SONY NEX-3N -Tips and settings shooting indoors with low light

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gear74
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SONY NEX-3N -Tips and settings shooting indoors with low light
11 months ago

Hello guys can you recommend the best settings I should set in Manual mode or Appperture/Shutter priority when I am shooting indoors with low light ? The aim is to get the best and clearest possible shot. Thanks.

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Sony Alpha NEX-3N
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DWMurf
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Re: SONY NEX-3N -Tips and settings shooting indoors with low light
In reply to gear74, 11 months ago

gear74 wrote:

Hello guys can you recommend the best settings I should set in Manual mode or Appperture/Shutter priority when I am shooting indoors with low light ? The aim is to get the best and clearest possible shot. Thanks.

There are lots of possibilities depending on whether you're shooting handheld or on a tripod, your subject is still or moving, whether you want to use flash or not, using manual or automatic lenses, want to use scene modes, automatic or manual modes. More information from you would help in offering suggestions.

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keeponkeepingon
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Re: SONY NEX-3N -Tips and settings shooting indoors with low light
In reply to DWMurf, 11 months ago

My process:

  • manual mode
  • optimize aperture for your lens,
  • set a shutter speed that negates motion blur from your hand shake or subject (start with 1/(2*focal length) for stationary people/objects (some folks recommend 1/focal length but I find that too slow)
  • keep an eye on the auto ISO, if it gets too high increase the aperture (decrease the number), then once you are wide open decrease the speed, if you start getting motion blur back off and live with the high ISO or get a flash/better lighting.
  • review review review. Everything looks good at on the LCD, then you get home and DOH. Zoom in and make sure you are getting the results you want, if not start fidling.

At least that's what I do on my canon.
Unfortunately my 3N does not have auto ISO in full manual (what I call manual on training wheels) so you are left either juggling everything (not good for stuff like kids, ok for a vase or bowl of fruit or someone who has patience and can sit still) or using a semi auto mode.
.
Of the semi auto modes I'd pick "S" as motion blur is the one thing that's almost impossible to fix in post processing and it's what my 3n so often gets so wrong. In "S" mode start with 1/(focal length * 2), check for motion blur, then if there is none, scope out what the camera is doing with the other parameters, if those are not OK (say ISO over 400 or 800 depending on your standards) slow down the shutter speed a bit but when you start getting motion blur you've basically hit the limits of the 3N and need to resort to flash or live with the bad IQ.
.
If you are on a tripod disable any IS and set a 2 second timer (can you do this on the 3n, I think you can do a 2 second timer but am too lazy to get up and check it).
.

If you want to put your faith in the AI and maximize the capabilities of the camera pick "Superior Auto" instead of "Intelligent Auto" as the later can do the multi exposure trickery.

.
Regarding focusing, if you are shooting handheld make sure your fingers are not covering the AF assist lamp. Sony positions that lamp so it's easy to cover when you grip the camera. Also make sure it's on if you have subjects that are fairly close. For far away subjects or if you can't use the af assist lamp you may need to resort to MF which is a PITA with the small screen on the 3n (yes focus peaking helps but it's not a cure for the small screen is).
Regarding flash, I just love the way you can use a finger to angle the built in flash to bounce off the ceiling or a wall. Give that a try if you are not happy with the look of flash images.
.
I just got the camera this xmas so if I am missing anything (fill flash mode?) I'd love to learn more about my new toy!

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Pete_S
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Re: SONY NEX-3N -Tips and settings shooting indoors with low light
In reply to gear74, 11 months ago

gear74 wrote:

Hello guys can you recommend the best settings I should set in Manual mode or Appperture/Shutter priority when I am shooting indoors with low light ? The aim is to get the best and clearest possible shot. Thanks.

Assuming you're avoiding using the flash the answer would depend on whether you need to freeze subject motion or not. In any case, stay at the wide angle end of the zoom and set auto ISO.

The default shutter speed at the wide end in A or P mode is 1/60th, which is good enough for people sitting down and not moving much. In P mode the camera often selects F4 rather than 3.5 (assuming you have the 16-50 kit power zoom). So, if you want the best quality (lowest ISO) at the expense of slightly softer corners, use aperture priority and force F3.5.

If there are people moving around, you need at least 1/125th shutter speed, so use shutter priority and set 1/125 or even 1/250 if there is a lot of movement.

If the scene is completely static (no people, or people posing motionless) you can rely on the image stabiliser and again use shutter priority to select 1/30th or even 1/15th if you have a steady hand. The camera will then only need a low ISO and overall quality will be best.

As was pointed out already, if you really must use the flash, bounce it off the ceiling by bending and holding it back. The ceiling must be quite low and white-ish colour, and because the flash is weak the camera will select a higher ISO, but at least all motion will be frozen. Good for an active party with dancing I imagine!

