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Help with indoor pics!

Discussion in 'Panasonic Cameras' started by jayhawk92, Jul 30, 2012.

  1. jayhawk92

    jayhawk92 Mu-43 Rookie

    23
    Jun 24, 2012
    Hi all, so my wife and I decided on the G3 w/ kit lens to upgrade from a P&S. We got it in and were snapping some pictures of our 6 month old niece indoors only to discover that many were coming out blurry. Now I know that the kit lens is not even close to a low light lens, but before I tell my wife that we need to go spend $350+ on a good low-light lens I want to make sure there aren't some settings that I need to try first. As a newbie, I have it on iAuto+. If there is simply nothing I can do, what do you recommend? I know the 20mm is loved here, but I want to double this as our camcorder and I've read that it's not great for video??
     
  2. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    Blurry photos in low light generally happen because your shutter speed is too slow to capture the action without motion blur. The problem is you can't just increase your shutter speed to fix it, because faster shutter speed also means light reaching the sensor for a shorter period and you'll get underexposed photos in low light.

    To get around this, you have a few options:

    1) Increase your ISO sensitivity so the sensor is more sensitive to light
    2) Use a large aperture lens, so more light is allowed in
    3) Add light (flash, lamps, natural light)

    In this case, until/unless you pick up another lens, your only real option in terms of settings would be increasing the ISO. I'm not sure what the default is on the G3's Auto-ISO (I've long since changed mine), but you should be able to go up to 3200 and still get usable photos. They'll be noisy, but 3200 on the G3 is tolerable to me if the alternative is not getting the shot. You can go up even a step further to 6400 ISO but that will definitely be noisy and grainy. One caveat is that iAuto mode forces iISO, so you would need to use a different shooting mode to get the full benefit of increasing ISO.

    For low light where motion blur is a problem, you can experiment with shutter priority - this will set the shutter speed and the camera tries to adjust the ISO and aperture to expose the photo correctly. You'll need to learn how to make use of the light meter and/or histogram on the G3 to make sure that you're getting a good exposure. Don't worry, this isn't as hard as it may sound - really just amounts to making sure the reading isn't in the red area on the light meter :smile:

    Secondary option without buying a lens is to add light. If you can't add indoor lighting or natural light somehow, you're stuck with using a flash. The in-built flash will be very harsh without bouncing it off a wall or ceiling, so I'd recommend the Demb Pop-Up Flip It as a cheap solution. This was recommended to me in another thread and I picked one up a while back. It's not perfect, but for $25 it was definitely worth the investment. All it does is use a small mirror to bounce the flash upward off a white bounce card, which will allow you to direct the flash more upward or forward as desired so you get softer, more diffuse light.
     
  3. 0dBm

    0dBm Mu-43 Top Veteran

    859
    Jun 30, 2011
    Western United States
    It was me that recommended the Demb product. I have the basic model. Stock, it works quite well on my GH2 on-board flash. I extensively modified it to work on my Olympus FL-14 external flash. It should work nicely on the G3.
     
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  4. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    Yep, thanks again for that - it does work nicely on the G3 with the built-in flash :smile:

    It's not perfect, but it at least makes the flash usable, and it packs nice and flat in my camera bag so I don't mind carrying it around if I need to use a flash for something.
     
  5. jayhawk92

    jayhawk92 Mu-43 Rookie

    23
    Jun 24, 2012
    Definitely excited to see what difference this makes. I'm pretty certain that the highest ISO I saw was 800, I'll have to change the default and see what results I can get with that. This is raising my spirits, I must admit I was a little bummed when my new investment was producing blurry photos when trying to take pictures of a 6 month old. (I bought this to take great pictures of my kids). I do understand though that these cameras only reach their full potential with better lenses. I just have no clue which focal length I want to purchase. I will mainly be taking pictures of kids and pets indoors, and the Panny 20mm sounds perfect, but I will be taking lots of video so it sounds like it's a no go in that area.
     
  6. EP1-GF1

    EP1-GF1 Mu-43 Veteran

    312
    Apr 12, 2011
    Also, try not to zoom - the more you zoom in the smaller the aperture becomes so the less light can come in.
     
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  7. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    For each step in ISO, you can approximately double shutter speed. So if you're at ISO 800 -> 1600 your shutter speed will double, and again from 1600-3200. To give you an idea of what's possible, you can check out this thread that was bumped up recently: MFT Low light Images thread ISO 1000-6400. I've posted some of my recent G3 and GX1 images there taken at ISO 3200/6400 - those are "best case" photos but you can get a rough idea of what the noise looks like in a good high-ISO file from the G3.

    As far as lenses, I didn't comment since I don't shoot video so I couldn't advise on that part. But I would say don't be in a huge rush to buy lenses until you know what you like and don't like. Especially so if you're still using iAuto mode most of the time and aren't fully familiar with the basic mechanics of exposure. Recommended book btw is Understanding Exposure - fantastic book that made me a better photographer 5 minutes into the first chapter. Can really help you figure out the how & why of missed shots due to exposure or motion blur etc. The Scott Kelby Digital Photography series is very useful also for "tips and tricks" type info rather than details of the "why".

