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:



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.


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).


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.


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.


  1. You are officially my guru. I just bought a samsung nx300 and will be using your blog to learn. Thanks :)

  2. Thank you so much! That was really helpful! I have had this camera for years and have just been using it in auto mode!