Topic Wiki

Quick tips on random subjects that come up in between classes (will add as we go along):

Food photography tips
Newborn photography tips

Table of Contents (I'll change each line to a link as we go along.)

Introduction

1) Choosing a camera: Point and Shoot vs. Mirrorless vs. DSLR
2) Camera specs: What do they mean, and which ones matter to me?
3) Exposure Basics Part 1 - the shutter speed/aperture/ISO triangle
4) Exposure Basics Part 2 - getting to know your mode dial, and other exposure controls
5) All about memory cards
6) Using ultra-wide lenses





Lenses 101 - technology, terminology, and specs, zooms vs. primes, basic/advanced/unique lenses

Lighting 101 - focusing specifically on easy to afford and easy to use setups
Small flash - on camera, off camera, modifiers and accessories
Studio strobes
Continuous lighting - fluorescent, LED, and halogen
Basic light modifiers - umbrellas, softboxes, gels, reflectors
Basic supports - lightstands, umbrella brackets, backgrounds, etc.

All about accessories - memory cards, tripods, bags, filters, remotes, adapters, grips, geotaggers, and more)


So I bought all my stuff - now what?

What makes a compelling photograph?
Depth of field
Composition basics - rule of thirds, perspective, framing
Advanced composition - negative space, inclusion and exclusion, compression
Light - natural, golden hour, basic flash usage.

Let's start shooting...

Kids:
In the park
Playing sports
At home

Landscapes and wildlife:
"Grand" landscapes
"Intimate" landscapes
Seascapes
Waterfalls
Cityscapes
Wildlife
Birds in flight
Shooting in bad weather

Portraits:
Babies and newborns
Single person - indoors
Single person - outdoors
Families/siblings/groups
Natural light
Artificial light - simple
Artificial light - complex
Mixed light

Others:
Close up and macro
Product photography

How do I...? (Some specific scenarios/techniques - Basic)
Shoot out of a plane window?
Shoot underwater?
Shoot compelling black-and-white?

How do I...? (Some specific scenarios/techniques - Advanced)
HDR
Long exposures
Light painting
Twilight landscapes
Milky Way
Star trails

Basic editing concepts:
Exposure
Contrast
Clarity/sharpening
Color
Layers and masking

Poll

What type of camera do shoot with?

Point & Shoot - basic (Canon Elph style) or Smartphone
114 (38.5%)
Point & Shoot - advanced (Canon S100 or G Style)
42 (14.2%)
Mirrorless
23 (7.8%)
DSLR - consumer (Up to a Nikon D5200 or Canon Rebel)
67 (22.6%)
DSLR - prosumer or pro (Nikon D7000 or Canon 60D and up)
25 (8.4%)
P&S, but I plan on getting an SLR or Mirrorless in the near future
25 (8.4%)

Total Members Voted: 243

Author Topic: Learn Photography Master Thread  (Read 150494 times)

Offline Something Fishy

  • Global Moderator
  • Dansdeals Lifetime Presidential Platinum Elite
  • **********
  • Join Date: Jan 2011
  • Posts: 6045
  • Total likes: 897
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 40
    • View Profile
    • My Flickr Page
  • Location: Not Brooklyn
Re: Learn Photography Master Thread
« Reply #285 on: December 13, 2013, 03:06:02 PM »
Thanks for the shout out Dan :D

http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/38334

Offline Fan of Dan

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: May 2011
  • Posts: 3043
  • Total likes: 3
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
    • View Profile
Re: Learn Photography Master Thread
« Reply #286 on: December 14, 2013, 07:54:33 PM »

Offline Something Fishy

  • Global Moderator
  • Dansdeals Lifetime Presidential Platinum Elite
  • **********
  • Join Date: Jan 2011
  • Posts: 6045
  • Total likes: 897
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 40
    • View Profile
    • My Flickr Page
  • Location: Not Brooklyn
Re: Learn Photography Master Thread
« Reply #287 on: December 15, 2013, 01:02:17 AM »
Lesson 4

Exposure Basics Part 2 - getting to know your mode dial, and other exposure controls

Remember, click on the wiki if you want to see only the lessons and not the other posts.

Continuing on from last lesson, we now know why you should move beyond your cameras Auto mode and start taking control. Today we'll talk how to take this control. Not all camera's will offer full control, but even those that don't still have ways of getting what you want, to an extent.

