Wednesday
Sep262012

Chapter 2

Cameras, sensors and a lot of pixels


When it comes to talking about sensors, it is very easy to go propeller hat on the subject, but I will save that for a later project and will try my best as i did in Chapter 1 to keep it basic and simple.  

The lens and sensor on a camera are the two most important parts for the technical quality of the image and this chapter is mostly about sensors, but it's necessary to talk a little about cameras, not brands but types, and here I will mention and go through the four types most people know and use.

Please pay no attention to the brand in the following examples they are only chosen because it is what I have around me and use, and is not a testimony of the necessarily best available on the market, they are chosen for their example value alone.

 

 What are pixels?

Each of the small squares you see in the picture represents a pixel and are the light emitting points (LEDs) you  are seeing on your screen right now and  together they are forming the picture. On the sensor it's, the number of photosensitive points which collects light and make the electronic representation of the image you are shooting and can be displayed on a screen or printed on paper.

 

The following examples is four test shots taken with different cameras under the exact same lighting conditions and with all the cameras in macro mode, in order to compare the importance of sensor sizes, and what we're looking for is, 1 dynamics, 2 depth of field (DOF), 3 low light performance and 4 ISO noise.


It should be mentioned already here that the lenses also have a significant impact on the sensor capability, but I will get into to that in Chapter 3.

 

 

Canon EOS 5D Mark II:

This camera has a large sensor (Full Frame) with 21.000.000 light sensitive pixels spread over 864mm2 a large surface that can receive a lot of light.

 

1  Good dynamics throughout the tonal range.

2  Good shallow deep of field and a beautiful fade.

3 Good low light performance and still maintain a large dynamic range.

4  Not much noise when amplifying the sensor's sensitivity to 800 ISO.

 

 

Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2:

This Compact Camera, which is a $1000 camera from 2003, I put in here to show two things, first that even a small sensor with good glass in front can do some good things, and second to show the noise this old sensor produce when you turn up the ISO to 800 which is the max.

The modern version of this type of camera has a much larger sensor, some even a Full Frame and good interchangeable lenses, a camera type, I think we will see much more of in the future.

 

1  Good dynamics throughout the tonal range.

2  A reasonable shallow deep of field, would have been better in more light, and it must be mentioned that the aperture only goes down to f 3.5 in macro mode, even in manual.

3 Not a good low light performance, but if on a tripod and you give it enough exposure, in this case an entire second and nobody moves, it still has good dynamics.

4  Here it ends in a disaster, even a good noise reduction filter would find it difficult to cope with this one, it is not useful to increase the ISO to more than 200 at this sensor, but it's also 10 years old,
a very long time in sensor years.

 

 

Canon IXUS 120 IS:

Now we are down to the very small sensors and it starts to have a cost, but I am impressed with how good they are, I know that not only is there 12.000.000 pixels on this small area but there are the same number of corresponding electronic circuits each of which produces noise, all electronic components in a  circuitry produce noise, still they managed to control it, and I know something about how difficult that is, this is jaw dropping technology!


These type of cameras I think has their future behind them, there's no real reason to buy such a camera when smart phone cameras has the quality that they have now, and are becoming better for each release, I don't think there are many who will carry both a compact camera and a camera phone.

 

1  Fairly good dynamics throughout the tonal range in good light.

2  Nice but not great shallow deep of field.

3 Reasonably good low light performance, but loses some of the dynamics in the tonal range.

4  Not much noise when amplifying the sensor's sensitivity to 800 ISO.

 

 

Samsung Galaxy Note:

This smartphone camera has the smallest sensor of the four, but after all they've got room for 8.000.000 pixels in this small area, and however they did it they got away with it in a good way.

