Question How good are the auto functions on dslrs?

globispica

Novice Member
Hi,
I'm thinking of buying a used or refurbished Pentax K-S2. It is reviewed well and comes with an unusually good kit lens, apparently. I haven't had a dslr before.

The idea is to walk about with the camera on full auto taking the shots as I see them in my garden, in my local park, wherever. I could then study what I've taken and then take the same shots with the camera on some other setting. Quite what I don't know yet. Hopefully this would help me to learn a bit.

I have friends who take very good photos with their smart phones and I think that they are always on auto. But I don't want to go down that route. But I would like to know how good photos are when taken on a dslr set to auto before I actually buy one.

Any ideas?
 

newbie1

Distinguished Member
Depends. If you are only going to look at the pics on your smartphone then you probably won’t see much difference.
 

stearman65

Active Member
I got my first DSLR back in 2007, a Nikon D200, I progressed through various Canon & Nikon alternatives. In 2011 after getting fed up with lugging all the paraphernalia associated with a DSLR I bought my first bridge camera, a Panasoninc FZ150. This completely transformed my keeper rate, instead of 2 or 3 in in 10, I was consistently getting 8's & 9 out of 10 using the intelligent auto function. Since then I've up-graded to a FZ1000 Mk1 & last month an FZ330. I've never bought a re-furbished camera or lens, if you can't afford new of your choice, save up until you can. Read the reviews in Amazon on your choice before buying, then decide.
 

snerkler

Distinguished Member
Auto is 'OK', but imo you're much better off taking a bit of time to learn the exposure triangle and the relationship between 3 factors that make up the triangle. It doesn't take long to get the basics tbh and your photography will be much better for it. Of course, you also need to learn composition and light :smashin:
 

AMc

Distinguished Member
I've bought refurbished cameras before and as long as they come with a decent warranty there's nothing to worry about.

I used to own a Pentax K100d DLSR. It is an old model but it was perfectly serviceable and was a good intro to photography after a very long break.
One advantage of Pentax is that they hadn't changed the lens mount from their earlier film cameras so there were lots of old manual lenses you could fit without adapters. They tend to be cheap(er) but you have to set the aperture and focus yourself which takes more effort.
The disadvantages was that Pentax are a small brand in the market so the choice of lenses (outside vintage) was limited and they weren't cheap.
I ended up moving to an Olympus Mirrorless camera system as the Pentax was bulky and I stopped taking it out with me because it was heavy.

There's nothing wrong with starting in Auto and you should be able to get better pictures than a camera phone, but you will only really get better results when you learn about exposure and how to control depth of field etc. which needs you to take some control in Program, Shutter or Aperture priority - eventually you'll sometimes want Manual.

I wouldn't buy a DSLR camera without trying it out. Get yourself along to a camera shop and try a few entry level cameras in your hands. You may find the size off putting or the position of the controls of one suits you better.
 

globispica

Novice Member
Thanks for the replies. Perhaps i should have told you more about what I intend to do...
I don't have a smartphone and don't want one. I do have a small digital snapper which is quite okay for auto shots of no importance.
However, my wife and I intend to make a hobby of visiting churches and recording what we see both internally and externally. So I read up a bit about what cameras would suit our new needs and I found the answer to be a DSLR because of the dimness in, say, small country churches. We will need a good camera and lens for low light in wide areas, Hope that's clear.
 

AMc

Distinguished Member
Church exteriors and interiors don't move very quickly ;) - so as long as you have a stable platform - tripod, mini tripod, pew, font etc. and you can control the shutter speed/ISO you should be able to get decent results with quite a modest camera and lens.

You may need to look at a wide angle lens for Church interiors.

This is just a test shot I took with a cheap "fisheye" lens with the camera resting on the font.

1/8th of a second at 9mm (18mm on a full frame camera) ISO 250

St. Mary's, South Walsham - Fisheye lens B&W
by AMc UK, on Flickr

On Automatic settings the camera would almost certainly have chosen a much faster shutter speed to compensate for expected camera shake and it would have increased the ISO considerably to make up for the lack of light. The result would probably have been a fairly sharp image but with a lot of "noise" in the picture from the high ISO.
By forcing a low ISO speed in the settings I made the camera choose a slower shutter speed (the aperture is fixed with this lens) because I knew the camera wouldn't move and nor would the subject.
 

AMc

Distinguished Member
This shot was taken at the same time in the same conditions, but I let the camera control the exposure.

It chose 1/125th of a second at ISO 5000 (same fixed aperture).
St. Mary's, South Walsham - Font Fisheye lens by AMc UK, on Flickr

I processed the images differently in Adobe Lightroom but you should see there is a loss of detail and smearing in the rafters of the roof.
You may also see that the auto exposure has "blown out" the detail in the window at the far end. I admit in the B&W shot I've also allowed the highlights from the windows blow out the pillar on the left, I was just trying the lens out and didn't really expect anything from the images at all.
 