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Pi lover
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Re: SONY NEX-3N -Tips and settings shooting indoors with low light
In reply to gear74, 11 months ago

gear74 wrote:

Hello guys can you recommend the best settings I should set in Manual mode or Appperture/Shutter priority when I am shooting indoors with low light ? The aim is to get the best and clearest possible shot. Thanks.

The answer will actually depend on the amount of light you get.  Start with the lens you own with the lowest F stop value.  As an example I've got a Konica lens, 57mm, F1.4 that collects lots of light.

Start playing.  Open the lens aperature as much as you can.  This lets the most light in but also gives a narrow depth of field which means very little in a shot is in focus.  As you close down the aperature less light is let in but DOF increases.  Shut down by one stop, lose half the light.

If you set ISO at 12,800 you'll get a lot of light.  Go to 25,600 and you get twice as much.  The high numbers are good for low light.  Note that when you take pictures as the ISO goes up the picture gets noisier (grainy) so people tend to stay lower ISO's if they can.  If you've got really low light though you will end up shooting a high ISO.

Shutter speed is the next variable.  With live view you can tell if it is too dark or not.  If it's too dark increase the shutter time.  As was pointed out in one post 1/60 catches a lot of slower action.  Try shooting a 1/3 of a second and notice how in focus things look.  You will likely have a lot of blur which isn't a focus  problem, it's the shakes.  I've seen people take very nice shots a 1/8 second though.

The last thing you'd like to pay attention to when taking the shot iis white balance.  I find auto white balance catches a lot of situations but you may want to check out multiple options to get the tones you like.

After shooting comes the post processing.  If you have something like one of the Adobe products they include an option called filters.  The filter you are likely to be interested in is the Noise filter.  It allows you to despeckle or reduce noise.

Start by just taking some shots at night at home to get a feel for things.  Note if you change to a slower lens every thing changes.

Enjoy.

Grant.

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keeponkeepingon
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Re: SONY NEX-3N -Tips and settings shooting indoors with low light
In reply to gear74, 11 months ago

This is all good advice. Normally I would say never use an ISO above 800 or maybe 1600 if you want the "best qaulity" but I just took a 12,800 ISO picture that will be perfectly servicable for email/web. It really depends on what IQ you are looking for, so try out the high ISO, if it meets your needs it will make your life a lot easier.

Regarding "The default shutter speed at the wide end in A or P mode is 1/60th" and the camera choosing F4 instead of F3.5.   I'm not really seeing that. The camera is still new to me but I'm getting slow shutter speeds such as 1/10s and regularly getting F3.5 in the auto modes. That's partly why I think Av is a useless mode for really low light. The camera is just going to open up the lens all the way so go with "S" and play with the speed until you get a sharp picture without motion blur. 
Regarding focus, I recommend the AF assist lamp but one thing you should be aware of (that is not intuitive) is that enabling the AF assist lamp disables the setting of "Autofocus Area", so even if you have "Mutli Focus" set  with the lamp on "AF operates with priority in and around the center area"  (handbook, bottom of page 68).,

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Pete_S
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Re: SONY NEX-3N -Tips and settings shooting indoors with low light
In reply to keeponkeepingon, 11 months ago

keeponkeepingon wrote:

Regarding "The default shutter speed at the wide end in A or P mode is 1/60th" and the camera choosing F4 instead of F3.5. I'm not really seeing that.

Sorry, I should have qualified that with "using auto ISO".  It will raise the ISO rather than use slower than 1/60th.  Shame you can't customise this behaviour as the IS is easily good enough to use 1/15th, sometimes even 1/8th, under the right circumstances.

The F4 rather than F3.5 also applies to auto ISO in P mode.  Seems like Sony haven't got much faith in the 16-50 wide open!  Which, again, is a shame because my copy at least is pretty good at F3.5.

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joe6pack
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Re: SONY NEX-3N -Tips and settings shooting indoors with low light
In reply to Pete_S, 11 months ago

Pete_S wrote:

keeponkeepingon wrote:

Regarding "The default shutter speed at the wide end in A or P mode is 1/60th" and the camera choosing F4 instead of F3.5. I'm not really seeing that.

Sorry, I should have qualified that with "using auto ISO". It will raise the ISO rather than use slower than 1/60th. Shame you can't customise this behaviour as the IS is easily good enough to use 1/15th, sometimes even 1/8th, under the right circumstances.

The F4 rather than F3.5 also applies to auto ISO in P mode. Seems like Sony haven't got much faith in the 16-50 wide open! Which, again, is a shame because my copy at least is pretty good at F3.5.

I am not sure if it is specific to SELP1650. I have heard others who said that the newer NEXs picks F4 regardless of the lens. The default setting for my NEX3N is perfect for me. I am quite happy with quality at ISO 3200.

