How to take flashlight beamshots (with a budget camera)

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viktori
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How to take flashlight beamshots (with a budget camera)

How to take flashlight beamshots (with a budget camera)

I don't see this particular topic covered here. I'll cover some of the basics of taking beamshots, both with non-budget and budget cameras. Few tricks are described, more probably to follow.

Feel free to contribute. I'll add more info to my original post as time goes by.

 

If you have a good (expensive?) digital photo camera you can set full manual mode. For instance:

  • ISO 80
  • exposure  0.5s
  • lens aperture f8.0

You can experiment a bit and see which settings suit your camera best. What I wrote above should work in most cases. It depends on conditions you are taking beamshots at. If it's indoor, you probably need less than 0.5s exposure time, if you are taking thrower beamshots from 200m away you might want to increase exposure time. Your mileage may vary.

Other settings than these should work as well. For instance:

  • ISO 80
  • exposure 1s
  • lens aperture f5.6

or

  • ISO 400
  • exposure 1/4s = 0.25s
  • aperture f2.8

More examples are available in the replies after this post.

Find what works best for you and stick with it. If you plan on doing many beamshots of different lights over a prolonged period of time, it's wise to always use the same place for beamshots and always use the same camera with same settings. It's not always possible, though.

Remember that you can (reliably) compare beamshots taken only on the same sitting, or absolutely same conditions. Same dark tunnel with same camera and settings will work equally each time, but taking beamshots on a full moon and no moon will make a difference.

When taking beamshots always set your camera on a hard immovable surface, preferably a tripod. That goes for the flashlight as well. If your camera has delayed (self shot) photo taking, use it. It will ensure your pressing the switch won't move the camera after it starts taking the photo.

Never use flash for taking beamshots. If you use flash the beamshot will be influenced and foreground will most likely outshine the background, where the hotspot will most likely be. After all, hotspot is what we are mostly interested in. Camera flash will also wash out the spill area, if it exists.

 

Finding settings that work is easy with an expensive camera. Problems arise if you have a budget camera. Budget cameras usually don't have full manual mode. Taking beamshots with auto mode is useless beause the camera will compensate for the brightness difference and every beamshot will look similar. However, in most cases cameras have some form of Program mode (usually marked with a capital P). Not all cameras have same options in that mode.

 

Tonight I played with my budget level (but decent) digital photo camera. I have a Canon Ixus 105 IS (also known as SD1300 in US). It does NOT have full manual mode. Photos it takes are quite good, in all normal conditions. Taking beamshots on the other hand requires some tweaking.

 

What I found works best for taking beamshots with my camera is the fireworks mode. It uses these settings: ISO 80, exposure 0.5s, lens aperture 8.0. All are fixed, no automatic balancing of any sort by the camera. Be sure to try it if your camera has it.

 

Next best thing I can do with my camera is long exposure mode. It supports manual ISO adjustment and exposure time from 1 to 15 seconds. Aperture is fixed at 2.8 on this mode. When I use this mode even with the lowest exposure of 1s it tends to overexpose my indoor beamshots and fully saturate the beamshot hotspot, even with any common budget zoomie. It will work better for long distance beamshots.

 

Here are a few beamshots I've taken tonight while playing, just as examples. Don't use these for brightness reference, batteries were charged at different levels and most of them not recently. You can use them for beam size reference though, they were all taken with flashlights about 4.2m from the door that are 0.6m wide.

All of these are taken on fireworks mode with a Canon Ixus 105 IS, with both the camera and the flashlight being photographed standing on a shelf.

 

Cheap old AA

Cheap old single AA LED light, unknown emitter.

 

Sipik SK68 on a single 14500

Sipik SK68 on a single 14500.

 

Citipower G7 on high with a single 14500

Citipower G7 on high with a single 14500.

 

Cheap ebay zoomie on high with 3xAAA

Cheap ebay zoomie on high with 3xAAA.

 

Small Sun ZY-C10-S on high with 186500

Small Sun ZY-C10-S on high with 186500.

 

Keygos M12 on high with a 186500

Keygos M12 on high with a 186500. (bottom left intentionally blurred)

 

 

As you can see, some flashlights saturate sensor on my camera with this setting, but it's the best I can do with what I have at my disposal.

If you have a budget camera, don't give up. Explore it's settings and you might find something that can produce decent beamshots.

 

If you have some tips, links, stories, post them, I'll update my post with whatever useful info you have.

 

Good luck and have fun!

Viktor

This is my flashlight collection.

Edited by: viktori on 04/14/2012 - 12:57
viktori
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Tips & Tricks

In general, set everything to full manual if you can.

