Canon EOS 350D comments: Shutter speed

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Imagine a guy with bare feet walking as quietly as possible through the underbrush of some bushy area, stealthily walking over to a fallen dead tree and then climbing up that tree to wait.

I've seen the tree before. It's a very large tree that was apparently pushed so hard by the wind that its trunk broke several feet off the ground allowing the wind to push the whole tree to the ground. It's been dead for quite some time now and it's a boon for me because it's produced an empty space in the middle of the bush, and a platform from which I can sit and watch the birds fly around.

The tree is now horizontal so it's easy to walk up but I still need to be careful climbing it because you never know when the white ants will have eaten enough of the tree; nature's recycling system; to weaken it, eventually allowing it to break under my weight. So far though, the tree doesn't budge when I walk on it so it's very safe for the time being.

I sat and stood on the tree trunk, some twelve feet off the ground, just watching and waiting for two or three hours, relaxing in the warm winter sun and admiring the blue skies that have become so rare now here in Hong Kong. I knew the birds frequented this place so it was just a matter of waiting with camera in hand. I was sure to get something.

Eventually, the birds did come and I was able to get a few reasonable photographs. I say reasonable because I'm finding it hard to get good photographs with my Canon EOS 350D camera. Under normal circumstances photographing normal things, the camera's definitely ok, but when I'm trying to get close to objects or when the available light begins to drop even just a little, the camera becomes a hindrance and I'm left questioning my age, eyes and skill.

The problem is light. Unless the sunlight is in full force, I need to set the camera to ASA200 for most of my shots to get a reasonable shutter speed. Even then, I find myself shooting many of my shots at just 1/30th of a second. For many shots, that's ok but for moving objects, it's too slow. I think the camera suffers from two problems: the sensor is small at only 22mm instead of the traditional full frame 35mm, and the sensors are not as sensitive as similar rated film; i.e., EOS 350D' ASA200 == film ASA100. One day soon, I'm going to try taking similar shots with both of my cameras and see if the EOS 5 does in fact make better shots easier to get.

At ASA200 on the digital camera, the photographs are not fine. This becomes more obvious when you blow up the pictures to full size and the details are not sharp. In addition, darker parts of the photographs are grainy and weak.

When taking pictures of birds, the problems become accentuated. Because I'm using the equivalent of a 224-640mm lens (70-200, x2 for the extender, x1.6 for the 22mm sensor), camera shake becomes a real problem. Even minute movements will cause the picture to blur. Add to that the speed of the birds' movements and it becomes evident that slower apperture speeds are out of the question. My testing so far indicates that I need at least 1/125s to avoid camera shake, and at least 1/160s to avoid blurring due to a combination of camera shake and bird movement.

At ASA200, this is only just possible for the lighting available to me at present but there's another problem. More often than not, the only way to get 1/160s shutter speeds is to use the maximum aperture value on my extended zoom lens; f5.6. For close-ups at 640mm with an aperture of f5.6, the depth of field can be extremely short, as short as just a few millimetres, so getting perfectly focused photographs is very difficult. I also prefer to get more in focus than just the bird's eyes so it's a blessing when the light allows aperture values of 10 or more.

Until yesterday, I was using Aperture-Priority programming to shoot bird photographs, usually setting the aperture to f5.6 but also shifting to f6.3 or f7.1 or even f8.0 when lighting allowed. Yesterday, it finally occurred me; remember that I'm an amateur photographer so please don't laugh; to use Shutter-Priority programming. With the ASA to 200, I set the shutter speed to 1/160s and let the camera do the rest. This way, I would automatically get greater depths of field when possible without any effort on my part. If I was shooting areas which were too dark for 1/160s at f5.6, it wouldn't matter because the result would be a darker picture similar to what was being photographed.

I am pretty happy with the photographs I took yesterday but after reviewing them, I have decided that 1/200s is probably a better choice than 1/160s. I'm also determined to try using the EOS 5 film camera soon to see if I can get better colour and grain than when using the 350D digital camera.

I have much more to say about the EOS 350D camera but I'll leave it for another post.

