ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization which isn’t terribly helpful in letting us know what it means. ISO was used to describe film “speeds” in the days of film. Films were graded by how “fast” they could expose for light. If you wanted a different ISO or speed film, you had to finish a roll and put in a new roll of film with a different ISO number.
Today in Digital photography as with most things, ISO is much easier, you (or the camera) can change it on the fly depending on conditions.
The best way to think of ISO is as the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor to light. The lower the number, the less sensitive to light your sensor is, the higher, the more sensitive.
So on a sunny day, you would want a very low ISO (most DSLRs bottom out at 100), while in a dark room, you might want a higher ISO.
How high an ISO is too high? As with most things, it depends. At very high ISOs, the camera introduces noise into the picture visible as extra dark pixels on your shot. This varies based on the camera sensor’s capability. Lower end camera’s may start to encounter noise at relatively low ISOs like 600-800, while higher end cameras may show little to no noise at much higher ISOs up to 12,500 and above.
Experimentation is the key.
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by Rich with No Comments
I get this question quite a bit, so I thought I would write a post to answer this FAQ. A couple disclaimers right from the start. I shoot Nikon cameras, that means I’m going to talk about Nikon DSLRs. Canon, Pentax, Sony and others make some fantastic cameras, I just don’t use them, so I can’t give you advice on those. Second disclaimer, I’m still an amateur/enthusiast photographer, I’ve learned a lot in the last couple years, most of it self-taught, but I’m not a professional.
Now on to the details. The Nikon DSLR universe is broken up into roughly 4 categories (by me): amateur, advanced amateur, enthusiast and professional. The amateur lines are the 3xxx series and the 5xxx series. the advanced amateur is the 7xxx series, the enthusiast is the 6xx, 7xx series and 8xx series and the professional is the Dxx series. Confused yet? Stick with me.
Amateur: The current models in this category are the D3300 and the D5500. They are Dx cameras which means they have a smaller digital sensor than Nikon’s larger DSLR. They can auto-focus on any compatible lens that has its own focusing motor (the cameras don’t have an internal focusing motor). This can limit which lenses can be used to full effect on the camera. These are great camera’s to start out in DSLR, especially if you aren’t sure how much you will use them. You will pay roughly $500 for the D3300 and roughly $750 for the D5500. My first DSLR was the D3100, the predecessor to the D3300. With these cameras you can take some amazing pictures.
Advanced Amateur: The D7200 is the current model in this category. With this category, you have the same sized sensor (Dx or APS-C also called a “cropped” sensor) as the amateur cameras, but you get two memory card slots, an internal drive focus-motor which dramatically increases the number of lenses your camera can fully use. There is also a big increase in the low-light capability of these cameras over the amateur ones. The D7200 is roughly $1100.
Enthusiast: The D610, D750 and the D810 are the current models in this category. These have an Fx or Full-frame sensor. This is a larger sensor than in the amateur and advanced amateur. All three have great low-light capability. The D610 and D750 have a 24 megapixel sensor and the D810 has a 36 megapixel sensor. The D610 retails for $1500, the D750 retails for roughly $1900 and the D810 for $2800. Of these three, I bought the D750 as it has the best low-light capability and has virtually all the capability of the more expensive D810. It does have a smaller sensor at 24 vice 36Mp but that isn’t terribly important unless you are cropping photos and then viewing/printing them at very large sizes.
Professional: The D4s is roughly $6000. For this dramatic increase in price you get a very well-built camera with incredibly detailed photos, great low-light capability and double the frames per second of other DSLRs. These cameras are built like tanks with metal bodies designed to survive years of harsh use and conditions.
So where am I? I used my D3100 for a couple years on automatic and once I started shooting manual I got the bug for a more capable camera. I moved up to the D7100 (which I still use) and added a full frame D750 to my lineup. I am very happy with my D750 and won’t be buying a new camera for some time.
Next article we will talk about lenses and how they are in some ways the more important investment than the camera body.
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Shutter Speed defines how long the camera’s “window” is open to capture the available light and therefore the image. The shorter the Shutter Speed, the more light is required (or the more a camera’s sensitivity to light matters) to get a proper exposure. Alternatively, a longer Shutter Speed has more time to gather light and can be over-exposed if there is too much light.
