Question about Canon EOS Rebel XSi Digital Camera

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Night and low-light specialty/experimental photography

As a fellow Expert on the site you caught my attention in the Expert's lounge, and I was curious as to what your expertise was on, and found some of your camera related solutions to be of a higher experience level than my own, and while I know a bit on the technical aspects as well as form and function of photography, I only recently bought and started using digital, and before that I did not have a great amount of experience with photography with film anyway.

Anyway, my request is for experience advice that you may have regarding night exposures, specifically with digital cameras (I have a Canon EOS XSi that gives me shivers on how much it outclasses my previous equipment), and also low-light experimental photography (specifically Macro in low light and also using closed apertures to decrease light exposure on shots)

I have three lenses, one is 18-55mm wide-to average perspective zoom EF-S, one is 75-300mm EF telephoto zoom, and the other is a 50mm EF lens.

I was told that due to the fact my camera uses a sensor which is .6 of the area of 35mm film, and the EF lenses were not made for digital cameras with a smaller exposure area, it magnifies the focal length of the EF lenses by .6, making a 75-300 lens into a 120-480. If you know whether or not this is fact or misinformation, please verify as well.

Problem: I have a macro adapter which I wish to use on subjects, and have a narrow field of view, thus a zoom lens is preferable - however, the 18-55 requires a very close subject but provides a decent DOF strictly in focusing terms, while the 75-300 lens allows a more distant subject but highly restricts the focusing depth, AND on top of all that there is very, very little light. While normally this could simply be corrected by using a tripod, increasing the aperture and decreasing the shudder speed, I have to do it by hand - the subjects are either inaccessable for a normal tripod, or require quick-setup to get the shot, meaning by hand and trying to get the correct focus to aperture compromise within five minutes in usually an awkward position, making hand-shake an issue. What would your recommended lens be, going in close and getting the largest area in focus (and hopefully limiting handshake) but also having a larger than desired shot, or using the 75-300 lens for short focus depth but better manuverability, as well as increase in hand-shake problems.

Second problem: getting night-shots to look as if they were at night. To my amazement, every time I do a night-shot and expose for the camera's desired "correct" exposure, it looks like early morning instead of 1AM. To compensate I've been increasing shutter speed, but that only seems to work to a degree. Also, I use the highest ISO speed (1600) in order to produce a grain effect as well as be able to lower the handshake issue even when I increase the shutter speed, since the shutter speed for a very dark exposure is still around 1/25th of a second. What I'm considering is whether or not increasing the aperture instead of increasing the shutter speed would produce better night-shots and just do enough bracketing to compensate for handshake or pack a tripod around to use as a unipod for stability.

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  • Dshack
    Dshack Dec 16, 2008

    I do almost all of my normal photography using manual focus, aperture and shutter speed. Needless to say I don't do much action photography.

    However, for the quick-macro shots (insects, dew drops, rain, paint drying, whatever catches my fancy) I care less about shutter speed and more about the aperture, and use AV - though on everything non-macro I use the lowest aperture setting possible under normal circumstances. It's part of my style, for whatever reason. Thus, I am unfamiliar with the effects it may play in a night-shot.

    As I shoot purely in RAW and make no exceptions I also have to process it - and it seems I'm as lazy about processing RAW files as I was about processing prints, but I believe I can get a few basic, unpolished images to my flickr account for an example.

    Thank you for the info on the sensor ratio multiplier, and also concerning the ring strobe - I've seen them but that was before I began photography and haven't thought of one since, but it would indeed be perfect to add light to a close subject while using a macro adapter/lens in photography.

  • Dshack
    Dshack Dec 16, 2008

    As it is, I only have miscellaneous shots, but the pile waiting on my harddrive is just begging to get some air.

    I dislike serving something before it is suitable, but I may as well, with the notice that I am updating it and currently do not have any exposures of note concerning my interest in this particular thread, but shall in a while.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/art-oblique...

  • Dshack
    Dshack Dec 16, 2008

    Can you still post a reply, or has my rating the conversation locked/lost the query?

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  • 121 Answers

Hello, thanks for the compliments!

First, yes, the Digital Rebel series of cameras (my first DSLR was the first Digital Rebel, the 300D model) have a small sensor than a "full frame" sensor, which results in a "multiplicationfactor" or "crop factor" of .6. This is good for telephoto shots (yourtelephoto lens ends up acting like a "longer" and more expensive lens) but bad for wideangle shots.

For Macro, you need very bright light to have enough light to use a small fstop for needed DoF because even at the smallest fstop (largest number) your DoF will still be very small. This typically means you need to use a strobe. The strobe will help freeze the image so you can still shoot hand-held. For hand-held use look for a "ring strobe" that fits around your lens and lights the item in front of your lens.

Focusing is a very tricky matter when you are shooting in macro. Usually you go to manual focus, set the lens to manually focus at either infinity or the closest distance, then you "focus" using the zoom, rather than the focus ring.

For night shots, you need to change to manual exposure and adjust to get the exposure you desire. Your camera's light meter doesn't know how bright or dark the thing you are viewing is - to the light meter everything you point it at is supposed to be exposed to medium gray - an average value. It can't know that you want a dark shot to stay dark.

Here's how I do it. First, I bump up the ISO so I can take a fast shot, and I set the camera to AV mode. Then I set the lens to the widest aperture (smallest number). I let the camera set the shutter speed as I take this test shot, and look at the exposure. Then I determine if I want the shot darker and if so how much. Now I switch to manual mode - same aperture and shutter as the previous shot, and adjust the shutter speed faster to produce a darker image. When I have the right settings, then I adjust the ISO and as I adjust the ISO I have to compensate with the shutter. E.g. if I have a good exposure at ISO 1600 @ f2.8 @ 1/30, to drop to ISO 100 means I have to slow the shutter to 1/2 second. Now, I usually also want a smaller aperture (larger number). To go from ISO 100 @ f2/8 @ 1/2 second to f/16 is 6 stops, which takes the time needed from 1/2 second to 15 seconds. Obviously this means the camera needs to be on a tripod.

I can help more if you can give me a link to some of the photos you have taken so far so I can see what you are shooting, and make suggestions for how I would approach the same subject and situation.

Posted on Dec 16, 2008

  • jcdill
    jcdill Dec 16, 2008

    I'd love to see your photos - can you share your flickr account?

  • jcdill
    jcdill Dec 17, 2008

    I can post a reply, but I only see your first question and my first reply - none of the subsequent replies (yours or mine) which makes it rather hard to build on prior discussions!

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