Sunday, September 14, 2014

Christmas Drive for Animal Sanctuaries

I could grovel for forgiveness being late with posts, especially posts about the Samsung NX300 but you know, life happens lol.

I am working on a post about Tracking with the NX300 as it seems to be done in a round about way and hope to have it up soon.

In the meantime, something very close to my heart, animal sanctuaries.  It's almost Christmas again, time seems to fly by so fast and the animal sanctuaries could always use a little help.

One group of very dedicated people started an initiative last Christmas to organise a drive to collect the equivalent of a Christmas Shoe Box, but for animals shelters.  Not only did they achieve their goal but they were also able to collect extra donations and help even more.

They didn't stop there, throughout the year they ran smaller drives and have been helping various different animal shelters with donations from the public.  Kind members of the public and businesses have also donated different items which were auctioned off and the money added to the donations.

The work that these people have done is phenomenal and once again they are gearing up for the Santa Cause for Paw Christmas Drive.

If you would like to help out, you can find information on their Facebook page: Santa Cause for Paws.

Pledging opens on 20 September 2014 where the public can pledge one or more boxes for a cat, kitten, puppy or dog (the choice is yours and you can donate how many boxes you want).  Get your school involved, family, friends, your work, community. Even if you can only donate one box, it will make Christmas something special for a shelter animal.

Keep an eye out on the site and the Facebook page for drop off areas.

Follow the links below for more information on what to pack per box:

What to pack
What to pack: Something fun
What to pack: Something useful
What to pack: Something warm
What to pack: Something yum (tin of food AND treats)

The list of beneficiaries has grown this year, extending further than before:

Beneficiaries Cape Town
Beneficiaries Gauteng
Beneficiaries Durban KZN

A kind gesture when putting your boxes together would be to also add a little gift for the staff at the sanctuaries e.g. a packet of sweets.  Just something to let them know they are appreciated.

NOTE!!!  Keep in mind that kitten and puppy boxes require extra care as they will need food, treats and toys specific to their age group i.e. don't add adult cat food to a kitten box, a tin of kitten food is what is required.

Also, don't add hooves or bones for dogs as they may swallow sharp pieces.  For soft toys, avoid any toys with loose parts, buttons, plastic eyes and mouth.  This too can be torn off and swallowed causing implications.

This is, in my opinion, one of the first to ever extend help to as many different sanctuaries as possible.  They have also helped sanctuaries for rabbits and chickens because each and every life deserves a chance. With the help of the public, more and more sanctuaries are getting the support they need.

My hats off to the wonderful people who have worked tirelessly to make this initiative successful and my greatest thanks to every donation from businesses and individuals of the public.


Monkey Helpline Shoe Boxes


Monkey Helpline works to rescue and rehabilitate monkeys who have been injured in some way whether it's from a fight with another monkey, bites from dogs, knocked over by passing cars or the ever growing pellet gun shootings.

A volunteer group, Monkey Helpline also educates the public, school and businesses on the behaviours of monkeys, how to avoid conflict and how to respect our wildlife.  See a detailed description of who Monkey Helpline is here:

About Us

Monkey Helpline works tirelessly 24/7 and relies on donations from the public to keep going and any thing you can help them with is greatly appreciated.  The perseverance and dedication of Monkey Helpline is an inspiration in determination to save our wildlife and many could learn from them.

Donations of the following items are welcome anytime of the year but Christmas is coming up so if you would like to help see the following link:

Shoe Boxes

For other donations, including international please see the link below:

Donations
Monkey Helpline Web page

I will always be for the health and wellbeing of animals because they are the ones who are usually forgotten.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Samsung NX300: Smart Filters, Picture Wizard and Editing on camera

The Samsung NX300 provides in camera editing of colour, contrast, exposure etc as well as using Smart Filters and Picture Wizard.  All offer creative options besides basic editing which allows you do to adjustments in camera and upload directly via the Wi-fi option without having to go through your pc.

In the photos below I have taken shots of a setup where I tried to incorporate as much colour variations as possible as well as texture.  None of the photos have been edited on the computer other than to decrease the size for the blog.  Any editing has been done directly on camera.

Please read below on how to activate Smart Filters under the camera settings.

I did have an issue importing any RAW photos into Lightroom 4 where I used the Picture Wizard feature.  After importing, the photos would seem to lose their adjustments e.g. Classic would turn from black and white into a normal colour photo without adjustments.  After a quick experiment I found that JPEG worked fine but not RAW.  This could be due to JPEG processing photos in camera whereas RAW keeps the photo as is without any form of processing (the adjustments are a form of processing).

So, for uploading via Wi-Fi and to keep the adjustments for Picture Wizard and editing (Smart Filters only allows JPEG), set your Quality to JPEG (Super Fine is best).

Duh me, only realised this after packing my setup away.  Instead of the having the photos themselves I did a screen capture of the RAW files.  Just didn't have the motivation to reset everything again lol.

This is the original image


Smart Filters

How the freak do you activate Smart Filters?

That was my first thought when trying to follow the instructions (all of one sentence) in the manual. Unless hidden somewhere in small print, the manual doesn't seem to mention that in order to use Smart Filters you need to set your Drive mode to Single and change the Quality to JPEG (Super Fine for the best if you had the setting on RAW).

I used Smart Filters after taking the photos and not before i.e. once the photo was taken I then went to review the photo, selected the icon in the middle of the screen (that shows as a piece of paper with pen) and used the navigation buttons or touched the screen on the far right icon (looks like a drawing of a landscape).  This was how I used the Smart Filter on the photos below.

(photos of icons are screenshots from the manual, just to show the icons you need to select)

In Playback (reviewing your photos) first select the middle icon (Editing):


Then select the right hand icon (Smart Filter) which looks like:


This way of adding Smart Filters is via the editing tool.  You will be given a selection of settings.

Now, the manual mentions that you can't use Smart Filters and Picture Wizard together, and you can't. Unless you do it the way I mentioned above.  

First choose the setting/feature you want in Picture Wizard (shortcut is to press the iFn button and select the dropper icon to the right of the AWB), take the photo and then review the photo.  Select the middle icon for editing, then the right icon (see above) for Smart Filters and you can apply a filter to any photo taken using the Picture Wizard feature.

To activate the Smart Filter setting under the camera options and take a photo using Smart Filters: make sure that under the camera settings, Quality is set to JPEG (Normal, Fine, Super Fine - Super Fine is the highest quality) and that your Drive is set to Single or Timer.  None of the other settings e.g. Continuous or Bracketing will work.  Also make certain that Picture Wizard is set to Off.

