Monday, January 27, 2014

Samsung NX300 - Smart Mode: Beauty Face, Best Face and Landscape features

Smart Mode is what I would call the User Friendly Modes and most SLRs will have a similar selection except that Samsung has placed these modes under one selection.  It makes the options easy to select and unlike some DSLRs, it doesn't cramp the shooting modes dial.

The logo on the modes dial for Smart Mode is a camera with an S.  In Smart Auto Mode, the first shooting mode I reviewed (http://photographyasiam.blogspot.com/2013/07/samsung-nx300-smart-auto-mode.html), the camera automatically selects a mode based on the scene whereas in Smart Mode you decided on what shooting mode to use.

Shooting modes will have different settings e.g. the AF Area option won't be the same for all modes. I'm going to start off with Beauty Face, Best Pictures and Landscape and work with 3 or 4 modes at a time so I can give a more in depth idea of how each modes work.

One thing that is definite for each mode is that RAW is not an option and photos are saved in JPEG only (with some features being restricted to a certain size).  You do have the option of changing the JPEG quality from Normal to Fine to Superfine.

One thing to note is that when you change any of these options for JPEG, the same will apply to ALL modes including the advanced modes.  I.e. if you have set the advanced modes P,A,S, M to RAW and then change any of the JPEG options in the Smart Mode (Normal to Superfine), the modes P, A, S, M will change to JPEG.

If you don't change any of the options for JPEG in Smart Mode after selecting RAW for the P, A, S, M modes then they will stay on RAW.  Hope that wasn't too confusing.


When you select the Smart Mode the above screen will appear.  Here you choose which mode you want.  The blue border above is around the Macro Shooting Mode but you need to select ok or press the OK button in order to select the mode.  A selected mode will show with a blue border and tick top right corner.

If you want to change the scene e.g. from Beauty Face to Macro, you can touch the camera with the S (see below) on the left of the screen.  You can also click the Fn button, Select Ok (if the Smart menu selection is highlighted by a blue border at the top of the screen, if not use the navigation buttons on the right to move the blue border to the Smart menu) and you will be taken back to the menu.  Another option is to select Menu, Smart Mode and choose from there.




Beauty Face


Right: number of shots available, battery, photo size (20M), Drive, Flash, AF mode, Focus Area, Fn menu
Left: Beauty Face, Smart Menu,  Autoshare, AF options, Menu, Histogram (the graph)

Beauty Face is applied to photos where you want a softer look and imperfections removed in camera. This is usually done in photographic manipulation software but the Samsung NX300 went a step further by providing this feature in camera.  It looks like Gaussian Blur was added to this feature (I may be corrected) as this is a popular technique used in photomanipulation.

For the AF Area selection you have two options: Face Detection AF and Self Portrait AF.

In Self Portrait once you are in position the camera beeps to let you know.  The beeping is a bit low and sounds like a Turtle Dove or a galloping horse as the speed changes.  I have tried to figure out what the different sounds mean but as far as I can tell a steady "galloping horse" sound means the person's face is in focus and ready for the shot.  The manual doesn't help much and the self help on the camera says the beeping will tell you where the position of the face is, which also doesn't help much as you can't see the screen.

Note: apparently when your face is in the center of the composition the beeping sounds increase and is a higher pitch than the other beeps.  So that would mean you are in the correct position.

The camera will do the focusing for you but because the screen does not turn out to the side you can't really tell where the camera is focusing.  This does mean that the eyes can be out of focus, especially when wearing glasses.

I did try using the Wi-fi connection to a tablet and the Samsung camera app but it doesn't allow you to select any of the other features like Beauty Face.  But you can still take a selfie using the app and do some facial retouching in Lightroom 4 (the software free with Samsung NX300).

Here is a tutorial: http://www.clickinmoms.com/blog/full-portrait-retouching-in-lightroom/


The photo above is a self portrait.  The top photo was taken in Manual, using the exact same settings (with automatic focus) as the photo at the bottom (taken in Beauty Face).  No retouching was done to the top photo and the Beauty Face effect was applied in camera to the bottom photo.

As you can see, there is quite a difference and these photos were taken in low light with settings: aperture f2, shutter 1/15, ISO 1600.  Since the aperture was automatically set to f/2 (the max aperture for the 30mm), the depth of field was shallow and blurred out the background nicely but might be a little too narrow for close-up portraits.  The aperture seems to be set at the max according to the lens, no matter what the lighting available.

