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03-17-2013, 05:24 AM   #1
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Beginner needing help with night shots on ist D

Hi guys I am pretty new at this so don't laugh , I have a Pentax ist D that I have recently purchased 2nd hand, it seems like a decent beginners camera but I am a bit stuck on taking night shots, as I have a nice view from my home at night I want to capture it, please help....Cheers

03-17-2013, 05:43 AM   #2
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Hi, being a 10-year-old camera, the *ist D doesn't have great high ISO capabilities (read: it has a lot of noise), so your best bet would be a tripod + a remote control + long exposures (over 30 seconds long). I hope this helps.
03-17-2013, 05:58 AM   #3
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Thanks for imput m8....as a beginner tho not sure how to achieve long exposures......also what is ISO capabilities? Cheers
03-17-2013, 06:21 AM   #4
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Well, simply put, proper exposure (brightness) is achieved by collecting enough light. This is done via 3 factors: the opening of the lens (aperture), exposure time (shutter speed) and sensitivity of the sensor itself (ISO speed). In order to achieve an equivalent exposure, if you decrease the ISO, you will have to either increase the aperture or the shutter speed. That's why a long exposure at low ISO (and thus less noise) can be a substitute for a short, hand-held exposure at high ISO.
There's much more to it, but I'd rather link you to Wikipedia than explain with my rather limited capabilities:
Shutter speed - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

03-17-2013, 06:28 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by 0408shadow Quote
I am a bit stuck on taking night shots
What type of shots? Long exposures will not be limited by high iso capabilities of the older technology sensor. If you are looking to freeze motion - that's where advancements have changed everything.




versus


03-17-2013, 06:30 AM   #6
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To put it simply: ISO is sensor sensitivity to light. Higher number means brighter images (all other things being the same), but higher number also means more noise (this is why photos at high ISO arent smooth, they have odd purple pixels scattered around, have less detail and arent as sharp). Modern cameras deal with high ISO better than older cameras, which means their image quality at high ISO will be better than older cameras' image quality at the same high ISO.
A long exposure can be achieved by going into Tv or M mode and turning the shutter to 30 seconds. That means the camera will be collecting light for 30 seconds. You can also try using Bulb mode to have an even longer exposure (but you should get some sort of remote for this, because "pressing the button" can cause visible vibrations with such a long exposure). The reason to use a long exposure is because this gives the camera a lot of time to collect light and you can use a low ISO and take photos in dark places. But movement will be blurred (like, if a person walks around the frame, they will look like a ghost)
There are a lot of detailed tutorials online about night photography and long exposures:
Digital SLR DSLR camera settings for night photography
A Step by Step Guide to Night Photography - Making Setting Adjustments
I also suggest you download the manual for the camera that you are using, so you can quickly find settings and tips.
You might also want to consider buying a Pentax K-01, which is very cheap at the moment (just recently went out of production), but can use all Pentax K-mount lenses (same as your camera) and has a much better high ISO performance. But the K-01 is not a DSLR (no direct viewfinder). It could be a great complement to your current camera.
Good luck!
03-17-2013, 07:00 AM   #7
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Here, I have some more time, so I'll give you a more specific guide.
If you have a tripod, great! You can use that to place the camera and frame the shot. Or you can place it on a shelf or something. Put a shoe box or a scarf under it for better placement, so you can frame the shot as you want. Just don't drop the camera, make sure it won't slip and that wind won't move it. You can use AF (turn switch near lens to AF.S and press the shutter halfway) or focus manually (switch turned to MF, manual focus), but switch to MF after you are done focusing - you don't want the camera to start auto-focusing again when you press the shutter. Just don't accidentally bump it. You probably want the focus to be just before infinity for a landscape photo (but not necessarily, adjust as needed)
Now go to M mode and use the +/- button and thumb-wheel to change the shutter to 30 sec. Change the F-number (aperture) to as low as it goes, and then up one or two. ISO should be set to lowest (200?). Now find and enable the timer. Press the shutter and leave the camera alone until it finished the exposure. If its too bright, make the F number higher (but don't go above f14) or the shutter speed shorter (20sec, 15 sec,.. even less if the city is very bright). If you don't want the city to look as "orange" you might want to change the white balance to Tungsten. Some cities use more orange lights than others, so do as you wish. Auto white balance (AWB) should be okay in most situations, though. If your camera has a white balance setting called CTE, you can try that to emphasize the colours. CTE is usually used for sunsets and similar, where the orange/blue colours are important). WB has an icon of a square with two triangles around it. I think its near the AF/MF switch.
Feel free to post a photo when you are done, we can give you more tips. Or maybe you won't need any more tips because it will be that great