If you have any DLSR or mirrorless camera you will be able to have 100% control over everything, should you so choose. Most advanced P&Ss (such the Canon S110 and G15, Panasonic LX5, etc.) will also offer this level of control. However, a typical P&S (such a Canon Elph), will be quite limited.

A camera which offers full control is often referred to as having "PASM" - we'll discuss exactly what that means in a moment. Most of the time, there will be a physical dial on the camera for all options - this is called the mode dial. Sometimes, especially on low-end mirrorless or some P&Ss, these options will be menu-driven. Let's have a look at a typical mode dial, and discus what every exposure mode does, how it does it, and when you should choose one over the other. These modes could be grouped into three unique categories; let's have a look starting from the bottom:

Automatic Modes:

Auto: Usually indicated by a green square, this mode is exactly what it sounds like. The camera makes every single decision for you. Some cameras will let you turn the flash off in this mode, but that's about it.

Various scene modes: There will be anywhere from none, to one, to many of these on your mode dial. These are usually indicated by a tiny icon of the scene - a flower for close-up (macro), a head for portraits, mountains for landscapes, and so on. These modes are also fully automatic, but are somewhat optimized for the chosen scene. For example, Portrait will use the largest aperture available, so as to blur the background, while Landscape will do the opposite.

Smart Auto: sometimes also called Intelligent Auto, Enhanced Auto, or something similar. This is a mashup of straight Auto and Scene Modes. In this mode, the camera will attempt to figure out what type of scene it's looking at, and then choose from the available scene modes whatever it thinks is most appropriate. This mode is usually indicated by a green square and an asterisk, or by a proprietary logo.

These 3 modes give you no control over your picture in any way. Sure, the scene mode may give you a better result than straight-up Auto, but as discussed last time, the camera is only so smart. You, being somewhat smarter (no offense ;)), will want to move up to the next level of modes.
____________

Program Modes:

These are the modes which offer the best balance of control and convenience. You make the decisions, but the camera does the heavy lifting. These modes make up the P, A, and S of the PASM we discussed earlier.

Program (P): This mode is just like Auto in that the camera makes the decisions, but with one critical difference: You are able to override everything. While in Auto mode all options are blocked out, in Program mode if you're unhappy with what the camera delivered you could tell the camera what to change. Think the camera underexposed a bit? Use Exposure Compensation. Don't like the White Balance? Change it. ISO? Focusing mode? Metering mode? All within your control, if you so choose. (We'll talk separately about all these features in depth later on).

- Some cameras have something called Extended Program (or something similar). This is usually accessed via a separate button or dial (as opposed from the mode dial), and may be denoted with a P and an asterisk. What this does is very camera-dependent, but it usually lets you temporarily access the functionality from modes A and S below.

Aperture Priority(A): Most camera companies call this Aperture Priority mode, while Canon calls it Aperture Value. Hence, on a Canon it'll be denoted as AV, while everyone else will mark it as A. In this mode, you choose the aperture, while the camera chooses the appropriate shutter speed. Since this mode is the most useful and is what most people are probably best off shooting at, I'll discuss it in far more detail once we're done going through the other modes.

Shutter Priority(S): As in A mode above, Canon decided to call this differently than everyone else; on their mode dial you'll find TV, for Time Value. This mode is the exact opposite of the Aperture mode; here you set the shutter speed, while the camera chooses the appropriate aperture. This mode will be expounded upon together with A mode further down.
___________

Manual Modes:

Manual (M): This mode is exactly what it sounds like: 100% manual. The camera does absolutely nothing for you; you dial in every single setting. There are plenty of situations where you'd use this, such as shooting stars at night, where it's too dark for the camera to figure out how to expose, of if you're shooting with any sort of supplemental lighting (such as in a studio setting). The camera has no idea that all these other light are going to go off, so it won't know to set an exposure taking them into account.

Bulb: Most cameras only let you use up to a 30 second exposure, regardless of the mode. What if you want to use something longer? That's where Bulb mode comes in. It's exactly like Manual mode, but instead of a set shutter speed, it stays open as long as you like. You'd press the shutter button once to open the shutter, then press it again when you want the exposure to end. In this mode you'd want to use a remote to trigger the camera, since you pressing the shutter in the middle of the exposure will usually result in camera shake (even on a tripod), so you'll end up with a blurry picture.
__________

Let's take a moment to discuss the A and S modes a bit more:

One of the first things you have to decide when composing a picture is how much of it do you want in focus. Are you shooting a landscape, and you want everything from the flowers at your feet to the distant mountains in focus? Are you shooting a portrait of your kid in the park, and want only his face in focus, while the distracting trees and people behind him should be a creamy blur? Or do you want the things in the background to be clearly distinguishable to provide context, but still want them slightly blurry to keep the focus on your kid?