Examples of a shot requiring a fast shutter speed would be of a hummingbird’s wings mid-flight or a Formula 1 race car at top speed. In these cases, a very short Shutter Speed (into the 1000th of a second or more) is necessary to freeze the action.
An example of a longer Shutter Speed might be anywhere from a half-second to a multi-minute or longer exposure maybe in an evening venue or photographing the evening sky filled with stars.
So how can you figure out what SS is required for a given shot? You can just put your camera on Auto and then check to see what settings the camera picked, you can decide on a desired SS and select Shutter Priority (S for Nikon Tv for Canon) and let the camera pick the Aperture to get the proper exposure or you can go to my new favorite setting Manual and set SS, Aperture and ISO for yourself!
So what if you want a faster SS than you can achieve with your widest Aperture? You can bump up your ISO to make the sensor more sensitive to light. This is a good place to experiment. Depending on how new/good your camera is you may be able to bump ISO up above 1000 to get that faster SS you need for your shot.
On the other end of the spectrum, you may find yourself wanting to do a longer exposure to achieve a silky effect on flowing water or to give a surreal look to moving clouds during the day. In this case you may need to apply a neutral density filter that blocks some of the light. ND filters come in varying densities that can add multiple “stops” worth of light blocking to allow you to take longer exposure shots during the day.
I’ll write a future post on photographing star-trails, light trails and other long-exposure trickery. Next up: ISOby Rich with No Comments
In this post we will discuss Aperture and its role in the Exposure Triangle. Aperture is the size of the hole that gathers light for your lens and the camera. The larger the hole, the more light can be gathered in a given amount of time. Just to be confusing, the larger the number, the smaller the hole. It makes more sense if you think of it as a fraction.
Another aspect of Aperture is in determining the Depth of Field (DOF) of the exposure.
You might want a shallow depth of field with a blurred background (called Bokeh) for a portrait of an individual where you want the focus of the picture to be on your subject, not the background.
Here is an example of a portrait shot with good bokeh of my son Griffin.
Here are a couple of examples.
All of these shots were taken at different Apertures from F/16 to F/1.8. So from these, we can learn that the smaller the Aperture number (which means the larger the “hole”) the shallower the Depth of Field. The blurry background you achieve with a shallow DOF is referred to as . Alternatively, the smaller the hole (larger Aperture number) the deeper the Depth of Field. The lens I used was a prime lens meaning it has only one focal distance (no zoom) so all of these were taken with an 85mm lens. (Full disclosure I have a DX frame camera, so the focal length is about 1.5 x 85mm, a topic for another post).
The above image was taken at an Aperture of F/16 (smaller hole) and has a fairly deep Depth of Field
The next image was taken at an aperture of F/4, a medium size hole with medium Depth of Field
The last image was taken at F/1.8 (large hole) and has a very shallow Depth of Field
So we discussed when you might want a shallow depth of field, when you have a single subject or subjects lined up at the same distance from the camera. You would want more depth of field if you were trying to shoot subjects that are not the same distance or a landscape shot. The important thing to remember is that all of these are guidelines, not rules. Feel free to deviate and see what your camera will do!
f/20 with some good depth of field.
Next we will look into Shutter Speed. If you find these posts interesting, please share them on Twitter or Facebook! Thanks!
Questions and comments welcome as always!
by Rich with 2 Comments
So last night my church hosted a movie night for the elementary school kids. As a small group leader of some rising fifth graders, I attended with my fifth grader. The movie they showed as you probably have figured out by now was Walt Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson. This 1960 film is based loosely on the 1812 book Der Schweizerische Robinson(literally, The Swiss Robinson) by Johann David Wyss.
In the film adaptation, the family is shipwrecked during a storm after being chased by pirates. They build an elaborate tree house out of parts from the ship and include inventions such as a waterwheel to provide some “modern” (for 1812) conveniences. The story is a fun family tale of learning self-reliance and to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. **spoiler alert** at the end of the movie, the entire family except for one son who is off to university decide to stay on the island, which is now a new colony.
Stories about being shipwrecked or otherwise marooned often provide a teachable moment about the benefits of slowing down and enjoying a slower pace without the stress of our otherwise crazy busy lives. When we are removed from our busy schedules, we often find we enjoy ourselves more even in the absence of those things we think we can’t possibly live without.
