Monday, April 7, 2014

Samsung NX300 Smart Mode: Panorama and Creative Shot

I'm going to be doing a bit of a mix in this article.  I haven't had a chance to play with the other settings between Panorama and Creative shot but will get to them soon.  Some settings work for specific situations that we don't encounter on a day to day basis so I will have to get creative for the other modes :-D.  However, the following modes are two of my favourites in the Smart Mode.

Panorama

A Panorama is a set of stitched photos that create a wide angle view.  Works great for Landscape but also for times when you can't fit everything in and don't have the luxury of a wide angle lens.  Photo manipulation software has a set feature for this or you could line up the photos manually but that can be time consuming.

I will agree that in camera Panorama features are not perfect and would be considered a quick fix but I've been pretty happy with the results from the Samsung NX300.

When you select the Panorama function you will see blue arrows on the screen pointing to the top, bottom, left and right with the words "Press the shutter button once and move camera to one side slowly".

Now if you were like me, you did exactly what the camera told you to do and pressed the shutter button once and let go.  The camera then told you that it didn't detect movement so the feature was stopped.  The "Help" description is not very helpful and unless you take a quick look at the manual you won't know what you are doing wrong.

So, press the shutter button and hold it down while moving either left, right, up or down.  You will see a rectangle on the bottom of the screen which will fill up with the stitched photos as you move the camera.  Try and keep the camera steady but the NX300 isn't too fussy if you are slightly shaky however if you move the camera in the opposite direction the feature will stop but the camera will save what it has taken.  If you don't move the camera a photo will still be taken.

Give the camera a chance to catch up to you as it stitches the photos together before releasing the shutter button else it will stop short of where you want it to.  You can do this by watching the rectangle as the photos are recorded.

There is an option under Menu, Panorama for 3D Panorama (besides Live Panorama) but this will only work with the 45mm 3D lens.

No editing done on this photo, straight from camera.

The photo above is a perfect example of a wide angle view that would be impossible with a normal lens like the 30mm.  The 18-55mm is a wide angle but I wouldn't have been able to get the photo above without the Panorama feature. Taken at the SAAF Museum.

As you can see, the stitching is seamless and even when checking at 200% I couldn't find any fault. The disadvantage, well for me anyway, is the JPG only file but it's a very small disadvantage.  I wasn't one for Panoramas because it was too time consuming even if PSE10 did a fair job of aligning the photos.  But now I'm thinking otherwise and happily use the Samsung Nx300's Panorama feature.

The NX300 chooses all settings as with all the Smart Modes but I don't mind giving up my personal choices with this feature.  Does a nice job of exposing although the photo above could use a bit of tweaking with levels and colour.  Maybe a little more definition with Topaz Labs Clarity.

Planes on the runway.

Photo 1 With editing

Photo 1 shows how the Panorama feature becomes extremely useful.  My only option of a wide angle lens is the kit lens 18-55mm (which I didn't have with me that day).  Using the Panorama feature enabled me to get the entire plane in a single photo without having to stand a far distance away. 

Continuous focus (Under Menu, AF Mode) is not available, only Single AF and Manual AF.  This is to prevent the camera continuously focusing while you are moving.

AF Area and Touch AF are also unavailable meaning that you can't select the focus point or touch to select focus on the screen.  So make sure that your starting point is clear and has enough contrast for the camera to pick it up in order to focus on it.

If you struggle to get focus on the area you want, you may need more light or need to center the subject/object in the middle of the screen. 

When using the Panorama Feature you may have an issue where, as you move, some areas might not be in focus.  This depends on where the focus was placed and what aperture the camera has selected.  For example, in a small room you may encounter a problem if the aperture is set to f2 as there will be a shallow depth of field.

The camera will judge the lighting conditions and how close the subject/object that it focuses on is.  If lighting is low, then it will use a wide aperture (e.g. f2) which will cause a shallow DOF. As said above, you will have a problem with a small room and if your starting point is closer to you than the rest of the room. Anything the same distance as your starting point will be clear but everything else outside that focus area will be blurred.

That is where manual Panoramas take the advantage.  Just keep in mind that the feature works best for wide areas that are not close-up.  The feature doesn't have AE/AF lock (Auto Exposure/Auto Focus) so you can't lock in either to keep exposure and focus consistent.