From reading many reviews, I believe the optimal performance of SELP1650 is F5.6 at 16mm. So I set my S mode to F5.6. Most of the time, the camera pick ISO while keeping the speed at 1/60.

My own tip is to set the camera to burst mode. If I take 5+ shots with a single click, I can get sharp picture on still objects even with shutter speed at 1/6!

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keeponkeepingon
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Re: SONY NEX-3N -Tips and settings shooting indoors with low light
In reply to Pete_S, 11 months ago

After typing the above I was in an indoors kids playground with pretty good light (for indoors) and I looked down and the NEX was picking F4 (with a pretty high ISO, like 1000 or something). So maybe the level of light determines F4 versus F3.5.

Indoor playgrounds/bounce house places are pretty challenging, because the kids are all moving really fast and while the lighting is good for indoors it's not very good compared to sunlight. 
Yesterday I had an iphone 5s, Canon 300HS and the NEX-3n at the indoor playground and the NEX-3n was by far the best of the bunch.  In low light even at ISO 640 the 300HS looked horrible, much worse than the 3n at ISO 1600. I got some OK shots with the 300HS using the flash, and the iphone was OK for some things such as sweep panoramas of the whole area but overall if I had to pick one camera to bring with me it would be the 3n.

Question: For low light which would be better: RAW and Lightroom to rescue exposure issues or jpeg and rely on the camera's wizardy to nail the exposure and compensate for the low light?

thanks!

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joe6pack
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Re: SONY NEX-3N -Tips and settings shooting indoors with low light
In reply to keeponkeepingon, 11 months ago

keeponkeepingon wrote:

Question: For low light which would be better: RAW and Lightroom to rescue exposure issues or jpeg and rely on the camera's wizardy to nail the exposure and compensate for the low light?

thanks!

You are really asking if you should use RAW or JPEG. The exposure is fixed regardless of RAW or JPEG. If you want good image quality, shoot both. RAW will definitely give you more details but your software needs to know how to do lens compensation.

It is unfortunate that the NEX menu system does not allow me to choose RAW + STD JPEG. As I prefer smaller JPG files for storage.

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boardsy
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Re: SONY NEX-3N -Tips and settings shooting indoors with low light
In reply to joe6pack, 11 months ago

joe6pack wrote:

keeponkeepingon wrote:

Question: For low light which would be better: RAW and Lightroom to rescue exposure issues or jpeg and rely on the camera's wizardy to nail the exposure and compensate for the low light?

thanks!

You are really asking if you should use RAW or JPEG. The exposure is fixed regardless of RAW or JPEG. If you want good image quality, shoot both. RAW will definitely give you more details but your software needs to know how to do lens compensation.

RAW + LR gives you much more leeway than pp'ing JPG to recover low exposure/shadows - in fact if you ever need over iso800, you may as well stay at iso800, shoot dim, and boost brightness later in raw/lr (the camera is merely doing the same thing - boosting brightness after sensor exposure -  but giving you less control and the risk of blowing highlights). And you still have the JPGs if you want them.

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keeponkeepingon
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Re: SONY NEX-3N -Tips and settings shooting indoors with low light
In reply to joe6pack, 10 months ago

joe6pack wrote:

keeponkeepingon wrote:

Question: For low light which would be better: RAW and Lightroom to rescue exposure issues or jpeg and rely on the camera's wizardy to nail the exposure and compensate for the low light?

thanks!

You are really asking if you should use RAW or JPEG. The exposure is fixed regardless of RAW or JPEG. If you want good image quality, shoot both. RAW will definitely give you more details but your software needs to know how to do lens compensation.

It is unfortunate that the NEX menu system does not allow me to choose RAW + STD JPEG. As I prefer smaller JPG files for storage.

Thanks. I know exposre is exposure but with the RAW and jpeg you loose some of the low/dificult light compensation modes of Superior auto.
"When [Quality] is set to [RAW] or [RAW & JPEG], [Hand-held Twilight] and [Auto HDR] are not

selected."

I'm not that familiar with those modes on the NEX;  I'm not just trying to rehash the age-old RAW versus JPEG debate, I'm asking if those modes are so great that they make up for the loss of post processing ability offered by the RAW files.

The handheld twilight/AutoHDR is not availabe in RAW + JPEG but I did shoot in those modes for a bit to see what sony was doing with NR. I liked being able to play with the NR in LR but sony's  processing (while a bit heavy handed for my tastes) was not horrible.

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keeponkeepingon
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Re: SONY NEX-3N -Tips and settings shooting indoors with low light
In reply to boardsy, 10 months ago

boardsy wrote:

joe6pack wrote:

keeponkeepingon wrote:

Question: For low light which would be better: RAW and Lightroom to rescue exposure issues or jpeg and rely on the camera's wizardy to nail the exposure and compensate for the low light?

thanks!