Oh, and btw, if you take a lot of long exposures and are in a warm place, the camera sensor might start heating up. Give it a little break if you are having a long session.

Last edited by Na Horuk; 03-17-2013 at 08:07 AM.
03-17-2013, 02:31 PM   #8
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The *ist D has a socket for a wired remote and uses the same plug as Canon, so the remote is cheap, like $5. Something like this is fine: Amazon.com: Remote Shutter Release for Canon Rebel T2i, XT, XTi, XSi, XS, T1i, EOS 550D/1000D/450D/400D/350D/300D: Camera & Photo The wired remote switch can be locked down so you don't have to hold it yourself.

The camera's meter isn't capable of reading extremely low levels of light. It will blink when it's too dark. You don't really need it, though, just adjust with trial and error until the histogram on the back LCD shows a good exposure or the image looks OK. If you aren't seeing the histogram when playing back images, press the info button until it comes up.

You may have a scene with some points of light, like distant street lights or lit windows, and some really dark areas. The meter won't do that well here either. It may try to preserve the lights and not overexpose them, making the dark areas too dark. I prefer to use M mode to override it.

With a clear, dark sky and long exposures, the moon and stars will move. With a wide focal length you might not see it; with a long telephoto lens, the moon can move out of the frame before you're ready to shoot.

The camera will take a second shot after a long exposure for the same amount of time as the first, except with the shutter closed. This is a noise reduction step called dark frame subtraction. It subracts the exposures to eliminate some sensor noise. The first time it happens, you'll think the camera is broken. I don't think it can be disabled on the D.

Because of the dark frame subtraction and long exposure time, batteries may be stressed. An extra set may be handy.

It's digital so just experiment with settings.

03-18-2013, 01:45 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by mattt Quote
What type of shots? Long exposures will not be limited by high iso capabilities of the older technology sensor. If you are looking to freeze motion - that's where advancements have changed everything.




versus


Hi Matt....I apologise for my lack of knowledge but the terms long exposures and high iso capabilities are still new to me....but to answer your question I live on a hill with great night views...lights ocean etc, and I really want to capture this, and also any night shots I guess....also I have been asked to be one of the photographers at a dance festival in Sydney, Australia can you give any pointers as you could imagine lots of lights and effects...cheers Mark
03-18-2013, 01:54 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
Here, I have some more time, so I'll give you a more specific guide.
If you have a tripod, great! You can use that to place the camera and frame the shot. Or you can place it on a shelf or something. Put a shoe box or a scarf under it for better placement, so you can frame the shot as you want. Just don't drop the camera, make sure it won't slip and that wind won't move it. You can use AF (turn switch near lens to AF.S and press the shutter halfway) or focus manually (switch turned to MF, manual focus), but switch to MF after you are done focusing - you don't want the camera to start auto-focusing again when you press the shutter. Just don't accidentally bump it. You probably want the focus to be just before infinity for a landscape photo (but not necessarily, adjust as needed)
Now go to M mode and use the +/- button and thumb-wheel to change the shutter to 30 sec. Change the F-number (aperture) to as low as it goes, and then up one or two. ISO should be set to lowest (200?). Now find and enable the timer. Press the shutter and leave the camera alone until it finished the exposure. If its too bright, make the F number higher (but don't go above f14) or the shutter speed shorter (20sec, 15 sec,.. even less if the city is very bright). If you don't want the city to look as "orange" you might want to change the white balance to Tungsten. Some cities use more orange lights than others, so do as you wish. Auto white balance (AWB) should be okay in most situations, though. If your camera has a white balance setting called CTE, you can try that to emphasize the colours. CTE is usually used for sunsets and similar, where the orange/blue colours are important). WB has an icon of a square with two triangles around it. I think its near the AF/MF switch.
Feel free to post a photo when you are done, we can give you more tips. Or maybe you won't need any more tips because it will be that great