I’m not quite ready to move to an island and live in a tree house, but we can still learn from these stories about valuing the simple things in life and limiting the stuff that we think we need/want but that adds stress to our lives. A friend from work recently told me about her husband’s brother and his wife’s house. The brother is a surgeon and he and his wife have an 8,000 square foot house for themselves and their 6 cats. The wife has spent her days buying furniture for the huge house and clothes to fill her humongous closet. It stresses me out just thinking about it. They are living a lifestyle that will require the husband to work for a long time to maintain and that will require a great deal of work to take care of. Just keeping a place that size clean, grass cut, pool serviced etc. will take a lot of hours each week even if you hire people to do it for you.
I prefer a simpler life.by Rich with No Comments
When you take a picture with a camera it is called an exposure. How an exposure looks depends on 3 settings on your camera. Aperture, Shutter Speed and the ISO. We will discuss each of these and what impact they can have on your photo.
Aperture is the size of hole in your lens that allows light into the camera. It is also commonly referred to as an F-stop since the Aperture is the letter F followed by a number. Just to be confusing, the smaller the number, the larger the hole, so F1.4 is a very large opening while F22 is a small opening. In general, the smaller the F-stop number (and therefore the larger the hole) the more light can enter the camera in a given time.
Shutter Speed is how long the hole (Aperture) is left open to collect light. This is usually listed as a fraction of a second or number of seconds. This can vary from a very fast shutter speed like 1/8000 of a second to leaving the shutter open for minutes at a time. The faster the shutter speed, the better you can capture or stop action. The slower the shutter speed, the more light you can collect, especially useful in low-light conditions or to capture the blur of motion.
ISO (International Standards Organization) is the acronym developed during the days of film camera where film was categorized by how “fast” it was which really means how sensitive it is to light. A “faster” film collected more light than a “slower” film. Film speeds generally varied from ISO 100 to ISO 800. Today with digital cameras the same ISO numbers apply, but you (or the camera) can choose them and change them between shots, unlike the film days where you had to use an entire roll before you could switch to another ISO. In general, you would use a lower ISO when you have plenty of light (or in some cases you are shooting a longer exposure) while higher ISO is better for low light conditions. One downside of a high ISO is that you can end up with a grainy look depending on your camera’s ability in low light.
So when you take a picture on Automatic, the camera decides what Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO to use. If you switch your camera to Aperture Priority (A, not to be confused with AUTO), you can select the Aperture yourself and the camera will decide on the best of the other two. Same thing for Shutter priority (S or Tv on Canon) , you pick the shutter speed and the camera decides on the best for the other two. If you switch your camera to Manual (M on most cameras) you are in complete control of all three! SCARY!!
These are the basics of the Exposure Triangle, we will dive into more detail on each in later posts.
Below is an info-graphic which captures the pieces of the Exposure Triangle we have discussed below. The first block shows you what the Exposure window on your camera looks like, you adjust one or more of the three exposure elements to position the marker at zero take a balanced picture. The second graphic shows what the Aperture looks like at different settings. The third graphic shows the Shutter Speed and gives an idea how that works. The last graphic shows the ISO and how ISO sensitivity affects your exposure.
I’ve also included a link to my Pinterest page of Photography info-graphics. It is a wealth of helpful Photography Tips and Tricks. Check it out!
by Rich with No Comments
I’ve had a DSLR for about 4 years. I’ve gotten some nice pictures, but nothing really great. I knew I needed to do something different. This winter my wife and I visited our good friends who live in Key West. She is a professional photographer (see her work at www.deborahgrooms.com)and he might as well be himself when he’s not distilling some of the world’s best rum (http://papaspilar.com/). I picked both of their brains and toured the island with them learning about some of the settings on my Nikon D3100, which is my entry-level DSLR. Here’s a couple shots:
My plan is to do a series of blog posts discussion different aspects of photography. I will apologize upfront that I am still learning and am very much an amateur at this point. If you have specific questions or would like a post on a certain topic, tell me in the comments. Thanks for reading!
by Rich with 1 Comment
A good exercise on the Time Value of Money. At first blush is sounds like a no brainer, $1M is a lot of cash and a penny is not. While Albert Einstein may or may not have said that compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe, it is a pretty handy concept, especially for reaching Financial Independence and Retiring Early (FIRE).
Now to the math.
Were you surprised? Probably not. If you haven’t heard of this particular exercise you were still most likely able to determine that the most obvious answer wasn’t the correct answer.
