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Compact, point-and-shoot cameras are convenient, travel-ready, and inexpensive. They're also more capable—and complex—than ever. In Getting Pro Results from a Compact Camera, photographer Derrick Story shows how to use a compact camera to take photos that rival those of far more expensive cameras. Derrick shows how to get the most out the camera's lens as you shoot wide-angle, telephoto, and even macro shots. Derrick also discusses the camera's exposure system and clarifies the differences among ISO settings and scene modes. He also shows how to get the best pictures in a variety of lighting conditions, including making judicious use of the flash to supplement existing light.
So when we were in the studio, we talked a lot about turning off the flash and working in with existing light. So what does that mean in terms of working your camera? Chances are it means you're going to have to raise the ISO setting and what are the ramifications of that. So that's why I want to show you here. I have examples, so you can see exactly what you are getting into when you turn off the flash. But first I want to compare an existing light shot here, such as this one shot at ISO 400 with a flash shot to show you the reason why we would even consider this in the first place.
Here's the 400 shot right here and you notice there is still even at ISO 400 lots of subtle detail. The shading is really beautiful. The flash shot is just blown out. Again, I am not saying turn the flash off all the time, but sometimes it's really worth it to turn it off and work with these ISO settings. So this is why we're looking at right now why I am even asking you to consider this. So if you do that then you have to sort of learn what the limits are for your camera, and that's what I am going to show you right now.
So we're going to look at a series of shots captured with the Canon S90. Now this is camera that does well for a compact at high ISO. So your mileage will definitely vary, but still relatively speaking you will be able to see the differences. We have shots from 100 through 3200 here. Let's magnify them. There is 100, 200, and 400. At 400, we can really see image noise coming into play.
These artifacts here, some loss of detail. Compared to the 100, you notice a big difference. Now this is looking at it highly magnified. Of course when you make a print, it's going to be harder to tell. So we are being hypercritical here, but we're trying to understand our camera. All right so let's get rid of these and let's look at the second batch here, 800 through 3200. Let's bring this up here. Come-on, there we go, sometimes you have to wrestle these things a little bit.
And here we go right here. So 800, we're definitely seeing image noise. 1600, very strong. And 3200, I would say the image is unusable. So now what I would have to decide is where is my comfort zone. Well, I would say I'm definitely comfortable up to 800 and in certain instances, if that was worth it, I would go to 1600, but never 3200. It just doesn't seem to be worth it to me. So then I know that about this particular camera, the S90.
Now if I was shooting with a different camera I'd want to do the same test, so I would know the limits there. So that's the point of this. So now I know what I'm in an existing light situation, if I need to I can raise that ISO up to 800, and still be pretty comfortable with the shot. Now if you don't raise that ISO up, what happens? Well, let's take a look here at what happens. Here is camera shake and let's compare it to a really sharp shot and that would give us the good feel. So if you don't raise that ISO up, if you keep it low, but you do turn off the flash, then you're going to have a hard time taking a sharp shot while you are holding the camera.
Now you could put on the tripod and use the self-timer, that's one way around it, or you could turn the flashback on. But really the thing to do is raise the ISO and raise it up to 400 or whatever. Now here's what camera shake looks like. You can see that it's just a soft and there's tremendous loss of detail and if we magnify this, you can really see what we are talking about here. Look at the difference. And this is strictly from camera movement, because your shutter speed was too slow.
So here's the thing to keep in mind. If you want to try this, if you want to work without the flash, which I recommend in certain situations, learn your camera's limitations, learn how high you can push the ISO and be comfortable. Obviously learn how to turn off and on your flash and then keep that camera steady either by holding it very steady or raising the ISO or put it on a tripod, and then test, get to know your camera. The thing is if you get all of this out of the way first, then when you're in a situation where you can really take advantage of it, you're ready to go, and that's really what we want here.
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