 

1  Good dynamics throughout the tonal range.

2  Not so great shallow depth of field, but better than one would expect of a lens and sensor in this size.

3 Great low light performance for the sensor size.

4  Lower than expected noise for the sensor size, when amplifying the sensor's sensitivity to 800 ISO.

 

 


Summary:

I hope that what you got out of this chapter is that size does matter when it comes to sensors, but not so much when it comes to the number of pixels. I would also like if it told you that most modern cameras is able to take technical great pictures and if not "you're holding it wrong" :)


Next chapter will be about lenses.

 


Sunday
Sep162012

How hard can it be to take a picture

How hard can it be to take a picture

 

I will try to demystify the complexities of taking a photo with this post, is it as complex as it might seem for a newcomer just wanting to take some beautiful pictures? and who doesn't understand all the technical terms that drifts on the air in the various photo communities. Some of the requests I have received suggests there is a need for that, so I'll give it a shot.

I believe that many with a modern DSLR experiences what many pilots also are experiencing namely information overflow, too much information for the pilots to safely fly the plane, but then there is always the autopilot (equals auto mode on the camera), and don't fear they are really good these days :)

To get everyone involved from the start, I will assume you know nothing about photography and go on from there, so please don't be offended and feel I'm talking down to anyone, I would not dream of it, Im just starting from scratch.

So the way I will approach this is to take it one step at a time and first go through the very basics and make it as simple as possible so you can get a clear picture of what is going on in the camera and what happens when you turn the various buttons and dials and how it affects the final photo.

 

How hard can it be to take a picture

So without further delay on with the first chapter.

 

Chapter 1

Aperture, Exposure and ISO

 

The following applies to any type or brand of camera you have or would buy.

No matter how many buttons and dials that are on your camera, these three things are the key things on it, Aperture, Exposure and ISO and many of the images that we today consider to be the best in the world is taken only by controlling two of them namely Aperture and Exposure.

In layman's terms:

Aperture: how big a hole the camera allows light to enter by.

With a large hole, low f value, shallow depth of field, only a small part of the image is in focus

With a small hole, high f value, large depth of field, both foreground and background in focus

Lenses are determining this but we'll get to it in Chapter 3

 

Exposure: how long time the hole is open and lets light in.

At a high shutter speed, lets you freeze a bird during landing

At a slow shutter speed, lets you create beautiful light trail at night

 

ISO: how light sensitive the film or sensor is.

High ISO lets you photograph your four years old on Christmas Eve

Cranking up the ISO does come with a price, the higher the number the more grainy image

 

One could argue at least the first two did more or less the same thing added more or less light to the sensor or film, so why one and not the other, whereas the third is an electronic amplification of the sensor's light sensitivity in digital cameras, and chemical light sensitivity of the film in film cameras, kind of the same thing...right, but that's what photo is all about light, light and light, and how it is applied to the sensor or film.

I think getting these three things right is very important when it comes to the technical aspect of photography and once you have understood those properly, the rest of the technical details follows easily.

Since I am a graphic designer and photographer, you will almost be able to figure out that I am a big fan of visual learning so let's get some pictures and look at how the settings of the three parameters Aperture, Exposure and ISO have been on these and why.

 

Purple star

The goal of this picture was to get a macro picture with as shallow Depth of field (DOF) as possible


 

Aperture: f 2.8

Exposure: 1/50

ISO: 800

 

Aperture

Set to as large a hole as possible, equal as low a value as possible f 2.8 with the equipment used (it is the lens that determines this number which  we will return to in chapter 3).

 

Exposure

Set to 1/50 of a second, it's really a  long exposure time  for handheld shots even with a camera that has image stabilization. If you are really good and have steady hands you can manage 1/30s but I would not recommend below 1/60s and if possible use your tripod with such long exposure times, but I know that if I'm lucky I can get down to 1/30s so I took the chance with this photo.

 

ISO

Set to 800 this is a high number and it will result in more noise, grainy image in some cameras, the
sweet spot  for most camera it is about 100 in my 160, but I had to turn it up to 800 to get a fast enough Exposure speed so it was possible to hold the camera by hand.

