Eliminating Blurs

The main reason for poor results with subminiature cameras is camera movement during the exposure. If the camera is held steady during the exposure, even an inexpensive lens can produce good results. But even the best lens will produce unacceptable results if the camera is not held steady. If your pictures lack the quality that you want to see, start by increasing the stability of the camera.

The basic problem lies with the size and weight of the submini. Because it is so small and light, when the shutter release is pressed, the camera is very easily moved. This problem is compounded by the magnification required to make a print. Because the submini negative is so small, even the slightest blurring in the negative will be magnified tremendously in the final print.

The easiest approach is to select the highest shutter speed possible. This will of course mean opting for faster film and/or a wider aperture, with more grain and less depth of field in the final picture, respectively.. But those decisions are what photography is all about. Of course selecting the fastest shutter speed will not guarantee sharp results. Try to avoid speeds of less than 1/30 of a second. With practice though, it is possible to get good results with 1/15 of a second and even slower, hand-held!

A simple test will determine if you have a problem holding a camera steady, what is the lowest safe speed for you to shoot at, and give you practice in holding the camera steady. In lowish light (to allow for using the slowest shutter speeds), tape a page from any magazine on a wall. Choose a page with big letters and little letters. Place your camera on a tripod about 10 feet away and make an exposure at 1/125 or faster. Next, take the camera off of the tripod and make a series of exposures hand-holding the camera from the same distance. For each exposure choose the next slowest shutter speed while stopping down the lens an equivalent amount. To evaluate the results, you don't even need to make prints. Place the negatives in the enlarger, raise the enlarger head to your standard size and focus the image with any grain focuser. First, examine the negative of the tripod shot. This will show you how sharp the camera can get. Then examine the handheld shots. They should show greater and greater blurring as the shutter speed gets slower. Making prints willl dramatically illustrate at what shutter speed and at what print size you will need a tripod or other firm support. Under all conditions it is essential to brace yourself to minimize vibrations. If your camera has a wrist strap, wrap it tightly around your wrist. Hold your arms firm against your body. Hold your hands and/or the camera firmly against your face. Avoid too tight a grip as this can induce tremors which will cause blurs. Stand firmly with your legs apart, and hold your breath just before pushing the shutter release. Don't simply press the shutter release, as this tends to move the camera. Place your index finger on the shutter release and your thumb on the opposite side of the camera. At the time of exposure, squeeze both fingers together and the opposing force will minimize movement.

If you can, sit down, and/or lean against any solid object such as a chair, wall or tree. If necessary lay down.

An alternative is to hold the camera against a solid object, such as a table, wall or tree. While you may not be able to see through the viewfinder, the results are bound to be more stable.

Many subminis have tripod sockets and there are a variety of miniature tripods available -- sometimes called table top tripods. One currently available model, prefect for submini work, is made of rugged, lightweight plastic and available at many camera and outdoor shops. It has three, non-adjustable 3 inch legs and will fit in the smallest pocket.. It can be attached to many subminis in such a way as to fold under the camera when not in use. It even comes with an attached velcro strap to tie the tripod to trees, fences or any other narrow, vertical support. The built-in mini-ballhead makes composing the picture a breeze. When using a tripod, or other support, a cable release will minimize blurring, if your camera allows its use.

Lugging along a tripod and cable release is not what most people have in mind when they think of using a submini camera. But if you shoot in a lot of low-light conditions, these can be accomodated without too much trouble. For most of us, practicing the tips listed above will solve most blurring problems except where extra large prints will be made. In these instances, a tripod or other firm support is essential.

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