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Thread: focus in the dark

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    Default focus in the dark

    Hello,

    New to this forum. Since last week I'm a happy owner of an E-P1.

    It has been said many times that the camera focuses quite slowly, true. As I did not buy it for sports journalism, I can live with that.

    The issue I want to address is: how to focus in the dark?
    The FL-14 doesnt have a focusing assist lamp, nor does the camera; nor does the camera tell me what focussing distance it has set.

    The camera does have a 'Night portrait' mode, but how can that work if it cannot accurately focus? That doesn't seem logical to me.

    I have also tried the FL-36, but its focus assist lamp does not seem to go on. Didn't I use the correct settings?

    So how do I go about it? Do you have any suggestions.

    lichtloper

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    Default Re: focus in the dark

    the E-P1 does not support any AF assist functionality in any flash gun, so you haven't got your settings wrong/mixed.

    I presume the 'night portrait' mode is an in camera scene mode that sets up the normal settings for you associated with low light portraiture - I'm guessing it will set an ISO that gives you a shutter speed of 1/30th or 1/60th, possibly with a slight tweak of the colour to give a degree of skin warmth, but the best thing to do is set the mode and shoot a shot, then go back to A or Auto and repeat the same scene = compare the settings the camera choose to see what it's doing.

    re focus - use MF
    E-P1/E3/E30/E510/E400/7-14/12-60/14-42/14-54/S 30 1.4/35/35-100/40-150/50/50-200/EC14/EC20/EX25/2xFL50R/FL36R/RF11/SHV-1/AC-1/AC-2

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    Default Re: focus in the dark

    its not a micro 4/3, but it might be what you want...

    http://forum.fourthirdsphoto.com/showthread.php?t=49377

    if you don't want to read the whole thing, the crux of the matter is, either buy a laser, stick it on the hotshoe and use that, or the cheap option, buy a big flashlight and point that at stuff.

    If the night portrait mode is anything like the one on the lumix we have at work its designed to work, not in the pitch black, but more in town where there is ambient light kicking round, just not enough for business as usual.

    sorry if this not what you were after, but i thought it might help.
    I plan to learn from others mistakes. I sure as hell don't have time to make them all myself!

    Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/27550543@N02/

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    Default Re: focus in the dark

    Quote Originally Posted by rat256 View Post
    its not a micro 4/3, but it might be what you want...

    http://forum.fourthirdsphoto.com/showthread.php?t=49377

    if you don't want to read the whole thing, the crux of the matter is, either buy a laser, stick it on the hotshoe and use that, or the cheap option, buy a big flashlight and point that at stuff.

    If the night portrait mode is anything like the one on the lumix we have at work its designed to work, not in the pitch black, but more in town where there is ambient light kicking round, just not enough for business as usual.

    sorry if this not what you were after, but i thought it might help.
    you really, really shouldn't even think about using a laser anywhere near faces - not ever.
    E-P1/E3/E30/E510/E400/7-14/12-60/14-42/14-54/S 30 1.4/35/35-100/40-150/50/50-200/EC14/EC20/EX25/2xFL50R/FL36R/RF11/SHV-1/AC-1/AC-2

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    Lightbulb Re: focus in the dark

    Hello Owl,

    Thank you for reassuring me that I haven't got my settings wrong as far as AF assist functionality is concerned.

    You say: "re focus - use MF".
    Well, that's exactly the problem: how to focus (manually) when I cannot possibly see what I'm doing... (I'm not an Owl..., you see)

    re "NightPortraitMode": Even the E-P1 is not gifted with the owl's night vision; it simply cannot focus and sets the lens to infinity. For this Mode to work properly at least some source of dim lighting is needed.

    And Hi, Rat256,
    Your solution -to use a torch of some sort- has crossed my mind too. Who knows, maybe those tiny micro-flashes that people sometimes use to open their frontdoor or cardoor - might be just enough for manual focusing...

    Thank you for your thoughts.
    Hope that Oly comes up with a more efficient solution...

    lichtloper

    [btw - here lies 1 reason why I do so miss an indication of focus distance in/on today's cameras and/or lenses... Would it be technically that difficult to quantify -and display- the focus distance which is set by the camera's focusing electro-machanism? I have been phantasising about such a functionality since the beginnings of auto focusing camera's... ]

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    Default Re: focus in the dark

    I agree - but there are issues I believe.

    Surely you can use LV boost to enhance the image on the screen in low light such that you can focus manually?

    What I do (with a normal camera) in such circumstances is to find a source of light at the right working distance somewhere in the room and use that to preset the focus for subsequent shooting.
    E-P1/E3/E30/E510/E400/7-14/12-60/14-42/14-54/S 30 1.4/35/35-100/40-150/50/50-200/EC14/EC20/EX25/2xFL50R/FL36R/RF11/SHV-1/AC-1/AC-2

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    Default Re: focus in the dark

    Quote Originally Posted by photo_owl View Post
    you really, really shouldn't even think about using a laser anywhere near faces - not ever.
    I'm not. I'm taking photos of buildings in the dark. I'm not *that* stupid!
    I plan to learn from others mistakes. I sure as hell don't have time to make them all myself!

    Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/27550543@N02/

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    Default Re: focus in the dark

    I wasn't suggesting that you are - but others may well reference a thread discussing 'night portrait' through it and match to the posted suggestion.