In order to accomplish any of these effects you have to set your aperture correctly. With a little bit of experimentation, you will learn how your lenses render scenes. For example, in the third scenario, you don't want to be at your maximum aperture, since everything will be completely out if focus (that would be the second scenario). So you'd want to use a moderately large aperture, say f/5.6. That way the background will still be blurry, but clear enough for it to be obvious that you're in the park. For the first scenario, on the other hand, you'd want to use the smallest aperture possible, since that'll leave the most in focus. (This last sentence is somewhat oversimplified, as there are things like diffraction and hyperfocal distance to take into account. But these are very advanced topics, which will be discussed in due time.)

From these few theoretical examples, you see that focusing on using the correct aperture is a vital step. Now - as discussed in the last lesson, your choice of aperture will have a tremendous impact on your exposure. Imagine if there was a mode where all you have to do exposure-wise is choose an aperture, and the camera will choose the rest. Well, that's what Aperture Priority mode does. You tell the camera to shoot at f/4, and the camera will choose the appropriate shutter speed/ISO combination (more on ISO modes later). Lets say you take your picture, and you decide that f/4 was too much and you want more of the background in focus. All you have to do in A mode is adjust the aperture - the camera will automatically adjust the shutter speed to match.

It is very rare that if you choose the aperture and you let the camera choose the shutter speed that you will not be pleased with the results. This is why most of the time it's best to leave your camera in this mode. Your camera doesn't know if you're shooting a landscape or a portrait. But once you tell it the vital part - the aperture - it could generally figure the rest out from there.

Shutter Priority is the polar opposite of Aperture Priority. You probably won't need to use this very often, but when you do need it it's indispensable. For example, when shooting sports, sometimes you know you need a shutter speed of 1/2000th to freeze the motion. In such a case you set your mode dial to S, your shutter speed to 1/2000, and the camera figures out the rest.
__________

Other exposure controls

ISO
You'll notice that that as far as exposure, the mode dial only seems to cover aperture and shutter speed. Whatever happened to the third part of the triangle, ISO? Well, here's the lowdown.

All cameras have at least two ways of dealing with ISO:

Automatic: The camera chooses whichever ISO it deems best. This is sometimes good, but of course sometimes it'd be completely wrong. If you're on a tripod for example, the camera won't know this and would jack up your ISO into the stratosphere, instead of giving you a longer shutter speed.

Manual: You choose the ISO. Typically a camera will offer options from ISO 100 to ISO 6400. These go in exposure stops, so as discussed, ISO 400 will be half as sensitive as ISO 800, and therefore requires either double the shutter speed or double the aperture.

Using manual ISO along with Aperture Priority mode, we have a perfect example of why taking control of your camera is so amazing. Imagine shooting the Eiffel Tower at night, on a tripod. Left to it's own devices, the camera will probably choose a very large aperture (since it's dark and a larger aperture will let in more light), an obscenely high ISO (again, more sensitivity to light), and whatever shutter speed it calculates it needs based on these two parameters (probably something like 1/10th of a second). What do you think the picture would the picture look like? Not only will the foreground will be out of focus due to the large aperture, but everything will be covered in so much noise that the picture may not even be usable.

However, if you take control of your camera, you could choose a small aperture, a very low ISO, and let the camera choose the shutter speed (say, 10 seconds). You won't have to worry about the fact that the shutter speed with inevitably be very long, as you know the secret that you're on a tripod.

What will happen is that everything you want will be in focus (small aperture), there will be no noise whatsoever (low ISO), and the picture will look great. Another benefit of this particular setup (small aperture + long shutter speed) is that it will introduce a number of lovely elements into the picture. The small aperture will cause points of light to appear as stars, while the long shutter speed will blur clouds, and turn car headlights into pretty streaks of light (these effects will also be discussed at length eventually). See Chaim'l's first picture here for a great example of this scenario, including the effects I just mentioned.