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13 Responses to “Canon EOS 350D comments: Shutter speed”
  1. dave ( ) says:

    You should try with a tripod, rather than hand-holding the camera. It makes a big difference to the sharpness of your pictures. It makes it harder to move around and take pictures from a tree, but, if you're willing to wait a bit longer, you can get the good shots.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I brought the same exact camera (Canon Rebel XT in Black) around Christmas. I still have yet to master the functions of what it can do yet. I still use it on auto mode. I love the camera!

  3. 杜格拉斯 says:

    等我重想買返部o忝,你可以試吓富士部新機,唔記得o左係乜乜9200定9500,富士o的ccd排列比一般的DC密,感光度比一般DC好,不過你o的貴鏡就用唔返,有好有唔好。佢去到ISO1600都可以接受。

  4. sapphire says:

    你之前都有提過你部 350D 的 auto focus 有少少偏差,我們都有這感覺。 尢其是去年聖誕我們去旅行時,第一次用它來影夜景,快門速度光圈等等真是不容易控制,再加上有人忘記帶 tripod,所以影慢速度相時,手震到"飛起",影了很多張都無一張滿意的作品。你有無用過 350D 來影夜景呀?有無些心得可以過"兩招"給這個業餘BB班新丁呀?

    Btw, 對不起!我在沒有事先得到你的同意下,用了你的 hush puppy "Him Him" 肖像做我
    拜年 album 的 cover girl ,代表我們向海外親戚朋友網上拜年,明年是狗年用牠來拜年最適合不過,希望你不會介意。
    在出鏡之前,我己經幫牠悉心扮靚 (crop) 一番,保証你滿意。
    http://sapphire0920-photoalbum.magix.net

    在這裡跟你拜個早年,祝你狗年 萬事如意!機會財源滾滾來!

  5. 河國榮 says:

    Sapphire,

    no problems with using Him Him's photo. it looks great. you did a wonderful job. if only I were so talented...

    night shots.
    1. the program is normally going to be wrong when it tries to calculate the amount of time, etc needed for night shots. it doesn't know that the shot is supposed to be dark. switch to manual and set the aperture/shutter manually. for wide shots, use the biggest aperture you have. with the shutter, try 1/10s first, check the review image, adjust the shutter accordingly and repeat.

    2. some people (myself included) can hold the camera steady enough even for photos shot at 1/20s. other people can't. if I encounter a situation where the shutter speed is too slow for me to avoid camera shake and I don't have a tripod, I try to find a surface to rest my elbows on, or lean my body against while I take the shot. I also hold my breath and try to slow my heart beat. serious. I kid you not!

    3. if you're worried about camera shake from pressing the release button, switch to 10s delay. press the release button and watch through the view finder until the shutter opens and closes again.

    4. with larger lens, experienced photographers normally hold the lens from underneath, not from the top. your camera hold will be steadier this way. you probably already knew that.

    5. with the EOS 350D, try to avoid ASA400 or higher for dark photos. they'll be grainy. while in Indonesia, I took a lot of photographs of an indoor wedding ceremony. I was forced to use 1600ASA and the grain was quite bad. fortunately, my photo adjustment program (www.silverfast.com) was able to smooth the grain very effectively.

    hope this helps.

  6. No I Cee says:

    I read an article about you from ezone. Glad to learn you are using EOS350D, I brought one in last October also but up to now it's still hard to master the auto focus and I always shooted with blurred images. Tripod definitely a good idea to take pic without blur but it's really hard to shoot moving objects.
    Hope we can share our pics later. BTW, your shoots for the birds are beautiful but be careful of the H5N1 nowadays...
    Enjoy good shootings!

    Pic lover.
    No I Cee

  7. 河國榮 says:

    No I Cee,

    the auto-focus on the 350D is only useful if you choose a particular focus point. there are five points and if you turn all of them on, the focus is usually wrong because the camera usually chooses the closest focus point. I don't use auto-focus. I hope with enough training that my brain will be faster than the camera ;-)

    blurred images? are you panning? is the subject dark? are you is P program or Tv or Av program?