You are really asking if you should use RAW or JPEG. The exposure is fixed regardless of RAW or JPEG. If you want good image quality, shoot both. RAW will definitely give you more details but your software needs to know how to do lens compensation.

RAW + LR gives you much more leeway than pp'ing JPG to recover low exposure/shadows - in fact if you ever need over iso800, you may as well stay at iso800, shoot dim, and boost brightness later in raw/lr (the camera is merely doing the same thing - boosting brightness after sensor exposure - but giving you less control and the risk of blowing highlights). And you still have the JPGs if you want them.

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Agreed. I love and use LR a lot and yeah I do find myself counter-intuitively "exposing to the left" on occasion to boost shutter speed or avoid blow highlights. Speaking of highlights RAW is not just good for low light/high ISO.  With RAW I do a lot better recovering what look like blown highlights in the jpeg. If it's blown it's blown but if it's on the edge you can work with the RAW while the jpeg will be toast (for example clouds).

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joe6pack
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Re: SONY NEX-3N -Tips and settings shooting indoors with low light
In reply to boardsy, 10 months ago

boardsy wrote:

joe6pack wrote:

keeponkeepingon wrote:

Question: For low light which would be better: RAW and Lightroom to rescue exposure issues or jpeg and rely on the camera's wizardy to nail the exposure and compensate for the low light?

thanks!

You are really asking if you should use RAW or JPEG. The exposure is fixed regardless of RAW or JPEG. If you want good image quality, shoot both. RAW will definitely give you more details but your software needs to know how to do lens compensation.

RAW + LR gives you much more leeway than pp'ing JPG to recover low exposure/shadows - in fact if you ever need over iso800, you may as well stay at iso800, shoot dim, and boost brightness later in raw/lr (the camera is merely doing the same thing - boosting brightness after sensor exposure - but giving you less control and the risk of blowing highlights). And you still have the JPGs if you want them.

I don't really understand how it works. Do you shoot in manual mode?

You can fix the ISO to 800 but the camera is going to change shutter or aperture or both. Most likely, it is not what you want. Besides, what is the difference of shooting at ISO 800 but a very dim image and boost brightness vs shooting at ISO 3200, both in RAW with shutter speed and aperture equal? Won't in you ended up with the same image? ISO 800 will have less noise but the noise will show up when you boost the brightness. And how do you recall what the lighting condition was when you took the picture?

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RonFrank
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Get a flash!
In reply to gear74, 10 months ago

Buy a flash.  Metz makes some good flashes that dedicate with Sony.

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captura
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Re: SONY NEX-3N -Tips and settings shooting indoors with low light
In reply to gear74, 10 months ago

Try the Superior Auto Mode. You may be surprised.

Review: Sony NEX 3N - The Phoblographer

29 Apr 2013 ...

  1. www.thephoblographer.com/2013/04/29/review-sony-nex-3n/
  2. "In this blog post, we review the Sony NEX 3N. ... Superior Auto mode: Use Superior Auto mode to shoot photos and movies with the ease of a ... If you squeeze it, it won't feel as if it is made of plastic or there is a hollow inside."
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keeponkeepingon
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Re: SONY NEX-3N -Tips and settings shooting indoors with low light
In reply to captura, 10 months ago

captura wrote:

Try the Superior Auto Mode. You may be surprised.

Review: Sony NEX 3N - The Phoblographer

29 Apr 2013 ...

  1. www.thephoblographer.com/2013/04/29/review-sony-nex-3n/
  2. "In this blog post, we review the Sony NEX 3N. ... Superior Auto mode: Use Superior Auto mode to shoot photos and movies with the ease of a ... If you squeeze it, it won't feel as if it is made of plastic or there is a hollow inside."

I was suprised. I read that review before getting my 3n and I find superior auto to be fairly awful in low light, especially if my kids are the subject.....

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keeponkeepingon
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Re: Get a flash!
In reply to RonFrank, 10 months ago

RonFrank wrote:

Buy a flash. Metz makes some good flashes that dedicate with Sony.

Which metz flash is compatible with the 3N (the subject of this thread). Thanks!

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Re: SONY NEX-3N -Tips and settings shooting indoors with low light
In reply to gear74, 10 months ago

gear74 wrote:

Hello guys can you recommend the best settings I should set in Manual mode or Appperture/Shutter priority when I am shooting indoors with low light ? The aim is to get the best and clearest possible shot. Thanks.

About the settings.. is how everybody said here.

But if you want the clearest shots indoors, low light, you must buy another ( not so cheap.. possibly more than NEX-3n costs ) lens:
Either SEL35F18 - stabilized, autofocus, fast enough, or a legacy Canon 35F2 or 28F2, or a modern Voigtlander 35F1.4.. and so on.

All these lenses will allow you to shoot at lower ISO, so clearer shots, but you will possibly miss the wider end of the kit lens... so it depends what kind of indoors..

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