Kinda OT, but can anyone recommend a good, small camera to take on rides?

Discussion in 'The Bike Cafe' started by MotownBikeBoy, May 2, 2014.

  1. MotownBikeBoy

    MotownBikeBoy Active Member

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    Especially one that would be good for night photography. I keep seeing some great things on my rides, but the photos I can take with my iPhone are only so-so, they aren't really good images, especially at night. Or, let's just say, they are good but not great images, they tend to be kind of grainy.

    Something small enough to ride around with, but that takes good to great pictures?

    I am very ignorant of photography, mostly just had point and shoot cameras. So, any help would be appreciated.
     
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  2. jpr95

    jpr95 Active Member

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    What brand of cellphone do you have?
     
  3. MotownBikeBoy

    MotownBikeBoy Active Member

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  4. Volnix

    Volnix Well-Known Member

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    The problem is the "small" part...

    The bigger the sensor of the camera, the more "information" it can absorb, thus the better the picture.

    Think of it as a painting Canvas. You can paint a picture in an A4 paper and then stretch it to fit a wall, the result will be "pixelated" with a digital camera.

    But if you "paint" on a bigger frame (as the full frame digital cameras and medium format digital cameras) the result is gonna be better.

    This kinda depends on the use of the photo. Going to be only viewed on screen or maybe printed and if yes, in what size?


    About the "grain":

    In the old days of film, there were different "grades" of film sensitivity, according to how fast they were reacting with light. This carried on to digital with various "ISO" settings.

    The darker it gets, the more the shutter needs to remain "open" in order for the "Sensor" to collect the "information" (or light). This might result in Ok, but "shaken" or "blurred" pictures if you are not using a tripod. If you are using one and nothing moves, (wont happen [​IMG]), you might end up with a crisp but dark image.


    With a higher sensitivity, the shutter will need to remain open for less, but higher sensitivity images are ase you said usually grainy. You can maybe "blur" them a bit later on photoshop.

    Higher sensitivity in digital, means more electric charge on the sensor, which also means higher battery consumption.


    Then is the other element, the lens.

    The more light a lens allowes in (that would be the f 2.8 written on the camera lens) the better. For example a f 1.4 lens will allow more light in then a f 2.8 lens. It will also cost 1000 euro alone.


    There are now some "new" cameras hitting the market. Called "Mirrorless". Since they no longer use a mirror for the view finder to display the image, they manage a more compact size and they still have interchangable lenses.


    Anyway for night photography:

    1. A lens at least f 2.8. No zoom. (You can just crop the item later)

    2. A tripod might be handy, but it has to be 3 x the weight of the camera to be effective.

    3. Release the shutter using a timer. Not the shutter button. This reduces shaking when the shutter remains open for longer.

    4. The longest a shutter should remain open, is 1/lens length. For example, with a 50mm lens, the maximum allowed length of exposure on a hand held camera should be 1/50sec. For slower speeds then that you need a tripod.

    5. Anything more then ISO400 it's probably a bad idea, with 400 being bad allready. 200 is Ok-ish. 100 is better. 80 with flash is probably best.


    6. and probably the best idea. A flash unit! [​IMG]
     
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  5. MotownBikeBoy

    MotownBikeBoy Active Member

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    Thanks. That really helps. So what you are saying is I need a "real" camera, not a compact "instamatic" type. Which becomes a question of - do I want to carry that much gear on me? I don't know - I just keep seeing things like churches, monuments etc which look stunning at night and I think it would be interesting to photograph. I need to research it more.
     
  6. Volnix

    Volnix Well-Known Member

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    Actually digital cameras have evolved a lot. I made some fantastic shots with a small pentax digital compact camera (I got the stylish metal cased one... [​IMG] [​IMG]) before a guest I had put it in her bag, which was ofcourse on the beach before and the camera got filled with sand. Yep, one dead camera afterwards...


    Basically if you know how the camera operates, even with a small quality compact camera you can make some good photos. The limitations of the lens, or the sensor wont be really limiting if you make a quality image with the equipment provided.


    Btw, when choosing a camera, just skip reading about the MegaPixels and the Mega-bite-me stuff because they are usually "software assisted". A sensor that has the ability to produce a 3mp image is then assisted with the on board software (basically it clones the pixels) and then the camera "magically" produces a 12mp image. It's basically a resized 3mp image.


    Things to look for:

    1. Lens. The brighter the better. Most of the compact ones have a f 2.8 which will go up to f 8.0 once you start using the zoom. It might be a good idea to get a lens with no zoom at all at 50mm (no distortion but kinda bad on a narrow alley for example when you want to capture more then just the end of the alley). The human eye "operates" at 50mm.

    Check about the "coatings" on the lens (chemical treatment), "aspherical" elements etc. Zoom lenses need to be lighter so the motor can move them back and forth. That sometimes is done in a way that compromizes the quality of the lens elements.

    2. The sensor... The bigger the better. You have an option of CMOS or CCD. One of them has a better behaviour in a problem digital cameras have to sometimes create "artifacts" on the image out of nowhere but with a loss on something else I think. As far as I remember CMOS is usually found in pro-level SLR cameras so maybe that one.

    Check the "details" of the camera to get the actual dimension of the sensor. Not the MP, the actual dimension of the thing in mm.

    3. You dont need any software or filters or anything like that in the camera. You just need an easy user interface that is fully customizable up to fixing ISO settings, Image size etc.

    4. Quality housing. Cameras are really fragile. Really. A rugged weatherproof housing is a good idea. Or you can also use a case but these usually put a cover over the lens that kinda reduces image quality and lens brightness.


    Anyway here are some sample images from the 100euro pentax, in daylight:


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    and here are some, with the camera handheld and ISO at 200, at night and ofcourse no flash [​IMG]: (blurry, a bit under-exposed)


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    and one with ISO400 (grainy, maybe a bit sharper)


    [​IMG]


    But with a better camera, you can maybe do a little better in the dark, since you wont need to use such a high ISO setting and the speed of the shutter will prevent the shaken image. A "faster" (brighter) lens will also allow to some more "depth of view" (more "distance" (depth) of the image to be in "focus")


    Btw if you plan to invest a bit on this, check out the compact "Leica" cameras... They are really good. Also Canon makes some descent compact stuff in their "Powershot" series. Also Pentax and Olympus make some with rugged housings. Here are some from a waterproof pentax (around 200 euro):


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
     
  7. MotownBikeBoy

    MotownBikeBoy Active Member

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    Your night photos are much better than anything I have taken with my phone. I would be happy with that level of quality.
     
  8. Volnix

    Volnix Well-Known Member

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    Well, if you can put the phone somewhere stationary and fix the sensitivity to ISO 200 and take a picture with a timer is probably gonna be much better then the full auto mode...

    If it's really dark you might wanna try ISO400 but that will produce some grain.


    Oooor, you can get one of "these compacts"... [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
     
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