Oh, and btw, if you take a lot of long exposures and are in a warm place, the camera sensor might start heating up. Give it a little break if you are having a long session.
Thanks for your time Na Horuk, that was a very in depth description, you sure know your stuff, i will try this when I get a moment...hopefully soon! Cheers from Oz
03-18-2013, 01:58 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Just1MoreDave Quote
The *ist D has a socket for a wired remote and uses the same plug as Canon, so the remote is cheap, like $5. Something like this is fine: Amazon.com: Remote Shutter Release for Canon Rebel T2i, XT, XTi, XSi, XS, T1i, EOS 550D/1000D/450D/400D/350D/300D: Camera & Photo The wired remote switch can be locked down so you don't have to hold it yourself.

The camera's meter isn't capable of reading extremely low levels of light. It will blink when it's too dark. You don't really need it, though, just adjust with trial and error until the histogram on the back LCD shows a good exposure or the image looks OK. If you aren't seeing the histogram when playing back images, press the info button until it comes up.

You may have a scene with some points of light, like distant street lights or lit windows, and some really dark areas. The meter won't do that well here either. It may try to preserve the lights and not overexpose them, making the dark areas too dark. I prefer to use M mode to override it.

With a clear, dark sky and long exposures, the moon and stars will move. With a wide focal length you might not see it; with a long telephoto lens, the moon can move out of the frame before you're ready to shoot.

The camera will take a second shot after a long exposure for the same amount of time as the first, except with the shutter closed. This is a noise reduction step called dark frame subtraction. It subracts the exposures to eliminate some sensor noise. The first time it happens, you'll think the camera is broken. I don't think it can be disabled on the D.

Because of the dark frame subtraction and long exposure time, batteries may be stressed. An extra set may be handy.

It's digital so just experiment with settings.
Thanks Just1MoreDave for your pointers and links...I'l be sure to use them
03-18-2013, 07:44 PM - 1 Like   #12
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Here is exposure in simplified terms (maybe to simplified but anyone should be able to understand it). You need a certain amount of light to get a good picture (too little light, its too dark, too much light, its to bright and may look washed out). There are a few ways to get this. The aperture is the little blades in the lens that form an iris or circle that the light passes through. The bigger around it opens, the more light can come in making the picture brighter. Lenses that can open really big to let a lot of light come in can be expensive with some exceptions. You may see a rating on your lens like f2.0 or f3.8-5.6. That number is how big that iris can get (smaller numbers means a bigger opening). They can be adjusted smaller to let less light in but that number is the biggest that lens can get.

Shutter speed or exposure time. The camera basically opens to let light in, then closes (this may be done mechanically by a shutter or electronically by turning the sensor on and off sort of). How long it stays open is the exposure time so when someone says a long exposure , they mean how long the camera is open letting light in. How long the camera is open so to speak is determined by your shutter speed. Literally, its a fraction of a second or full seconds and that is how long it stays open. You set the time on your camera.

You must balance these two things to get the right amount of light. Either one can cause more light or less and you need the right amount of light.

Limits on using shutter speed. In low light, you can open the shutter for several seconds and literally almost shoot in the dark (you have to have a little light). If you are holding the camera in your hands, the camera will move around a little, and with long exposure times, it will make everything go blurry in the picture. A tripod will eliminate this. Even pushing the button to take the picture can make the camera shake enough to mess up the picture. The solution is to use a remote so you do not touch the camera (I have an infrared one that cost a few dollars on ebay like a tv remote), or you can just set the timer on your camera to go off in 3 or 10 seconds after you push the button. If you use a long shutter sped (long exposure), if things are moving in the photo, they will blur. Have you seen a shot of car lights at night, where they are streaks? That would be a long shutter time on a moving light. Have you seen a picture of a water fall that is perfectly clear and the motion is frozen like someone stopped time? That is a very fast shutter sped freezing the motion.