Once those three settings are in place then the Smart Filter option should no longer be greyed out and available.



 


Above are the creative features available and the last photo Edited Watercolour is the Watercolour feature applied and then edited: Auto Adjustment to make the photo darker and the colour Temp was changed to -1000K to remove some of the warmth.

You can further edit in anyway that you like with Exposure, individual colours like red, more contrast etc, all in camera.  Every time you edit a a photo a new file is created in JPEG (so the original file is kept untouched).  But editing can only be done after Smart Filters has been applied as you can't further edit this feature e.g. I would like to been able to adjust where I want the miniature effect.

To edit further, review the photo in Playback, select the middle Edit icon (see above for description) then touch the screen or use the navigation buttons to select the third icon (looks like a paint palette), which will then take you into a selection of editing options.  Click on or select an option e.g. Exposure and you will be able to adjust the exposure.

Picture Wizard

Unlike Smart Filters, which adds a painterly effect, Picture Wizard applies different styles to the photos i.e. retro for an old fashioned look.

You can't use Picture Wizard and Smart Filters at the same time but by applying Smart Filters (after taking a photo using Picture Wizard) in Playback review of your photo using the Edit tools, you can still apply both.

And also unlike Smart Filters, you can change the presets of Picture Wizard and add your own custom colours, saturation, sharpness and contrast.   I would personally leave the presets as is and rather create a custom preset using the same settings and change that.  You can reset.

For quick access press the iFn button and navigate to the dropper icon to the right of the AWB setting. Select and you will be taken to a set of 9 styles excluding the 3 custom settings.  Once you choose a setting, click ok or touch the setting and make sure a blue tick is visible in the corner, this means the style has been selected.

If you want to change the preset or the custom preset navigate with the navigation buttons until a blue box is around the style, then press the DISP button or touch the screen on the word Adjust.  You can then change the Colour, Saturation, Sharpness and Contrast.  To keep the change make sure you press Ok or touch the word Ok on the screen to set.


As you can see above, there is a very small amount of change in the styles, except for Forest which starts to present more green as the name indicates.


 In the above photos the styles are more pronounced.



I played around with a custom style.  Again, remember to set the Quality on your camera settings to JPEG as RAW will show on your memory card but not when you import into Lightroom 4 and you will lose the Picture Wizard Styles

Editing

As mentioned above, you can further tweak your photo with the editing tools.  This is done after the photo has been taken and once in Playback view, select the editing icon in the middle, then navigate to the pain palette for options:

Auto Adjustment
Brightness
Contrast
Saturation
RGB (red, green, blue) Adjustment
Colour Temperature
Exposure
Hue

Once you have selected one of the options above you will have the option of changing the adjustment except for Auto Adjustment, which does the adjustment itself.

When in the editing tools (after selecting the middle editing icon) you will also have the option of cropping the photo, rotating or adjusting the size.  My option for adjusting the size was not available but the manual says this depends on the size of the photo selected.

To crop, once you have selected the option, use the two corner squares by touching one at a time and moving the box to where you want.  Rotating gives you visual examples so you only need to select the one you want.

And I think that's about it :-).

Monday, July 21, 2014

Samsung NX300 - Quick Shutter Speed Tutorial

Shutter Speed shooting mode is exactly what it says and for speed shots this is the favoured shooting mode by many.

Before going into this tutorial I would suggest taking a look at the Program Tutorial and Aperture Priority Tutorial.  I know it sounds irritating but my reasoning is because I have explained settings and so on in further detail.  It also means I don't have to keep on repeating the info.

With Aperture Priority, the f number was controlled by you and the shutter speed adjusted by the camera.  But in Shutter Speed, the roles are reversed and you control the shutter speed while the camera adjusts the aperture.  Another reason why I wanted you to check out the Aperture Tutorial first.

As always, just selecting a shutter speed and shooting won't get you the photos you want.  In order to maintain what the camera believes is correct exposure it needs to compensate by opening the aperture blades wider to allow more light in (the smaller the f number the more light but less is in focus).  So you can lose out on depth of field (what is kept in focus).  That is why you also need to keep an eye on the f number while changing the shutter speed.

Also if the shutter speed e.g. 1/2000 shows as red instead of blue, then exposure is incorrect and the photo will be dark.  The shutter speed number needs to remain in blue and the slightest shift in light can change this so don't neglect the shutter speed in anyway.

You may want to push it and increase the shutter speed to what you want, underexposing the photo and then use Exposure Compensation to lighten the photo.  Give it a try and compare to a correctly exposed photo.  Noise will increase greatly and you may only be allowed to add a certain amount of Exposure Compensation.  It will look terrible so I wouldn't recommend trying this out.

To increase the camera's sensitivity to light and therefore increase the shutter speed you can increase the ISO.  I'd say 800 is the highest you can safely go without too much noise although up 1600 can work but higher and you get visible noise in the background.

I haven't had much of a chance to travel and would have loved to get some speeding bike action in but used Newton's Cradle Balance Balls for this tutorial.

You can use anything with movement e.g. toy car, pinwheel, water etc.  A simple experiment is to half fill a glass or jar of water, add glitter and stir.  While the water is moving take a photo looking down on the glass/jar.

Ok, let's get started.

1. Switch on the Samsung Nx300 and turn the shooting mode dial to S (in between the A and M).  Don't confuse it with the Smart Mode small S in a black camera silhouette.

2. Quick check of the settings:
Autoshare - on or off is your choice, I keep it Off.
Photo size - 20M 5472 x 3648 (this will be greyed out if RAW is selected under Quality)
Quality - I usually use RAW but for the tut I changed to JPEG Super Fine
ISO - start at 100, avoid using Auto
White Balance - set for now to AWB
Picture Wizard - for now keep this Off, I will later go through each setting
AF Mode - Single AF
AF Area - Multi AF
Touch AF - Touch AF
MF Assist - Enlarge x5
Framing Mode - Off
Drive - High
Metering - Multi
Dynamic Range - Off
Flash - won't be using flash for this tutorial, so don't worry about this setting.

3.  As mentioned above, watch both the Shutter Speed number (e.g. 1/200) and the Aperture (e.g. f4). The shutter speed number needs to remain blue to keep correct exposure.  Depending on your light available, the higher the shutter speed goes the wider the aperture (smaller the number) becomes.  In shaded areas the shutter speed might not go higher than 1/200 and aperture may be the widest the lens allows f2 (depending on the lens).

