Shutter Lag

It’s caused by a few things but the main one has to do with the digital camera technology itself. The image recording chip inside the camera is actually producing a moving video picture all the time. This is what you see on the camera’s screen or viewfinder. When you press the shutter button you are actually capturing a “freeze frame” of this video.

This is why your camera manual might refer to the picture taking process as “image capture”. Whatever it’s called, the fact is that it takes quite a lot of processing and therefore can take a significant length of time. Digital cameras, like all digital devices, get more powerful with each generation so you should expect that a newer camera would have less shutter lag than an older one, but there is no guarantee of that.

There are three possible approaches to the problem of shutter lag. You can either eliminate it, minimise it or anticipate it. Of course, a fourth option would be to ignore it and, if you only ever take photographs of relatively static scenes, you will probably never even have noticed it. It’s only when you’re trying to capture a fleeting moment or a moving subject that you’ll find this to be a problem.

There is only one sure-fire way to do this and that is by using a semi-professional or professional Dslr type camera. These cameras have an “old fashioned” mechanical shutter that has no lag. However because of that, you don’t get a “live” view in the back of the camera so you have to use the eyepiece just like you did with a film camera.

The way digital cameras capture images is not the only reason for the delay, some of the settings on your camera can have a profound effect on the amount of lag. The worst culprit by far is an “anti-red eye” flash setting. This will fire your built in flashgun several times before taking the picture.

A friend of mine once took lots of pictures at a party with his new digital camera. He thought his camera was broken because, in all the pictures, he had managed to cut everyone’s head off. It only became clear what the problem was once I saw him take a picture.

Basically, he was doing everything right except that the anti-red eye system took ages to fire all the flashes and only the very last one actually takes the photograph. By the time that one fired, he was bringing the camera down and looking for the next group to photograph. Hence the cut off heads. Once he learned to wait for the very last flash to fire, his picture composition improved immensely.

A smaller, but still sometimes significant, delay can be caused by your camera setting the exposure and focus before it takes the picture. Both of these things are done with tiny motors moving parts of the lens about and this will always take a certain amount of time.

You can stop this happening in two ways. One is to set the exposure and focus manually on your camera. Not all cameras will allow you to do this and I suspect that not all that many people will want to “go manual” anyway, but all is not lost. You can usually still minimise the delay whilst leaving all the controls on fully automatic.

Take your camera into a quiet room and very slowly press the shutter button. Before the button has reached the end of its travel you should hear (and possibly feel) the motors in the lens being activated. This is your camera setting its exposure and focussing before it takes the picture. Only when the button reaches the very end of its travel is the photograph actually taken.

The trick (or technique) is to press the button only half way down, and hold it there. Having done all the slow stuff in advance, pushing the button the rest of the way will take the photograph with the absolute minimum of shutter lag. This technique can also be used to “pre-focus”. For example, if you wanted to focus on something at the edge of the frame. You would centre on it, push the shutter half way then re-frame, press the shutter right down and take the picture.

As you might expect, this will take a little time, effort and practice on your part but it could make the difference between taking a picture you would want to hang on your wall and one you want to instantly delete.

To find out how much lag your camera actually has you can try the following: Find a scene with a strong vertical line, like a lamp post or end of a wall etc. Pan your camera slowly through about 50 degrees so the line passes the edge of the frame. Do this a few times to get a consistent speed. It might help to slowly count as you are panning.

On one pass, press the shutter as soon as your marker line appears at the edge of your viewfinder – but keep panning, this is important. Your marker should appear in the middle of the frame. How far into the middle will depend on the amount of lag. Repeat this a few times and you should begin to get a feel for the amount of delay on your camera.

Now try anticipating the moment. Panning the camera the other way, try pressing the button when your marker gets to the point it was in the photograph you took and keep panning. This time, your marker should be right at the edge of the frame when the photograph is taken. If it is then you should now have a good sense of just how much shutter lag your camera has.

Shutter lag is most annoying if you are trying to take candid, spontaneous photographs. That “perfect moment” is easily lost if you have to wait for the camera. One technique you can try is to start with your subject facing well away from the camera. Ask them to turn and face the camera when you call their name. The trick is to press the shutter as you call their name.

If they are still turning towards the camera when the picture is taken then just ask them not to look so far away from the camera at the start. Most people’s facial expression is much more natural if they are doing something at the time (like turning round) rather than just staring at a camera waiting for their picture to be taken.

Even if you have a feeling for the lag in your camera, it will still be tricky to capture precisely the perfect moment but there is one last thing you could try. It relies on your camera having a “multi-exposure” setting. However, many of them do. This setting will take several pictures one after the other as quickly as possible. So the technique is simply to take lots and lots of pictures.