    All that said, from a stills perspective the 20mm f/1.7 is a great "standard" focal length fast prime lens, as is the 25mm f/1.4 (which is my preference of the two unless price/size are primary concerns). One thing to consider is the 20mm is known for slow(er) autofocus, which may be an issue for kids photos. Either one pairs very nicely with a kit zoom for a 2-lens basic kit and I was very happy with a 14-42 zoom and 20mm pancake combo for the first year or so of shooting my GF2. You can do an awful lot with a simple pair like that.
     
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  8. 0dBm

    0dBm Mu-43 Top Veteran

    859
    Jun 30, 2011
    Western United States
  9. spatulaboy

    spatulaboy I'm not really here

    Jul 13, 2011
    North Carolina
    Vin
    If taking pictures of your baby indoors was your primary reason for buying the camera, you should have included the price of a lens or flash in your budget.
    The kit lens is good outdoors where there is plenty of light, but indoors it's about useless.

    Even with a bright lens you might still want to make sure you have plenty of available light. Try placing the baby by the window.
     
  10. stevenmh

    stevenmh Mu-43 Rookie

    23
    Jul 30, 2012
    We've gone through the exact same scenario. We had our first child in August, and bought a G3 in December. Even though we've never used anything but a P&S before, we thought that buying a nearly $600 camera and leaving it on auto would be better than having a P&S on auto. Our first real use of the camera was Christmas with family, and it was terrible. The reject rate was so atrocious I put it away and pulled out the TZ3.

    I'm still what I'd call a novice photographer, but I've spent a lot of time on forums, reading books, and experimenting with the G3. Here's my summary of how you can improve in the short term:

    (1) Take the camera out of iAuto immediately. I'll go so far as to state that it's flat out broken indoors. Unless a scene is brightly lit, the pictures come out dim and blurry. I don't mean pictures of fast moving objects. I mean all pictures. I don't know how iA on my 2007 TZ3 can have worked so reliably all this time, but iA on the 2011 G3 is completely unusable. It was so bad I thought I had a defective camera. The good news is that the camera is fine.

    If you want to use the G3 like a P&S, put it in Program and set ISO to Auto. Not iISO. Use the built-in flash indoors until you learn more about manual settings, but beware of the shadow the kit lens will cast if you're close to the subject. Baby moving too fast and getting some motion blur? You can use Scene mode and set it for Sports.

    (2) The biggest difference between a P&S and m43/DSLR, at least for me, was DOF and focus area. I was used to pointing my TZ3 at a scene, seeing a bunch of green boxes make a lock, and everything in the frame was in focus. With a larger sensor, you need to be cognizant of the focus area and DOF. At first I was using 23-point focus or single focus with the largest box possible, thinking everything in the box would be in focus. However, what it really meant was that ANYTHING but not EVERYTHING in the box could be in focus, and often the background or foreground would be sharp and the subject out of focus. So now I use single point with a small box, or face detection when appropriate. For deeper DOF stop down aperture and use flash and/or raise ISO indoors. The kit lens only opens up so much, so in that respect it will behave a bit more like a P&S than a faster prime lens will.

    Once these things become familiar, you'll be taking much nicer pictures than you could ever get with a P&S given the same conditions.

    However, as was mentioned above, if your main interest is capturing photos of children indoors, an external flash and better lens are something to consider. We keep the G3 in the family room with the 20mm. I had some trouble with the 20mm at first due to the shallow DOF, and my wife still does. I usually stop down to 2.8 for deeper DOF to accommodate baby in motion and don't worry about natural lighting, I use the flash to keep the shutter speed as close to its 160 max (with flash) as possible.

    My wife is still in the "Program mode and flash always open" stage, whereas I'm now using S/A/M modes and using natural lighting where possible and flash where necessary. If I know I'm going to be taking a lot of pictures indoors for a specific occassion, I have the Panasonic FL500. We recently took a bunch of photos of our son swimming for the first time in an indoor pool at night, and they came out well. I couldn't have gotten close to that quality with the TZ3, or even with the G3 using built-in flash.

    You can find plenty of threads on the 20/1.7 vs the newer 25/1.4 for children. There are a lot of good reviews and posted pics, but I'm not inclined to upgrade since I already have the 20mm. My 11-month-old isn't going to pose for a portrait, and since I'm stopping down and using flash, the 1.4 vs 1.7 doesn't gain me anything. Also, in social situations, if you have to stop down to get the entire table in focus, there goes the 1.4 benefit. Then there's being larger/heavier and no longer fitting in the wife's purse, and possibly casting a shadow with the built-in flash which the 20mm doesn't do. And finally, the cost. It does focus faster than the 20mm, and may have better IQ, but the 20mm is still a very nice lens all around.

    I can't give any insight on video. We have a Panasonic TM90 for video. I may look at consolidating once the G5 and GH3 are reviewed.

    I hope I've been of some help. You should definitely be able to pull some nice photos with the equipment you have if you go from iAuto to Program and use the built-in flash indoors. A nicer lens and flash can get you even better photos, but the gain realized from new equipment will be proportional to how much time you have to learn how to use it. Have fun!
     