Back to ISO, you'd notice that some cameras have an ISO lineup that goes like this: Lo1, Lo2, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, Hi1, Hi2. What's going on here? Basically most sensors have what's called native ISO and extended ISO. The native settings would be the numbered ones; those are what the sensor is optimized for. The higher you go, the more noise you get. Extended ISO would be the Lo and Hi settings, and are usually the equivalent of the next higher or lower native stops. In our example, Lo1 would be the equivalent of ISO 50, Lo2 would be 100, while Hi1 and Hi2 would be 12800 and 25600, respectively.  While they're equivalent to regular ISO settings regarding exposure, these settings push the boundaries of the sensor and may cause undesired effects. For example, in certain situations, Lo1 could have more noise than ISO 800, even though officially it's only ISO 50.

Other ISO settings: Many cameras these days allow you to limit how high of an ISO it will choose in auto mode. This is very useful, and is a great thing to take advantage of. If you know that anything taken with your camera above ISO 1600 has a horrible amount of noise, you may want to limit your auto ISO to 1600 max. Don't worry that if you do that, there will be situations where you'd get blurry pictures due to the shutter getting too long, as you could always jump into manual ISO for a while if the situation warrants it.

Some cameras (generally newer SLRs) take this a step further, and let you fine-tune your auto ISO settings to an insane level. For instance, on my Nikon D600, I could set a minimum shutter speed to work along with my auto ISO. For example, If I set my minimum shutter speed to 1/500, the camera will use the lowest ISO it can and still keep me under that shutter speed. And not only will it choose from ISO presets (200, 400, etc.), it will choose the precise ISO it needs to keep to that shutter speed - I have pictures that show ISO 633, for example. It goes even further - the longer your lens, the shorter your shutter speed has to be, all things being equal. This will be discussed at length, but for now let's just say that the longer lens magnifies blur which would usually be invisible using wider lenses. Using these ISO fine-tuning settings, I could have the camera automatically adjust my minimum shutter - and therefore, my maximum ISO - depending on what lens is mounted. If your camera offers these options, I advise you to take the time and go through them. It isn't the simplest thing to set up, but once it is it'll save you an immense amount of time while shooting.

Exposure compensation:
This is one of the most important and useful features on any camera. This works in any program mode (P, A, S); some cameras allow it in other modes too. This setting tells the camera to shift every exposure up or down.

Let's examine this in more detail, and you'll see why you'd want to use this all the time. Imagine you're shooting outside on a sunny afternoon. The sun is behind you, lighting everything in front of the camera with a harsh, bright light. The camera looks at the scene, and decides on an exposure. (Remember that even if you choose the aperture for instance, it's still the camera that makes the decision on the overall exposure by choosing a shutter speed and ISO.) Now, the exposure may be "correct", but since everything is so bright, the colors are washed out. Lowering your exposure by, say, 1/3 stop should help keep the colors nice and vibrant by making everything very slightly darker.

There are two ways that you could make your camera do this. You could decide that the camera is not smart enough to lower the exposure a bit, so you switch over to Manual mode and dial in the settings yourself. You make the click, and voila!, the colors are all lovely. However, what happens half and hour later? The sun is a bit lower in the sky, so everything is a drop darker now. If you stick to manual mode, you'll now have to raise your exposure by, say, 1 stop to keep up with the falling light. Your other option is to switch back to Aperture Priority mode, where the camera could adjust itself to the changing light conditions. However, you're back to your original problem - the "correct" exposure is too bright! You'd be dancing back and forth, futzing with your exposure over and over again.

But there's a better way. The minute you notice that the colors are washed out, all you do is engage exposure compensation, and set it for -1/3 stop. What's happening is that you're telling the camera, "Hey - I'm gonna leave you to deal with the overall exposure, and change it along with the light as needed. However, whatever you do, knock it down by 1/3 of a stop." Now, you don't have to deal with changing the exposure, since the camera will adjust it when the light falls. However, now that you dialed in -1/3 exposure compensation, the colors will come out correctly too!

Exposure compensation is an incredible tool in dozens of everyday situations. Take your camera outside tomorrow and take a picture of the snow. Look at the picture and you'll notice that the snow is grey, not white. And I'm not talking about the lovely, sopping slush New York is blessed with a day after a snowfall. Look at some clean snow - and you'll see that it's grey. Why? Because the camera sees all that white snow as bright white, so it thinks it's too bright and exposes lower than it should. This is a problem with all modern cameras. How do you fix this and have the snow come out white in your pictures? Wait for it......... Exposure compensation! Set it to +1 stop and watch every picture come out beautifully. (In fact the 'Snow' scene mode (if your camera has one) does exactly this.)

