Saturday, February 7, 2009

Photos With the Canon A630

This is a low light shot from the A630, the camera that replaced my first digital camera, the venerable 3.2 megapixel Canon Sureshot ELF. I liked that camera a lot, but the A630 has many more features and is 8 megapixels. I've found that it's easier to take a lower-light close-up in focus with the smaller camera, useful for "copying" documents. I've learned to use the flower icon for close-ups now, though, and that seems to make things work better. The one thing that drives me crazy is that when it's on manual, you can set the focus in the little viewfinder box that pops up on the screen so that whatever you're trying to capture looks crystal clear. And then when you press the shutter button it goes out of focus. I have no idea how to stop that.

Shooting long exposures is fun for making "ghost pictures" with the kids, but until I got a tripod for the camera the feature was almost useless. I've got a beefy tripod I use with my camcorder, but never carry it around because of its size. A few weeks ago I found this wonderful little tripod, about eight inches high, with three bendable legs that wrap around most anything. Since then I've been able to try more pictures like the twilight shot above, taken on the trail with a 1/3 second exposure time and 4.1 f-stop. While this kind of thing is nothing for a professional, the level of detail is much better than it gets on the automatic setting. It's good practice, too, in case I ever find myself with lots of time and amazing scenery to shoot.

The longest exposure setting is 15 seconds, but with that I took a couple of relatively decent pictures of stars in the back yard. What's really amazing is that these pictures were taken in Tempe, where there's so much light pollution it's hard to see more than a couple-hundred stars on the best nights.

This is how the A630 sees the Pleaides:

In the next picture, the nebula in the sword of Orion is clearly visible:

And here's the full shot of Orion (from which the above was cropped):