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  11. jayhawk92

    jayhawk92 Mu-43 Rookie

    23
    Jun 24, 2012
    I REALLY appreciate all of the advice from everyone! So I'm not totally opposed to using flash, but I really wanted to avoid it as much as possible. One of the reasons I got the camera was to be discrete, but a flash popping off every two seconds while the family is sitting around the room seems just the opposite. I don't mind using flash when it's my wife and daughter and I. But I'm getting that vibe that indoor photos of kids without flash is nearly impossible! :frown: My family is one of those where everyone says "whoa" every time a flash goes off, so I'd rather not use it!
     
  12. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    I rarely if ever use flash for the same reason (I like candid photos instead of "holy crap a flash!" photos). It can definitely be done with m4/3 but you do need to invest in fast lenses eventually. The flash/adding light and increasing your ISO etc. are just tips to help you get the most out of what you have in the meantime. If you're serious about photography then it will be more than worth the investment, and lenses hold value well - unlike camera bodies.
     
  13. jayhawk92

    jayhawk92 Mu-43 Rookie

    23
    Jun 24, 2012
    And I'm absolutely willing to invest in faster lenses down the road. I was just hoping that the 20mm would be fast enough to use for my purposes without flash, but the poster I responded to made it sound like he and his wife still needed flash fairly often even with the 20mm.
     
  14. jayhawk92

    jayhawk92 Mu-43 Rookie

    23
    Jun 24, 2012
    by the way...

    Last night I did try out your suggestions and moved it up to ISO 1600 and even 3200, results were much much better than the day before, but still pretty dim with the high shutter speed I was using. So I'm not trying to come off ungrateful or shoot down any suggestions, you've all been super helpful!!
     
  15. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    What shutter speed were you using? Sounds like the shutter speed was set too high for the exposure, which you would be able to tell based on the light meter (if it's in the red, it means the photo is under or over exposed).

    To help put this in perspective: with the kit lens, your widest aperture is f/3.5. If you compare that to the 20mm wide open, that's about a 2 stop difference. 2 stops roughly equates to bumping the ISO down two stops (3200 -> 800) or increasing your shutter speed two stops (1/30 -> 1/120). If you zoom the kit lens, then the difference is even greater. So if you consider how much difference you saw going from ISO 800 to ISO 3200, then imagine that much difference over again and you'll get some idea. Obviously there are other concerns, like decreased DoF when working at f/1.7; this is just referring to low light capability.
     
  16. fredlong

    fredlong Just this guy...

    Apr 18, 2011
    Massachusetts USA
    Fred
    I've found after the first 100 flashes at a family event everyone stops noticing:wink:
     
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  17. jayhawk92

    jayhawk92 Mu-43 Rookie

    23
    Jun 24, 2012
    Ok yeah, I read on another forum that for slow moving/crawling it should be at 1/125, and fast moving 1/250 is minimum, so I was putting it at 1/125 just to see what I could get with that. ISO was set to 1600 and 3200 at different times, and I had the kit lens at 20mm to test that FOV. Sounds like Shutter speed just needs to be more like 1/60 or so?
     
  18. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    You were probably underexposing everything with the shutter speed at 1/125 - make sure you have the meter enabled (Menu -> Custom -> Page 2 -> Expo. Meter -> On), and adjust the shutter speed until the meter is out of the red. That will tell you when your exposure is viable. A higher shutter speed would be optimal for capturing moving targets, but if you can't do 1/125 without underexposing, then you're just hitting the limitation of the kit lens and available light and you'll have to work with what you've got.
     
  19. D MATIC

    D MATIC Mu-43 Regular

    144
    Jul 18, 2012
    Set it to shutter speed priority (S) start at 1/60 and go faster if you need to. Otherwise go manual which seems like you've already done :smile:

    I have been in the same situation, with my baby. I have the 20mm. Oddly, sometimes the 20mm wasn't bright enough (really dimly lit room when the baby was falling asleep but still moving enough to cause motion blur) since at the time, I was on a GF1, iso 1600 was not really good on that camera. But with the G3 you'll be fine.

    The 20mm is great. The shallow dof and the ability to take low light is what sets it apart from a kit lens and ultimately a P&S.

    But note, taking close up portraits of the baby (face only, which I feel parents tend to do) the 20mm will distort noticeably. Shots taken between my 45mm vs 20mm, at the same fov, will show face barrel distortion. You can take a shot from far and crop in during post process, but I felt it was worth it to buy the portrait lens.

    Not trying to make you spend money, but if you are photographing a lot of indoor/kids, I would research bounce flash, (either external, wireless trigger, or even those inexpensive attachments) that makes all the difference from switching from a P&S.
     
  20. stevenmh

    stevenmh Mu-43 Rookie

    23
    Jul 30, 2012
    I found that with the 20mm at 1/60 and 1600 I was still getting blur with the baby. Exposure was OK making it fine for still or slow subjects. I think I may have tried 3200 ISO and decided that I'd rather have the flash vs the extra noise, but I don't recall for certain. It will also depend on how well lit you keep your house... avoiding flash may be an option just by turning on some extra lights if available.