This is a perfectly legitimate technique used by professionals all the time in fast moving situations. It’s just statistics really, if you take enough pictures then one of them is bound to come out “just right”. If it doesn’t then you simply haven’t taken enough pictures.

Find Cheap Digital Cameras

A good starting off point in the search for cheap digital cameras is the Internet where there are many outstanding deals to be had and where there is a lot of choice as well that includes big names such as Kodak, Canon, Sony as well as Toshiba that each have a broad range of cheap digital cameras on offer. And, times have changed because now there is no need to shop around as much to locate cheap digital cameras because most of these cameras are pretty similar and all you need to do is pick the brand name that you like the most and follow a few simple steps to get the best from your purchase.

There are certain sites where these cheap digital cameras have been compared and you may want to visit sites such as techbargain and also cnet.com where you can find many cheap digital cameras that are being sold in hundreds of online stores, and all you need to do is glance at the different products and check them out feature for feature and price for price.

If you visit eBay, there is sure to be a bargain buy available, and there will also be virtually every digital camera make and model available, though some of the things you buy on eBay including cheap digital cameras can often are a bit of a gamble, so it means that you makes sure to buy only from reputable sellers who have feedback scores that are excellent.

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Another source for cheap digital cameras is to visit digital camera forums that specialize in such products where you will be sure to find information from users of digital cameras who will provide valuable insights into the relative merits and demerits of digital cameras, and where you can also find cheap digital cameras through some of the discount promotional offers advertised there.

Future Of Conventional Cameras

Since the images that a digital camera captures is in electronic form, it is a language recognized by computers. This language is called pixels, tiny colored dots represented by ones and zeros that make up the picture that you just took. Just like any conventional cameras, a digital camera is furnished with a series of lenses that focus the light and creates the image that you want to capture. The difference here is then; a conventional camera focuses its light on a film while a digital camera focuses the light into a semiconductor device that electronically records the light. Remember the built in computer, it comes in here and breaks this information to digital data resulting to all the features of the digital camera.

Another feature of the digital camera is that it has a sensor that converts light into electrical charges. A charge coupled device or CCD is an image sensor that is found in a digital camera. While other low-end digital camera use complementary metal oxide semiconductor or CMOS as an image device, it can still become better and more famous in the future but most engineers are do not believe that it can replace the CCD for higher-end digital cameras.

A collection of tiny diodes, the CCD gathers electrons when they are struck by photons or the light particles. Each diode or photosite is sensitive to light, meaning that the brighter the light, the number of the electrons gathering will be larger

The price of a digital camera nowadays have been depreciating, one of the main reasons of this is because of the introduction of CMOS image sensors, this is because CMOS sensors are less expensive and are easier to manufacture than CCD sensors. A CCD and CMOS sensor works the same way at first, by converting the light electrical charges into photosites. Simply putting it, is to think that a digital camera works in such a way as thinking that the millions of tiny solar cells, each of which forms a part of the whole image. Both CCD and CMOS do this task using different methods.

When shopping for the best digital camera, take note of these key features.

  • Image quality. Check the resolution of the camera. The higher the resolution, the more thou will be able to enlarge your picture without the grainy or the out-of-focus effect that we all want to avoid.
  • Lens. Choose a digital camera with better digital zoom. The digital zoom of the camera will enable you take the pixels from the image sensor and incorporate them to make an image.
    Power. Always opt for rechargeable batteries, they can always come in handy, plus you don’t waste as much money on the disposable ones.
  • Options. So you can brag to your friends how good a photographer or artist you are. Or choose the one that gives options that best cater to your lifestyle, so you won’t ever whine how you never get the right pictures.
  • Memory. If you’re a photo freak, be sure that you have enough memory in your camera to take all the wacky, freaky, funny and just about any photo you can. Think 512MB if you’re a photo junkie and takes pictures of just about anything.
  • Computer Interface. Always make sure that it is compatible with your PC, laptop, palmtop or whatever your local picture printer software is, you don’t want to go running around the whole state or the country looking for a computer that’s compatible with your digital camera, wont you?!
  • Physical. If you are going to be bringing it everywhere, choose a handy and portable digital camera. This way, it won’t always feel as heavy and bulky as those cameras that you see professional photographers are always dragging on their neck. Don’t they ever get tired of that?!

Digital Camera Homework

The biggest thing to keep in mind when buying a digital camera is what you plan on using the camera for. For example, if you want a small, easy to carry camera for taking photos at parties and emailing them to friends, you probably want a small, ultra-light camera. These cameras are point-and-shoots with little or no zoom and a relatively low resolution, but the small resolution won’t matter unless you’re printing the photos larger than 4×6, and the ultra-small size of these cameras makes them easy to drop into a purse or shirt pocket for a night out.