This means that while you may have a fairly fast shutter speed the area in focus will be very small and there will still be a chance of blur.

Before moving to Step 4 I want to show you examples of how changing the ISO and Shutter Speed in turn changes the Aperture.

The photos haven't been edited other than to make smaller for the blog.

Here are examples in a shaded area and direct sun to give you an idea before taking the shot.  I have also included 100% crops of two of the photos to show you the noise levels:


The highest shutter speed I could get while keeping correct exposure was 1/200 at ISO 100 but this meant the aperture was f2, decreasing how much was in focus.  Also, I used Continuous Drive and captured 4 photos, of which the last one showed the moving ball as being blurred.  So the speed was ok for 3/4 photos but that 4th may have been important in another situation so the speed wasn't as fast as it should have been.

You can also see that the depth of field was shallow so only the balls (and anything at the same distance) were in focus as this was where I touched the screen to place focus.

I increased the ISO in the photo below to 400, so the highest shutter speed allowed was 1/640 with a slight increase in the aperture f2.5.



Now that the shutter speed has increased I can play around with the setting to increase the aperture.


To increase the aperture to f4 and get more in focus I had to decrease to 1/200 but as you can see the slower shutter speed didn't capture the photo fast enough.  If I wanted to I could increase the ISO to 800 which would increase the shutter speed fast enough to capture the shot clearly.

In direct sunlight I reached a shutter speed of 1/6000 with aperture f2.8 on ISO 400.  Each photo taken in direct sunlight with ISO 100-400 produced shutter speeds over 1/2000, which was fast enough for clear shots.



The high shutter speed gave me room to play and I was able to get a clear shot with ISO 400, aperture f8 and by decreasing the shutter speed to 1/640.

If you are taking a photo of a bird in flight or a plane against a bright blue sky then you will be able to achieve a shutter speed of over 1/3000 with aperture f8 and up.  As said before, it depends on your lighting.

4. Once you have found the correct settings depending on your lighting, press the shutter half way to focus and touch the screen if you want to place the focus elsewhere.  Once you are happy with the focus, press fully to take a photo.

5. Sometimes the camera doesn't always get the exposure right so you can use the Exposure Compensation to make the photo darker or lighter.  Go to Program Tutorial and scroll down to where the article says But what happens if the photo appears too dark?  

ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture all work together besides the influence of light.  It might sound complicated but if you just pay attention to the Shutter Speed and Aperture, then it's more than a good start.  Unlike Manual Mode the Program, Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority mode have settings where the camera acts as an assistant.

It's why I always suggest starting with Program mode. The camera still has more control than you do in Program mode but you can still decide on the combination of settings although limited.  When you move onto Aperture or Shutter Priority the camera hands over the reigns of one of the settings i.e. full control over shutter or aperture.  

As you move through these shooting modes, you choose what suits you best or use each one for different modes.  Aperture was my favourite until I tried Manual and have stayed there ever since.  But I only reached manual by going through each mode and learning what works where.  Some will tell you to go straight to Manual, and if you want to why not?  But if it seems to much for a first go, just start at the beginning and work your way through.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Samsung NX300: Smart Mode Silhouette

Silhouette is a fairly nice Smart Mode feature and even though it was intended for photos of people, I won't be using human subjects due to the sensitivity of privacy and so on.

But who said you can't break the rules?

The reason I like Silhouette is because it gives a type of glow depending on where the light source is coming from.  More detail is kept in Silhouette than in Sunset but Sunset brings out the warmer colours.

The photo examples below were taken around sunset and haven't been edited in anyway other than to make them smaller for the blog.

To use the Silhouette Mode, as with the other modes under Smart Mode (represented as a small S surrounded by a black camera shape on the shooting mode dial):



Turn on the NX300, turn the mode dial to the small S and you will be given a selection of modes to choose from.  Use the Navigation buttons to scroll through the modes and press OK (the mode will have a blue box around it) to select the Silhouette mode, which will show with a tick as the selected mode.  You can also just touch the screen to select the mode.

The rest is easy as the camera does everything else for you, unless you want to change some of the limited settings.  But to get started, just point, half press the shutter button to focus and fully to shoot. The camera will take one photo and even in low light I didn't have a problem with blurring as the photos were sharp and clear.

Settings wise this is what I used:

Autoshare - Off (Your choice whether this is on or not)

Smart Mode set to Silhouette

Photo size - 20M 5472 x 3648 (for best results I go for the highest resolution)

Quality - Super Fine (RAW is not available in Smart Mode features)

AF Mode - Single Auto Focus (if you have a switch for Manual Focus MF and Auto Focus AF on the lens, then when AF is selected on the lens, MF will be greyed out and visa versa.  This is different for lenses like the 30mm that don't have a switch and must be manually changed in the menu)

AF Area - Multi AF

Touch AF - Touch AF - you can touch the screen to place the focus.  Tracking is not available

MF Assist - I leave this at Enlarge x5, i.e. when you want to fine tune focus using manual focus ring (small front ring) the screen will enlarge the area x5

Focus Peaking - I have this set to High Level and Colour White.  Some people don't like this as they find it distracting.  What happens is that areas considered over exposed will flash the colour selected, in this case White.  It does in no way affect the photo.

OIS - Set to Mode 1 but this is only available on lenses that support OIS e.g. 18-55mm kit lens

Drive - set to Single.  Timer is also available but Continuous is not.

Ok, so that's the extra settings that you use to fine tune the Silhouette mode. The 18-55mm lens was used with the following examples.  You may see some banding (rainbow like lines) in the sky but that is due to the quality that the photo was saved at for the web.  In the original photos you don't see any banding.

Smart Mode Silhouette - camera chose ISO 100, Shutter 1/500, Aperture f9

You can also achieve the same results in Manual but the point of Smart Mode is to make it easier for those not used to DSLRs to take photos without the hassle of settings.  ISO was kept at 100, which is perfect as noise is kept at its lowest and I didn't even need a tripod.  The ISO will go up the more the lights drops and may get to a point that a tripod is needed but at just before Sunset I didn't have an issue.

Not a great idea, but the Sun was directly behind the trees so I quickly snapped a photo.  In comparison to the Sunset mode below, the Silhouette has more impact with more detail.  But, the sky was one of our bland pale blue and white sunsets so the Sunset mode literally didn't get a chance to shine here.  Silhouette also darkened the trees, street, street sign and wall whereas in the Sunset photo you can still details in the bottom elements.