Limits on using the aperture (the hole or iris on the lens that opens to different sized circles). For low light shooting, of course there is the limit that the opening can only get so big (which will very from lens to lens). Lenses that can open really big are called fast lenses. Ones that can not open very big are slow lenses. Depth of field changes with the opening size. Think about putting 10 objects on the ground. You set one down, then the next 3 feet behind that, then the next 3 feet behind that and so on. You step to the side a little so you can see them all but they are still different distances from you, with the front being around 30 feet closer than the back. You focus on the middle one. If the opening is very small, you will not get much light, but your depth of field is large, meaning that all the objects will be in focus at the same time even though they are different distances. As you open the aperture, you will get more light, that depth of field will shrink. At first, if you are focusing in the middle, all objects except the front and back will be in focus. You open it a little more, and the front 2 and back 2 go out of focus. You keep opening it till eventually you get a lot of light but the center one is the only one in focus (all the ones in front and back are out of focus). With a faster lens, sometimes only part of the object will be in focus. For instance, if you focused on someones face with a very fast lens, their ears may be out of focus because they are farther back.

I hope that made sense. You balance the 2 to get the right amount of light. If you are shooting in automatic modes, the camera has been setting this for you. You can shot in full manual where you set both, or you can shoot in aperture or shutter priority where you set one, and the camera automatically sets the other to get the right amount of light. At night in particular, the camera may not pick the right amount of light for what you want to be seen. Shooting full manual will allow you to control both so you can make the image brighter or darker.


Iso. This will not effect your aperture or shutter speed, or any of the things they effect. Think of iso as the camera amplifying the digital image. The camera is making the sensor that records the light more sensitive, so you get a brighter image. The biger the number, the more it will amplify the image making it brighter. The disadvantage is the higher the iso, the higher the image noise. Think of image noise as the picture looking grainy and out of focus. The higher the iso numbers the brighter the image, but the grainier and the blurrier (less sharp) it looks. The ist-d doesn't have good iso performance (nothing wrong with the camera, that was the technology available then). I have the ist-ds which is the same generation, and I think it has the same sensor. I would often shot at iso 400 (it starts at 100). At iso 800, the image is looking kind of bad, but usable in a pinch. TO me, iso 1600 is unacceptably bad. It might help you get an image you otherwise could not but its going to be very grainy and not very sharp. New cameras can use much higher iso's with very little increase in noise. I hae ben using the ist-ds till less than a week ago when I got the k-01. The k-01 looks better noise wise at iso 6400 than the ist-ds does at iso 800 (I'm even thinking of trying out iso 12,800 on the k-01). In other words, newer cameras can brighten the picture by electronically amplifying the digital image much, much better than the old ist-ds (or d).

I would just try your camera and see how it works for you. One person suggested getting a k-01. It has limitations (look into what it is if you like), they have been discontinued and are clearance a few places for less than half price. That is why I just got one. Its ability to auto focus in low light is actually worse than the ds but if you get focus (can use manual focus), the image quality is spectacular compared to the ds (including when using high iso settings).


I hope that helps some.

On a side note, does anyone know of a guide for dummies (like this one cause sometimes I feel kind of dumb trying to learn these things) for using a thyristor flash on the k-01?

Sorry about the typos, keyboard sucks.

Last edited by ripit; 03-18-2013 at 07:50 PM.
03-18-2013, 07:58 PM   #13
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I almost forgot. In full manual mode, you can push the ae-l button and the camera will automatically set the camera for what it thinks is the right exposure. You can then take a picture, see if it is too light or dark, and then adjust the shutter speed (or aperture, or iso) to make it brighter or darker.
03-19-2013, 07:26 AM   #14
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Hi Ripit..thanks for your in depth breakdown and explanation it was as you said very easy for a very beginner like me to understand, I appreciate it alot and will definately be trying your ideas when I get a chance in the next day or two......Cheers
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