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Have the camera, now I need help!

by Cheermom / November 27, 2004 10:40 AM PST

Alright, I have the camera-I decided on the Panasonic DMC-FZ20. Now I need suggestions on how to get good,clear pics! My other camera seemed to take clearer photos than this one, even only at 3X zoom. And let's not even talk about the blurriness of 10-12X zoom. I know it is because I need to learn the camera and how it works, but can someone out there give me some tips? I hope to be able to take pics next Saturday at my daughter's competition.....

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Re: Have the camera, now I need help!
by snapshot2 Forum moderator / November 28, 2004 12:22 AM PST

Step one is to see how well the camera can do without human intervention.

Put the camera on a tripod or set it on some solid surface and take some pictures.

Better yet, put the camera on a tripod and use the self timer to take the picture. That way you will not be touching the camera at all when it snaps the photo.

Review the results on a computer, don't try to judge the results from the camera's LCD screen.

If you are pleased with the results, the problem is camera movement. Physical movement or shutter speed too slow.

If you are not pleased with the results, try sharpening the photo with software. Adobe Photoshop Elements has a filter called "unsharp mask".

If software sharpening fixed the clarity of the photo, check your camera owners manual and see if the camera will let you apply more shapening within the camera.

Step 2 is to take pictures while using "image stabilization" and without "image stabilization".
Is there a difference?

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Re: Have the camera, now I need help!
by Cheermom / November 28, 2004 11:16 AM PST

Thanks for your advice! I will try these steps this week when I try to get shots during practice. I was really hoping to be able to stay away from a tripod, thought maybe the image stabilization would be enough-oh well. If I can get good shots-it will be worth it! Thank you again.

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Re: Have the camera, now I need help!
by pixman / November 28, 2004 2:12 PM PST

Hey Cheermom, don't use "digital zoom." It is a "crock-o-bs" no matter who's camera you buy. Digital zoom only uses fewer and fewer actual pixels as it crops inside the camera to give you a "bigger" image. Digital zoom is gonna be BLURRY. It ain't no good in anybody's camera. It's just a lame selling gimmick. So, check your camera in regular mode against another of the same brand. You may have gotten a lemon. If it is not a lemon, take it back and buy a camera made by a CAMERA manufacturer.

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Re: Have the camera, now I need help!
by Cheermom / November 29, 2004 9:28 AM PST

I haven't used the digital zoom at all-I have it turned off completely. From everything I read-owners of this camera have been very satisfied with the results this camera puts out. When I looked into the Z3-it seemed a good amount of owners had to send that camera back for problems. Seriously, my old Olympus Camedia C3000 can take better action shots than I have been able to accomplish with the new camera. Tonight I tried one more time without a tripod, and cannot get the results I want. The subjects themselves can be clear-but their moving extremeties are very blurry. Sometimes it would even look like they had no arms at all! I set the camera on the highest ISO speed possible-if I read correctly, that should give better results. Taking a pic with the flash does seem to help-but still not clear on arms and legs that may have been moving. The whole reason I bought the camera was to be able to take action shots! And going up in price for a digital SLR wasn't and still is not an option. As you can tell-I am a bit frustrated.

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Re: Have the camera, now I need help!
by pixman / November 29, 2004 2:21 PM PST

Cheermom, like I suggested, unload that thing if you can! Check into CAMERA manufacturers like Olympus, Fuji, Nikon, etc. I've been using an Olympus C4000 for quite some time. It's a 4mp camera and allows me to make BEAUTIFUL 8x10's! And, it is user friendly. C-Net reviews, PC Mag reviews, Steve's Digicams, and DP Review are all good sites. Decide on the features you want and search for cameras with those features. Remember, even with cameras, you get what you pay for. Save your pennies and spring for a really good pixel machine.

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Re: Have the camera, now I need help!
by snapshot2 Forum moderator / November 29, 2004 10:58 PM PST

Freezing the action:

To freeze a subject that is moving requires a fast shutter speed.

Turn off the flash.

You want to set your camera to "shutter priority".
Then select a shutter speed of "one thousands of a second (1/1000).

The camera will automatically set the appropriate f-stop.

If there is not enough light, the camera will likely warn you in some way. If it lets you shoot anyway - take the photo. Look at the results and see if the brightness is acceptable.

Not enough light: now you need to set the ISO to a higher setting. Your camera can go to 400, so set it there.

Take another photo and see if the camera warns you about "not enough light".

If you still get a warning about not enough light, take the photo anyway. Check it for acceptability.

If it is too dark, your only choice is to lower the shooting speed. Try it at 1/500 of a second.

If you are shooting in a low light situation, you may have to settle for some blurred movement or a dimly lit photo.

Your camera has a maximum f-stop of f2.8 which is what 98 percent of the digital cameras have. So any other camera will produce the same results under the same lighting conditions.

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Re: Have the camera, now I need help!
by Cheermom / November 30, 2004 7:46 PM PST

Thank you! This is exactly what I needed-some of the pics taken last night were good. I have all the limbs on the kids, but the pics are darker than what I would care for. I tweaked settings and ended up on shutter speed of 1/125 and ISO 400. The pics where I used the flash turned out brighter, I just couldn't take in burst mode. The pics without the flash and in burst where just as good except for the darkness. At competition, the team will be farther away than in the gym. Will an external flash help? Or do I just need to keep fidgeting with all the settings? Thanks again for all your help, I promise I have read the manual at least 4X over with no help there.