Going to the zoo? Try taking a picture of a bear and have it come out properly lit. Since the bear is a small dark object surrounded by a bright foreground and background, the camera will expose for the scene and not the little bear. Dial in some positive exposure compensation, and walla, the bear looks great.

So how does it work? That really depends on the mode you're in. In P mode, since the camera chooses both the aperture and shutter speed, so when you choose to compensate the camera will again choose which of the two (or combination thereof) to change. In A mode, since you choose the aperture, the camera has no right to change that, so it'll use the shutter speed to compensate. So if you dial in -1 compensation, it'll double your shutter speed. In S mode, it'd do the opposite and use the aperture to compensate.

Note that most cameras have an exposure compensation limit of +/-3 stops. You should rarely need to get even close to that limit; if your camera routinely exposes things 8 times as high or low (3 stops) as it should, you should probably get it checked out ;).
__________

All this is well and good if you have a camera that offers all these options and controls. But what if you have a simple point and shoot? Well first of all, the main reason why you should get a better camera (after image quality) is exactly this - the ability to manipulate and control everything. That being said, there are something every camera offers, and some things that the camera could be tricked into.

Auto, Scenes, and Program modes are offered by virtually every camera. The control possible in P mode varies greatly, but most will allow you to change the ISO and White Balance settings, as well as apply exposure compensation.

As far as controlling your aperture or shutter speed, your generally our of luck. However, now is a good time to explore your scene modes and use them for things they were not really intended for ;). Learn how your scene mode operate and you'll be able to trick the camera into doing stuff. For example, think about what Portrait mode does. Among others, it'll use the largest aperture available. Conversely, Landscape mode will use the smallest. That means that you now have a way to access both the largest and smallest aperture settings. Night mode will use a long shutter speed, sports a short one, etc. etc.
__________

In the next Exposure installment we'll dig into how the camera sees a scene, and what makes it make the decisions it does. You'll learn all about metering, and how to use the different metering modes to your advantage.
__________

Lesson Summary:

Automatic exposure modes:
- Auto: auto everything.
- Scene modes: Auto modes, but optimized for different preset situations.
- Smart Auto: a mashup of the tho others.

Program modes:
- Program: Automatic, but with the ability to change things as needed.
- Aperture Priority: You choose the aperture, the camera chooses the shutter speed and ISO.
- Shutter Priority: You choose the shutter speed, the camera chooses the aperture and ISO.

Manual modes:
- Manual: You choose everything, the camera does nothing.
- Bulb: Like manual, but allows unlimited shutter speeds.

ISO:
- Auto: The camera chooses the ISO setting.
- Manual: You choose the ISO setting. Some cameras allow a tremendous amount of fine-tuning.

Exposure Compensation:
- Allows the fine-tuning of the camera exposure decisions.
- Very useful to get better colors, and for tricky exposure situations.

- If you have a camera that doesn't allow this level of control, you could use some scene modes to try to replicate some of them.
- Some settings may simply not be possible.



Online whYME

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: May 2008
  • Posts: 2745
  • Total likes: 340
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 3
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: Learn Photography Master Thread
« Reply #288 on: December 15, 2013, 02:50:12 AM »
Awesome lesson once again!

I feel like I actually know how to use my camera now   (well, at least the basics)




Offline Achas Veachas

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Jul 2012
  • Posts: 4223
  • Total likes: 13
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 3
    • View Profile
Re: Learn Photography Master Thread
« Reply #289 on: December 15, 2013, 08:58:55 AM »
Again wow! I wish all my teachers taught like you...
Curiosity made the cat smarter.

Offline Centro

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: May 2012
  • Posts: 2973
  • Total likes: 3
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 33
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: Learn Photography Master Thread
« Reply #290 on: December 15, 2013, 11:21:14 AM »

Offline HesderGuy

  • Dansdeals Gold Elite
  • ***
  • Join Date: Mar 2011
  • Posts: 140
  • Total likes: 0
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
    • View Profile
  • Location: NY
  • Programs: Lifetime AA Gold, 2018/19 JetBlue Mosaic
Re: Learn Photography Master Thread
« Reply #291 on: December 15, 2013, 12:40:30 PM »
I just joined this thread and it is amazing!   I read it all in two sittings, and now have to do  חזרה

Offline ss8389

  • DansDeals Copper Elite
  • *
  • Join Date: May 2013
  • Posts: 2
  • Total likes: 0
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
    • View Profile
  • Location: Brooklyn, NY
Re: Learn Photography Master Thread
« Reply #292 on: December 15, 2013, 02:38:41 PM »
Amazing lessons,  wow.

