Will I get good pics on "auto" with a canon S3

Oct 4th, 2008, 12:29 PM
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Will I get good pics on "auto" with a canon S3

Bought a new camera for our trip to Tanzania( leaving Oct.9!!!!!). A Canon S3IS; have been practicing but don't understand a thing in instruction book other than the basics. Will only use the auto setting. Just curious if I will get good pictures that way without knowing anything about f stops and aperture openings. I live in the Pocono mts. where nothing is close and nowhere to have taken a class. Thanks.

KRNS is offline  
Oct 4th, 2008, 01:14 PM
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That's a very difficult question, as "good" is a bit of a judgement call!

Modern cameras have very good automatic programme modes. In most situations, they will allow you to take a correctly-exposed and well-focused shot without having to make any choices of settings manually.

In some cases, where lighting is good and the subject matter straightforward and you're not looking for a specific effect (such as long exposure to blur motion or water, or fast exposure to freeze motion, or wide aperture to blur blackground), you'll get as good a picture as from a more professional camera, or as close to d***it.

The difficulty lies in the less straightforward shooting situations and when you want to achieve something other than regular "snap".

For example, I love the "shallow depth of field" look. This is where only a small plane is in focus and the rest is blurred, for example, imagine the lion is exactly 10 feet away from you, the depth of field selected gives sharp focus to everything from 9.5 to 10.5 feet away from you but anything nearer or further is soft. I like that look. And usually, to achieve it, I manually select a suitable aperture. Now, even in Programme mode, I can get a good picture of that lion, nicely exposed, good focus. But it's not quite what I want.

Also, imagine that same lion but with the sun directly behind it. So you have an object the face of which is in the shade/dark surrounded by bright, bright sky. A camera in automatic mode has to guess the correct exposure and uses complex evaluative metering to work out what that is, but having a lot of bright areas in the frame can throw it out. So, depending on whether I want to exaggerate the lighting and get a silhouette, or whether I want to be expose to see the detail in the lion's face, I use manual exposure compensation to either over or under expose compared to what the camera's automatic metering suggests.

These are the kinds of things where being able to understand a little more than basics helps achieve an image you have in your mind.

BUT really, automatic modes are extremely good these days, with some very very very clever software. You will still be able to get some images that you are pleased with and which will give you many memories of your trip.

Instead of the instruction book that comes with the camera (those things never make any sense) I'd recommend buying a good basic teach-yourself photography book instead.
Kavey is offline  
Oct 4th, 2008, 01:22 PM
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Images in this gallery were taken on a Canon Powershot S2 IS, if that is of interest. You can see the camera model used below the photo.
Kavey is offline  
Oct 4th, 2008, 01:22 PM
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Images in this gallery were taken on a Canon Powershot S2 IS, if that is of interest. You can see the camera model used below the photo.

Kavey is offline  
Oct 4th, 2008, 01:41 PM
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KRNS~I used the Canon S3IS for my last two trips to Africa. You can see my pics at

Kgalagadi 2008, MalaMala and Kruger albums.

I left it on auto the whole time. Got some good pics I think.
matnikstym is offline  
Oct 4th, 2008, 02:00 PM
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KRNS, I use my S3IS on auto all the time, but I think my photos would be better if I learnt how to use the camera properly.
Photos from this year: http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLan...localeid=en_US
Nyamera is offline  
Oct 4th, 2008, 03:21 PM
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We prefer the P mode. It's very much like Auto but you have a couple more choices. P mode - 1st set the ISO on auto, this is actually no change from Auto mode. We like to set the white balance from AWB to "cloudy", this gives "warmer" images. And finally we set the flash to "on". So with P, flash on, and the flash flipped up the flash will fire every time. This is very useful when photographing subjects in strong sunlight (huh?).

Having said all this, you may be perfectly happy with Auto mode.

And don't forget the video mode. Just press that red button to start and stop. It will auto focus and you can zoom and the videos are very nice quality.

regards - tom
ps - probably the biggest factor in getting good photos is getting sharp photos. Practice holding the camera very still and steady. The S3's IS, Image Stabilization, helps a lot but you still count.
cary999 is offline  
Oct 4th, 2008, 07:42 PM
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I used an S3 last year and an S5 this year for safaris in TZ and Kenya. Got very good results; not professional quality, but still very good for an amateur (search on my screen name and you can check out the results.)