You do have the option of manual focus but this will only really work when you are taking a photo of someone else as you won't be able to focus on yourself.  Drive mode available is either Single or Timer and no Continuous meaning you can only take one shot at a time.  Because of the effect being applied it will take a few seconds before you can take another photo.

OIS (Anti-Shake) is not available but Flash is available even though it is set to Off.  You can still change it to Auto or Auto Red-Eye.

Overall, it's a nice feature for "quick" photos where you don't want to spend the time retouching using software.  I would have liked the option of dialing down the effect a bit but you can apply filters in camera and have a little more control there.

Best Face

Here I have to think of something because I don't like using photos of other people (stalkers and all that lol).  So this one I will leave out a photo for now.

Best Face is a feature that allows you to capture multiple photos featuring a person or people where you can select the best photo.  As I haven't tried this on a selection of people, I'm guessing that you will be able to click on each person and choose the best photo (in the case of someone blinking or not smiling in one photo) and the best photos will be saved as one.

I tried this feature on myself just to get an idea.  You take a photo as normal; half press to focus and full press to take a photo.  The camera will take 5 photos, one after another.  Apparently the first photo is of the background and the camera detects faces after the shutter button has been pushed.  If it can't identify a face, the camera will tell you and only take one photo and ask if you want to save it.

The camera will also tell you that you need to keep it steady until it has finished taking photos.  Flash and OIS are not available. What is available: Photo Size (restricted to 5.9m), Quality (but no RAW), AF Mode, (Single or Manual), AF Area, Touch AF, MF Assist (allows you to zoom in while focusing for accuracy), Focus Peaking and Drive (which is only Single photo or Timer but no Continuous).

Laughingly, I also tried taking photos of my cats (due to not wanting to use photos of people) and the camera kept on saying "No face detected".  Gives a new meaning to Smart Camera.

From a self test, after my photos were taken I was shown one photo with a box around my face where I touched the box and was given the option of the other photos taken.  I could then cycle through the photos and decide which one I liked best.  When you select an image, the thumbs up icon will appear on the selected image.

The resolution of Best Face is max 5.9M (2976 x 1984), which will give you a max print size of about 25.1cm x 16.7cm. To get a better of idea of pixels, resolution and printing: http://www.westcoastimaging.com/wci/page/info/photoshoptip/tip25.html.

When I've had a chance to experiment I will post more info.

Landscape


The Landscape feature if for scenic photos where the saturation of blues and greens is increased to create a vibrant photo.

The screen is very much the same as the screen above for Beauty Face with only one difference, the AF Area is available as Selection AF (where you can change the Auto Focus to Manual or Auto) and Multi Selection.  With Beauty Face you only have the option of Face Detection and Self-Portrait.  Flash and OIS (Anti-Shake) are not available.

ISO: 100, F/6.3, Shutter:1/1000 - Afternoon


ISO: 100, F/4.5, Shutter: f/500 - Just before Sunset


In the photos above, taken at different locations and different times during the day, the camera chose the settings.  While the Landscape feature brings out the blues and greens more, I find that it adds a little too much purple around the clouds in both photos and the horizon in the first photo.

I didn't have spectacular scenes to take photos off so most likely this would be best suited to impressive landscapes and seas.

As the feature is meant to be user friendly, the camera controls the ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture.  You, the camera user has control over Photo Size, Quality (but no RAW), AF Mode, (Single or Manual), AF Area, Touch AF, MF Assist (allows you to zoom in while focusing for accuracy), Focus Peaking and Drive (which is only Single photo or Timer but no Continuous).

Basically the camera takes care of the important stuff and let's you decided on the minor changes.  The camera chose ISO 100 for both times during the day so Landscapes without a tripod i.e handheld shouldn't be a problem.

The purple may be due to pollution in the air and can be removed in Lightroom but may have to be done selectively as it's not a colour cast over the entire photo.  In the first photo, the clouds were creating an almost layered affect on the ground, which is why you see part highlighted by the sun and the rest in shadow.

I do like the brilliant blue achieved and even with the purple around the smaller clouds, the main cloud looks fluffy and white.  In the second photo, the green also came out well considering this area wasn't very green to begin with.

Landscape mode is good for skies that may otherwise have been blown out as it keeps the colour and the definition of the clouds. I will have to keep testing this mode out to see if the purple happens regularly or is a pollution element.  If you find otherwise, please share :-).

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