J1 night photos - please help
Hi. I am trying to figure out how to get my J1 to take photos in very low light situations. Exactly what setting should I use? I have it set to auto to go up to 3200. But in low light, the focus that typically turns into a green rectangle just turns into a red rectangle and I am unable to take a photo. I plan on taking this camera to Maui and I need to know how to take sunset photos as well as at a luau where I cannot use a flash. Thanks for any help you can provide.
#1. "RE: J1 night photos - please help" | In response to Reply # 0Covey22 Charter MemberWed 22-Aug-12 01:43 PM
A couple of things:
Low-light photos and high ISO encourage handholding. Convenient, but will not deliver optimal (or depending upon the circumstances, even acceptable) image results. Colors will be washed out, sharpness will be impacted by sensor noise, dynamic range will be reduced (highlights that normally will be "held" are totally blown), etc. That's simply a caution because this is a sensor that is smaller than APS-C.
For sunsets - you might be able to get away with handholding depending upon the time and how low the sun is on the horizon. Generally, metering is more the challenge in this case than anything else. I tend to switch to centerweighted, pick a spot in the sky 1-2 diameters "away" from the sun - pick left or right as long as it's a clear view of the sky (nothing in between or on the horizon), meter off that and lock the exposure using AE-L, then re-frame and take the composition. For this, I would NOT use Auto ISO, but rather, move ISO to an acceptable setting (i.e., 400) and let the exposure fall where it needs to. Overall, I'd prefer to shoot off a tripod or monopod - it forces me to think about the composition - which could mean the difference between a "meh" sunset and a gorgeous one.
Luaus - challenge is two-fold. Let's start with the shutter speed. Assuming you're only using CX lenses, the fastest one is the 10mm f2.8. Knowing the lighting at these things, it will not be fast enough in some cases even at A3200. Shoot S-Priority, so you can see what the minimum shutter speed is allowed without underexposing (the "Low" warning in the viewfinder). If it's less than 1/60 of a second, your dancers and fire-breathers, etc., will be blurred. Time to pop the flash at that point.
The other challenge - focus. The Nikon 1 is a one-trick pony, really, with the Phase Detect on the sensor. In good light, it's really slick. At a night luau? It's going to revert to Contrast Detect which makes it act just like any other compact - in other words, not so quick or well. A field trick - turn Face Detect ON. In some cases, FD will kick in first, giving the Contrast Detect a clue about what to look for. It somewhat hastens the lock-on. A red rectangle means focus doesn't have enough light or contrast to figure out the lock-on, OR you're inside minimum range for the lens. In your case, it's probably going to be the former. Worst case, get out of auto-area AF, switch to single-point and drive the focus point to a feature that is best lit and has good edges/contrast. AF-A spoils us too much at times.
Your alternative to fast lenses is to couple the J1 with the FT-1 and an f1.4 or f1.8 lens. Your choices are pretty limited because of the 2.7x crop - even a fast wide like the new 28mm/1.8 AFS G will act like a short tele. On the other hand, that might not be a bad thing - an 85mm f1.8 G will give you a 233mm Field-of-View at a very fast aperture - that would normally cost you four figures easily in 35mm format!
#2. "RE: J1 night photos - please help" | In response to Reply # 1Fri 07-Sep-12 02:27 AM
Thank you for all the suggestions Covey22. I ended up selling my whole J1 lot last week. I just don't think it's the camera for me. I have a different camera on pre-order that claims it takes very good photos in low light. Hopefully I'll be successful with that one. Thanks again for all your tips - I appreciate it.
#4. "RE: J1 night photos - please help" | In response to Reply # 3Fri 07-Sep-12 04:45 PM
I pre-ordered the Sony NEX 5R that comes out mid-October. The reviews of the 5N look great and the new features of the 5R look great as well. Hopefully it will work out for what I want in a little camera.