 A little less detail and impact in the sky, but would have worked better with a sky that had more red in it.  You can see feintly some red captured.  Photos were taken within a 1 minute of each other so the light source was the same.

Playing around with a more defined outline.  A wire and beaded Christmas Tree with lights.  You can see some colour has been kept for the Christmas lights but a majority has been darkened out (the star on top is made of blue beads).  No lol, that's not a UFO on the right but part of a street lamp.

Another Silhouette photo but facing the direction of the sun whereas the photo below, also taken in Silhouette, looks like any normal photo.  It was taken with the sun at my back so for successful results make sure the source of light is facing you.

Taken with my back to the source of light, in this case the Sun.  Avoid pointing your camera directly at the Sun as you can damage your eyes as well as your camera.

Just for some fun and maybe artistic value.  Different shapes; a bare Winter tree with old peach pips hanging from the branches.  Taken facing the light source (sun) and shows the stark impact of Winter.

So while Silhouette is a people thing, you can take a photo of anything that peaks your interest and get great results.

I'm a Manual Shooting Mode Fan but for those times when you don't want to fiddle with the aperture and shutter speed, Silhouette does a very nice job of capturing that drama quickly and effortlessly.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sock It To Me - The fun side of life

No, this isn't a photography related post but will appear to the inner creativity of anyone and everyone, including designers.  Quickly now, read on.

Sock It To Me it was I like to call the fun side of life.  I loathe boring socks and as adults we tend to get the downright snorefest of sock designs.  Sock It To Me does things differently with the idea that we all want some light hearted enjoyment in life while looking hotter than hot in designs that will have you slinging off your shoes and showing off.

Sock designs I dig: Cherry Blossoms, Tree Owl, Clover, Koi Fish, Pocket Watch, Water Lily, Sloth, City Scape, Flying Bonsai, Rainbow Blast, Dragon, Foxy Lady, Toadstool...and that's just to start. Designs for women, men and children so clean out the old sock draw and make space for a fashionable feast!

Keep an eye out for their yearly competitions where designers have a chance to show what they know. Sock It To Me


Friday, July 11, 2014

Samsung NX300: Firmware and Lens update

I haven't been as active on the blog as I could have been but a few projects took the majority of my time.  The cold didn't help either lol.

This is just a quick posting regarding the latest firmware update and lens updates to the Samsung NX300 and range of Samsung lenses.

The reason I wanted to post about the updates is because some people (I did too) have had some issues with updating the Lens firmware.

First off, download the body and lens firmware (2 zip files) from here:Samsung NX300 firmware updates

I used my country's link because I found the UK link a bit of a runaround but you can also go to Samsung.

Also download the guide. Now the one thing that isn't here is the Lens update guide but it isn't much different to the body update guide. But you can get the Lens update guide here: Lens update guide.  I selected the 30mm but the guide is the same for all lenses.

In the South African Samsung Link the Lens firmware file contains all of the updates for the lenses, which is another reason why I chose that link.

You do have the option of working straight from your camera by attaching via USB as the option I used works by loading the firmware onto your memory card.  If you want to work via USB follow the instructions in the Update guide via the links above.

Once downloaded onto your computer, unzip both files.  You should have two files: NX300_FW_v1.41 and LENS_firmware_140311.  Make sure that before transferring to memory card that the card has been formatted in camera and that your camera's battery is fully charged.  It only took a few minutes but don't take a chance.

Open the NX300 file and you will see the nx300.bin file, copy this to your memory card.  Don't put it in any of the files that your camera has created on the card.  See the photo below, my NX300 created two files so your view might be different.  But just copy and paste the bin file next to these files.


In the photo you can also see the lens.bin file but this is where the problem comes in.

Also note that when you update your lenses, you need to have the specific lens you are updating on your camera i.e. 18-55mm lens needs to be on the camera in order to update the firmware.  Then you replace the lens with another (if you have more than one lens) e.g. 30mm in order to update the firmware of that lens.

Open the Lens Firmware file you downloaded onto your computer and you should see numerous files for the range of Samsung Lenses.



Where the problem comes in is that some lenses have different versions and apparently some of the later versions don't have updates.  An example, the 18-55mm has 3 versions and I couldn't find what version my 18-55mm was.

Another problem I faced was that when I transferred the entire Lens firmware file to the camera the lens update was greyed out so I had to update each of my lenses individually.

For the 18-55mm, after trying out versions 1 and 2 with the option being greyed out on camera, I tried version 3 and worked perfectly.

I opened the 18-55mm-III iFn (v1.11) file under the Lens firmware file and copied the lens.bin file to my memory card (that's what you see above on the memory card).  I could have renamed the bin files for each lens as the file name was the same for each lens but I didn't want to mess around with the files.

I re-inserted my memory card into the Samsung NX300 and followed the instructions in the Body firmware guide from Step 8 and the Lens guide from Step 8 - select Menu, scroll down and select the Setting cog wheel, then scroll down and select Device Information, then Firmware Update and two options should show - Body Firmware and Lens Firmware.

If Lens Firmware is grayed out then the bin file is the wrong one and you need to remove the one on the card and replace with the correct bin file.  If you are not certain then do a trial and error, replace the bin files until you find the correct one for your lens.  Both options will be available if firmware updates are detected and correct.

Start off with the Body Firmware and again look at the instructions in your guide.  It's pretty straight forward although vague about what to transfer to memory card at the beginning.

Make sure your camera's battery is fully charged and that your memory card formatted.

I promise to get working on the Silhouette, Night and Light trail reviews as well as the Shutter Speed tutorial by the end of the week as I need to get some projects finished first :-D.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Samsung NX300 Smart Mode: Sunset and Fireworks

Nighttime photos are popular but can be a pain if you have the wrong settings and bad lighting.  I haven't had a chance for decent photos using Night and Light Trace modes yet but I tried using the Fireworks mode in a slightly different way.  Nighttime also means noise in the photos but so far, again, noise has been handled well with the Samsung NX300 although Sunset did show a slight increase in noise.

For the Fireworks mode, while they are beautiful I opt for no fireworks because of the effect it has on my animals and my furkids are far more important than some pretty lights.  There are fireworks without the bang but please do not light any fireworks near pets or wildlife, it's like a warzone for them.

Sunset

In Sunset mode, you are able to capture the amazing colours of a sunset and in South Africa we vary from a beautiful blue and purple to a brilliant red and orange.

