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Digital SLR Guide News - The Best Digital SLR of 2007
November 30, 2007
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Digital SLR Q & A
Question: What's an SLR-like digital camera?
AnswerThere's an entire category of cameras out there that bear a great resemblance to digital SLRs but are NOT true SLRs - hence their name: SLR-like.
These are still compact cameras, and they differ from true SLRs in three very fundamental ways:
Having said this, there are some distinct advantages to buying an SLR-like camera instead of a true SLR:
So how do you decide which one to get?
Get an SLR if:
Get an SLR-like camera if:
Digital SLR TechniqueFor more digital SLR camera techniques, please browse through the back issues of this newsletter (especially helpful if you find me rambling about something that makes no sense).
Over the course of this year, I've talked about a lot of different camera techniques including the use of aperture, shutter speed and ISO (the triad of digital camera controls).
As we wrap up 2007, it only seemed appropriate to talk about how all three work together to help you capture natural light photos (flash photography is a topic for next year's newsletters).
Let's start out with a quick refresher about each one of these settings:
Let's talk about some concrete examples, so that you can see how each one of these settings works together to capture an image that's correctly exposed.
SCENARIO 1 - BROAD DAYLIGHT
If you're photographing a static subject (landscape, portrait, macro) set your camera to:
Rationale: since there's plenty of available light, you don't need the sensor to be super-absorbent so ISO 100 will do. In aperture priority mode, you set the aperture, and the camera selects a matching shutter speed. Since your subject isn't moving, you don't need a fast shutter speed to freeze the action.
If you're photographing a subject in motion set your camera to:
SCENARIO 2 - OVERCAST DAYLIGHT
For static subjects:
Rationale: as the light gets dimmer, you want to make sure that your shutter speed is fast enough to prevent blur from either subject motion or camera shake. A slight increase in the ISO setting makes the sensor more receptive to light, and will ensure that you can use shutter speeds at 1/125th of a second or faster.
For moving subjects:
Rationale: taking photos of fast-moving subjects on overcast days is one of the easiest ways to capture a bunch of blurry photos. If you don't increase your ISO, here's the problem: even with your lens set to its maximum aperture (as wide as it will open) the shutter speed for a correct exposure will still be TOO SLOW to freeze a subject in motion. For example, let's say that your lens is open to f/3.5 and your shutter speed is 1/125. While this is just fine for a portrait subject, it won't work well for capturing a soccer game. With your lens open to its maximum, there's only one way to coax a faster shutter speed out of the camera: increase the ISO. An increase up to ISO 400 or 800 will make the sensor absorb more light and will boost that shutter speed (with the aperture left open all the way) up to 1/500 or faster.
SCENARIO 3 - INTERIOR LIGHT
For static subjects (without a flash):
Rationale: since you're not working with a lot of available light, you want to ensure that A) the ISO is increased and B) the lens is open as wide as it can be (maximum aperture). With these settings, keep an eye on your shutter speed. If you have an image stabilized lens or camera, you can get away with shutter speeds as slow as 1/30th of a second, but if your subject moves, there will be blur. If you want a faster shutter speed, simply increase the ISO setting.
For moving subjects (without a flash):
Learning ResourceI devote a lot of time on the web site and in this newsletter toward encouraging you to learn your camera's settings to that you can capture photos correctly the moment you take them.
However, it's inevitable that there will come a time when in your rush to capture a great shot, all that camera theory goes straight out the window and you wind up with a photo that's poorly exposed or has some nasty color tint.
The great part about digital imaging is that it's quite easy to correct some of these common mistakes with photo editing software AFTER the photo has been taken. Even a shot that seems like a total loss need not be so long as you have the tools and technique to fix it.
This month's learning resource focuses on a specific piece of software that will help you manage and edit your photos: Adobe Elements.
The web site is called www.easyelements.com, and it presents a wealth of tips and tutorials about how you can use the Adobe Elements software to improve and enhance your digital photos.