 

So what you have seen here is the dependence between the Aperture, Exposure and ISO relative to what you want to achieve, and as you will see in the following examples what you  can not get from one or two of the others, you can often borrow at the third, but there is a price to pay.


The summary of the settings in the picture must be

The value of the Aperture should be as low as possible, with this equipment it is f 2.8, so I could get the shallow depth of field I wanted.

There was very little light in the scene so I had to turn up the ISO to 800 so I could get the shutter speed down to 1/50s so I could hold the camera with my hand.

 

Is anyone down there


The goal of this picture was to catch the bird during landing


Aperture: f 4.0

Exposure: 1/1000

ISO: 800

 

Aperture

Set to as large a hole as possible, equal as low a value as possible. f 4.0 with the equipment used

 

Exposure

Set to 1/1000s fast shutter speed to freeze the bird's movement in the air.

 

ISO

Set to ISO 800 to amplify light sensitivity enough so I could keep the fast shutter speed


The summary of the settings in the picture must be

In order to achieve the aim of this image, it was necessary to let as much light in as possible so therefore a large Aperture and to freeze the bird in motion a fast Exposure time is needed and in order to maintain that it was necessary to turn up the ISO to 800.

 

Out for a smoke

The goal of this last picture of this chapter was to catch the mood of a winter night in Sweden

 

 

Aperture: f 5.6

Exposure: 30s

ISO: 160

 

Aperture

Set to f 5.6 to get a little more depth of field

 

Exposure

Set to 30 sek long exposure on a tripod 

 

ISO

Set to ISO 160 the sweet spot  for my  camera

 

The summary of the settings in the picture must be

Since this is a night shot and there is no motion in the picture you can set ISO to what is optimal for your camera and the Aperture to the value that gives you the depth of field you want and only worry about Exposure and make it long enough to get the image properly exposed. A good piece of advice is a stable tripod is very important for these long exposures.


I hope that this has helped some, I have tried to keep it as simple as possible without too much  technical gibberish, of course there is more to it than the above, but I think it is a good start and can help you to visualize what is going on in your camera, in understanding the relationship between Aperture, Exposure and ISO.

 

Next chapter will be about camera types and sensors, but until then go and shoot some pictures, the best way to learn and remember to have fun.

 

 

Saturday
Sep012012

Ending in the poorhouse

Ending in the poorhouse


Just 20 years ago there were many who didn't own a camera or had tried to take a picture, today you must look far to find a person who don't own a camera in one form or another, and many discover what creative tool a camera really is and begin to pursue this outlet of creativity. In the following I imagine that you are that person, the spark is lit and you want to follow this path, so what do you do?


First a warning: If you go after only the concept of being a "Pro Photographer" based only on romantic misunderstandings, it gets expensive very expensive very fast, first you need a loan in the house to get the right long lenses and cameras with the right straps with the right name embroidered in them, and so on, and it will take you nowhere except to the poorhouse. A real photographer on the other hand is that geek you see crawling around in the bushes with a banged up camera, and if you can, then throw him a coin he needs it or better yet buy one of his pictures.

 

A poorhouse in Denmark around the year 1900

Camera: If you are reading this you probably already have a camera but before you even begin to consider buying a new one, you should ensure that you have out grown what you have, and a simple way to test this is to look online for others who take pictures with the same camera, on flickr for example you can search by camera types, I bet you'll be surprised to see what your camera can really do. Chances are that the camera you use is better than what some of the world's best known photographers ever had.


There will come a time when you will need a new camera, but until then I would guess that what you have will bring you much of the way to get some good pictures, no new expensive camera would guarantee that, it is you that make great pictures not the camera, it is just a tool thats all, like there is no reason for me to buy a Stradivarius, but if I get really good at playing I would love to have one.


What really will help you in your quest to become a good photographer is to take lots and lots of pictures, I mean thousands of images and do your best with every single picture, don't give up and you will get there. Connect to google+ photo community there are thousands of people with the same passion, most friendly people all who will help you on your way if you just ask, alone inspiration from all their pictures will give you a lot, circle some of them and their images will begin to flow in your stream, and before you know it you'll be part of a great community of like minded, but remember you have to give to get.


