A night visitor, a high-pressure challenge for two cameras, and a question

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by Jock Elliott, Jan 7, 2013.

  1. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    “What’s that in the yard?” My wife said.

    I went to the window where she stood and looked out. There was a form in the blackness. With just a sliver of a moon, it was, as a friend used to say, “darker than the inside of a brown cow.”

    Whatever it was, it was bigger than a squirrel but much smaller than the deer that visit the yard.

    I flipped on the porch light. It was a possum, a nocturnal marsupial native to North America, gathering some calories under the bird feeder. Even with the porch light, the illumination was poor.

    I grabbed the FZ150, pointed it through the window glass, and pressed the shutter halfway down. In Intelligent auto mode, the FZ150 hunted for focus, wanting to lock up on the window glass. I switched to P mode. Finally, it focused, sort-of, on the possum, triggering the shot at ISO 6400.

    Here’s what the camera grabbed.

    Here it is, lightened by the “I’m feeling lucky” button in Picasa.

    Maybe, I thought, the G12 would do better. In Auto and P modes, it kept focusing on the window glass. I switched to Low Light mode (the candle symbol on the dial) which uses pixel binning to crank up the sensitivity and got this shot at ISO 6400.

    Here it is, lightened by Picasa.

    To my eye, both cameras produced comparable results: grainy, noisy, not terribly well focused, unusable for anything but a record shot of a possum in the yard. On the basis of these images, I will not be sitting up nights waiting for the Pulitzer committee.

    In the excitement of the moment, I did not attempt to use the manual focus facilities of either camera, but a couple of comments are in order. (1) The manual focus of the G12 is just awful. You activate manual focus and then have to spin the dial around the outside of the four-way controller on the back of the camera. While you are doing that, it is simply way too easy to press any of the other buttons on the four-way controller, screwing up not only the manual focus, but perhaps some other setting. Manual focus, unfortunately, cannot be assigned to the knurled wheel on the front of the G12. In my view, about the only thing the manual focus on the G12 is useful for is setting hyperfocal distance.

    (2) The manual focus of the FZ150 is considerably better than the G12, since you can assign manual focus adjustment to a slider on the side of the lens barrel. Unfortunately, it is very easy to over-shoot with the slider, and you wind up hunting for focus with the slider. It takes a safecracker’s touch to get it “just right” and it is even tougher to do when the light is poor.

    So the question: what camera do you have that allows accurate focusing through window glass under extreme low-light conditions?
  2. Lili

    Lili SC Hall of Famer

    Oct 17, 2010
    Dallas, TX
    "So the question: what camera do you have that allows accurate focusing through window glass under extreme low-light conditions?"

    My E-PL2 with SMC Pentax-M, adapter and using VF-2
    in cases like the old school MF works best
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  3. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    (Lili was typing at the same time I was....we gave the same basic answer)

    I don't think I've quite tried every modern camera, but it's awfully close. Frankly, they're all crap for manual focus compared to an old lens. If you desire to shoot using manual focus, pick up a m43 camera or a NEX and get some cheap old glass. I have adapters for using old glass and the experience of manually focusing is a joy. And for the leisurely pace I shoot normally it doesn't really slow me down.
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  4. BillN

    BillN SC Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 25, 2010
    S W France
    if you can find a way to hold the camera very still - i.e. pressed up against something or resting on a table

    use f8 and infinity - the higher the fnumber the better

    (for ref: look at the lens scale on an old MF lens - to see the focus range at f8)
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