Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Canon PowerShot 410 (around 2003-2006)

Around 2004 or 2005, I bought a Canon PowerShot 410. I decided that with a digital camera, I would shoot more and get more practice. This is just a consumer grade camera, more or less point-and-shoot. But I would try to have it on the settings to do as much manually as possible.

I've brought the 410 to several dance camps before, like Camp Hollywood, Lindy on the Rocks, Herrang, and Cowtown Jamborama. While I did get a lot of nice shots, I observed a few weaknesses with the 410:

  • Manual mode still did a lot of automatic things - specifically, I couldn't set the f-stop and exposure times independently. It would always try to get a certain light level, even if it meant a ridiculously long (1/8 second) exposure time, which just wouldn't work for dance competitions. I'm reluctant to flash, especially with the quantity of photos I take.

  • I couldn't tell it exactly what to focus on, or what to use as the exposure level. It would do some kind of weighted averaging, and often I'd have to find ways to trick it.

  • It took a long time to focus and I would often miss the sweet shot at the apex of an aerial.

Of course, there were some things that I was still learning, such as:

  • Don't track the action while actually exposing - I'll never match the exact speed, and they'll wind up blurrier as a result.

  • I sometimes re-compose the shot after the focus locks, which is good, but I need to do that more often. I see too many of my shots where the subject is dead center, but the overall composition is really unbalanced.

I'll start with a couple shots from Herrang 2005. Those seem to be some of the earliest dance camp photos I have. These are just a few fun photos from around the camp.

Overall, I actually did like these photos. However, on the indoor shot with Frankie, Dawn, and Chazz (low light), you can see Chazz's hand blurs. Overall, they're not moving fast in this shot, so it's not that bad.

Outdoors, you would think think that the camera would do fine - there's more than enough light. In fact, maybe that's the problem - there was just too much light and it gets a little fogged out. Maybe that was lens glare too - I don't know. Anyway, it just seemed like the camera had trouble unless you were in the perfect conditions.

In the last photo, I thought it was a weird composition, but for some reason, it just worked for me.

Here's one of my favorite shots from Camp Hollywood 2005. There's a lot of action, personality, and attitude. But none of that is really worth anything because the photo is just so darned blurry! The exposure time was 1/30 of a sec.

Something to realize though is that Camp Hollywood actually has more light during the competitions than really any other venue I've been to. So if the camera is struggling here, it's going to struggle everywhere.

Here's one from the following year with 23 Skidoo performing at Camp Hollywood 2006. I think it was a good action shot, but (the theme with this camera) it's so darned blurry - but at least better than 2005. I think I was starting to learn how to trick the camera by holding the button down halfway looking at something really bright (like the lights) so the exposure would think it could go faster, then reframe the shot.

But the camera itself was extremely limited, and even tricking it, I could only push it so far.

Here's one from Lindy on the Rocks 2006.I had the shot. I HAD THE SHOT! But the stupid camera decided that the best solution to the low light was to expose at 1/6 of a second so instead of a fantastic aerial photo, I got a big ol blur. My experience has been that I need to be at at most 1/60 of a second, and preferably 1/125 of a sec.

Also, the limit on the camera was ASA 400 (though I think consumer cameras can do better than that today). I think part of this though is that the image sensor is so tiny. Probably it was only about 7mm or so. In a normal film camera, it's 35mm.

Most venues are lit like this - fairly dark. That year, they also put up the Christmas lights which actually really helped a lot. It was subtle, but I noticed in later years without the Christmas lights, I actually did need to adjust by about a stop or so.

I think this event was actually the last straw that made me decide I need a real camera.

Here's a cute one from Jamborama 2005 that turned out okay:

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