Johnmcl7

Distinguished Member
Automatic mode on DSLRs tends to be poor because the bigger sensor gives you more choice but the camera doesn't necessarily know what you want to capture. For example if you want to shoot in very poor light then the widest aperture lets in the most light but then the tradeoff is you'll have very shallow depth of field (not much of the scene in focus). As mentioned above you need to learn how to balance your exposure to get the settings which suit your environment.

The second problem is that the output from the camera is usually unoptimised and to get the best out of the camera you need to process the files yourself. This is an area where smartphone are extremely good as they are able to automatically get great results from their small sensors.
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
For church interiors I would suggest -

  • Use the stock 17-55 lens but the think about Getting a wide angle lens, on a crop sensor something like a 10-22, or I had a tokina 12-28 which was good, or possibly a samyang 14mm or smaller (but these tend to be manual so bit more difficult to use) worth looking up reviews for lenses that have a predictable distortion that can easily be edited out. I use lenstip site for reviews, very comprehensive tests.
  • Once you get through the auto stage then using smaller apertures, say f8-f11 will give greater depth of field in focus but this will increase shuttered opening time and there as above will need tripod (often not allowed) or somewhere to rest/brace the camera. In auto maybe using a landscape setting if it has one will help.
  • Shot in RAW so you can play around with exposure/fill in shadows/convert to black and white etc after the fact.
  • Once you get the hang of it it may be worth looking into HDR where you combine under, normal and over exposed images to even out the shadows/bright windows etc.
  • And finally, as said above read up about the exposure triangle and how you balance aperture, exposure time and sensor sensitivity (ISO) and then how the choice of balance effects depth of view. There are plenty of web pages or buy “understanding exposure” book from amazon
Just a few pointers.
 

iainl7

Well-known Member
Understanding the exposure triangle is very, very useful. But that's partly because they allow you to give the Auto settings (which are generally fairly reasonable) a bit of help. They make assumptions about what you're trying to photograph - so they try to make most of the image roughly middling brightness, and the nearest thing in front of the camera is the item you're trying to focus on, for example. So snow will end up grey rather than white, or a black car gets overexposed to grey. Knowing when to dial in a bit of compensation can be a shot-saver.

Of course, when churches don't run away and you're instantly able to see the result of your bad shot, you can more easily try again and get something better.
 

snerkler

Distinguished Member
Thanks for the replies. Perhaps i should have told you more about what I intend to do...
I don't have a smartphone and don't want one. I do have a small digital snapper which is quite okay for auto shots of no importance.
However, my wife and I intend to make a hobby of visiting churches and recording what we see both internally and externally. So I read up a bit about what cameras would suit our new needs and I found the answer to be a DSLR because of the dimness in, say, small country churches. We will need a good camera and lens for low light in wide areas, Hope that's clear.
In which case I would certainly not recommend using auto modes. Also, as mentioned already you don't need a DSLR for this, other formats cam provide just as good results assuming a tripod is used in the low light areas to keep ISO down (high ISO's degrade images). That being said if you had say an olympus (micro four thirds system) with their fantastic IBIS (in body image stabilisation) you can handhold shots up to around 2 seconds in which case a tripod probably isn't necessary. Also, the micro four thirds is generally a much smaller system and the weight saving can be a godsend.

Also, for the record all DSLRs are not equal and some are much better in low light scenarios. There are APS-C DSLRs and full frame DSLRs, FF are generally better at handling low light but are expensive (comparing same age tech) and heavy, plus the lenses are also bigger and heavier (like for like).
 

globispica

Novice Member
My word, I can see there's a lot to take on board. And how much you guys know! I think I'll get intrigued with things like triangularity when I start to delve into them, and, if I struggle a bit, that would be good for the old brain.
I'm going to delay buying anything for a while, certainly until my arrow of direction is pointing in the right way. Then I'll come back here and start asking the right questions. Don't go away. Look at this thread in about 3 weeks to see where I am.
Many thanks to you all.
 

snerkler

Distinguished Member
My word, I can see there's a lot to take on board. And how much you guys know! I think I'll get intrigued with things like triangularity when I start to delve into them, and, if I struggle a bit, that would be good for the old brain.
I'm going to delay buying anything for a while, certainly until my arrow of direction is pointing in the right way. Then I'll come back here and start asking the right questions. Don't go away. Look at this thread in about 3 weeks to see where I am.
Many thanks to you all.
There is a hell of a lot to learn with photography, however learning the exposure triangle and the relationship between ISO, Aperture and Shutter isn't that taxing to get the basic idea and it will help immensely, you can then learn the rest as you go.

Understanding ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture - A Beginner's Guide
Understanding ISO for Beginners - Photography Basics
Understanding Aperture - A Beginner's Guide
Understanding Shutter Speed for Beginners - Photography Basics
 

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