Playing With the New Camera

I bought a Panasonic FZ5 camera for a family Christmas present and I’m just now learning how to use it. I kept using the old camera in part because it was familiar, and in part because I already had the accessories for it – memory, case, and spare battery – that make a camera handy. Now that I’ve picked up some accessories for the FZ5 and gotten my first good pictures, I’m stoked.

I used the FZ5 for the Alleghany Falls trip and got decent pictures using the Simple mode (marked by a red heart on the mode ring), but nothing to write home about. I got much better pictures (especially this one) at the zoo using the P mode (for programmed automatic exposure) – it’s basically all of the ease of Simple mode, but with generally better results.

  • The self-timer has a 2 second mode that’s great for taking vibration-free photos. It’s a software equivalent to a remote shutter release.

  • Likewise the focus lock works as a replacement for manual focus. Focus on an object, hit focus lock, and re-center your picture. The camera will maintain the original focal length you locked in.
  • The burst picture mode is handy for taking high speed action shots, like the pictures of Katie in the swing.
  • Pushing the cursor down takes the camera into Review mode. It’s a great way of reviewing pictures without making a trip to the mode dial to enter Playback mode.
  • The SCN (Scene) mode has presets for a number of challenging situations, including Fireworks, Portrait, Party, Panning, Night, Sports, and Snow (which might have improved these snow pictures taken in Simple mode).
  • Spare batteries on eBay are cheap. I bought a new battery for $9.98 shipped.
  • Note to self: experiment with Auto Bracket. It takes three successive pictures, and I think they’re at varying exposures if I’m reading the manual correctly.

I decided to try Picasa’s Create Movie feature (under the Create menu) using the swing pictures. I assumed Picasa would make a flipbook animation in animated GIF format, but it goes beyond that. Picasa presents the first still picture, then pans around it. Then it shows the next still picture, somewhat offset, and pans around it. It’s a soft focus effect I’m sure I’ve seen on Dateline and similar shows. While I was watching the movie I expected to hear tinkly piano music.

The movie is a .AVI and takes up a fair amount of disk space – about four megabytes for five photos using Cinepak compression with the smallest frame size of 320 x 240. Watch it here.

Question – The swing pictures were taken on a sunny day around 1:00. They’re a tad dull because they’re overexposed. How do you know when to reduce exposure, and by how much?

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6 Responses to Playing With the New Camera

  1. Brian says:

    I don’t know about the exposure question… my camera allows me to see what the picture will look like based on what exposure settings you use. I’m not sure how others work.

    Picasa never ceases to amaze me in its simplicity. It’s an example other applications should follow.

  2. Ben says:

    My guess is that because the background area is large, and darker than your intended subject, the camera increased exposure for the background and your babe was a casualty ;)

  3. Les Jones says:

    Picasa is absolutely amazing.

    Ben: I think you’re exactly right. It’s not just the exposure that makes the pictures boring. There’s too much background and not enough subject. Bad framing on my part.

  4. R. Neal says:

    Don’t know about the exposure, it looks mostly OK except in just a very few spots that look slightly blown but Photoshop says no.

    The white balance seems a little on the “cool” side, though. These cameras are usually pretty good about setting an auto-white balance. Maybe you had a manual setting?

    Also, make sure you use the same color space from capture through post-processing and editing. Most of these cameras only have one color space, sRGB (the defacto generic standard), but make sure your editing software is using that space and not doing some kind of converesion.

    For example, saving an Adobe RGB file as a JPG for viewing on the web or printing through a standard 1 hour or online lab wihtout first converting it to sRGB will give dull, washed out colors. Multiple conversions along the way can screw up the colors, too.

    Check to see if your camera has settings for “vivid” color, or higher contrast. That might help these shots.

    But overall, bright sunlight in the middle of the day generally tends to “wash out” color, even with a good exposure.

    As for when to use over/under exposure compensation, typically you would only use this when your subject is darker than the background (i.e. backlit) or vice versa. Your camera’s automatic meter will tend to overexpose for the darker subject, giving you blown highlights in the background or vice versa.

    If your camera has metering modes such as “spot” v. “full frame” or “matrix” metering (which takes into account all the light and tries to “average it out”) you can play around with those settings to acheive sort of the same effect.

    But in these high-dynamic range situations, there’s really not much you can do. One part of the photo is not going to be properly exposed no matter what, so you try to get your subject exposed how you want and take what you can get with the rest. Fill flash can help with backlit subjects.

    And it’s the same with film, because no film or digital camera sensor made to date has the same dynamic range capabilities of the human eye.

    But take all that with a grain of salt. I’m no expert, and still on the steep learning curve myself.

  5. Les Jones says:

    Good stuff, Bubba. I don’t understand everything you just said, but I’ll work on it. :-)

    I have noticed in the past that I get silhouetted photos when I shoot a subject with a strong light behind it. Now I try to avoid those angles, but I’ll play around with using different exposures, too

    I checked and there is a Vivid setting. I’ll experiment with that to punch up the color.

    Thanks again.

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