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Re: Have the camera, now I need help!
by snapshot2 Forum moderator / December 1, 2004 12:44 AM PST

Sounds like you are getting along with the camera.

An external flash will have a longer reach.
They can extend to a distance of 40 to 50 feet, but they tend to be pretty expensive.

You should take some of your good, but dark, photos and see what you can do with them using a good software program. I use Adobe Photoshop Elements. It sells for under $100. I would try the "fill flash" feature for those darker photos. It is just like adding a flash attachment with the software.

When shooting at ISO 400 you can sometimes get noise in the dark parts of the photo. This is similar to shooting a film camera using high speed film. Digital cameras call it noise, film cameras call it grain.
You can download a nice free noise filter program:

http://www.imagenomic.com

Use the noise filter program before using Photoshop Elements.

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Re: Have the camera, now I need help!
by Lumix / December 6, 2004 7:04 PM PST

Thanks for the series of posts snapshot2. I purchased the FZ20 a week ago and took several hundred pics of a play in a dark auditorium (without a tripod). Many of the pics were fantastic. But some in the photos had their limbs missing or were ghosts. Quite disturbing for a high school play! Wish I had read your posts before hand. I am going to try your suggestions over the next day or so. My wife is pretty upset with the camera's performance. Any opinions on whether I should stick with this camera or move to a "camera" oriented company camera? Does this camera require more skill than others in its class?

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Re: Have the camera, now I need help!
by snapshot2 Forum moderator / December 7, 2004 12:14 AM PST

"Any opinions on whether I should stick with this camera or move to a "camera" oriented company camera? Does this camera require more skill than others in its class?"

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There are cameras that will perform the way you had expected your camera to do. The price starts around $2,000 and they will require even more skill than your present camera. These are digital SLR (single lens reflex) cameras with replaceable lenses.

Your camera is a good choice, better than most. But you are stretching it to its limits.

Low light with action situations are tough even for a Digital SLR. The photographer has to set the ISO setting very high 1,200 (this is similar to using very high speed film). Then select a fast lens (one with a low number f-stop such as f1.8). He then does as I explained, he tests at speeds fast enough to stop action. If the result is too dark, he drops down to a lower speed. It is trial and error until you find the right setting for the lighting conditions.

You can help your camera by accepting shots that are a little dark and using software to brighten the photo. You can use very high ISO settings, and use software to remove any noise (grain). I recently took some photos in a wedding reception room that was too dark. I used a Konica Minolta Z2. I had to do all of the above with the software. The result was some very nice photos.

The camera you have is a very good choice. It has an excellent lens and lots of manual controls and you are getting to learn how to use them. Learn when and how to use the manual over-ride controls and you graduate from the point-and-shoot world, and you can get some shots that others can not.

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Read the question in this forum titled:

"Camera for Quality High School Football Photos "

What this person wants to accomplish is very similar to what you want to do. Read my reply to his question. It has several links that have sample photos.

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Re: Have the camera, now I need help!
by Cheermom / December 10, 2004 1:19 PM PST

Snapshot2-thank you so much! I was able to get some great pics at the competition. And I love the noise reduction program you suggested, it works wonders! Although-for some reason my pics are better if I crop and adjust them and then put them through to noise reduction program. Is there a problem with running that last? I wish I could post some pics to show-but some parents object to their children's pics being posted online. Now I feel I just need to spend more time to get everything down-and I will get even better shots with time. Thanks again!

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Re: Have the camera, now I need help!
by snapshot2 Forum moderator / December 11, 2004 10:17 AM PST

If you get better results when you crop and adjust the photos before using the noise reduction program, then continue to do so.

It appears you are getting accustom to the camera.

Having to learn all those manual controls can be a chore, but well worth it. You will get photos that others cannot.

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Re: Have the camera, now I need help!
by robertdelisi / December 4, 2004 5:49 AM PST

I have one also,,same problem,,,i also have the Panasonic FZ1,,it has only 2 megapexel,,that one works like a charm,,realy,,,was the first one out,,in the 12 x range,,it was perfect,,,then,,the others came out,,with more megapexel,,,they all have same problems,,,
contact me if you wish

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Re: Have the camera, now I need help!
by 3dlee / December 10, 2004 7:42 AM PST

You'll have to experiment a bit with the file settings. Camera makers have tried to make this "idiot proof" but have really made it confusing instead. In short, all cameras will do some sort of compression on the photo (unless it has a "raw" mode, which takes up huge amounts of space on your memory card). The more it compresses, the smaller the file, but fuzzier the image. Try a larger file size. Also, all cameras do some sort of "post processing": they run the file through some software the does sharpening, lighting adjustment, color balance, saturation, etc. Usually, somewhere in the setup menus you can make selections for these parameters. Some cameras don't have very good sharpening software, some may over-exaggerate colors, some shift the colors toward yellow and red, etc. You'll have to find some tradeoff between file size, resolution, and the various levels of sharpening, color enhancement, etc. Different manufacturers do it differently. If the photos look fuzzy, try a larger file size or more sharpening (assuming your camera allows it; some don't). You may also be seeing sensor noise from using too high of an ISO setting; try backing off to ISO 100 (if your camera has this adjustment).

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