10 2015 Sep

Selecting Digital Cameras for Action Video.

Modern Digital Cameras

Most digital cameras you buy today offer movie capture, and many have some form of HD mode. The quality will not match the best camcorders, and movie specific controls will not be plentiful either. Although great for clips, these may not be enough for the serious videographer.

Video Capable SLRs

While relatively new, video capable SLRs are already making the scene with amateur videographers and serious movie makers, alike. A big sensor is the main reason for this, which allows Hollywood-style focus effects and excellent image quality, even in low light. There is also the versatility offered by the huge range of lenses (from fisheyes to extreme telephotos), opening up a new world of creative possibilities.

Keep in mind that smooth action video needs to be shot at 25 or 30 frames per second. Current DSLR cameras simply can’t flip the mirror up and down that fast. To work around this issue, the newest generation of cameras either keep their mirrors up and capture video in a live-stream from the sensor, or eliminate the mirror entirely.

We’ll take a look at camcorders in the next segment and delve into the advantages and disadvantages of each in future segments. Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

9 2015 Sep

Selecting the Perfect Camera Lens.

Today let’s continue our discussion of the basic types of lenses. These are described in more detail below.

Fisheye (12 mm or less)

These are the widest lenses that you can buy. They can be so wide that the image looks like a circle and the camera actually captures part of the inside of the lens barrel. Fisheye lenses are useful when you want to create the appearance of extremely exaggerated depth or capture every small detail in the frame. This effect is like looking through a key hole in a door.

Wide Angle (18 mm – 30 mm)

To capture a lot of scenery or action in your photo, you must use a wide angle lens. Keep in mind, however, that there will be some distortion of depth, and to any strait lines near the edges of the photo. Some expensive wide angle lenses will attempt to correct for this distortion. And this is a case where photo editing software can also be employed to remove more distortion, if desired.

Standard (35 mm – 85 mm)

This lens type creates the most natural effect; what the eye typically sees. The 35 mm, 50 mm, and 85 mm lenses are common focal lengths for inexpensive prime (kit) lenses. A 50 mm lens is considered by many to be the best for portraits or nature close-ups.

Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

8 2015 Sep

Selecting a Great Digital Camera.

A higher number of megapixels does not necessarily denote a higher quality camera however, it does provide more flexibility. A higher number of pixels produced will allow the user to expand the size of the photo more before it begins to lose its quality. Thus larger prints are possible. But if you only share your photos on the web, this is not so much an issue.

Optical zoom is a measurement of how far you can zoom in. Digital zoom is basically just cropping the image, so it may reduce the quality of the image if the camera does not have enough megapixels to support the digital zoom.

Optical stabilization is better than digital stabilization, because the lens elements actually move to compensate for shaking during optical stabilization. Digital stabilization merely manipulates the image, sacrificing quality.

The sensor size is a better determinant of a camera’s low light capability than ISO range. The smaller the sensor and ISO range, the more noise you photos will have in low light.

Burst rate describes the highest number of frames the camera can shoot in rapid succession. The range is from 4 fps (frames per second)to over 10 fps. A higher burst rate will allow you to capture high quality photos of fast moving objects.

Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

7 2015 Sep

Components of a Tripod.

For the casual photographer, using a ball head on the tripod allows quick adjustment of the camera in the vertical and horizontal directions using one locking screw. These heads typically do not include the fine adjustment capabilities of three-way heads, but they are cheaper, lighter, and more compact for carrying.

Three-way tripod heads have separate pan, tilt, and swivel movements. These tripod heads are ideal for studio photography or for very detailed landscape photography. Three-way tripod heads are not very convenient to carry around though, as they are usually equipped with handles that stick out.

For general photography a center column is not recommended for the tripod, as it reduces the stability created by the three legs (i.e., tripod) allowing the attached camera to wobble in the wind or during slight adjustments. This can be maddening! But if you are looking to get a good landscape shot on an angled slope or for close-up work on a table, a carefully selected center column will be very useful. In some cases the center column can be split and inserted upside down, allowing you to mount the camera right at ground level.

Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

4 2015 Sep

How to Choose Photo Editing Software?

My first selection of photo editing software (Windows Photo Gallery) did not give me the control that I was seeking when using the Edit menu, but it does contain many options for the casual user to quickly improve the quality of personal photos. I want to list a few more of these options before moving on to the next tool that I want to check out.

In the Edit menu, you can make changes to a single photo or to a batch of photos. This would be helpful if you had a common issue, such as lighting, with several photos. And in the last segment, I mentioned the Auto adjust tool for quick adjustments to photo quality.

There are also several Manual adjustments that can be made including; exposure, color, straighten (rotating a tilted image to the horizontal), adjust details, crop, fix red eye, apply a black and white effect, and resizing (changing a 350 x 350 pixel photo to 700 x 700, for example).

In the Create menu; create a collage, a panorama, email your edited photo, assemble your photos into a movie project, or attach your photo to a blog post. I would certainly give these tools a try before spending money on expensive professional tools. You may find that this is all you need. Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

3 2015 Sep

Selecting Digital Cameras for Action Video.

Digital cameras for action videos may be marketed as Camcorders or Video Capable DSLRs (HDSLR). In the last few years the line between the totally separate worlds of video and still photography became blurred. This is hardly a surprise since the camcorder and stills camera shared much of the same basic technology so that, to all intents and purposes, they were the same thing. The difference being that they each used components optimized for still or moving pictures.

