400d Long Exposure Problem


TPF Noob!
Jan 4, 2008
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Hello all,

I am a new 400d owner and I have been looking forward to taking some low light long exposure shots. Since I still have my Christmas tree up I thought Hey! Why not start with that!

I currently use the 400d and the canon 18-55 IS lens. I have a cheap tripod but I don't extend it all the way so it is pretty steady. I shoot in Av mode and I have been changing the f/stop. The tree is fairly bright but while shooting in ISO 100 my pictures are 95% blurry about every time. This is on the tripod and very steady using the 10 second self timer, I am not touching the camera at all and no one else is in the house. It doesn't matter if the shutter speed is 4 sec or 20 sec it is always blurry. When I shoot at ISO 400 I don't really blur that much.

I am wondering why I am getting so much blur at ISO 100 while using a tripod. This maybe a stupid question but it is really confusing me. I am hoping that it is something I am doing and not the camera. I have taken about 300 shots in the last 3 days and all of them are blurred like this when in ISO 100. Below are a few examples to show what I am talking about.

This shot is ISO 400, 1sec exposure, f/8. Since I am using ISO 400 in this shot it is pretty good but I still think it should maybe be a little sharper.

This shot is using ISO 100, 4sec exposure, f/8. As you can see now it is starting to get really blurry. This is with a tripod and the self-timer.

This is using ISO 100, 20sec exposure, f/20. In this image the blur is horrible. Again I am using a tripod and the self-timer.

The more pictures I take the more I think that maybe there is something wrong with the camera but I have used an SLR camera in a few years so I could be doing something wrong.

Rob, first downsize your photos, heh heh. I think they ask that you limit inline images to 800 pixels here.

Next, make sure your IS function is turned OFF when on a tripod. If it was turned ON and you were using a tripod, that's probably the reason since tripods mess up the IS algorithms and will actually add blur to your photos.
Thanks for the reply. Sorry about the image sizes, I have no posted smaller versions. I did take them with the IS turned on. I will try later tonight with IS turned off. I was told when I bought the lens that the IS didn't matter if it was off or on when doing a long exposure so I just left in on.

When should I be using the IS and not using it?
Welcome to the forum.

I believe that some lenses with IS, actually sense when they are on a tripod and deactivate. Maybe this lens doens't.

Anyway, that is one thing that I would certainly try...because what you are seeing is certainly a problem. Also, does your camera have MLU (mirror lock up)? That might help to get sharper shots...but I don't think that the mirror slap would cause the level of blur that we are seeing here.
Mav is right, using IS on a tripod is not good.

IS is for when your hand shooting. Switch it off when your on the tripod.

There is absolutely no reason that a lower ISO would increase noise, its just that using a lower ISO has forced the shutter open for longer, 4x longer, so the vibration caused by bad use of IS is far more noticeable.

Switch off the IS when your on your tripod and always try to shoot in the lowest ISO possible and I'm sure you'll do fine :)
I was told when I bought the lens that the IS didn't matter if it was off or on when doing a long exposure so I just left in on.

When should I be using the IS and not using it?
You may have been told wrong. When in doubt, check the manual. :wink: I'm more familiar with Nikon's VR system of course and I think they're pretty much the same vs Canon IS, but at least with the Nikons in most cases you need to turn VR off when you're on a tripod since it isn't smart enough to know otherwise. Some lenses might be different, though.

BTW, nice tree! :mrgreen:
I looked up in a review and it says that this lens has tripod detection but I couldn't find anything in the manual to say so.

I am wondering if this lense was worth the extra money now.
:shrug: - maybe it didn't detect your tripod, or maybe the review was wrong.

It's definitely a great feature to use if you shoot handheld in dim or available light since it'll let you shoot at much slower shutter speeds, and thus use lower ISOs for cleaner photos. It's a killer lens for walking around city streets at night doing urban shooting. The larger aperture primes can do the same thing, but they don't zoom, and sometimes the tiny depth of field from those isn't exactly what you want. The IS/VR feature just gives you more artistic freedom. I've gotten by just fine without it though at 18-55mm focal lengths for my personal needs, since i don't shoot like that much. Actually, for shooting my daughter who never sits still, VR isn't going to do anything for me at all, which is why I passed on a Nikon 18-200VR back in the day. It's the most helpful and useful for me at longer focal lengths like on my 70-300 VR lens. I can get by just fine at 1/60s at 300mm as opposed to needing more like 1/320s which would force the camera to a much higher and noisier ISO, or needing a ton more flash power, if using a flash was even viable.
Agreed, having IS is a great feature. However, it can be *more* useful on longer lenses.

Just remember that all IS lets you do is steal a few more moments with the shutter open. No need to use it on the tripod etc...

Its great for hand holding, especially when the light starts to drop.
Thank you all for your help. This evening I will try taking a few more shots and I will let you all know how they came out. I just hope when I turn on IS when I am using the camera handheld that I also don't get a lot of blurring.
This is my poster child photo for VR still being a great thing to have on shorter focal length lenses.

The Louvre museum in Paris in the pre-dawn hours.

D80, 18-55 @ 18mm, f/3.5 (wide-open), 1/8s, iso1600, handheld. That calculates out to about 2.5EV which is pretty dark. (EV calculator)

I did actually have my tripod with me, but since it was freezing and we wanted to keep moving to stay warm (wife was with me) I just did the best I could without it. VR would have let me take this shot at 1/2s and iso400 rather than 1/8s and 1600. I took three shots and luckily this one was pretty darn sharp and blur free. It was pretty noisy, but with a little post-processing in DxO it cleaned right up, and I have a 20x30" print of it now and it looks beautiful! :mrgreen:

So at least in this range, it's nice to have but not an essential, unless of course you take photos like this all the time in which case it'd be indispensible since it'd let you leave your clumsy tripod at home. In the really extreme situations with even less light, or where you want even more depth of field or quality, even VR won't help you and you'll be on the tripod anyways at iso100.
wow, that is a terrific picture. I hope to take a few like that someday.
The Louvre museum in Paris in the pre-dawn hours.

Totally and completely beside the point of this post... every time I see that horrible pyramid I wonder what on EARTH the people who designed it and paid for it could have possibly been thinking... it would be difficult to have come up with a more horribly inappropriate structure in that size range to put there.
To clarify (for ignorant people like me! :blushing:), the IS function is on the lens itself rather than the body?

This is not the 'kit lens' is it?
On Nikon and Canon systems, the stabilization feature is built into the lenses themselves where "supposedly" it's more effective than the body mounted stabilization systems like on Pentax. The advantage of Pentax is that you have the stabilization on every lens you use, albeit perhaps a bit less effective. On Nikon and Canon you get "claimed" more effective IS/VR on the lenses, but then of course you have to buy the feature for every lens since it's not in the body. I don't think either way is superior, just different.

And yes these are the "kit" lenses. I'm not sure if Nikon is going to be discontinuing their non-VR 18-55 kit lens or not - ditto with Canon. I suspect they might be, but who knows.

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