Sunday, November 9, 2008

Nights shots are impossible to take with a compact at Night Safari

Just been to the night safari and I have again attempted, to take pictures with my compact camera. The keyword is attempted. :)

The camera I'm using is the Canon Powershot SD870 IS. One thing that I can confirm is that this camera is way better than my previous Ricoh R1V. I've attempted the same experiment with that camera and I could not capture a single animal.

The differentiating factor for all compact cameras is actually how it handles low-light condition shots. One problem of taking night shots with a compact camera is that the camera sensor is not meant for taking pictures in low light conditions. At higher ISOs, the pictures are all grainy when zoomed in. For my SD870 IS, the graininess is quite apparent when the ISO hits above 400.

Nevertheless, I've still attempted to take a few shots using my SD870 IS. I've taken over a 100 shots and the results are quite expectantly... bad. :) Most of my shots I'm showing later are all taken with ISO 800 and above.

Based on my results, I've learned a few things about night shots with a compact:
  • Set your light exposure compensation to the highest. Otherwise you cannot see a single thing. :)

  • There must be a light source. If the lights are very dim, it's no use attempting to take anything, and I do include videos.

  • The objects(animals) must be slow moving, or not moving. If the animals are pacing around, or are quite active, take a video instead.

  • Check your auto white balance. In low light conditions, I've realised my SD870 IS auto balance seems to go off balance. The colors are off, and some of the colors are overpowering.

    I've used the evaluative white balance instead for some of my pictures.

  • Use a tripod, or make sure your hands are steady. Many of my pictures are taken with a tripod, and yet it's blurred. Make use of your 2 secs timer.

  • Do not zoom in low light conditions. Period.

Is it worth taking shots with a compact at night? Not at the night safari. Lights are very dim to simulate the animals night environment, and flash photography is actually prohibited. Below are some of the shots I've taken. All without flash.

The picture below is the best shot I've taken that night:

Flying Squirrel

Cut-out of the flying squirrel photo above

I've managed to take a picture of the Malayan Tiger that kept pacing around the enclosure. How I've absolutely no idea.

Backside of the tiger

I've also taken a long shot of some animals that were lazying around. I've no idea what animal is it though. :) Below is a cut-out of the main picture that I have taken.

Cut-out from a long shot of animals lazing around

Somehow, my cat shots are better than the other animals. :)

Fishing Cats moving around

A fishing cat trying to catch fishes

Some cat moving around

Backside of the same cat moving around

I believe the following shots are of mousedeers. They are quite slow moving, so its easier to take their pictures. :)

2 of them grazing around

Another 2 mousedeers looking around

A mousedeer protecting its territory

Can you spot the leopard? :)

Where is the leopard?

The other pictures are of animals that make sharp movements. Even though the light source is slightly brighter than the rest of the animals, the camera is unable to handle the sudden movement. The result is ... blur.

Indian wolves that are hyperactive

The owl that kept looking around

Anyway, this photo taking experiment is not totally wasted. I've realised that my SD870 IS has a long shutter mode. I've no idea that its hidden at the exposure compensation setting. I wonder what other settings am I missing...

Oh yes, for the night safari, if you really want to explore the whole area, go at 730pm. I went there slightly later and by the time I left at 11pm, I've missed the tram ride, and the show. Or maybe it was because I've spent too much time trying to take pictures. :)


Nicholas VAX said...

Agree, even with a DSLR will be a challenge. Havent had a chance to shoot at night safari yet.

If I go, will try get myself a 300mm f2.8 or lower lens with a convertor and boost ISO to 800, not sure if D60 can handle it ornot :(

chantc said...

Just be prepared that night safari is very very dark, and with minimal or no lights. Very difficult to take.

I'm still wondering why the Canon E1 can take clearer pictures than my SD870 IS. I'm thinking its because of the resolution. Maybe I try pushing down the resolution and see if my pictures are clearer. Hmm...

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