 

White balance

Set white balance to manual if available, setting of 5400 is reported to be neutral. Use white balance set to daylight if manual white balance is not available.

 

Useful modes for budget cameras

  • fireworks mode
  • long exposure mode
  • night landscape

 

Camera flash

Don't use it if you can help it. I've talked something about the reasons in the first post.

 

Focus

Manual, focused at the hotspot.

 

Dynamic Range Optimization

If you have Dynamic Range Optimization (or something to that effect) available on your camera, turn it off while taking beamshots. More details in the posts below.

 

A big thanks to everyone who is contributing to the thread!

This is my flashlight collection.

trooplewis
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I'm sure this thread will lead to quite a discussion, and different photographers may use different settings to accomplish decent beam shots. A lot of where you set your parameters is based on how bright your flashlight is. My goal when doing beamshots is to make the photo look as closely as possible to what the human eye sees.

I use 1/2" exposures for dimmer lights and 1/3" for brighter lights, but I ALWAYS set my aperture wide open, which for my camera is f2.8. I also set ISO to 400 and metering to pattern/matrix, not center-weighted.

Perhaps the most important setting is to put White Balance in manual mode. so that you get consistent colors in your beamshots. If you use Automatic White Balance, you defeat the whole purpose of taking the images to compare one to another. So I usually set it to 5400.

If your camera will not let you use manual settings for aperture and shutter speed, set it to Sports Mode if that is available. It will then give you wide-open aperture for your shots.

Focus is a big problem in manual settings, it takes me 3 or 4 test shots to get the manual focus sharp enough in dark surroundings.

 

Xin T6 C8

Settings for the above photo:

Exposure Time (1 / Shutter Speed) = 1/4 second ===> 0.25 second
Lens F-Number / F-Stop = 14/5 ===> ƒ/2.8
Exposure Program = manual control (1)
ISO Speed Ratings = 400
EXIF Version = 0221
Original Date/Time = 2012:03:15 20:00:31
Digitization Date/Time = 2012:03:15 20:00:31
Components Configuration = 0x01,0x02,0x03,0x00 / YCbCr
Exposure Bias (EV) = 0/1 ===> 0
Max Aperture Value (APEX) = 24361/8200 ===> 2.97
Max Aperture = ƒ/2.8
Metering Mode = pattern / multi-segment (5)
Light Source / White Balance = other (255)
Flash = n/a (8)
Focal Length = 25/1 mm ===> 25 mm

Rats, finally sold my 2010 509hp Mustang...now I can buy more lights!

Sold the red one too! Now guess what I drive, doing my penance for 500 hp commuters...

http://dreammustang.com/

http://i884.photobucket.com/albums/ac47/Ha

garrybunk
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Also remember to aim your flashlights at the same point. Surprising how much difference a little movement makes until you do a mouseover and try to compare them!

I found "Night Landscape" mode to work best on my cheap Nikon Coolpix L20. Not sure if I have a "Fireworks" setting.

-Garry

My Bike Lights Thread, Optics (TIR) Comparison Beamshots, Diffusion Techniques

, MTBR’s Lights & Night Riding Forum
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viktori
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I'm hoping for a discussion! Other opinions and different ways to accomplish something are useful for taking pictures for purposes like this one. Well, for photography in general. Wink

Your focus problems tell a story of their own.

All of my shots were taken at their first attempt (after I've found the setting that works). No repeats and focus problems. And compare how little light there is on my beamshots compared to your. I'd hazard a guess that focus problems will be gone if you use f8.0. Or your camera simply has problems with focus, it's not uncommon.

I have set white balance to daylight on all my beamshots above. I'll add some white balance info, good point.

Viktor

This is my flashlight collection.

Chicago X
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An inexpensive neutral density (ND) filter may help with the saturation issues.

 

Great thread, btw.

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trooplewis
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In Manual Focus mode, my camera has no problem at all, it is me that has the problem, and that is being able to assess focus visually on the LED screen in the dark, with a dark image. But once you get it right, you leave it at that setting for the rest of the shots for consistency.

Any setting that you leave to "AUTO" in beam comparisons will pretty much void a valid comparison between different flashlights.

Yes, focus problems would be eliminated with f8.0, but Shutter and Exposure settings would then lead to very poor image quality. I'm not sure I know anyone who shoots in dim light who doesn't leave aperture wide open. That is one of the three reasons that adjustable aperture exists.

Rats, finally sold my 2010 509hp Mustang...now I can buy more lights!