It doesn't mean you can't make a panorama of a small room.  For that I would suggest taking a set of photos and using software like Photoshop Elements to stitch the photos together.  It will take some work but some people love creating panoramas. The following link should give you an idea and even though it's for PSE 9 the same principles apply for any later versions.

http://www.techradar.com/news/software/applications/how-to-create-photoshop-panoramas-in-elements-9-919448

I started with the videos which were right next to me and started moving to my right.  As you can see, the focus was lost as soon as the distance between me and the camera increased.  The NX300 had selected f2 as I was in a low light condition.

In this photo you will see another problem you may encounter with being too close, bulging.  I was standing in the middle of the yard and started panning from my left to my right.  The left and right sides were further away from me, so the middle appeared to bulge.  Also, not everything was in focus for example, the Marigold at the column are slightly out of focus.

Standing further back decreased the bulge a bit and shooting a different angle looked better. 

 The camera chose f4 which kept most of the photo in focus but as I panned from left to right, the further the rest of the garden was from me the less was in focus.

Since JPG format is used for the Panorama feature the Samsung NX300 will process the photo in camera and remove fringing and artifacts that may sometimes be caused.  Basically hassle free photos.

Oh, I nearly forgot to add this in.  Here is an example of using the Panorama feature on a waterfall where instead of moving the camera to the left or right (as with the photos above), the camera is moved up or down.  In the photo of the waterfall below the camera is moving up. I didn't turn the camera on its side, just held it the same way as for the other panorama photos above. When you move the camera up or down the rectangular box appears on the right hand side.



You will have noticed that when you go into playback mode the photo resembles a movie with a play button.  When you press OK the photo runs from one side to the other "panning", allowing you to take a closer look at your shot.  You still zoom in to look but not while this panning action is happening. 

You pause the panning action by pressing OK.  If you press OK again the panning will start again.  Once paused you can manually move around using the navigation left and right buttons.

The Panorama Feature does have its limitations as shown above but still effective when those limitations are taken into account while composing a photo.

Creative Shot

With this feature the camera chooses the settings and applies a filter/effect it feels is appropriate. Sounds like a recipe that can go wrong very quickly and yet has given me some really beautiful shots. I did have one or two photos that made me cringe a bit when the camera was over zealous with the vignette filter.

So how do you know what setting it will choose?  On the top left where you normally see the shooting mode you will see the icon change.  If the icon is blue, has a camera with a paintbrush you can expect to see a vignette on the photo even those this seems to be the icon for Creative Shot.  

Take a look at your manual, pages 54-55 and those yellow icons are what will be used during Creative Shot.  So far I have seen the following icons: Landscapes, Landscapes at night, Landscapes with backlighting, Close up photos of objects and Close up photos of text (even though I was taking a photo of a flower).  

You won't be able to see what icon was chosen after the photo was taken but you can see what settings were used by going to playback mode, selecting the photo and pressing DISP.

The following examples are taken straight from camera i.e. no levels, no colour, no enhancements. I wanted to show the feature without any manipulation by software.

A case of where the vignette works beautifully.  The camera didn't select a yellow icon but stayed with the Creative Camera icon (blue with camera and paintbrush).

I can't remember what the Samsung NX300 chose for these two but a shallow DOF and vignette was applied.

I cropped this photo.  Landscape was selected here, which boosted the blues and greens.

In the first photo the NX300 placed the focus on points closest to me.  In the second photo I touched the screen and placed my focus area where I wanted.  Camera also stuck to its camera and paintbrush icon which applied a vignette.

Close Up Objects was selected by the NX300 for this shot but you also see that a vignette was applied.

I wanted to post a photo showing how sometimes the feature may not work as hoped but the Samsung NX300 refused to misbehave and kept giving me great shots lol.  

Drive is either Single or Timer with no Continuous as an option. It means that you won't be able to take more than one photo at a time but time between shots is quick (about 2 seconds).

Only JPG format is available but there is a large amount of praise about the NX300's ability to process JPG format with great success.

Manual Focus (found under AF Mode) is not available, you won't even find AF Mode under Menu with Creative Shot. Shallow DOF for close up objects is favoured so I'm guessing that as part of the creativity, the camera literally calls the shots with one focus option.  But you can select the area of focus by touching the camera screen. 

Aperture and Shutter Speed are adjusted accordingly. When the camera detects a landscape scene everything is kept in focus so you won't be stuck with shallow DOF. There isn't anything really you can do to change what effect the camera chooses in Creative Shot unless you change to another shooting mode.

Settings are pretty limited in Creative Shot, probably one of the more limited of the modes under Smart Mode.  Still, a feature for the creative mind.  Well, ok, the camera does most of the work but don't forget that the composition is all you.

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