I have had a Canon Rebel XT for just over a year now and for some reason the Action mode and Flash Off mode is taking blurry pictures. The action mode used to take awesome pics, I would just point and shoot and now everytime I try to use it, the pictures just come out blurry. Please help!
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In addition to resetting all the camera settings you should also choose the "clear all custom functions" option that is also available from the same menu. Once that's done. Put the camera in Full Auto mode and see if the issue is resolved.
The flash duration is so short that it literally "freezes" all movement. With the flash off, any movement from you while clicking the shutter button will show up as blur in the pictures. If you can't hold the camera steady, consider buying a monopod or even a tripod. Or better yet, get a camera with built-in image stabilization.
1. The viewfinder's diopter is probably out of focus (doesn't affect Auto Focus of photos). There's a dial and a +/- symbol next to the viewfinder. Turn the dial till you can see clearly through it. Alternative reason: The glass in the viewfinder is dirty/foggy. Use camera cleaning solution (a drop) on a cotton bud to clean it.
2. Malfunction needs Canon Service Centre to take a look at.
In auto mode, the flash works only if it is necessary. You are saying that the flsah doesn't work in auto mode, and I assume that in other modes it's working properly. That means there is nothing wrong with the flash. So don't worry about the flash, it will fire in necessary, in full auto mode.
That's a big lens and for sports photography you are going to need a lot of light to ensure you can use a fast shutter speed to capture the action. Sports mode may do too much for you and you might want to try switching to a more manual mode. Try switching to Tv mode which gives shutter speed priority. Set the shutter speed to something around 1/150 or higher (1/200) which should be fast enough to freeze the action. Make sure the ISO is set to 200 or 400 for best results and see how you get on. This should stop any action based blur which would leave you with focus problems if the pictures are still blurry. Check out http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canoneos450d for info on what this camera can really do for you
The standard canon 75-300 lens is not considered a "fast" lens. Because of this, when zooming in on objects you are actually reducing the amount of light hitting the image sensor. Fast lenses cost $$$$. Just google "Canon L Glass" and you will see what I'm talking about.
Try opening the field of view (zooming out) to allow more light to be absorbed bu the image senor. Crop your subject later in whatever software you use. You can also use one of the manual modes and up your f-stop to make the camera more sensitive to low-light conditions (higher f-stop means higher film speed.. higher film speed is how fast the "film"... aka image sensor absorbs the light. for action photos, faster film speed is key!!).
have fun experimenting.