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Photography Question 
Roxana Laing

Telephotos, high speed film, & graininess

I'm a relative newbie when it comes to photography, but I've always been told that in order to compensate for a telephoto len's shake, one should never use film speed of less than 400 (using a 100-300mm lens here). However, I find the results are always super-grainy and very discouraging.

It seems there are tons of beautiful photos out there obviously done with telephoto lenses, and sharpness doesn't seem to be problem with THOSE pictures. What am I doing wrong? Can film quality play that important a role? Other? (I generally use Fuji Superia 400 or 800 speed).

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8/20/2001 11:19:00 AM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
The advice you got deals with camera shake indirectly. The rule of thumb is a shutter speed of "one over the focal length" for hand held work. That means a 100mm or 135mm lens should not be hand held at slower than 1/125th second. How much you can push this depends on how steady you are and how well you can brace the camera. Ultimately, hand holding anything slower than 1/30th is not recommended. With some practice, it is possible to get away with 1/30th up to about 75mm or 85mm, but it's risky (1/60th is safer).

200mm is about the limit for hand held. Longer than that generally requires a tripod, monopod or some other method for solidly holding the camera still. Even if you can shoot at 1/1000th, it becomes very difficult to maintain composition.

There are a number of possible reasons for the graininess, not the least of which is the fast film speed, especially with ISO 800. Other possibilities include underexposure (for negative or print films) that is compensated for by underexposing the print. I suggest getting a good, sturdy tripod if you are frequently shooting at the long end of your zoom range. It will let you run slower film with slower shutter speeds. With a tripod, the remaining consideration is subject motion, how fast it is and how much you want to stop motion of the subject(s) in the image. (There are some tricks to panning with a tripod.)

-- John L.

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8/20/2001 7:41:24 PM

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