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Did you use tripod and flash for night time photos? The good thing about the DSLR or mirrorless (doesn't need to be expensive) is you can manually adjust the exposure that would be helpful for night time photography. A new Canon T5i would be around $400 which would suit your budget but it only comes with the 18 to 55 mm kit lens, so it might not be enough for your need.
 

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Did you use tripod and flash for night time photos? The good thing about the DSLR or mirrorless (doesn't need to be expensive) is you can manually adjust the exposure that would be helpful for night time photography. A new Canon T5i would be around $400 which would suit your budget but it only comes with the 18 to 55 mm kit lens, so it might not be enough for your need.
No tripod, but I do stabilize it with walls or things like that. I keep the flash off, since that seems to darken the pictures. I play around with the exposure length in some manual modes with my point-and-click, and can do decent without any real experience.

One thing that irritates me with my nighttime pictures is when I have a direct source of light in the picture. Then I get the rings emanating outward. Or, if I want to get a lighted sign, the light all blurs together. Take the picture below. The lighted right turn sign is all a green blur. The streetlights make the street scene much less crisp than I would like. I'd like something that would make this much better.

 

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Looks like you took this photo by zooming in, unlike the DSLR's optical zoom, your camera uses the digital zoom instead and thats probably one of the reasons that the image isn't as clear as you want. I don't shoot much night photos but I guess the flare coming from the streetlights is probably caused by over exposure, whats the aperture and shutter speed setting you used and does your camera has ISO adjustment feature?

The photo also looks a little bit yellow, it might have something to do with the white balance setting.
 

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Looks like you took this photo by zooming in, unlike the DSLR's optical zoom, your camera uses the digital zoom instead and thats probably one of the reasons that the image isn't as clear as you want. I don't shoot much night photos but I guess the flare coming from the streetlights is probably caused by over exposure, whats the aperture and shutter speed setting you used and does your camera has ISO adjustment feature?

The photo also looks a little bit yellow, it might have something to do with the white balance setting.
I zoomed in with just optical zoom; my point-and-click has a 30x optical zoom. I typically set the exposure length at 1/4, 1/5, or 1/6, and usually that's all I adjust. I can also change the aperture, and there is an ISO setting too, I think, but I am unsure on what direction in either means what, and how much to use them.
 

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Another thing I should mention is longer the focal length in the zoom you use, lower the quality of the photo you will get, your camera does have good optical zoom, but the photo comes out from the zoom won't be as good as the images using no zoom. The P & S camera has a lens integrated with the body, so it is possible to have a very high zoom range over the DSLR with which you need to get a separated telephoto lens to match and that can be super expensive, long and heavy but the quality would be much better than the P&S.

I prefer using the complete manual setting when taking night photos such as moon shots and cars' light trails etc for it will give me more control over the exact exposure effect I want on the photos

I have posted some articles about the exposures here including the ISO and other topics from some photography sources, you can check it out and hopefully you may find it useful.

http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?p=144812709#post144812709


Back on your question about the street light thing, I'd try to use ISO 100 to 200, aperture from f5.6 to f8 and shutter speed probably would take a full second and may be longer because of the low iso number we are going to use. Don't be afraid to play around with the combinations of the exposure settings, even the professionals usually take many shots in order to get one satisfactory.
 

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I zoomed in with just optical zoom; my point-and-click has a 30x optical zoom. I typically set the exposure length at 1/4, 1/5, or 1/6, and usually that's all I adjust. I can also change the aperture, and there is an ISO setting too, I think, but I am unsure on what direction in either means what, and how much to use them.
There are 3 components to consider for a good exposure. Each has a drawback and a bonus. In short:

  • ISO: the sensitivity of the chip to light
    • Good: the higher the number, the more sensitive to light. On higher ISO, you can get a bright picture with a shorter exposure or smaller aperture.
    • Bad: the higher the ISO, the more noise will appear. This is usually where the difference between cheap and expensive cameras shows.
    • Way to go: keep the ISO as low as the situation allows for.
  • Shutter speed: The amount of time the chip is exposed to light. It is expressed in seconds.
    • Good: The longer the exposure, the brighter the picture.
    • Bad: the longer the exposure, the higher the likelihood of having blurry images. Shutter speeds lower than 1/125 often show motion blur. Also, when using a flash, you often can't go faster than 1/250, because otherwise the flash might not yet have fired when the exposure happens.
    • Way to go: try to keep the exposure time 1/x or shorter, with X being the focal distance (on 20mm, you can go for an exposure of 1/20, on 125mm, don't go for longer than 1/125). When going for longer exposures, use support, like a tripod.
  • Aperture: The amount of light that is allowed to pass through the photographic objective (aka. the lens). It is measured in a fraction of full opening. So a f/8 means you only use 1/8th of the full opening of the aperture. f/4 means you use 1/4th, etc.
    • Good: The lower the number, the more light you let in. The higher the number, the greater the depth of field - this means it will be easier to have a lot of things in focus, and to get a very crisp, sharp image.
    • Bad: The lower the number, the shorter the depth of field is (ie. it's harder or even impossible to get the whole picture in focus), and the more lens faults will show, such as chromatic aberration.
    • Way to go: use f/8 through f/11 for most purposes. It's where most lenses perform best for sharpness. Lower numbers can be useful for low light settings or where super fast shutter speeds are needed (like sports photography), but have limited use for architectural and landscape photography. Higher numbers have some use for situations with a lot of light (bright midday sun etc.), although filters like a Neutral Density Filter or a Polariser might be better solutions for that.


What you need for that pic with the right turn sign, is a normal aperture (f/8 through f/11), a normal ISO (100 through 400) and a very long exposure (several seconds, probably 5-10). The sign will probably still be overexposed to the point where you can't see what it says, but the light sources wont appear as blotches anymore, but more like little stars. You could still get detail back on that sign with some more advanced techniques that involve post-production, like merging multiple exposures (either automated HDR or by artisanal cut-and-paste work in PS) or with some good RAW processing.

I also suggest you try taking night pics immediately after sunset, as there will still be some light in the sky. This makes for a more balanced distribution of light and dark. A pitch black sky with no detail often weighs down on a photo.
 

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Hello, I currently have a Panasonic Lumix GX80 (Micro 4/3) with a 30mm 2.8 lens from Sigma and a 40-150mm 2.8 lens from Olympus.

I am considering something with a wider angle for urban photography of good quality for this camera. I am hesitating between the 17mm 1.8 from Olympus, the 7-14mm 2.8 also from Olympus and the 12mm 1.4 from Leica.

Any opinion here?
 

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It's up to you to decide which focal length you prefer. What do you mean by urban photography anyway? If you'd like to capture street photos [of strangers], then the 17 should be a good choice. If you intend to take cityscapes then a ultra wide angle (such as the 7-14) would be more useful.
 

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take night photos without a tripod. Maybe it's time for you to move up to an entry-level SLR, Matt. The Digital Rebel XT--a fantastic camera--is now available for around $450, the price of some digicams
 
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