I used AUTO almost exclusively for the first safari, and did nothing to steady the camera. Second trip (with an S5), I still defaulted to AUTO, but used the Portrait setting if I was focusing on a single animal, and the Landscape setting for scenery shots. Both of these choices gave me much better results in those situations.

The best thing I did was to take a monopod (a $40 ProMaster). I used it for every shot I took in the LandCruisers and it made a huge difference in picture quality. It also allows you to take reasonably good video with the Canon. Take extra memory to take video, you won't regret it. Dead simple and the quality isn't bad. With the monopod you can eliminate camera wobble and it really makes it easy to pan horizontally following animals. (We had a private safari with two couples, and had enough elbow room to accommodate the photographic efforts of the crowd - if you are in a landcruiser with 5 or more people, it might not work as well...)

And when all else fails, you can save a lot of pictures with Photoshop Elements, worth every penny and the time it takes to use it.

Otis72 is offline  
Oct 5th, 2008, 08:44 AM
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Everyone is so kind to respond, and in such detail. I was worried I wasted money by buying a new and expensive camera. The photo galeries are wonderful, actually have seen some already as I check out this site every single day and have read hundreds of trip reports.Thank you all SO MUCH!!!

KRNS is offline  
Oct 5th, 2008, 09:22 AM
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Some great advice on maximising results in Auto and P mode!

I would second the suggestions to keep the camera steady - camera shake is a killer!

One tip that will help is to ask your safari guide/driver to switch off the engine when you stop at a sighting. You'd be surprised at how that engine shake can make a difference, especially if it's a touch dark. Most are used to photographers requesting this and many do it without being asked but it may be worth mentioning if need be.
Kavey is offline  
Oct 6th, 2008, 04:40 AM
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I used a Canon S3 IS also, and was very happy with my pictures. Usually I used auto.

Sometimes I flipped to other settings (just using the little dial on top, to choose landscape or portrait, for example.) Sometimes I took a picture, switched the little dial, and took another one, rather than stressing about the 'right' setting.

The one thing I would suggest reading about and practicing beforehand, is how to shoot in 'burst' mode (I think that is what it is called). That's when the camera keeps taking additional pictures as long as you hold your finger down on the shutter. Occasionally, for quick action scenes, this is great, but it does NOT work in fully automatic mode. I think maybe it works in sport mode (which again you can flip to using the little dial on top).

The one other scenario when auto might not give what you want is when you have a really difficult lighting situation, such as a leopard in dark shade in a tree, where the day is very very bright. For especially difficult lighting, if you can specifically learn how to force your camera to do automatic exposure bracketing it would be helpful, but don't stress. Most of the time the S3 auto setting really works amazingly well, so if this hint sounds too complex, don't worry a bit.

And finally, the image stabilizing works really well. I didn't have any problem from my hands shaking or from the engine vibration, and I didn't use any tripod or beanbag or anything.

Of course, I'm obviously not a 'photographer', but I just want to reassure you that you can get wonderful pictures just using auto.

have a great trip, and show us your results when you get home!
ann_nyc is offline  
Oct 6th, 2008, 10:24 AM
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You have put my mind to rest. I appreciate the reassurance and suggestions. I shall post my pics, my husband knows how to do that and maybe I'll try to learn, but we shall definitely post a trip report. Being an avid reader, this site has taken up much of my reading time; enjoyed so many trip reports that I started thinking about my next trip, probably basing it on the recent post "Affordable Botswana." All the info on preparing for this first African trip has been invaluable and you all are such terrific people. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!!!!

Asante, Karen
KRNS is offline  
Oct 6th, 2008, 04:03 PM
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KRNS, Have my Canon S31S right in front of me. Just got thru looking at pictures we took yesterday of wild elk here in northcentral Pennsylvania. Used Auto for the most part but did as earlier posted mentioned used the Landscape mode now and then. Was very pleased with how pics came out given lighting situation and distance. One of a big bull and harem was from several hundred yards away and I was very pleased given the distance. Image stabilizer certainly made a difference. Should we be fortunate enough to return to East Africa next year I will be very satisfied to have the S31S with me. Will however, do a bit more practice so I can use additional features. In particular I had issues on previous trips when photographing a bird up in a tree with light/bright background. Need to use the spot meter more and the bracketing feature mentioned earlier.
Strongly suggest practicing your camera on everyday subject around your home/apartment. I even used toy birds in various light situations to get a better feel for the camera. The Canon S3IS is quite a camera and more than adequate for safari use for us generalists.
rsnyder is offline  

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