A230.... Help?

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A230.... Help?

Postposted on Sun Mar 14, 2010 2:16 am

Well i'm just not getting the results I expected from the Sony A230, perhaps its just me doing something wrong or my other theory is that the lens kit that came with the camera is just not sufficient enough for my purposes.... thoughts?

Night shot of Fairbanks Alaska, as seen from my apartment.
Image
ISO 100
F/5.6 (lowest) @ 55mm
3.2second exposure
EV0.0+

Taken at my Apartment up here on the hill during sun down.
Image
ISO 400
F/5.6 @ 45mm
1/8 exposure
EV0.0+

Both pictures were Tripod mounted with the Sony Steadshot anti-shake disabled (as this can actually cause blurriness when you tripod mount it), the night shot was taken in manual mode whereas the sun-down shot was taken in auto-mode to give some sort of insight to the difference between what I had the camera do and what it recommended be done. Anyone notice such a large difference in anything here that I'm doing wrong to make the night photo come out that unclear, something just doesn't seem right. Is it possible that the lens is not sensitive enough, perhaps I would get much better result from something like a 1.8 wide angle lens.. or is my ISO setting slightly too low on the night shot (maybe i should be using 200?).
Last edited by Welch on Fri Mar 19, 2010 3:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A230.... Help?

Postposted on Sun Mar 14, 2010 3:09 am

I'll give you my thoughts; if by "unclear", regarding the night photo, you mean lack of detail of the landscape, that's just a matter of exposure time. Your eyes are much better than the camera at low-light and dynamic range. You can see more than your camera can. The camera is only picking up the point sources of distant lights, with a few particularly lit spots around. Was there cloud cover that night? The sky seems particularly devoid of stars.

You can up the ISO, but since you're already shooting at speeds that require your camera to be mounted, I would leave ISO at 100 (unless Sony's base ISO is 200? In that case ISO 200 would probably look marginally better, but I don't know Sony's setup). I would just up the shutter speed; that will cause the point sources to wash out a slightly larger area of the sensor, but it may bring out some of the landscape. Further, I don't know what the Moon was doing when you shot that; I generally try to time my nighttime landscape shooting for at least a half moon, and definitely aim for it to be as full as possible.

If you're concerned about the clicky-clack of the mirror and shutter vibrating the camera (and introducing softness to a long exposure), the easiest solution is simply stop down to f/8 or even f/10 (thus reducing the impact of the motion during shutter movement) and increasing the exposure time to match. I'd guess 10-15 seconds, maybe even twenty. Go nuts. Don't be afraid of taking exposures several minutes long, if you have a bulb setting.

You CAN get technically better results with a prime, at wider apertures and faster shutter speeds, but fast primes really shine with hand-held low-light shooting, situations where your subjects are moving and a tripod would be impractical. For mounted shooting with long exposures at night, your kit lens is definitely capable of taking excellent pictures. Like I said, embrace the super-long exposure. Three seconds is just the start. Have fun! :D
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Re: A230.... Help?

Postposted on Sun Mar 14, 2010 3:58 am

Hi Welch, can you post some 100% crops of the areas that look bad to you? It's hard to tell from the scaled down pics what the problem is.

The first pic could definitely stand to be exposed for a little longer to bring out shadow details. Note that in city areas, warm air currents can cause distortion and blurring of light.

Haze can also cut down on the resolution of distant objects, some people claim that UV filters will cut down on haze, but the results are usually not dramatic in my experience. I'm looking to try just that though with my 50/1.4 lens which doesn't seem to like distant objects very much.

Also, many primes are not super-sharp wide open (although they will typically be sharper than a zoom at the same aperture setting).

I'd also stop down further and focus manually - you're covering several kilometers of landscape there, so it's not surprising that there will be things out of focus at f/5.6 (I notice that the closer lights are a lot clearer). Try f/8-11 and focusing manually further back, as most cameras will lock on to the closest subject when using AF.
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Re: A230.... Help?

Postposted on Sun Mar 14, 2010 2:43 pm

I'll get some 100% crops on those pictures for you here in a bit. The Sony allows for ISO 100, not sure about default being 200, i've got it set manually. I did give QUITE the range of exposures all the way up to 20 seconds and between 3.2 . The quality doesn't look nearly as good in the higher exposures so I posted the 3.2 because it was the sharper/better looking of them, even 2.5 was a bit dim. I've got a UV filter on the lens, although its primary purpose for being on there is just to protect the lens, i haven't tested whether the haze is reduced by the filter (this will be a test for another time though :))

There wasn't any cloud cover that night, only one little trailing puff in the sky if that. I attempted to take pictures of the stars the other night ago and was disappointed to find that 2 pixel sized discolored blips showed up on the entire picture. I'm assuming that the stars "Twinkle" of varying colors all mixed together in the 30 seconds + exposure. The only feature I haven't quite figured to use is Bulb (it does have the bulb feature). You'll also notice that the shot of the town has sort of a dome over it from light "pollution" from excess city lights, in the longer exposure the dome is very much pronounced. And the last bit of of the equation is that I did manually focus and I had the steadshot off.