I had a lovely photo of trees that formed a heart shape with the purple and blue sky but for the life of me can't remember where I stored it.  Will scout for the photo but Sunset did a great job on the colours.

Below is a photo of one of our red/orange sunsets which I took handheld without a tripod.  Ok, the red is usually due to the pollution in the air and smoke from fires (dry grass burning) but still, the scene can be something amazing.

Drive is set to Single or Timer so multiple shots are out although this wasn't a problem for me as the NX300 didn't take long to process the photo as it did with Night mode.  I have already tried Night mode but the photos are not to my liking as the scene wasn't all that wonderful.

AF Mode only allows for Single AF or Manual AF, no tracking.  Flash is not an option, that one is fairly obvious but the majority of the other settings are similar to the other modes.

Quality, as with the other Smart Modes only allows for JPEG and not RAW.  I generally set the Photo Size to 20M (5472 x 3648) and Quality to Super Fine.

ISO 400, 1/80, f5.6 using the 18-55mm lens

The above photo was not edited in any way off the camera, the colours are exactly what I saw.  There is a nice graduation from sunset to darker sky but I did find that there was quite a bit of noise even though ISO was 400.  Noise and artifacts became more evident when saved as a smaller photo.  There is also a bit of bleeding on the edges of the trees.

As said above, I didn't use a tripod and successfully took photos handheld.  

The colours in Sunset are enhanced and captures the colour exactly as you see it so no further editing is needed in most cases.  Just be careful with your editing should you want to do something further with the photo or else banding and artifacts will appear.

Fireworks

I avoid fireworks for my furkids.  But that doesn't mean you can't have some creative fun.  Fireworks mode uses long exposure of about 3 seconds so it's long enough to use a light source and move it around for some light painting.  You can do the same with Light Trace but with Night mode you will get ghosting (as it takes about 4-5 shots at one go).  I will go into detail when I learn more and get better shots.

I experimented with sparkles in Fireworks mode but was quite close to the camera (not the brightest of ideas) so the photos are a little out of focus.  Fireworks are not meant to be right in front of the camera so some distance might be needed for a more focused photo plus a longer exposure will mean more blur because of camera shake.  Camera shake is not a bad thing in this case as it can create finger like designs with fireworks but if you want clear, perfect shots then you need a tripod.

In the first photo I held the sparkle still for the full 3 seconds with the camera on a tripod.  My hand is blurred because I wasn't dead still but even with that there is still detail in the sparks.

ISO 100, f8, 3 seconds


Here I played a bit, drawing squiggly lines.  I didn't have much space to move around in else you would have seen a photo of my prancing around with a trail of light lol.  This is an example of how a shooting feature/mode can be used for something else other than what it was originally created for.  

The background is completely black, which is good considering I wasn't far from a building and light from the sparklers could have lit unwanted areas.  So you are able to create imaginative photos without having to worry too much about having unwanted surroundings appear in the shot.

If you are into serious light painting then you need to use Manual mode so that you can select the length of time that you want. 

Much like Sunsets, Tracking is disabled and Drive is kept to Single and Timer.  

A shorter exposure or multiple shots would make the sparkle more defined and I have taken photos in the past with multiple shots on short exposures (about 1/50).  But those were directly in front of me and therefore brighter so enough light was able to hit sensor.  If there isn't enough light hitting the sensor at a shorter exposure you photo will come out darker/muted.  

Experiment (safely of course) and try different ideas!


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Samsung NX300: Aperture Priority Quick Tutorial

Unlike my previous posting, this one will in fact be a quick tutorial because I won't be discussing the settings.  I kept the settings the same as in Tutorial In Program Mode so you can refer to that page for further info.

If you are new to the advanced modes of an SLR, I would strongly suggest trying out the tutorial mentioned above in Program Mode first.

Aperture Priority, as discussed in Aperture Priority Mode, allows you to take control of the aperture (f number) with the camera adjusting the shutter speed accordingly.  If aperture has had you stumped then hopefully this article will help you understand it more.  Aperture Priority was originally my favourite mode before turning to Manual.

Take a look at my previous article on using Program Mode and pay attention to the photos showing apertures f2, f10 and f22.  The photos give you an understanding of what aperture is about and how changing the f number changes the amount that is in focus.

A smaller f number (large aperture) allows more light in but only a small area (where the focus is placed) is in focus. A larger f number (small aperture) decreases the amount of light allowed in but more of the photo is in focus.

This article will help with the more technical side: http://digital-photography-school.com/aperture/

For this tutorial I'm going to be working on a photo indoors for a low light example and outdoors. Give both a try to get a feel of how shutter speed, aperture and ISO work together.

Aperture Priority Quick Tutorial

1. Switch the camera on and turn the mode dial to A.  Take note of the f number at the bottom.  You will be able to change this using the Jog Dial on the top of your camera.  Turning the wheel to the left decreases the f number (opening the lens up) and turning to the right increases the f number (closing down the lens).  The f number must remain in the colour blue for correct exposure, if red the camera won't take a photo.

2. Check the settings.  Have a look at Tutorial In Program Mode for the settings and explanations.  I have kept my settings the same as for Program Mode.

3. Indoor photo - the amount of light e.g. near a window, will determine the shutter speed and the ISO if you specifically want a certain aperture.  As it is currently going into Winter in South Africa, my work room isn't getting as much light as usual.

I chose the largest aperture for my Samsung 30mm, which is f2, for the camera photo.  The largest apertures for the following Samsung lenses: 18-55mm is f3.5, 20mm is f2.8, 20-50mm is f3.5, 50-200mm is f4.

So whichever lens you have, turn the Jog Dial to the left until you get to the smallest f number (largest aperture).  We are going to start from here.

4. Half press the shutter button to focus and take a look at the shutter speed.  The camera will meter and adjust the shutter speed according to the aperture you chose and the amount of light available.  If the shutter speed is below 1/30 then you will need to boost up your ISO.  You can always just change the aperture but you should practice with different apertures, starting at the largest, to get an understanding of how this works.

5. If your shutter speed is below 1/30, then press the Fn button and use the navigations buttons to move the blue outline to select ISO.  Click OK (or touch the screen) and use the navigation button on the right (AF button) to select a higher ISO.  If you started with ISO 100, increase to 200 and see if this has improved your speed (it should have doubled or around there).  If ISO 200 is not enough increase to 400 and so on.  You want to get the shutter speed to around 1/50 or more but be careful of pushing your ISO unnecessarily high.  Press Ok once you have selected your ISO.