Offline ChAiM'l

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Jan 2010
  • Posts: 1819
  • Total likes: 30
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 4
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: Learn Photography Master Thread
« Reply #293 on: December 15, 2013, 04:13:47 PM »
Again wow! I wish all my teachers taught like you...

+1000

Although most of the stuff isn't new to me, it is very enjoyable to read. Thanks for taking the time to write this up.

Online whYME

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: May 2008
  • Posts: 2745
  • Total likes: 340
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 3
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: Learn Photography Master Thread
« Reply #294 on: December 15, 2013, 04:18:06 PM »
Again wow! I wish all my teachers taught like you...
+1
I learned more from 5 paragraphs here than from 50 pages of my camera's manual.

Offline AJK

  • Dansdeals Lifetime 20K Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Jun 2011
  • Posts: 25017
  • Total likes: 256
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 13
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Programs: United Concierge Key; Delta Global Services; American Chairman; US Airways 1K; Hilton Sapphire; Hyatt Tritium; Marriott Californium; Starwood Kryptonium; Hertz Plutonium; National Adamantium, Avis Executive Proactanium
Re: Learn Photography Master Thread
« Reply #295 on: December 15, 2013, 04:22:44 PM »
Your first issue was trying to learn this stuff from you camera's manual...
2015: 116K bkd | 1.6M brnd | F: OZ,NH,AA,EK | J: UA,CA,TK,DL,TN,AF,VA | LIH,NRT,ROR,PEK,CNS,BOB,MEL,TLV & Pacific Hopper

Offline Ergel

  • Dansdeals Lifetime 10K Presidential Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Jun 2010
  • Posts: 11382
  • Total likes: 76
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 2
    • View Profile
Re: Learn Photography Master Thread
« Reply #296 on: December 15, 2013, 04:32:37 PM »
Your first issue was trying to learn this stuff from you camera's manual...
What was his second issue?
Life isn't about checking the boxes. Nobody cares.

Offline AJK

  • Dansdeals Lifetime 20K Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Jun 2011
  • Posts: 25017
  • Total likes: 256
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 13
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Programs: United Concierge Key; Delta Global Services; American Chairman; US Airways 1K; Hilton Sapphire; Hyatt Tritium; Marriott Californium; Starwood Kryptonium; Hertz Plutonium; National Adamantium, Avis Executive Proactanium
Re: Learn Photography Master Thread
« Reply #297 on: December 15, 2013, 04:34:43 PM »
Flipping through the manual a second time.
2015: 116K bkd | 1.6M brnd | F: OZ,NH,AA,EK | J: UA,CA,TK,DL,TN,AF,VA | LIH,NRT,ROR,PEK,CNS,BOB,MEL,TLV & Pacific Hopper

Online whYME

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: May 2008
  • Posts: 2745
  • Total likes: 340
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 3
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: Learn Photography Master Thread
« Reply #298 on: December 15, 2013, 04:54:01 PM »
Your first issue was trying to learn this stuff from you camera's manual...
LOL
Silly me thinking I would learn what all those buttons are by reading the manual.

Offline Something Fishy

  • Global Moderator
  • Dansdeals Lifetime Presidential Platinum Elite
  • **********
  • Join Date: Jan 2011
  • Posts: 6045
  • Total likes: 897
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 40
    • View Profile
    • My Flickr Page
  • Location: Not Brooklyn
Re: Learn Photography Master Thread
« Reply #299 on: December 15, 2013, 06:08:04 PM »
Lesson 5
 
Remember, click on the Wiki if you want to see only the lessons and not the other posts.
 
All about memory cards
 
While buying a memory card appears at first glance to be an ultra-simple affair, there are actually many factors to consider. Your choice of card can make a tremendous difference in your day to day shooting. Let's have a look at the numbers, standards, and features you should be aware of when buying a card for your camera.
 
Types of card
 
There are a few different types of memory cards on the market today. Generally the type you need will be dictated by your camera; if it takes an SD card only there's no way you could use a CF card in it. There are however a number of cameras that accept more than one type. Since the most common card by far is SD, I'll focus mostly on that.
 
Compact Flash (CF): These are the bigger, square memory cards. These days they're mostly used in pro cameras such as the Canon 5DMkII or the Nikon D800. The advantage of CF over SD is mainly in physical strength. While SD cards are prone to braking, a CF card is virtually indestructible. On top of that, they tend to be a bit faster than SD cards, meaning that any new jump in performance will appear in the CF market before the SD market. The one disadvantage with CF cards is that the socket relies on a series of pins, which are easily bendable.
 