With the mainstream adoption of High Definition televisions (and advances in sensor technology) a new wave of HD-capable still cameras have appeared in the last few years. Many compact digital cameras have been able to capture short video clips for many years. Their movie modes have been adequately sufficient for sending as email attachments and for web use, but they weren’t of high enough quality to be called video cameras. A new generation of cameras, both compact and SLR, has arrived. These cameras are capable of capturing high definition video nearly as well as they capture high resolution stills.

In the coming weeks this segment will take a detailed look at these devices, as we try to choose the best equipment for our action videos. Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

2 2015 Sep

Selecting the Perfect Camera Lens.

If you have been following my blogs thus far, you have an understanding of focal length and aperture. So now you can read lens labels and understand what they mean.

For example, a common zoom lens might have a label of 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6. This is understood as meaning that the lens is capable of capturing a view as wide as 18mm and zoom in as close as 55mm. The second part, f/3.5-5.6, means that the lens has a maximum aperture of f/3.5 when zoomed out to 18mm, and f/5.6 when zoomed in to 55mm.

Lenses are broken down into different types based upon their focal length. These types are defined as: fisheye (12mm or less), wide angle (13mm – 80mm), standard (35mm – 85mm), telephoto (100mm – 300mm), and super telephoto (greater than 300mm).

There are also specialty lenses like Macro Lenses and Tilt-Shift Lenses. Macro lenses allow the photographer to focus on an object that is extremely close, frequently closer that the human eye can see. Tilt-shift lenses focus on a portion of an image and create a miniaturization effect.

In the next segment on lenses we will be sticking to only the basic types of lenses, as the specialty lenses are primarily reserved for far more advanced photography techniques.

Until then, Happy Shuttering!

1 2015 Sep

Selecting a Great Digital Camera.

We previously touched on all digital camera specifications, but now let’s get into them in more detail. First, let’s look at the camera’s sensor.

Image sensor size has the most impact on your digital camera’s quality. Typically, the sensor’s size increases with the price of the camera from a fraction of an inch for smart phones and point and shoot cameras to a full-frame 35mm sensor, which provides the best low light performance.

For example the sensor in your Samsung Galaxy S6 is 5.5mm x 4.1mm. Where as the Lumix G7 Interchangeable Lens (DSLM) Camera is shipped with an image sensor that is

The next item of impact on quality is the lens aperture (often an f-stop number). A smaller f-stop number equates to a larger aperture and a camera with a larger aperture will give you more control over low light shooting. For example the Lumix G7, mentioned above, has a max aperture of 1.9 with the “kit” lens.  Some lenses have aperture ranges, like f/3.5-5.6, meaning that zooming in sacrifices brightness. While top quality lenses have constant aperture values throughout their zoom range, for example f/2.8.

Focal length, on the other hand, determines the lens’ angle of view, where a shorter (lower number) focal length means a wider angle of view.

Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

28 2015 Aug

How to Choose Photo Editing Software?

Windows Photo Gallery

I chose this software to begin with because it looked quick and easy to download and install. I also thought that I might be able to use the included Movie Maker software at a later date.

Windows Photo Gallery is included in Windows Live Essentials. So if you have downloaded this whole package, Windows Photo Gallery is already on your computer. If not, here are the simple instructions to get it.

  1. Type “windows photo gallery” into the search box on the start menu and select “Go online to get Windows Live Essentials”.
  2. Click Download.
  3. Select the optional programs you want to select. I chose Photo Gallery and Movie Maker.
  4. Click Install. Enter your Microsoft ID (or create one) and password.
  5. Follow the onscreen instructions to complete the download.

I noticed right away that it has some nifty tools in the Home menu for tagging, managing, and sharing photos with others, but I was more interested in the Editing menu. The first tool I tried on my test photo was the “Auto adjust” tool.

This tool actually did improve the visual appearance of my photo, in small increments. All I had to do was just keep clicking the Auto adjust button until I was satisfied with the photo. If I went to far, I just clicked the back button a few times, until satisfied.

Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

27 2015 Aug

Camera Mounts for Action Videos.

The camera mount kit that we discussed in the last article was for a professional action camera series. The kit included a virtual hardware store of parts to mount the camera on a skate board, snow board, bike handle bar, the front or top of a helmet, and just about any moving object. However, most mounting kits are more limited in focus.

Here is another popular example that allows you to wear your camera on your shoulder, chest, or hip; on the left, right, or centered. You can point the camera in any direction, from forward to backward.

  • Camera Mount
  • Extension Strap (used for wearing on the shoulder position)
  • 3-way S Adapter (works with cameras that have a standard tripod mount hole)
  • Hex Wrench
  • Instructions
  • Stuff Sack

It is a third party kit designed to fit a specific list of camera makes and models.

Here is a kit, randomly selected from Sony, that provides a fairly wide range of options:

  • 1 x Bike Handlebar Seatpost Mount
  • 1 x Shoulder Strap Mount
  • 1 x Car Suction Cup
  • 1 x Helmet Strap Mount
  • 1 x Luxebell Handheld Extendable Telescope Monopod
  • 1 x Mount Adapter
  • 1 x Luxebell Storage bag

Again, think big, and plan for the action camera that you can afford AND the mounting kit that you NEED to get the action shots that you desire. Until next time, Happy Shuttering!