*UPDATE*
Here is the 100% crop as promised. The entire photo at 100% looks like this, i chose the portion with the smoke stack to give you some contrast, you can notice a good amount of noise in the smoke too, just another thing I noticed.

Image
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Re: A230.... Help?

Postposted on Sun Mar 14, 2010 3:51 pm

shoot at f8 with your lens (no matter focal length); it is the sharpest focal ratio. also based on the crop, it looks like your tripod/camera is vibrating, or you're shooting through a window. you can get a wireless remote so you never have to touch the camera when shooting to eliminate potentially all vibration (http://www.sonystyle.ca/commerce/servle ... 272n100277). if the latter, then try shooting with the window open as the window will refract(?) the light in unpleasing ways.

also, try turning off noise reduction or any other in-camera photo touch-up option, and shoot in raw modes.

with slrs, the lens will be the majority decider in image quality ... so think about investing in new glass.

(as this can actually cause blurriness when you tripod mount it)


who told you this?
Last edited by phez on Sun Mar 14, 2010 4:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A230.... Help?

Postposted on Sun Mar 14, 2010 3:59 pm

Hmmm, for $40.00 it seems like a good investment. The tripod isn't the greatest, its a Velbon lower end model, but its what i've got to work with for now before I purchase one (using a family members since they arent shooting much lately). So with running it F/8 i'd get a much clearer picture but i'd have to leave the apeture open much longer, correct? This would probably have me over expose the image and introduce some streaking in the lights. On one side of the image (to the left) out of the first pictures range is an airport... with that effect I'd like to try again later tonight possible to see if I can get one of the jets landing, with a streak of its lights the entire way to landing, that would be great.

Thanks for the link to the remote, i'm considering whether that or a new lens would be a better upgrade. Obviously not in the same price range, but 40.00 could go towards a new lens..

One more question, with the anti-shake turned OFF in these pictures on the tripod, is it possible that Anti-shake ON the tripod would be useful considering the distance im covering with the lens at 55mm... as in it would be beneficial to turn it back on, and only leave it off when I'm only running 18mm?

I believe Voldenuit and Spoofe both attested that anti-shake when mounted on a tripod can cause more harm than good, I also read a few articles on the Sony Steadyshot that claimed the same thing. I do have NR turned on.. so your saying turn NR off and do NR post processing?
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Re: A230.... Help?

Postposted on Sun Mar 14, 2010 4:43 pm

so your saying turn NR off and do NR post processing?


You should only use NR at higher ISOs or if there is noticable noise in long exposure shots. Most modern DSLRs, even lower end models, should have little issue with noise at lower ISOs. NR will blur fine detail and is fine for wide angle shots, but images which you need detail, texture, etc, it is better to turn it off and evaluate the photo yourself on the computer.

I believe Voldenuit and Spoofe both attested that anti-shake when mounted on a tripod can cause more harm than good, I also read a few articles on the Sony Steadyshot that claimed the same thing. I do have NR turned on.. so your saying turn NR off and do NR post processing?


bro tip: try it yourself. take images with antishake on, and antishake off, and evaluate the end result for yourself to determine which is better for your situations.
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Re: A230.... Help?

Postposted on Sun Mar 14, 2010 6:09 pm

It almost seems to me that the first image (looking at the crop) might be slightly out of focus...could that be a possibility?
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Re: A230.... Help?

Postposted on Sun Mar 14, 2010 6:15 pm

Welch wrote:*UPDATE*
Here is the 100% crop as promised. The entire photo at 100% looks like this, i chose the portion with the smoke stack to give you some contrast, you can notice a good amount of noise in the smoke too, just another thing I noticed.


To my (untrained) eye, this looks like shake.

I'm guessing it's either caused by
1. Shaking the camera when pressing the trigger
2. Mirror slap
3. Unsteady tripod

or a combination of the above.

Try using the timer function for long exposures - I have my GF1 set to 2s delay for long exposures. If that doesn't do the trick, try using mirror lockup. Lastly, it may be the tripod.

Note also that the surface you mount it on could be unsteady. For example, if you have it on a wooden deck, the wood creaking beneath your feet as you shift your weight can be enough to throw off the camera.

On the bright side, I don't think there's anything technically wrong with the camera (or lens) so far.
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Re: A230.... Help?