Secure Digital (SD): This is the most common card type in use by far. If you have a camera, chances are it takes SD cards. These are smaller than CD cards (about stamp-sized), and are not as strong physically. I have an entire collection of cracked and broken SD cards flying around the house. The 'secure' part of the name refers to the read/write protection switch on the side. To be honest this feature is mostly useless, and only adds to the complexity, and therefore breakability, of the card.
 
SD cards come in a couple different flavors:
 
- SD: This mostly obsolete standard was for cards under 2GB. They could still be bought today, but why someone would is anyone's guess.
- SDHC (High Capacity): This is the most commonly used standard today, and covers cards from 2 - 32GB. Virtually every camera in existence supports the SDHC protocol.
- SDXC (Extreme Capacity): This is the newest SD standard and supports cards from 64GB all the way up to a theoretical 2TB. This uses the exFAT file system, and so will not work on some older computers. Most newer cameras will support SDXC.
- MicroSD: This is a tiny version of a regular SD card, and also comes in all three SD flavors. Due to its size it'll be more expensive than a comparable full-size SD card, as well as being very prone to getting lost. It is used in most smartphones, as well as some point & shoot cameras and video cameras (the GoPro for instance).
- SD cards also come in a veriety of wireless models. These cards will automatically upload pictures to your computer via Wi-Fi.
 
Memory Stick (MS): This is a proprietary Sony card, and is used only in their cameras. At one point this was a horrible mess with as many as 10 types of Memory Stick on the market, none of which was compatible with the other. These days Sony has cleaned this up, with only the Memory Stick Duo surviving. More importantly, Sony finally buckled and now all their cameras accept SD cards as well, so you could easily forget about this overpriced card and move on with your life :).
 
There is also the new XQD card, which so far is used only by the Nikon D4 camera.
 
Card Speed:
 
This is the most important thing to know when choosing a memory card. Today's cameras move a massive amount of information to the card every time you take a picture or video. If your card is not fast enough, you will have to wait for a couple of seconds after every picture, as well as when looking through your pictures on your camera. Video-wise, if the card isn't fast enough the camera will drop frames, which will cause your video to be choppy and jittery.
 
Unfortunately, card manufacturers try their best to confuse the bejiggers out of you with an overwhelming amount of different speed specifications. Let's have a look at all these specs, and what they actually mean.
 
The first thing to remember is that pictures and video require a completely different type of speed in order to work properly. With pictures, you're throwing a huge amount of data at the card in short, intense bursts. On the other hand, the video data stream is much smaller, but continuous. With that in mind, let's have a look at the specs.
 
Rated Speed - written as MB/s: This is the maximum speed of writing chunks of data to the card, and applies to photos only. Common speeds you'll find are 45MB/s or 60MB/s. This means that the theoretical transfer speed will be 60 megabytes per second. Why is this important? Take a Nikon D600. Each RAW file is about 28MB. That means that if I use a card rated at 30MB/s, I will have to wait a second between each picture. Now imaging I'm shooting continuous - if I take 8 pictures in about 2 seconds, I then have to wait 6 more seconds until the camera is ready to shoot again, since it has to finish writing all this data to the card. This means that I will keep on waiting, and keep on missing shots.
 
Now imagine I had bought a faster card - say 90MB/s. This means that I would never have to wait between pictures (since each picture will take about a third of a second to write). Shooting 8 pictures in 2 seconds, I would have to wait less than a second until I'm ready to shoot again.
 
If you have any newer high-megapixel camera, this should be the number one spec you look for. It will be the difference between taking pictures and forgetting that a memory card exists, and between getting stuck waiting all the time and cursing the card out for making you miss the shot yet again.
 
X Rating: This will be written as 400x, 533x, etc. This means the exact came thing as Rated Speed, and is a direct conversion. It is simply another way for the card companies to drive you nuts. Each 'x' is equivalent to 15KB/s. Doing the math, 400x will be 400*15=6000, which would be 60MB/s.
 
Class Rating: This will be written as Class 6, Class 8, Class 10, etc. This applies to video only. What this is the minimum sustained write speed. A class 10 for instance, will maintain a write speed of at least 10 megabytes per second. Currently, no standard camera exists which can take advantage of anything over Class 10. This means that if you have a Class 10 card, your card will always be fast enough to keep up with the video data stream being thrown at it.
 