I hope that what you have gained from this, is that I believe that creativity is far more important than the equipment, and that creativity is not just something you have or are born with, but something you have to work for like with everything else, and this comes from a old guy with almost a lifetime in the industry behind him.


And now go and have some fun, see you on G+

Saturday
Aug182012

From idea to finished picture

From idea to finished picture


Something about ideas

We all have them, lots of them, so there is no difference between you, me, or anyone else in that regard, the difference lies in whether we realize them or not. Do yourself a favor and do it, whatever your ideas are, if you can't realize one of the big ones, for any reason, then take one of the small ones, it might be difficult but you will not regret it.

My biggest dream, is to make a long 3D animated movie and I know I can not do that, I don't have the millions it requires, but perhaps I can make a little stopmotion, so I started getting my feet wet by building these small sets, and sooner or later I will make one and have learned a lot along the way, and who knows what will come of that, by the way there will be no lego in it :)

As some of you may know I have made these picture books and in three of them you follow The small guy around on his adventures and in the last of the three, he is at the Arctic, and in the last pictures I let it all take a turn, so that it now appears that the whole thing has been a movie which he has participated in, and it comes to a break between him and the director, me.

In order to proceed after that my idea was that I needed a Hollywood studio and a trailer, we've all seen how insulted actors go to their trailer, and refuses to come out, in old movies.

Since I could not buy a trailer or a Hollywood studio, I built it, and that's what the following images are about, how the idea/image in my head turns into something tangible.


And what are we going to use that for

Pic. title: And what are we going to use that for


The first step, made a draft of the idea of how I imagined the final image should look like


Pic. title: Can I get some paint and a roof over here


Video title: A studio needs a logo



Video title: We need a lamppost



Pic. title: Pixelfantasies studios 01


Pic. title: Pixelfantasies studios 02


Pic title: The showdown


Pic. title: Between scenes, enjoying ourselves


Pic. title: At the trailer factory


Pic. title: STOP! this is my trailer


Pic. title: How did we end up being fired

Saturday
Aug182012

How to light small things

How to light small things

 

We all know that photography is about capturing light and if we master the light, are able to modulate it, we can create great pictures where we evoke emotions and moods, and when it comes to toy shots of which I do a lot, we can even create the illusion of life.

In the following I will show how I do it, what I use and some examples thereof.

Usually, when we're talking light for photography it's expensive if we want to achieve the best, but not this time, what I have found is that the best way for this is also the cheapest. Sometimes we are lucky in what can be an otherwise very expensive métier.

The first two pictures you see are the lights I use in my toy/macro shots, two types of ordinary pen light which can be bought cheaply anywhere, I love them and have many of them. So if you have a good tripod and a reasonably light-sensitive camera it's all you need for a good toy/macro shot.

 

Focused light, a Duracell filament lamp with a focusing lens molded in the lamp.



LED light, a pen lamp with only one light emitting diode without focus but with a bluish glow that makes it somewhat problematic, camera sensors are not happy about "bluish" but it is good at snow and winter sets.



                          Cone from the LED                                     Cone from the focusing filament

 

Taken with one Duracell filament lamp in from the side. The white balance manually set to 2700. A soft and kindly focused light.

 

Taken with one LED lamp in from the side. The white balance manually set to 6200.

Here you can clearly see a greater dispersion and a more harsh light. Both pictures were taken with the lamps at the same distance from the object.

 

Image title: At least we're warm.

Taken with one Duracell filament lamp in from the side focusing on the wall, and a single light bulb of the same kind in the oil barrel, see the two pictures below.

 

 

 

Image title: Midnight bloom

An example of a macro taken with one Duracell filament lamp.

I hope this has been help full to you and inspired you to start to experiment, the only way we can learn to master light, so have fun :)