Tuesday, January 22, 2013

POTUS demonstrates wrong way of handling DSLR

Just because the president of the United States holds his camera the wrong way doesn't mean you should too. I was aghast at this very picture when it appeared online. Not because it was an endorsement for Canon, but rather how it can become a souce example on the right or wrong way to hold up a DSLR.
"Hey look, President Obama holds it up this way so I must be right!"
Go ahead. Shoot that blurry picture. I know you want to.

Hand Holding Damage Control
When I was consulting for Sony, we had an in-depth discussion on how to address camera shake as the public at large will be taking the inbuilt stablizing mechanism for granted and by holding it any way they want, they could induce camera-shake and later blame it on the mechanism for not working.
We went into detail on what should be publicized and at the same time find out why people are more inclined to hold cameras that way. It became apparent that this was what people did with point and shoot digital compact cameras (DCC).
You held it up by the sides and avoid touching the barrel as DCCs had a moving zoom lens which you are not suppose to touch. So this was carried over to DSLRs and became an unconscious hand holding method.
In the end, we had to rectify this and we did a series of "how-to" tutorials just to teach people the right and wrong way to hold the DSLR.

Palm Support for DSLR
The correct way to hold the DSLR stems from the time of SLRs. You placed your left palm under the DSLR to carry the weight of the camera, sort of like cradling it, while your thumb and forefinger worked the lens focus ring.
These days, with all DSLR having autofocus, the need to focus with your fingers has been negated but that doesn't mean you can't or are not suppose to do this.
Using your left palm to support both the camera and lens of a DSLR has become even more crucial in the digital age for one simple reason. Weight.
In the old days, the SLR was an all metal beast, and this included the lens. The weight of the camera and lens together was a stablizing factor once you held it right. What's more, Pros will have their motor drive mated to their SLRs giving them even more weight to carry. In physics, all physical objects have a center of gravity and you need to take advantage of this as a stabilizing force.
DSLRs today are made to be far lighter and smaller and unless you had one of those with a huge battery pack, chances are they are far lighter than the SLRs of old.

Stablizing Factors
Holding it correctly is probably only one part of the equation, you also need to know how to lock your elbows to your chest for additional stability.
Then there is the question of inbuilt anti-shake stabilizers which unfortunately is not going to save you even if you held your DSLR wrongly.
Trusted that some systems can save you up to 2 stops in camera shake, this is by far only an estimation. The problem is simple, testing anti-shake mechanisms is like dabbling in the blacks arts. What are the parameters for testing camera shake? Do you need a Richter scale? How much shake is attached to each camera stop? In 2009, Nishi labs came out with a machine that could measure camera shake from mirror and shutter movement but that's hardly useful if you want to measure real life situations.
"Got a earth quake coming? No problem, my camera can handle that."
Oh so you think.
Each camera manufacturer has a different value and different way of measuring these stablizers. There is no standard ISO based system to determine this.
What some third parties have done is to determine the effectiveness of Lens based shake stabilizers versus Camera based one.
It was later apparent that lens stablizers were more effective in long telephoto lenses while camera based stablizers were better at low to medium range telephoto ranges.
Regardless of these finding, you still need to learn how to hold your camera properly to stop those blurry pictures from happening. I'd be more than happy to demostrate this if someone in the White House needs a lesson in this. 


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