything I shoot.  For those who don’t play here – ISO is sort of like film speed.  Setting the ISO to a higher value allows you to take photos in lower light.  The trade off is, that the image may not be as high quality as it could be.  The other factor here, is sensor size against megapixels.  Megapixels are another factor that determine basically how much data is gathered by the sensor.  The sensor size also determines just how much data can be gathered.  The bottom line here though, is that larger sensors gather more data.  The end result – a higher quality photo.

Soooo… it only stands to reason that as you move up the ladder in cameras, there are more controls etc. – including larger sensors.  There is a trade off too – the camera is not only more expensive, but bigger and heavier. We won’t get into this side of it as I’ve discussed this mobility thing before Smile

The thing that really got me thinking hard about this, was the recent acquisition of the Nikon SB400 flash unit I got for my D3200.  For most part, it kept wanting to work at ISO 400 or about that setting.  Yes it would set my ISO down depending on the shot, but for the life of me, that “nag” didn’t go away.  And then the “brick” hit me this morning.  For the most part – IT DOESN’T MATTER!!!   For most of  the things I”m doing anyway Smile

Why you say?  OK – when you look closely at the reviews and specs and whatever, each class of camera, there’s this “threshold” where the image starts to deteriorate.  The other term is “noise”.  For instance –  a pointy shooty, that would be around ISO 400 or even 200, a more advanced camera like a travel camera that would be in the area of ISO 400 -800, an advanced camera possible in the area ISO 800 – 1600, a Compact System camera – possible to ISO 1600 (( I say that because my Panasonic GX1 is very good at !600..), and DLSR’s for the most part will go beyond this.

So what does that mean?  Really.  For the pointy shooty crowd, if one knows how to use ISO’s, this could mean that by shifting your ISO from 100 to 400 could increase your flash range from about 6-10 ft to about 16-20 ft. and still get a reasonable image.  That holds true for most cameras.  It will allow you to hand hold in lower light.  Is there a down side – yes, if you are in a fairly brightly lit scene, setting the ISO too high can wash out the image from the sensor getting too much light.

The other piece to this – when you look at the majority of people who take photos – the big question out there is the largest they will probably look at a photo will be on either their iPad or computer screen and in reality, won’t see the difference 🙂 For all intents and purposes, even the noise that is introduced, may not be that noticeable. 

So…coming back around to the SB400 and it’s over riding my D3200.  When I saw my images (and it didn’t sink in until I put  2 + 2 together, was that the sensor on the D3200 could probably go to ISO 1600 quite safely!!  This was something that the pro told me.  Because the SB400 works on ambient light, set the ISO deliberately high and then let the flash deal with the final calibration.  For the most part, my tests showed that for the more common shots, it stayed at 400 or less.  Kind of backwards in logic, but for the most part, it worked.  For the fashion shoot, I was actually everywhere from Manual to Programmed Auto depending on the shot.  Despite the fact that I still haven’t haven’t figured out the SB400, as I took more shots, I started to think even more about getting the SB700.  Off I went looking at reviews on the SB700.  The reviews revealed some things about flash that got me thinking even harder.

You see, for me, yes, I’ve done some flash work in my time, but the brunt of my stuff was in the area of low light and studio lighting over and above the “usual” stuff.  In looking at how the flash and camera work in tandem, and what  could be done, convinced me to go out and get the SB700.  Am I glad I got it?  ABSOLUTELY!!! 

Complex?  Well, yes to a certain degree.  Yes, I could just drop batteries in it and shoot, but the manual was definitely work looking at.  One very important feature for me, was the ability to control the way the flash spread light.  If I’m shooting interiors, I want to be able to get an even spread.  The extra power would allow me to do bounces in a variety of ways.  And it went on and on.  This flash is going to take some work figuring out but I think in the long haul, it’s going to be more than worth it.  We should stop here and chat about batteries for a bit and some thoughts around this.

In a very general sense, ’I don’t think the average person would ever take enough photos in a single session to drain a battery.  Even the pointy shooties will get several hundred shots or 50-100 flash shots on a single charge.  Even for me, unless it’s a significant event like a wedding or an XMAS party  or a fairly large photo event, it’s not likely I’ll ever go over 100 photos.  Now, in saying that, I’ve had enough events that have required more than one battery that I started to get extra batteries for some of my cameras.  My Fuji X10, for instance.  i have two spares for it and they’ve come in handy more than a few times.  I had more than a few days in Hawaii where I had to swap out.  Mind you, I was shooting from 8:00 a.m. to 10 p.m. more than a few times.  I also have a spare battery for my Panasonic LX7.  My Panasonic GX1 and Nikon 1 J1 also each have a spare battery.  On the flipside, my Fuji XF1 – I don’t have a spare for it.  It’s mostly because it’s currently one I take with me on my daily commute.  Along with a travel camera of course.  Until I got the Nikon D3200, the Fuji X10 and the Panasonic GX1 were my primary use cameras at events.  The D3200 changed things to a certain degree.  The acquisition of the two flash units changed things even more.

So… before I get into external flashes, I’m going to mention a few things about the in-built flashes.  For the most part, to me, they actually do work pretty well.  Todays camera’s do a pretty good job with the flash as long as they are used within their capability.  Many, if not all. have red-eye correction that work quite well.  As long as you don’t try to go beyond what the flash is capable of, it’s all good.  As you get more advanced, though, that built in flash doesn’t always cut it.  One thing I do a lot of with the in-built flash, is fill flash.  What I don’t do a lot of, is the “big flash” stuff.  OR the high sequence shots that require a fast cycle time.  When I used my GX1 last year for the fashion show, that was one of the things that kind of got me thinking external flash.  The GX1, in its defence, actually does cycle pretty good even though it shortens your battery life quite a bit. 

An external flash will take the load off the camera and increase the number of shots one can take with the camera.  One thought initially was to get a flash for the GX1 instead of one for the D3200.  Then, I got thinking about this a little harder.  Thinking longer term, actually.  The reasoning went sort of like this.  In the long haul, I ultimately want to move deeper into the DSLR space.  Yes, I’m going to add lenses.  I want to explore this avenue over the next year or so and am preparing to drop some serious coin here once I get start shooting more.  DSLR, I’m thinking will be the main focus.  All the rest will be secondary.  Now that doesn’t mean I’m not going to use the other cameras, I actually will and still do use my travel cameras quite extensively.  I also take the GX1 with the D3200 and have been using both wherever possible to get come comparison shots. 

Another area where I’m thinking that might come into play and flash may or may come into play, are using reflectors.  I really didn’t like the round reflectors as they can be hard to prop up if I needed them for something like plant photography.  Reflectors are another area that has intrigued me and in studying a bit, this is another area that might be worth looking at.  My immediate thought was to build some, but I decide to see if rectangular ones could be had.  Amazon to the rescue!!  Lo and behold I found some rectangular ones!! 24 x 36 inches, multiple colors. Long weekend coming – they’ll be here Friday!!!  A lot of test shots coming Smile

The batteries I use for my flash units are the Sanyo Eneloops.  They came highly recommended by a friend of mine who is a professional.  I initially was using them for my computer mice and keyboards.  When I got the SB400, I had six and so had 4 extras.  The fashion show caught me off guard in just how well the SB400 worked.  The batteries went the whole show and I’m still using them!!  Amazing.  Then I got the SB700 and they used the last 4.  In reality, between the two flashes, I shouldn’t need more, but, as the saying goes – “You don’t know what you don’t know”.  Sooo…. I ordered 8 more as a safety measure.

This next few months is going to prove VERY interesting…. Smile  Pic’s coming in a future post.



About gkamitomo
IT Busines Analyst

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