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11-16-2009, 09:48 AM   #1
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Recommended settings for swim meet w/K20D?

I'm getting ready to photograph my first swim meet. I have the K20D, and plan to use my Tamron 70-200/2.8, indoor, no flash. Given that I don't want to manually edit each picture for noise, I'd like to get the best JPGs out of the camera. My question is what is the best combination of settings for ISO and noise reduction under these conditions? Would you hold at ISO1600, or go higher with a higher setting on NR?

11-16-2009, 11:16 AM   #2
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If the light is low and you care about getting the best results, you'almost always be better off doing your NR in PP than having the camera do it. You said you don't want to manual edit each, and that's fine, but most softwar allows you to do that sort of thing in batch processing - just a couple seconds of your time to run NR on a whole cardful of images. Take the time to get *one* image looking good, then just apply those same settings to the rest. The results will virtually always be better than trying to guess *ahead* of time which settings might happen to give you the best results. Especially since the camera only gives you very coarse control (off, weakest, weak, strong, or whatever) whereas any PP program will give you much finfer control.

So again, if you care about the results, do it in PP - even batch processing will be better. if you don't care that much about the results, then just shoot a picture or two in your living room to try the different options for yourself - everyone is going to have a different opinion on how much NR they like.

As for ISO, that can't be answered until you get there and see for yourself how much light there is. You'll have to take a few test shots to see what kind of shutter speed you need (or maybe someone else can make suggestions here, since that at least would be pretty similar for all swim meet photography) and then see what ISO you need to get that shutter speed, or how much sharness you personally can stand to trade for lower noise by going to a lower ISO and hence slower shutter speed.

The point is, go in prepared to make these decisions for yourself.
11-16-2009, 11:58 AM   #3
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More often than not, the bigger problem will be white balance due to the lighting in most natatoriums. You will probably need to do a custom white balance in order to get it right. I use the coffee filter method, but there are several commercial products that you can pay more for and get the same results.
11-16-2009, 12:09 PM   #4
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It's been suggested that "weakest" and "weak" aren't that much different from each other. You may want to use "high," leaving sharpness at "-1" or at "0" in the camera. I think Pentax does a pretty good trade off between noise and sharpening, even thru higher level of noise reduction.

I'm not sure when noise reduction kicks in, however. If I remember right, it doesn't kick in for ISO <= 400. Trouble is noise can easily prop up even at ISO400 in an underexposed, light-starved pic, and the in-camera noise-reduction may not be applied for ISO400 or less. This is where a RAW software, like Pentax Photo Laboratory, comes in handy. You have (better) control over noise reduction at all ISO levels, correct/apply the same setting to all images, including white-balance, sharpness, exposure, etc., and batch convert them easily in the same session.

11-16-2009, 01:17 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
If the light is low and you care about getting the best results, you'almost always be better off doing your NR in PP than having the camera do it. You said you don't want to manual edit each, and that's fine, but most softwar allows you to do that sort of thing in batch processing - just a couple seconds of your time to run NR on a whole cardful of images. Take the time to get *one* image looking good, then just apply those same settings to the rest. The results will virtually always be better than trying to guess *ahead* of time which settings might happen to give you the best results. Especially since the camera only gives you very coarse control (off, weakest, weak, strong, or whatever) whereas any PP program will give you much finfer control.

So again, if you care about the results, do it in PP - even batch processing will be better. if you don't care that much about the results, then just shoot a picture or two in your living room to try the different options for yourself - everyone is going to have a different opinion on how much NR they like.

As for ISO, that can't be answered until you get there and see for yourself how much light there is. You'll have to take a few test shots to see what kind of shutter speed you need (or maybe someone else can make suggestions here, since that at least would be pretty similar for all swim meet photography) and then see what ISO you need to get that shutter speed, or how much sharness you personally can stand to trade for lower noise by going to a lower ISO and hence slower shutter speed.