UHS Class: Again, this is a direct conversion from Class Ratings. UHS-1 simply means 10MB/s minimum sustained speed, which we already know is Class 10.
 
So basically you have to look at only two specs: Rated Speed and Class Speed. The Rated Speed will tell you how large a chunk of data (photos) you could transfer at one time, while the Class Rating will tell you the minimum continuous (video) data speed.
 
Read speed vs. write speed: Another very important thing to remember is that the Rated Speed applies both to read and write speed. That means you have to be very careful reading the specs, as some brands (ahem Lexar ahem) have wildly different read and write speeds, and write only the higher number in big obvious text. For example, their 60MB/s Class 10 SD card is actually only 20MB/swrite, while the 60MB/s is only on read. This means that it's still quite slow in your camera; only transfers to your computer will be fairly fast. This is of course extremely misleading, so keep your eyes peeled.
 
Memory Brands
 
Does it matter which brand memory card you got? Heck yes. Memory is cheap enough these days that you could afford to buy the best; saving $10 to go with a lesser brand in absolutely not worth it. Behold:
 
Chip Quality: At the very basic level of a memory card sits the humble silicon chip. These chips start their life as a large, circular wafer around 18" in diameter. This wafer is subsequently cut into a couple dozen square or rectangular memory modules. Due to the manufacturing processes, the closer to the center of the wafer the module comes from, the more perfect and free of defects it will be. Since flash memory is a commodity market, there are two or three companies which control most of it. These companies will take the highest quality center modules for themselves (or their partners), and let the little fish scramble for the inferior, cheaper ones.
 
What all this means for you is simple: The higher priced memory cards are priced like that for a reason: they use the highest quality chips. End of story. Sandisk and Lexar are on the top, followed very closely by Sony and Panasonic. Kingston is somewhere in the middle, and companies like Transcend are just about on the bottom of the food chain. The only thing lower are all the no-name brands - Dane-Elec, Wintec, Silicone Power, et. al.
 
Why do you need a high quality chip? Because a cheap one will eat your pictures one day. They are prone to getting corrupted and can't be erased and reused too often before they start to deteriorate. Would you trust your pictures to the lowest common denominator to save a few bucks? Personally, I don't think it's worth it. Now mind you - I've had Sandisk cards conk out on me; nothing's foolproof. But after years of hearing first-hand horror stories from countless people, the simple fact is obvious: It's not worth it to cheap out on memory.
 
Claimed Specs: Very often, you'll find with the cheaper brands that their claimed specs are often inaccurate and are actually slower then claimed.
 
Physical Quality: Look at any Sandisk box above the Ultra level (which is just about all of them): waterproof, temperature proof, and shock proof. I've put Sandisk cards through the wash and they work as good as ever. You won't find that with cheaper brands. Drop a card and chances are it'll break; leave it in the sun too long and it may not work again. The higher quality brand, the more the card will survive. Imaging coming home from vacation and finding that your full memory card cannot be read. With cheap cards, this is a far more common occurrence than with good ones.
 
Note that SD card are an inherently weak design and every one of them will eventually break. The difference here is how long it take until that actually happens, and if the data could still be read off it at that point. From my entire collection of broken Sandisk cards, all but one still technically work - that is, I could still read and write to them properly. Not that I'd want too; but the point is that I didn't actually lose any data when it broke.
__________
 
Lesson Summary:
 
Card types:
- CF cards are mainly used in pro cameras these days
- SD cards are the most common:
--- SD is up to 2GB
--- SDHC is 2 - 32GB
--- SDXC is 32GB - 2TB
- MS is a Sony proprietary and could safely be ignored these days.
 
Specs:
- Rated Speed gives you the maximum read/write speed in MB/s. Used for pictures only.
- X Rating gives you the exact same thing as 300x, 400x, etc. Multiply by 15 to get the MB/s.
- Class Rating gives you the minimum sustained data stream as 1 per class. Class 8 is 8MB/s, Class 10 is 10MB/s, etc. Used for video only.
- UHS Rating gives you the exact same thing as Class. UHS-1 is the same as Class 10.
- Be vigilant and check both the read and write speeds. They may be very different from each other.
 
Brands:
- Cheaper brands use cheaper, lower quality chips.
- Lower quality chips are very prone to failure.
- Cheap brands often fudge their numbers so their cards appear faster.
- Cheaper cards are often physically weaker and may break earlier.