It's worth a look if you're just getting started in the world of digital photo editing and your software of choice is Adobe Elements.
How and WhenThis month I'll be talking about a specialized type of photography: How to Take Photos at Night.
Night photography is challenging on many levels, but can create images that are simply not possible during the daytime.
The very first accessory you're going to need for night photography is a sturdy tripod. And by "sturdy" I don't mean the lightweight plastic tripod that you might have picked up in an eBay auction.
The issue here is one of shutter speed: the limited amount of available light means that the camera's shutter needs to stay open a very long time to capture a good exposure.
Exposure is a balance of two different camera settings: aperture (how wide your lens can open) and shutter speed (how long the sensor is exposed to light). When there's plenty of available light, the shutter only needs to be open a fraction of a second in order to capture an image (regardless of the aperture setting).
At night, you may open the lens aperture as wide as it will go, but you'll still be dealing with shutter speeds measured in seconds, not fractions of seconds.
And here's the problem: very slow shutter speeds also cause image blur.
If you're holding the camera in your hands, you're quite likely to get a completely blurry photo if your shutter speed is slower than 1/15th of a second, EVEN if you have a fancy image stabilized camera or lens.
The only sure-fire way to get completely clear photos at night is to make sure the camera is not moving AT ALL. If the camera twitches even a tiny bit (maybe it's a windy evening) your night photo will wind up as a blur.
This is where the solid base of support comes in, and why a good high-quality tripod is a real necessity if you really are serious about taking photos at night.
The second piece of camera gear you'll need is a remote trigger - it doesn't matter if it's wired or wireless (different cameras have different types of triggers). When using long shutter speeds you don't even want to TOUCH the camera, since pressing your finger onto the shutter release button can cause minute camera vibrations that will blur your photo.
That covers the gear - now you need to adjust your camera settings for night photography.
While you can leave your camera in AUTO mode for night photography, it's often better to use manual mode, because you're dealing with so little available light.
STEP 1: With the camera in manual mode, select a lens aperture first. It really doesn't matter what aperture you use, just realize that the narrower the aperture, the slower the shutter speed you'll have to use to get a good exposure.
In this case, a slow shutter speed isn't a problem, since you've got the camera attached to a tripod and you're using a remote trigger to take the photo.
STEP 2: Once you've selected an aperture, keep slowing down the shutter speed until the camera's light meter tells you the exposure is correct (represented in digital SLR cameras by the number zero or with a graphic indicator that points to zero). You'll find that the shutter has to be open for several seconds in order to let in enough light.
STEP 3: now for the fine tuning. Some digital SLR cameras have a feature called "long exposure noise reduction". Now is the time to activate this feature, which will create cleaner photos when using slow shutter speeds. If you don't have this feature, then just set your camera's image mode to RAW instead of JPG.
RAW files contain unprocessed image data, and capture more information than a JPG. Files in the JPG format are also compressed, which can add grain or "noise" to your night images (hence the long exposure noise reduction).
RAW files can be viewed and edited with a variety of software programs. My personal favorite - mostly because of price to feature ratio - is Adobe Elements.
Cameras and Accessories
The Digital SLRs of 2007We've just about hit the end of the year here, so now is as good a time as any to quickly summarize the wide range of cameras that were released in 2007.
And for those of you who are curious about such things, here's my pick for the best digital SLR of 2007.
LinksThe following collection of links will help to keep you posted about what's new at the Guide and in the world of digital SLR cameras.
Recent Updates to the Digital SLR Guide
Other Photography Sites
In ConclusionHere's hoping that the holiday elves bring you that brand new digital SLR camera you've been pining for, or - if you've managed to find the perfect camera already - a nice accessory that will make your SLR photography even more enjoyable.
Next month, the newsletter will reflect what's gone on in the world of digital SLR cameras this year, with a look ahead at 2008 to see what will be coming up in the new year.
As always, thanks for reading and happy picture-taking!
--Chris Roberts, Your Digital SLR Guide
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