Another thing to note, the further the subject/object is away from the focus area the more blurred it will be and anything at the same distance will be in focus.

In my test shot, because of the light, the shutter speed for f2 was at 1/15 with ISO 100.  I increased my ISO to 400 which pushed the shutter speed up to 1/60 while keeping my aperture at f2.

The focus was placed at the top and anything level with the focus was also in focus.  The background was blurred out at f2.

6. Now increase your aperture (f number) to f10.  In low light you will immediately see the shutter speed slow down greatly.  You can see from my test shots below that I to use a tripod and timer.  To use the timer, press the left navigation button to select the Driver and then use the navigation button on the right to move the selection box to Timer.  To change the length of time, press the DISP (top navigation button) to change.  Once done press OK.

When you have selected focus and press the shutter button down to take a photo, step back and let the timer do its work.

In the photo below, when I selected f10, ISO 400, the shutter speed slowed down to 0.4" (4 seconds). At ISO 800, shutter speed was 1/5 and so on.  I increased my ISO to 6400 which gave a shutter speed of 1/40 at f10.  Just enough for handheld but as shown below, the noise became evident.

I used a tripod here (you can use anything that provides stability, even a box), decreased my ISO down to 400, set the timer to 5 seconds and took the shot.  I focused on the same area as in f2.  You can see that the background is less blurred and the object (the purple candle) behind the camera is also more in focus.

7. Change your aperture to f22, the shutter speed should slow down even further than f10 at the same ISO.  Choosing f22 decreased the amount of light allowed in so much that at ISO 400 the shutter speed was 2 seconds. That might not sound slow but is too slow for handheld and definitely slower than 0.4 seconds.  I had to use a tripod or risk extremely high ISO and noise and even then the speed wouldn't haven't been fast enough for handheld.

Front to back the photo is sharp in comparison to f2.

That's it for the indoors photos.  The less light you have the slower the shutter speed depending on what your aperture is.

Next, outdoor photos test shots.

The steps I followed are the same as above.  As I had more light outside I didn't have to increase my ISO drastically but I did have to go as high as 1600 for f22 because I was in the shade.

So start out with the your largest aperture (smallest f number) and increase your ISO accordingly.  If your ISO has to go higher than 1600 to get a shutter speed of 1/30 and over, then use a tripod and decrease your ISO down to around 400.  Use the timer on your NX300.  If there is wind outside and the object/subject is light then you will have blurring if the wind causes the object to move e.g. a flower will move with the wind and you will need a faster shutter speed of about 1/80.


When you change your aperture to a bigger f number (smaller aperture) you might not see a difference in comparison to a larger aperture on the screen.  To see what will be in focus and what will be blurred before taking a photo, press the Delete button.  This button can be customised but factory settings should be set to Depth of Field.

The photo example below is just to show how the amount of light changes shutter and ISO when the aperture is f22.  Same day, same time (morning) as above outdoor photos but more in the path of the sun.

Here the ISO was 400, shutter speed 1/40 in sunlight whereas the previous photo was taken in the shade causing ISO to increase to 1600 just to get a shutter speed of 1/30.

Now, let's have a quick look at angle.  With the photos above, the shots were taken straight on.  As said, anything at the same distance of the area focused will also be in focus.

Both photos were taken with the following settings: f2, ISO 400, 1/80 shutter speed.  The only difference is the angle, which shows that the further away something is from the focus area the more it will blur.  The focus was also placed in exactly the same area.

The photo isn't 100% straight on as you can see.  The right side is more blurred than the left, the bottom sharper than the top.  So I was at a bit of an angle lol.

Here I positioned the Samsung NX300 slightly higher, looking down on the camera.  The lower part of the camera was further away than the focused area because of the angle and so is out of focus.

If I had used f22, then the bottom half would have been sharper and clearer (although might have shown a slight blur).  Also, changing angle can change how the light hits the object/subject and increase/decrease your shutter speed.

When to use a large aperture (small f number) and small aperture (large f number)?  Anytime, anywhere although a larger aperture (small f number) is more beneficial for low light scenes because it pulls in more light but less will be in focus. 

There isn't a rule that says you must use this setting for that scene and so on.  If you want the attention on something specific then use a larger aperture (small f number) like f2.  If you want focus front to back then start with f8 and work up. Always keep a check on the shutter speed, a steady hand can get away with a slower shutter speed to a point and if you intend on trying handheld use continuous shooting.  

Depth of field (how much is in focus) is a matter of taste and playing around with the aperture will help you understand how it all works.

A quick exploration of the Samsung NX300

Boasting a 20.3MP sensor and feature packed with creativity, the Samsung NX300 is proving to be the next step in compact mirrorless SLR's.  Interchangeable lenses, 8.6fps and a shutter speed of 1/6000 of a second combined with exceptional noise handling qualities and you have a camera that will keep you ahead of the action.  Add in Phase Detection Autofocus and Contrast Autofocus and not even Superman would be able to catch such superb detail as quickly or as accurately.  The Touch Screen interface is very responsive and of you are like me, you will find the tilt out screen very useful for those awkward angle shots. 

Although I’m a Manual fan I had a click fest with the Smart Auto modes like Panorama, Creative Shot and Beauty Face.  No knowledge of photography required, just select, compose and click.  If you want more control the NX300 provides the advanced modes like Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed and Manual.  An added feature, Lens Priority, works with the iFn button which allows you to increase digital zoom on compatible lenses as well as change depth of field.
Other creative features also include what I call Picasso mode where you can add a fun filter to your photo once taken, do a facial touch up and remove red-eye in camera, crop plus add adjustments.  Quick and easy, your photos can be edited and uploaded via Wi-fi, all straight from the camera.  Who needs a computer when you have this all-in-one gadget?  But, if you prefer the more traditional way of editing, the Samsung NX300 is bundled with Lightroom 4.  The software perfectly marries the power of the NX300. 

For the video followers, how does Full HD with a 45mm 2D/3D capable lens sound to you?  The 3D is also available for stills as well as normal HD with any other lens for video.  No need for expensive or heavy equipment.  Just grab the Samsung NX300, the 45mm 2D/3D lens and you are the director of the next 3D blockbuster movie. 

I personally love the feel of the Samsung NX300.  The design, the look, the way I can take photos with one hand without feeling like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  It all packs into a package I want with me at all times knowing that I will get the photos I want when I want them.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Samsung NX300: Starting out with a quick tutorial in Program Mode

Anyone new to SLRs wants to know how to use the non-automatic shooting modes.  So here's a quick and basic tutorial to get you started.  Basic in the terms that there are so many settings but I am sticking with the general so that you can get an idea and start taking photos.