Sold the red one too! Now guess what I drive, doing my penance for 500 hp commuters...

http://dreammustang.com/

http://i884.photobucket.com/albums/ac47/Ha

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Do you guys realize that 2 different universes have just collided?  There is a another group of fanatics out there that live and breath cameras.  We shall call them "The Others".  They are like us in EVERY way except their weakness is cameras.  Actually they are in an "Antiverse".  We are all about Emitting light, they are all about Capturing it!

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Yes, it is all about photons, either sending them or receiving them!

BTW, if you see a beamshot you like, and want 'to take photos like that', Google "Exif viewer for (********)" the asterisks being the web browser you use. Once you download teh EXIF viewer, you can right click on any image on the internet and see what camera took the photo and what settings were used. Then you can just set your camera to the same settings, when possible.

Example

EXIF IFD0

    Image Description = OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
    Camera Make = OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP.
    Camera Model = E-620
    Picture Orientation = normal (1)
    X-Resolution = 72/1 ===> 72
    Y-Resolution = 314/1 ===> 314
    X/Y-Resolution Unit = inch (2)
    Software / Firmware Version = Version 1.0
    Last Modified Date/Time = 2012:02:08 19:38:20
    Y/Cb/Cr Positioning (Subsampling) = centered / center of pixel array (1)
    Print Image Matching = PrintIM
    version = 0300

EXIF Sub IFD

    Exposure Time (1 / Shutter Speed) = 1/2 second ===> 0.5 second
    Lens F-Number / F-Stop = 14/5 ===> ƒ/2.8
    Exposure Program = manual control (1)
    ISO Speed Ratings = 400
    EXIF Version = 0221
    Original Date/Time = 2012:02:08 19:38:20
    Digitization Date/Time = 2012:02:08 19:38:20
    Components Configuration = 0x01,0x02,0x03,0x00 / YCbCr
    Exposure Bias (EV) = 0/1 ===> 0
    Max Aperture Value (APEX) = 24361/8200 ===> 2.97
    Max Aperture = ƒ/2.8
    Metering Mode = pattern / multi-segment (5)
    Light Source / White Balance = other (255)
    Flash = n/a (8)
    Focal Length = 25/1 mm ===> 25 mm
    User Comment (Hex) = 0x41,0x53,0x43,0x49,0x49,0x00,0x00,0x00
    User Comment Character Code = ASCII
    User Comment =
    FlashPix Version = 0100
    Colour Space = sRGB (1)
    Image Width = 800 pixels
    Image Height = 600 pixels
    Image Source = 0x03,0x00,0x00,0x00
    Custom Rendered = normal process (0)
    Exposure Mode = manual exposure (1)
    White Balance = manual (1)
    Digital Zoom Ratio = 1/1 ===> 1
    Scene Capture Type = standard (0)
    Gain Control = high gain up (2)
    Contrast = normal (0)
    Saturation = normal (0)
    Sharpness = normal (0)

Rats, finally sold my 2010 509hp Mustang...now I can buy more lights!

Sold the red one too! Now guess what I drive, doing my penance for 500 hp commuters...

http://dreammustang.com/

http://i884.photobucket.com/albums/ac47/Ha

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LOL Big Smile

This thread is about best of the both worlds! Universe and antiverse working together in harmony! Smile

This is my flashlight collection.

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Use a tripod (or any steady surface) to have a wider field of view. 2.8 to 8.0 is just 3 full stops. For your example that would increase exposure from 0.25 secs to 2 secs. Set the ISO to 800 and you can reduce that back to 1 sec. 

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Some cameras have dynamic range optimization (DRO) or similar feature.  When on, this feature will try to make dark areas of the image brighter, and bright areas darker.  You don't want that, so always turn such features off.

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Help me, please!

I have an old bridge camera: Fuji FinePix S5700.
I want to make beamshot photo, but I can not do this.
There is a manual mode.

ISO: 64-100-200-400-800-1600
F: 3.5 – 4 – 4.5 – 5 – 5.6 – 6.3 – 6.8 – 13.6
Exposure time:1000-800-640-500-400-320-250-200-160-125-100-80-60-50-40-30-25-20-15-13-10-8-6-5-4-3-2.5-2-1.6-1.3-1”-1.3”-1.5”-2”-2.5”-3”-4”

Help me, what settings will be nice in the photos?
I would like to take pictures 100m target illuminated by C8.
Thanks!

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Hi WestBam,
you must try some settings:
I use this: ISO 200, F 5,6 Time 4” Sek. when it is possible Colour temperature 5200 K or Daylight.
You must try some other settings too.

Try 50-60 m for the shots. 100 m are to long, there is not enougth Lumen in the finish.

Is there a tree ore some other items at the end of the range. A white cloth 1*1 m woud be great.

Good luck, i hope we see some shots. Smile

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Anyone figured out how to take good beamshots with a Samsung smartphone?