    The directness of my response was in the hope that 'they' wouldn't miss it - I apologise for any inference you took.
    E-P1/E3/E30/E510/E400/7-14/12-60/14-42/14-54/S 30 1.4/35/35-100/40-150/50/50-200/EC14/EC20/EX25/2xFL50R/FL36R/RF11/SHV-1/AC-1/AC-2

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    Default Re: focus in the dark

    Hello,

    You are talking about LVboost, but if there's no light to boost, than that doesn't help of course.

    Let's be realistic, this is simply one of the limitations of the E-P1 concept.

    Olympus must either tackle the matter of adequate 'focusing in the dark' in a next model,
    or would it be possible for them to adapt E-P1's software: to activate the AF assistance lamp of the FL-36...?

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    Default Re: focus in the dark

    Quote Originally Posted by lichtloper View Post
    Hello,

    You are talking about LVboost, but if there's no light to boost, than that doesn't help of course.

    Let's be realistic, this is simply one of the limitations of the E-P1 concept.

    Olympus must either tackle the matter of adequate 'focusing in the dark' in a next model,
    or would it be possible for them to adapt E-P1's software: to activate the AF assistance lamp of the FL-36...?
    I don't see it as a limitation associated with the E-P1 concept at all - it's an issue for all AF systems!

    The AF assist capability in the FL guns is designed to work with the PDAF systems not the CDAF ones - the latter benefit from more of a white flood approach to deliver periods of contrast which is the nature of the 'normal' AF assist you associate with onboard flash in v low light.

    The problem with that is of course not only annoying your subjects but it inevitably results in a change in pose of behaviour prior to the shutter release! This is why most people disable it and use MF. For static subjects some means of mobile subject illumination is useful - for moving ones there's no point because you are only going to get a blurry mess anyway (at the light levels you are now indicating).

    You are trying to take pictures way outside the design spec of the equipement - so you are going to have to improvise (to use AF) or use MF.
    E-P1/E3/E30/E510/E400/7-14/12-60/14-42/14-54/S 30 1.4/35/35-100/40-150/50/50-200/EC14/EC20/EX25/2xFL50R/FL36R/RF11/SHV-1/AC-1/AC-2

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    Default Re: focus in the dark

    Hello Owl,

    HTML Code:
    You are trying to take pictures way outside the design spec...
    English is not my mother tongue, but doesn't your word 'outside' suggest something of a limit?
    The reason why I started the thread was to find out what tactics others have developed when using the E-P1 in (near) darkness.

    I've made several attemps to take photographs of (bright yellow) flowers in the garden in late evening, but it was more a question of luck than anything else when one or two came out OK. I believe it's good to realise that E-P1 is simply less than an all purpose camera; the G10 (though I was quite dissatisfied with it in so many other aspects) at least has an AF assist lamp... The E-P1's concept lets me 'in the dark' here.

    Looking at the bright side: I'll be happy to have it with me when visiting a garden, a city, a family gathering, a museum, I'll be happy to take it with me on my longdistance walking trips (with full camping gear). The night life of butterflies (or owls) won't be a suitable subject. I'm OK with that.

    Thank you for your thoughts,
    lichtloper

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    Default Re: focus in the dark

    Quote Originally Posted by lichtloper View Post
    ...The issue I want to address is: how to focus in the dark?
    ...So how do I go about it? Do you have any suggestions.
    1) add light with a torch, focus manually

    2) set a focus distance on manual, make exposure, check on review. Stop down for plenty of DoF. Adjust and iterate until done.

    I've done #2 above with manual focus lenses in conditions where I couldn't even see the focusing scale. It's tedious but it works.

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    Default Re: focus in the dark

    strangely they have ommitted a light level from the product specification although my discussions with them on launch suggested around -1EV level.

    this may be because CDAF has wider spread of subject related performance within light levels but I'm not sure.

    I'm surprised you had trouble with a yellow flower in low light. I found the 14-42 acceptably responsive to such shots, whilst I belive the 17mm may not be as good.

    It's certainly an area that will need to see improvement - but I expect to see it. The G1 does better/faster with the same glass - whilst being worse in other areas - so it's not an insurmountable issue.
    E-P1/E3/E30/E510/E400/7-14/12-60/14-42/14-54/S 30 1.4/35/35-100/40-150/50/50-200/EC14/EC20/EX25/2xFL50R/FL36R/RF11/SHV-1/AC-1/AC-2

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    Default Re: focus in the dark

    You could use one of those new LED flashlights with a red light option. They're small, the batteries last forever and the red light will not bother your subjects because most CCDs detect red light better than the eye does. Believe it or not, the light from an infrared LED such as remote controls use would show up on your LCD.

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    Default Re: focus in the dark

    IR LEDs will work, but they have to be near IR, so in the 650nm to 850nm range. You would have to test them first so see how good the camera can "see" them as depending on the IR filter, you may not see 850nm at all, which is the most common LED IR wavelength.

    Something like this would suit perhaps:
    http://www.vishay.com/docs/84755/tshg8200.pdf
    Note the first page of the datasheet mentions "good spectral match for CMOS cameras". Plus they are fairly narrow-angle projection.

    Purchase about 20, and some resistors and perf board from RadioShack and build your own IR torch.

    I may have to pick a few of these up myself and do the same.

    -Mark

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