Do this tutorial during the day, with sufficient light e.g. outdoors.  Choose anything, a bench, a stone, a leaf, but make certain that what you choose doesn't move.  If you experience a rainy or overcast day, read through the instructions and the info at the end of the article.  Try and avoid direct sunlight as this can cause blown highlights and create harsh light.

Ok I cheated here, this is a moving subject/object because it's extended and there was wind.  I held the flower stem with my one hand and took the photo with the other.


I'm not good with videos but will try and put one up.  In the meantime, here's a written version.

Tutorial using Program Mode

Step 1. Make certain your battery(s) are charged, no not a joke because the last thing you want are dead batteries with the only option of charging putting your camera out of action for a few hours. Have extra batteries because the screen will drain them quickly.

Step 2.  Switch your Samsung NX300 on and turn the Mode Dial (refer to the descriptions of your manual if not certain) to P for Program.



Step 3. Before taking a photo you need to check your settings first:
Select Menu and by using the navigation buttons scroll down to select the settings below (will be highlighted in blue), press ok or the right navigation button to open the setting:

Autoshare - I keep this off, you can turn it on later but for this tutorial you don't need to worry about it so leave it off

Photo size - choose size at the highest quality for the best result, 20M (5472 x 3648).  If this option is greyed out it means the Quality has been set to RAW. To change this scroll down to the Quality setting (right beneath Photo Size) and choose Super Fine (which is JPEG).

Quality - Set this to Super Fine as RAW is a bit more complicated.  Good thing about JPEG is that the processing is done in camera, removing artifacts and fringing but you have less information to work with.

ISO - set this to 100 (the lowest setting on the NX300).  Since you will be taking the photo during the day and will have enough light (unless it is overcast but can still be done), you want to keep your ISO as low as possible.  Higher ISO helps to capture more light in a low lit area or overcast day but brings in more noise.  For those experience rainy/overcast days, read to the end about increasing your ISO.

White Balance - later on, as you learn about aperture, shutter speed etc, you will learn about adjusting White Balance and how certain lighting e.g. Halogen Bulbs (some give a yellowish colour cast) can be corrected by changing your white balance.  But for now, leave on AWB (Auto White Balance).

Picture Wizard - leave this Off, it's more for effects as seen in examples below but right now you just want to learn how to take a photo.

Examples of the effects:
Classic

Cool

Retro

AF Mode - Set this to Single Autofocus (AF), which is used for static or still objects/subjects.  With this setting you press the shutter button half way to focus (or touch screen to place focus where you want) then all way to take a photo.  Thing is, if you or your object/subject moves then it/they move out of focus.  You could use Continuous AF which refocuses when it senses the object/subject has moved but for this tutorial set to Single AF.  Manual AF works without the aid of the camera to focus.

AF Area - Set to Multi-AF (selection is by camera whereas Single AF is by the user).  Single AF allows you to select the focus areas but you can still do that with Multi-AF by touching the screen over the area you want to focus on.

Touch AF - Set to Touch AF, which allows you to touch the area you want in focus.  You can also use Tracking AF if your subject/object moves but for this tutorial your subject/object is static.  One Touch Shot eliminates the need to press the shutter button half way and take a photo.  You simply touch the screen where you want the focus and the camera will focus and take a shot.  But for now set to Touch AF.

MF Assist - Meant for manual and fine tuning so either leave this as Off or on Enlarge x5 in case you want to try out manual focusing later on.  I find x5 is enough magnification although you can increase that amount from the options given.

Focus Peaking - Leave this as Off because it's used with manual focusing.

Framing Mode - I prefer to leave this as Off while taking photos during the day.  It would be the equivalent of an Electronic View Finder in Off mode where the screen shows what the camera sees. This means you can see what the exposure is whereas in On mode the camera adjusts the brightness of the screen according to the lighting (if you are in a dark room, it will adjust so you can see what is going on).  But I find it misleading because you can forget that what you are seeing on the screen is not the correct exposure.

Drive - I like to leave this on Continuous High, which makes use of the 8.6 frames per second. Continuous because I like the choice of being able to take one shot or multiple shots.  With Single Shot you can only take one photo at a time.  With Continuous High, depending on how long you hold the shutter button down (and the shutter speed), you can take one or multiple shots.  Continuous Normal only makes use of 5 frames per second (most likely to make clearing the buffer faster).
Just a word of advice, don't hold your shutter button in too long (2-4 shots is good enough) else the buffer fills up and takes time to write to the card.
Burst takes 10 photos per second.  Great for intense action shots but not so great if you want to immediately take more shots afterwards.  It takes about 10 seconds for the buffer to clear after the burst, so use only if you don't need to have the camera ready straight after taking shots.
Timer, AE/WB/P Wiz Bracket are a little more intense and will be discussed later.  Again, as I said, right now you just want to know how to use the Samsung NX300.
So set this to Continuous High.

Metering - Set to Multi which will average the overall brightness of the area.  Spot takes readings of the center (good for backlit subjects/objects) and Center Weighted (good for when there is a difference in lighting between background and foreground) works around Spot.  For now, use Multi.

Dynamic Range - I leave this Off because the lowest ISO allowed is 200 but helps with the loss of detail.  HDR is not available when Continuous Drive is selected, you have to change this to Single Shot in order to use HDR.  For now leave this Off.

Flash - Flash can be used in daylight as a fill flash but leave it off for now.

Step 4.  Now that you have checked your settings let's just get a few points out the way and then start shooting.

Step 5. Choose your object/subject, compose (position how you want the photo to look) and half press the shutter button.  Pay attention to the Aperture number (f number) and the Shutter Speed (something like 1/50 or 1" and to the left of the f number).

The camera will generally choose the settings and you can change the Aperture which will cause the camera to adjust the Shutter Speed accordingly.  Both numbers must stay in the green (green line beneath each) for correct exposure to be achieved.
To change the Aperture (which changes the Shutter Speed), turn the Jog Dial (refer to manual for visual description) on the top.



It has a square on the left side and a magnifying glass on the right.  While turning keep an eye on both numbers until you get the f number to f10.  We are going to start with f10 for the tutorial but in order to lock this you have to half press the shutter button or else the camera will start choosing again.