So of what use is this? I’d have a tough time finding someone willing to pay me 100% DPR (Daily Percentage Rate) unless I was the world’s best loan shark. What this exercise is good for is as an introduction to the value of compounding and the time value of money. This can be a good exercise to do with children as they start to handle and make decisions about money. As I discussed in a previous post, my youngest son does best with saving his money when it is automatic and he doesn’t think about it. This works for adults as well.by Rich with No Comments
I was unhappy with my $220 Verizon bill for myself, my wife and oldest son. Consequently, I’ve recently bought a used Iphone 4 and service on Ting.com to try it out. If my wife and I are happy with the service, we could cut our phone bill down to about $70/month for the two of us. How did we reach this epiphany? Certainly not on our own, as with many of my best ideas, I get them from an online community like mrmoneymustache.com.
One of the denizens of MMM is a gent named Daley who has forgotten more about technology than most of us will ever know. His site is http://www.techmeshugana.com/ Daley has a great Frugal Communications Guide that discusses options for home internet, phone service as well as options for cell phone service. A lot of his options can be fairly technical, but he does a great job of laying them all out for your consideration. From Daley, I learned about MVNO’s (Mobile virtual network operator) which are cellphone companies that don’t own their own networks, but pay to use someone else’s cell network. The real benefit of getting a cell phone plan through an MVNO is they tend to be cheaper (sometimes much cheaper) than going with one of the big name boys despite the fact that the actual cell service is identical. There are different types of MVNO’s: some are prepaid (sometimes called “burner” phones) and others have a regular monthly bill.
There are many options out there. I decided to go with Ting.com which uses Sprint’s network. I chose Ting because I like the number of different phones they supported and their low prices. Ting supports all but the latest Iphones (5s and 5c not yet supported but the 5 is) as well as a large number of Android phones. They partner with www.glyde.com, a cell phone reseller who sells used and refurbished phones. I was able to buy an Iphone 4 from Glyde for $95 and once I received it, I was able to set the phone up on Ting with no hassle. If you already have a Sprint enabled device, jump over to Ting’s page to see if it is supported. https://ting.com/byod The way Ting billing works is you only pay for the minutes/texts/data you use each month. They have several tiers for each and whichever tier you are in, that is what you pay for.
You can set up alerts or actual locks that will either inform you or prevent you from going over your preset limits. You can place several limits on your phones, so you can have some control over kid’s lines as well.
Oh and they have a referral program. If you use someone’s referral link you earn $25 to be applied to your bill. If someone uses your link, you get $50 for the first referral and $25 for each thereafter. I used an MMM referral link and posted mine and got $75 credit. This means at least 2 months of service free while I check the service out. Not bad! If you want to try Ting and want to make us both $25, here is my referral link: https://zin50p2i2b7.ting.com/
Data: If you are a huge data hog, there may be cheaper options for you to get the data you need. If you go on a data diet, this can be a good option. I find that most times I want to use my phone with data, there is wifi available. Use it
Minutes: If you use your phone continuously for random chatting or business and burn through lots of minutes, there may be better options for you.
Texting: If you send hundreds of texts, you probably shouldn’t be a 14 year old girl. Sprint Cell Tower service: It may be lousy in your area. You should check.
Finally, if you caught that my son was listed as one of the current customers in our Verizon plan, but I made no mention of him and options for Ting, you are right! He is one of those data hogs I mentioned above, although he takes it to the level of art form. He and I are currently grandfathered in on the Verizon unlimited data for $30/month. His use of this data gives the Verizon leadership nightmares. He used 272 Gigabytes (you read that right) of data last month. Now he did this while visiting his girlfriend and their internet is quite undependable, but still. Ridiculous. He wants to take over both of our Verizon accounts so he can keep his data flowing. If Ting continues to work for me and my wife we will make that a reality and he can take over the bill.
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I visited South Africa in late fall of 1994. I was on the USS HALYBURTON. Our ship and another were the first U.S. Navy ships to visit in 30 some years. I distinctly remember being approached on the street by a South African Citizen who told us how happy he was to see us and thanked us profusely for “staying away during Apartheid”. Really impacted me.
I was reminded of this as I considered Nelson Mandela’s legacy to the nation of South Africa.
Wall Street Journal had a good article.by Rich with No Comments