    H5N1? I'll note it but not allow it to affect my enjoyment of nature. while H5N1 is going to be a real threat, I think that people's and government's reactions to it are in some areas rather exaggerated.

  8. Ben Leung says:

    Hi, 河國榮, I just read e-zone and found your website ^_^...and found your message about your comment about 350D.

    Just a few suggestion to you:
    - 70-200 is not good for shooting birds (range is not enough)
    - 2x extender, decrease the picture quality A LOT!
    - EF 300mm f/4.0 L IS USM or EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM are more ideal for shooting birds. But they are comparatively expensive, but they are the right tools for shooting birds.
    - I guess your are using 70-200 f2.8L (without IS, Image Stabilization). IS allows you get a more stable image. But of course, you have to pay more.
    My friends are birds lovers, so they have above comments.

    Besides, when you use your EOS 5 to do a comparsion with 350D, please make sure that you should develop the photo in "FULL" size (100% in scale)...^o^....I believe that the grains or the details in your film photo may not be as sharp as 350D. To be fair, develop EOS 5 and EOS 350D photos to the same size, e.g. 12R or 18R. Look forward to see your testing results.

    Just share experience. Nice to have chance to discuss camera matters with a STAR here!

    Ben (Not a professional x_x)

  9. 河國榮 says:

    Ben,

    you are correct about the lens but I cannot afford to purchase those 400mm or 500mm lens at this time. they're not cheap.

    however, I don't agree that IS will produce a better picture. in fact, a lot of people agree that IS produces a blurrier picture. I personally believe that IS is just a marketing gimmick, something to get people to pay more for the lens. does anyone know how IS works?

    developing EOS 5 and 350D photos to the same size. that'll be interesting. in theory, because the sensor of the 350D is smaller than the 5, the output shouldn't be as sharp. remember that I have a 4000dpi film scanner so the result will depend on the limitations of the film itself.

    btw, if you want to see some absolutely incredible wild-life photography, take a look at http://homepage.mac.com/davebets/ . he uses a 500mm L lens and his skill more than matches the equipment he uses.

    regards,
    Ho Kwok Wing

  10. Ben Leung says:

    Hi, Mr. Ho,

    I don't money to buy 400mm or 500mm too...I only play with my friends lens sometimes.

    Yes, you are right, IS can do nothing to improve the photo quality, but it helps reduce the degree the camera body vibration (e.g. hand shake) which results blur image. You know 70-200 f2.8 is not light and especially when you use 200mm end, you may find it difficult to hold the lens steady to take photos. Take your camera to Canon's Hunghom showroom and test the 70-200 f2.8 IS, you will know when I mean...it is expensive (~13,xxx, parallet import is cheaper), I don't have money to buy it also, but let it be my dream weapon ^_^.

    Some people may get blur images when using IS mainly because they did not wait the IS system get steady before pressing the shutter button, or the vibration exceed the compensation work from the IS, so they still get blurred image.

    You can get more information about the IS system from the following website:
    http://www.photoworkshop.com/canon/index.html

    Click EOS Digital Rebel section (on the left low corner), then click "Using Image Stabilizer Lens" to get more information.

    Best Regards,

    Ben Leung

  11. Ben Leung says:

    Hi, Mr. Ho,

    Here is Canon's official information about its Image Stabilizer system:
    http://www.canon.com/camera-museum/tech/room/f_tebure.html

    Best Regards,

    Ben

  12. 河國榮 says:

    Ben,

    using giros to steady the light passing through the lens is ingenious. I'll have to go to the showroom and compare lens, with and without IS turned on ;-)

  13. Kit says:

    Hi Mr. Hok,
    like some other people, I have read an article about you in ezone. I bought my Canon 350D for about 2 months and do find that it has some problem capturing light. It is quite problematic as I need to either adjust the aperture or the shutter speed in order to get the result desire. As a beginner in photography, I invested a Canon EF 70-300mm F4-5.6 IS USM for my mid-long distance zoom lens, it is reasonably price at HKD5,500 (cannot afford the 70-200 F2.8L) and to be honest, the IS does work pretty well when shutter speed set to 1/30 for panning shots. I wonder how well the 70-200mm F2.8L IS works????