Or, maybe you want to use your digital camera in the same way you did your 35mm, sending a few photos to friends and printing others out for storage in albums or for a few larger wall hangings. Then consider buying a digital camera in the point-and-shoot range, something with a resolution between three and five mega pixels. Though these cameras may not always fit in a shirt pocket, they’re still easy to carry and use. Most come with a decent optical zoom that will allow you to get close to your subject, a few different shooting modes for taking portraits, indoor, and outdoor shots, and various other features depending on the model and manufacturer. The higher resolution will allow you to print out crisp photos, either at home or at a photo processing store.

If you’re buying a digital camera to compete with your 35mm SLR or want to get into more advanced digital techniques, you’ll want something in between the point-and-shoot and the full-on, professional digital SLR. You fit into the “prosumer” category, squarely in between the professional and the standard consumer. In the past five years the digital camera market has really responded to this section of the market, offering up a large number of fully-featured, relatively inexpensive cameras. Digital SLRs with a full range of interchangeable lenses usually start around $1,000, while other cameras with many of the features of the SLRs but without the interchangeable lens system can be had for much less.

Improve Digital SLR Camera Pictures

Understanding how the focal length of your lenses relates to the
shutter speed you are shooting with.

If your shooting with a 50mm lenses the rule of thumb is that you can hand hold your camera with shutter speeds of 1/50th of a second and higher. With a 200mm lenses that is 1/200th of a second. With expensive image stabilization lenses you can hand hold a 200mmm at about 1/100th of a second maybe 1/60th of a second if you have steady hands. One trick I have used to squeeze an extra shutter speed stop while hand holding my camera is holding my breath and keeping my arm tight close to my chest. Knowing your lenses and remembering this simple tip should yield sharper results in your photos while hand holding your digital SLR camera.

Understanding the focus system in your camera

Practically every digital SLR camera focuses when you press the shutter button halfway down. Usually you will hear a beep and see a green or red square through the viewfinder. This is what the camera is focusing on. Then press the button the rest of the way down to take the picture. Understand that the computer inside the camera is looking at differences in image contrast and that difference is what is focusing the camera. Most digital SLR cameras also let you change the focus point manually to anywhere there is a predetermined point in the viewfinder. At a minimum you will get 9 points of focus up to 45 points of focus. It depends on the model and make of your digital SLR camera.

While executing my day-to-day shooting I always start with my focus point in the center of the viewfinder then I move it according to the subject I am shooting. It is easy to forget about where you set your focus point and then wonder why your photos are off focus or out of focus. So when you start a shoot the first place to check is where your focus point is and then center it, this should help you get more shots in focus.


Stability and when to use a tripod

If you are dealing with long exposures when shooting or if the shutter speed exceeds the focal length, then you need to use a tripod. All tripods are not the same. If in the studio a lightweight tripod can be used effectively if you weigh it down with sandbag or an alterative weighting device. When outdoors use a tripod on the heavier side is probably best, it also depending on weather condition. If there is a lot of wind you really need to secure the tripod with weight or some tripods even have a feature where you can spike them in the ground for more stability.

Any movement during a shot with a long exposure will almost always render that shot useless and that is why stability is so important. One of the newest advancements in camera technology is “image stabilization” in both lenses and camera bodies. This new technology is great and its best used if shooting with two hands on the camera and bracing your body against something. Still in some shooting situations there is still no replacement for a good weighted tripod.

How to handle strong back lighting

Back lighting subjects can be our enemy. Many people try to shoot a photo with a strong bright window light in the background, and then wonder why the shot did not come out. Why does this happen? The bright light from the window floods the lens, and your camera usually can not compensate for it. One way to combat this is to use a fill flash on your subject or use a large white fill card. Another option is to diffuse the strong window light and fill the subject with a white fill card. Do not be afraid of back lighting use it to your advantage, just remember you need to counteract a strong back light with a strong fill.

Need for Speed

As a leader of tours and workshops, one of the biggest problems I have encountered with participants is their taking too much time getting everything ready and missing THE shot. This is fine when doing a scenic and the subject is going nowhere, but when you’re getting ready to photograph a pair of bighorn sheep about to butt heads or an elk thrashing its antlers on a tree or shrub, you need to be ready to push the button at the opportune time.

Knowledge of Equipment: Knowing your equipment is as important as knowing and being able to anticipate the movements of your subject. Yes, everyone today owns autofocus equipment, but there are times when you switch to manual focus for whatever reason.