Postposted on Sun Mar 14, 2010 6:33 pm

Focus could be off, lens could be soft wide open, and tripod did shake.
Welch wrote:So with running it F/8 i'd get a much clearer picture but i'd have to leave the apeture open much longer, correct? This would probably have me over expose the image and introduce some streaking in the lights.
I'm not sure what you mean by "streaking," but you wouldn't "over expose the image" - you'd need to leave the shutter open twice as long to get the same exposure, and the same exposure is the same exposure.
Welch wrote:On one side of the image (to the left) out of the first pictures range is an airport... with that effect I'd like to try again later tonight possible to see if I can get one of the jets landing, with a streak of its lights the entire way to landing, that would be great.
To get that shot, the lights on the plane need to be very bright relative to the lights on the ground. You're essentially exposing the jet lights for as long as they are in one place, but exposing the lights on the ground for the whole time. For normal levels of brightness, that's infeasible.
Welch wrote:Thanks for the link to the remote, i'm considering whether that or a new lens would be a better upgrade. Obviously not in the same price range, but 40.00 could go towards a new lens..
$40 is a drop in the bucket. Being able to trigger your camera without touching it, either with a corded or cordless remote, will go a long way. If you're going to put that money towards something else, put it towards a real tripod+head.
Welch wrote:One more question, with the anti-shake turned OFF in these pictures on the tripod, is it possible that Anti-shake ON the tripod would be useful considering the distance im covering with the lens at 55mm... as in it would be beneficial to turn it back on, and only leave it off when I'm only running 18mm?
It might be worthwhile because your tripod isn't doing it's job - the camera is moving around. Of course, in that range of shutter speeds, it's essential that you don't just trigger the camera normally. At the very least you need to use the self timer. Regarding your star photo attempt...without knowing what you did it sounds like you may have some very unrealistic expectations there.
Welch wrote:I believe Voldenuit and Spoofe both attested that anti-shake when mounted on a tripod can cause more harm than good, I also read a few articles on the Sony Steadyshot that claimed the same thing. I do have NR turned on.. so your saying turn NR off and do NR post processing?
Part of that is assuming that you have a good tripod mounted on a stable surface and are using it properly. A cheapo blowing in the wind isn't all that stable.
...
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Re: A230.... Help?

Postposted on Sun Mar 14, 2010 7:13 pm

I didn't read the entire thread, but I have taken plenty of night shots...

Turn down the NR to minimum and use post-process NR instead, but that is NOT to be confused with NR which is "Dark Frame Subtraction". That is when the camera takes an equal-length exposure with the shutter closed and subtracts it from the original exposure. Dark Frame Subtraction is necessary to eliminate noise from pixel sensitivity differences. Preferably process RAW, but Sony is in a class of its own for direct JPG output without much need for RAW processing, if not going to stretch the final image to extremes.

Taking night shots of distant lights requires very careful exposures, and typically three of them combined to create a HDR image. The image you took would be especially difficult as the skies are very dark, but the lights are, well, very bright. So take three shots 2/3 a stop apart and combine them with HDR software.

Otherwise just increase your exposure time, and who cares if the lights are blown highlights. That isn't the interesting part anyhow.

Yes, keep the IS off when tripod mounting. Mechanically these can only compensate for the relatively slow shake of a camera in a person's hand. they are optimized for this scenario. When you mount a camera to a tripod, the mode of resonance is much higher, and the IS is unable to cope, making any camera shake worse.

Use the timer function to start your exposure. The same one used for portraits where it gives you time to run into the frame. Prevents motion caused by depressing the shutter button.

Use a remote, no touching the camera at all.

Digital exposures are "free". Expect to take many night shots and hope a few com out well. It is difficult sometimes to gauge the exposure for the desired effect. I have overdone moonlight shots that look like daylight, but that is not what I wanted to portray. Anyhow, have fun, night shots are technically difficult in some locations, but rewarding when you get something nice!

Some samples, not all "perfect" but fun. Tried to capture the mood of the experience of sitting in a warm field watching fireflies and listening intently for the rustle of coyotes sneaking up on you. Keeps things exciting.
http://picasaweb.google.com/wymanfamily3/Fireflies2#
http://picasaweb.google.com/wymanfamily3/FireFlies#

These were especially hard in some cases, since I have almost no light scatter. Almost pitch-dark to where you cannot see your hand in front of your face. So it is really cool when you can see something after the exposures.

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Re: A230.... Help?

Postposted on Sun Mar 14, 2010 8:34 pm

For landscape stuff you can also just use the delay timer. Just set it to 2 seconds, set it off, take a few steps back, and let it do its thing. This works well unless you're capturing a moment.

If you have mirror lockup, use it.

Stop down to F/8 or so, don't go smaller than F/11.

Set your focus! Cameras have a hard time focusing without good light. Focus manually to infinity on shots like that. Combined with f/8 everything should be sharp.
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Re: A230.... Help?

Postposted on Wed Mar 17, 2010 7:48 pm

@Welch: So... did any of the suggestions in this thread help?
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Re: A230.... Help?

Postposted on Wed Mar 17, 2010 8:25 pm

Haven't had a chance to try anything out just yet, was over at the camera shop looking at a Manfrotto tripod, run about 140.00 or so. Hopefully I'll get a chance to try it out tonight, but then again the GF sometimes has the gravity to pull me into watching a movie late night so hehehe, might not be tonight. Sorry for the delay.
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