The point is, go in prepared to make these decisions for yourself.
Thanks Marc. You've got a point there. I use PSPX2, and it does have batch processing capability called Express Lab, but I haven't used it yet to know how well it can do noise reduction. This would be a good chance to try it out.
11-16-2009, 01:20 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by clmonk Quote
More often than not, the bigger problem will be white balance due to the lighting in most natatoriums. You will probably need to do a custom white balance in order to get it right. I use the coffee filter method, but there are several commercial products that you can pay more for and get the same results.
Agreed! I have had a lot of luck with my trusty gray card (a few bucks at the local camera shop) in gymnasiums. The only time I've had trouble is when a gym uses mixed lighting types.
11-16-2009, 01:26 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by wasim_altaf Quote
It's been suggested that "weakest" and "weak" aren't that much different from each other. You may want to use "high," leaving sharpness at "-1" or at "0" in the camera. I think Pentax does a pretty good trade off between noise and sharpening, even thru higher level of noise reduction.

I'm not sure when noise reduction kicks in, however. If I remember right, it doesn't kick in for ISO <= 400. Trouble is noise can easily prop up even at ISO400 in an underexposed, light-starved pic, and the in-camera noise-reduction may not be applied for ISO400 or less. This is where a RAW software, like Pentax Photo Laboratory, comes in handy. You have (better) control over noise reduction at all ISO levels, correct/apply the same setting to all images, including white-balance, sharpness, exposure, etc., and batch convert them easily in the same session.
Interesting. I'm currently set at "weak" with sharpness at +1. I'll have to give your suggestion a try.

As for the ISO setting, I'm pretty sure in the swim meet environment, I'll need at least 800 (and likely 1600 or higher) to get a decent shutter speed (hopefully 1/500) at f/2.8. I'm also doing diving photos, and you really need to freeze the action.

I've never done much with Pentax Photo Lab, since I've not yet ventured into the world of RAW (except to check that the camera works properly).
11-16-2009, 06:56 PM   #8
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iso 400 f4 250 sec tamron 28-75 2.8 xr di

no flash

11-16-2009, 09:46 PM   #9
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Her's another tip... make sure that your ISO is high enough that you can still expose to the right and minimize motion blur. If you try to brighten a high ISO image too much in post processing, the existing noise will be made that much worse. It's a balancing act to be sure, but before the meet, try shooting a couple of frames in Sv with a ISOs of 400 and above. I like to add +1 EV compensation to get a more centered / right skewed histogram. I like to go back to manual once I have an idea of what the camera wants to do to get the result I want. If I take the time to expose properly the first time, I find that noise reduction isn't really necessary at or around ISO 800.
11-17-2009, 04:29 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by captmacq Quote

iso 400 f4 250 sec tamron 28-75 2.8 xr di

no flash

That's exactly the result I'm looking for. Good white balance too. Was this in a skylit building in the daytime? It looks like some sort of inflatable roof.
11-17-2009, 04:31 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by code4code5 Quote
Her's another tip... make sure that your ISO is high enough that you can still expose to the right and minimize motion blur. If you try to brighten a high ISO image too much in post processing, the existing noise will be made that much worse. It's a balancing act to be sure, but before the meet, try shooting a couple of frames in Sv with a ISOs of 400 and above. I like to add +1 EV compensation to get a more centered / right skewed histogram. I like to go back to manual once I have an idea of what the camera wants to do to get the result I want. If I take the time to expose properly the first time, I find that noise reduction isn't really necessary at or around ISO 800.
Thanks for that tip. Fortunately I'll be there for warmups and can shoot plenty of practice shots. Actually, the team also wants a lot of "head shots" of the kids out of the pool - good for scrapbooks.
11-17-2009, 06:10 AM   #12
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Fradotec BlueBoxX Underwater DSLR Camera Housing for - Pentax K20D

Or better: http://www.ewa-marine.de/index.php?id=49

Last edited by bymy141; 11-17-2009 at 06:20 AM.
11-17-2009, 07:20 AM   #13
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I didn't say I was swimming!
11-17-2009, 10:19 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by klh Quote
I'm getting ready to photograph my first swim meet. I have the K20D, and plan to use my Tamron 70-200/2.8, indoor, no flash. Given that I don't want to manually edit each picture for noise, I'd like to get the best JPGs out of the camera. My question is what is the best combination of settings for ISO and noise reduction under these conditions? Would you hold at ISO1600, or go higher with a higher setting on NR?
will you be enlarging the pics?

if not can make use of the K20D 21fps albeit at reduced resolutions.
11-17-2009, 11:23 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by klh Quote
That's exactly the result I'm looking for. Good white balance too. Was this in a skylit building in the daytime? It looks like some sort of inflatable roof.
inflatable roof (no skylites) but the light was about what you would expect at any venue like this.
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