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Hello Bluzie,
thanks for your reply! Tomorrow I’ll try your advice. I share my photos when completed Thumbs Up
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I have to subscribe on this one Thumbs Up

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AlexGT wrote:
Anyone figured out how to take good beamshots with a Samsung smartphone?

I wish! If anyone does it, let me know! Facepalm

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Bluzie wrote:
Hi WestBam,
you must try some settings:
I use this: ISO 200, F 5,6 Time 4” Sek. when it is possible Colour temperature 5200 K or Daylight.
You must try some other settings too.

Try 50-60 m for the shots. 100 m are to long, there is not enougth Lumen in the finish.

Is there a tree ore some other items at the end of the range. A white cloth 1*1 m woud be great.

Good luck, i hope we see some shots. Smile

Hello Bluzie,
the photos are very good!
Thank you for your help!

The right tree 100 meters away from me.
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luminarium iaculator wrote:
I have to subscribe on this one Thumbs Up
Me too. Amazing this thread was just resurrected after more than 4 years!

And interesting timing as I’m getting ready to try beamshots with a simple camera, here’s the two cameras I have to work with:

FUJI FINEPIX Z33WP (10MP)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W120 (7.2MP)

It looks like they both have manual mode, not sure what settings are available yet, charging batteries now.

 

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Both my cameras have limited settings in manual mode.

For trying beamshots the cannon has a Fireworks mode and the Fuji has a Sports mode.
The Fuji also has these modes: Night, Night Tripod, Sunset and Landscape

In post #2 it was advised to use “daylight” if the White Balance couldn’t be manually set to neutral. Not sure if that meant Sunlight or Daylight fluorescent? Anyone have experience with using an auto camera and know which settings would be best for beamshots/tint comparisons?

Here’s the options I have for the White Balance settings:

1. auto
2. direct sunlight
3. shade
4. daylight fluorescent
5. warm white fluorescent
6. cool white fluorescent
7. incandescent

 

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beam0 wrote:
Both my cameras have limited settings in manual mode.

For trying beamshots the cannon has a Fireworks mode and the Fuji has a Sports mode.
The Fuji also has these modes: Night, Night Tripod, Sunset and Landscape

In post #2 it was advised to use “daylight” if the White Balance couldn’t be manually set to neutral. Not sure if that meant Sunlight or Daylight fluorescent? Anyone have experience with using an auto camera and know which settings would be best for beamshots/tint comparisons?

Here’s the options I have for the White Balance settings:

1. auto
2. direct sunlight
3. shade
4. daylight fluorescent
5. warm white fluorescent
6. cool white fluorescent
7. incandescent


I’m not a photographer, but I’m pretty sure that the term “daylight” used means actual sunlight. The reasoning (I think) is that the sun is our most perfect source, and it doesn’t change from day to day. So, all the pics taken with White Balance set to “real sunlight” should be directly comparable for purposes of comparing colors and tints. No photograph is going to show exact tints, and we all see colors differently anyway. So, it’s not like you’re going to show someone what a Cree 3D tint is like. But, you can show how a Cree 3D compares to a 3C, or 5A, or 1D0, or even another manufacturer, like Nichia or Luminus.

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Thanks David for explaining, So I guess I’ll try the “Direct Sunlight” setting first.

………..

The Fuji also has Exposure Compensation & ISO, both can be adjusted.

For Exp. Comp. the higher number increases the exposure time, so I’m assuming I’d want that set highest for beamshots?

For the ISO (sensitivity to light?) I’m also assuming a higher setting? (According to the user manual higher settings reduce blur in low light settings)

 

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Thanks for the tips !!
This is a weakness for me and we have a Cannon Power Shot SX540 HS that I have tried to get pics with, but in Auto mode. Facepalm
We have 2 tripods too, so I will experiment. Another problem is finding a good place without interfering street lights and Mosquito’s or Deer/Horse flies. Wink
.
I found these settings on Google. Are they about correct, don’t want to damage the camera using the long shutter speed ?
.
How do I take pictures at night with my Canon PowerShot?
Below is how to set up your camera for night photography:
M – Manual mode.
Shutter Speed – 30 to 60 seconds. As it’s dark, a longer shutter speed will give enough time to let a lot of light to enter the camera. …
Aperture – f8, f11 or f 16. …
ISO – 100 or 200. …
Set White Balance to Auto. …
Manual Focus. …
Shoot in Raw.
.
.

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thanks for the resurrection.

we have been wondering about this as well.
please post more Budget Camera
(as in: really, really cheap)
pictures for evaluation.

no phones, please.
only dedicated cameras.