Step 6 - If the focus isn't where you want it, quickly touch the area on the screen, turn the Jog Dial again to F10 if it has changed (but most likely the NX300 will give you enough time so you may not have to use the Jog Dial) and half press the shutter button to lock everything and all the way down to take a photo.  Remember, don't hold down too long if Drive is set to Continuous High as the camera will carry on taking photos up to the limit (and then slow down) as long as the shutter button is held down.  Learn to get a feel of how long to hold down as the Samsung NX300 responds extremely fast and well.  So you need to know when to let go lol.

On a sunny day the shutter speed should be over 1/50 but if below that you may need a tripod although you can try handheld at as low as 1/30.  Read at the end of the article about what to do on an overcast or rainy day.

Take a photo and check if the lighting is correct, sharpness etc.  If not, try again, refocusing where you want with f10 selected.  If the lighting is too low causing the camera to choose a slower shutter speed because of the aperture, increase your ISO to about 200 or 400 and check shutter speed again. Keep increasing your ISO gradually until your shutter speed is 1/30 and up.

Step 7 - Now start practicing with different apertures, decreasing the number down until the "lowest" number the lens can handle.  This might sound confusing but the smaller the f number the larger the aperture e.g. f2 is larger than f10.  My Samsung 30mm has a starting aperture of f2.  The lower the number, the less will be in focus i.e. the area that the focus point is on will be in focus but surrounding area will start to blur out the smaller the number becomes.

Examples:


f22, shutter 1/30

f10, shutter 1/160

 f2, shutter 1/3200

This is called Depth of Field.  Shallow DOF is a photo with a low f number where only the focus area is sharp and everything else blurred out.  Deep DOF is a higher f number where everything from front to back is in focus.

Take note that as you increase your f number, the blades in the lens close down further and restrict the amount of light that comes in so the shutter needs to be open longer.  That means a slower shutter speed and possible blurring if too slow and handheld.  On a tripod, not problem.

So to summarise, small aperture (bigger f number) = slower shutter speed and larger aperture (smaller f number) = faster shutter speeds.

But if you don't want to decrease your shutter speed, you can increase your ISO.

For example:
Your aperture (f number) is f7.1 and because of low light your shutter speed has slowed down to 2 seconds.  Might not sound like it's slow but it will guarantee you blurred photos handheld.  If you increase your ISO to 200, the time is speed up to one second.  If you increase your ISO to 400, speeds up to 0.5 seconds and so on.  The Samsung NX300 is excellent with noise so experiment.  Just pay attention to the noise (will show up as specks all over the photo).

But what happens if the photo appears too dark?  

That's where Exposure Value Compensation (EV) comes in.

Sorry for the little spotlights, was using another camera that uses macro lights


That set of lines next to the f number allows you to make the photo darker or brighter.  It works differently to Manual Mode but in Program Mode, you press the EV Adjust Button and turn the Jog Dial either left or right.

EV Adjust Button


Press and hold the EV Adjust Button and a blue box will show up around the lines.  Turn the Jog Dial left to darken the exposure or to the right to brighten (before taking a photo).

Examples:

0 EV, no exposure compensation

-0.6 EV, minus exposure compensation makes the photo darker

+0.6 EV, positive exposure compensation makes the photo brighter

The issue you will have with positive exposure compensation is that it will decrease the shutter speed whereas decreasing the brightness (negative exposure) will increase the shutter speed.

If you try to increase your aperture to say f22 and the camera will only allow you to go as high as about f18, then it has decided that there isn't enough light and you will need to increase your ISO to get a higher f number.

What about subjects/objects of different distances? 

When taking a photo you will probably notice there are areas out of focus.  The camera will usually focus on the elements in the foreground or closest to it unless you select focus on something further back.  With a shallow DOF, the area focused on and anything the same distance will usually be in focus as you will see in the examples below.

To get as much in focus as possible use a small aperture (large f number e.g. f10-f22) but pay attention to where the camera places the focus.

The screen might show some areas blurred out before taking a photo even when max aperture is reached e.g. f22.  But don't worry, press the Delete button before taking a photo to see the depth of field and the screen will show what is in focus.  I use this button for another purpose as it can be customized.

If you don't like the areas selected for focus by the camera, touch the screen on where you want the focus.

Examples:

f22, large amount in focus front to back

f10, I chose the focus area on the flower base so anything in front and behind of that is a little out of focus although f10 still provides a large amount of focus

f2, a large amount of the photo is out of focus and again I chose the flower base as the area of focus.  Notice how the tips of the flower are in focus, some areas of the leaves etc.  Those areas are at the same distance as the area of focus.

A larger aperture (small f number, confusing ha?) brings attention to the area of interest and is favoured for portraits, macro or anything where you want specific interest on.  What is also favoured with a large aperture is the bokeh, or pleasantly blurred out background.  Have you seen photos where there are lovely soft circles in the blurred background, for example, behind a person?  That is called bokeh and is created by the aperture blades (that open and close) and will show wherever there is a point of light (natural or false) if a shallow depth of field is used.

The great thing about Bokeh is that you can customize the shape to anything you want.  For an example check out this link http://www.diyphotography.net/diy_create_your_own_bokeh/.

On a rainy or overcast day

If you want to keep your aperture at a certain f number but struggle because of low light issues causing slow shutter speeds, then as said above, increase your ISO.  That or use a tripod.  In order to take a photo with correct exposure the camera needs to draw in more light as the f number gets bigger. So it will slow the shutter speed down to keep the lens open for longer.  If shutter speed is 1 second to 30 seconds and BULB (you choose the amount of time the shutter remains open) then that is referred to as Long Exposure.

But in this tutorial you are working during the day with enough light that you shouldn't go lower than 1 second.

To increase your ISO you can use the Menu button but a quicker way is to press the Fn button or touch the Fn menu on the screen.  Use the navigation buttons to move the blue box (selector) until it has selected the ISO setting and press ok.  Now use the navigation button again to select an ISO.

If you are starting with 100 ISO, increase to 200, then 400 if needed and so on.  Don't be afraid to increase your ISO but get the idea into your head to check on the noise level.

It's all about balance and there isn't a complete formula because each situation and lighting condition is different.  The more you practice and experiment with different lighting, shutter speeds, aperture and ISO the more you will get a feel of what will work for what.  Don't worry, not as difficult or as complicated as you think.

Ok well, that wasn't as quick as I thought but hopefully the article has enough information to get you started.  I will also be going into tutorials with the other modes but it may take time.  As you can imagine this took awhile to put together and I want to be as thorough as possible to make taking photos as easy as possible.

Enjoy and if you have questions, ask.  I will try my best to answer them.