Ask yourself these questions: Which way do I turn the barrel of my lens to bring the subject into focus if it’s approaching me? Which way do I turn the shutter speed dial if I need to go from 1/500th of a second to 1/1000th because of a change in lighting conditions? If you don’t know these you might have missed a shot. When something special happens, such as a bighorn sheep butting heads, you need to know how to work your equipment to get the shot, especially if some clouds move in front of or away from the sun changing your exposure just before the action happens.

More important than this is knowing all of the functions of your camera body. Just because it will do everything for you, you still have to know which settings, modes, white balance and programs are right for any given situation. Getting a new camera body and then taking it on a trip to a location you’ll probably never go to again is not the time to learn how your camera works. Read the manual beforehand and make sure you know enough to feel comfortable in at least one of the modes.

A lot of shots of animals in motion can be made easier if you get on them early on. A good example of this is with birds in flight. The further away you are able to get the subject in your viewfinder, the easier it is to get the shot you want, especially when you have a large lens on your camera. Trying to find a flying bird through a large lens with it right near you is nearly impossible, because your field of view is very narrow. If you are able to focus on the bird at a distance you can follow it on its path, keep it in focus and get the shot at the location you want. Another thing to keep in mind when doing this is to follow through with your shot. Keep panning with your subject even after you have clicked your shutter release so you don’t have any unnecessary jerking of your camera causing an out of focus image. Bump up your ISO. In doing photography of birds in flight and other quick wildlife action raise the ISO to around 400. If you typically shoot at 100, this will give you two extra stops of light you wouldn’t have previously. Do this even if it’s a nice sunny day to get a very fast shutter speed to freeze the action.

While speed is important in getting a lot of shots, some that look like they require all facets of speed also rely heavily on patience. For these instances you have to stand there and wait for the anticipated action to occur and then be quick on the shutter release to get the action, like with sitting on a great blue heron or other type of bird standing in the water waiting for a meal to swim by. The shot you’re hoping to get is of your subject lunging into the water for a fish and then coming up with it.

For this you can do it one of two ways. First, you can sit there with your eye glued to your viewfinder and finger on the shutter release and wait for the action to occur or you can keep a watchful eye on the bird knowing that certain actions will happen just before it moves into action. Here is where knowledge of your subject comes into play. For hunting herons and other similar birds they will make a slight movement of their body position before plunging into the water for a meal.

Knowing this and other behavior patterns of animals helps in getting good action and behavior shots. Keep a mental notebook while working different wildlife species of seeing if they do something that prepares them to do something else.

Wildlife action shots are the ones that show behavior. It’s nice to have profiles of an animal standing there looking back at you, but when you’re able to bring some behavior into the image it makes for more interesting photographs. Head shots and profiles do make their way into print quite often, but when your are able to incorporate behavior you’re able to tell more of a story. And after all, isn’t that what photography is all about, telling a story.

To get that good behavior shot you have to be ready for it to happen, not be driving up to a location where a moose is crossing the road getting ready to enter the willows, knowing you have to change batteries or lenses. Be prepared. Be knowledgeable. And most importantly, be quick.

Andy Long is an award-winning photographer / writer who devotes his photography work to the beauty of the world around us. As a leader of workshops since 1994, Andy likes to help people explore new areas and to go home with a memorable experience as well as great images.

Shopping For Digital SLRs

For those of us who aren’t quite sure, however, the amount of technical information on the topic can be confusing and alarming. Many people feel overwhelmed at the amount of information there is on digital SLRs and other cameras. These people often end up buying a lot of software or hardware that they don’t need and pay far too much for their package.

The first thing you’ll need to know is what you plan on taking pictures of. This will help you decide which of the digital SLRs is right for the job and narrow down your choice.

Read reviews available in camera magazines or look through online websites like PC World at http://www.pcworld.com to understand your own needs. This comes before you understand the technical jargon. If you do a lot of night shooting, for example, you’ll want a camera that does dark shooting well.

The truth about most of the digital SLRs on the market that the different companies won’t tell you is that they are all essentially the same. All digital SLRs are capable of taking great pictures and giving you what you’re looking for.

However, there are minor details with each one that can make a difference in the types of pictures you choose to take. Some SLRs are better suited to action shots while others are perfect for shooting landscapes.

An abbreviation for single lens reflex, SLR offers the photographer the ability to capture exactly what he sees. Since there is only one lens involved, the image on the screen or in the optical viewer is exactly what will be captured in the digital format.

Often with film cameras, heads get chopped off or people are squeezed out of the side of the picture because the film can’t capture the entire image.

As you sort through the various digital SLRs on the market, keep your focus in mind and look for a digital camera that you like. Make sure the camera feels right in your hands, and look through the viewer screen and see if you can understand the interface.

Whether you buy the new Nikon digital SLR or something from another company, you have to ensure that you are comfortable with the product before you take it home.