Articles, Insights, and Tutorials
Agfa ePhoto 1680 Digital Camera
Megapixel resolution adds to picture quality.
Exposure priority adds exciting options.
Click on the thumbnail pictures below for full screen viewing - Comments as applicable can be seen when you bring up the full screen view of each picture.
Notes - All photos taken in the camera's "1280" mode (1280X960) and resized to 640X480 pixels, then compressed to around 100K (or less) using ThumbsPlus. At this reduced size, very little quality is lost, and the pictures download to your screen relatively quickly.
The file sizes of the pictures are shown below the thumbnails in approximate kilobytes (bytes x 1000) to give you an idea of download time.
P-40 Tune Up
1/2 Second Shutter Speed
Casting for Bait
- Exposure priority options (for action shots, especially).
- Instant delete option while processing.
- The big, threaded lens. "It just looks serious" about being in the picture taking business, and the 46 mm size is easy to fit with accessory lenses and filters.
- Time delay shutter release is available with all picture taking modes, including macro.
- 1280x960 resolution. That megapixel stuff really does make a difference.
- Speed - boots quickly, changes modes quickly, processes quickly.
O.K. - So if you're not a professional photographer or a serious "camera bug", you're probably saying "I think I've heard of it, but what is it?" Or, "Why should I even care when all I really want is a nice, sharp picture?"
Yes, it is truly wonderful to have a camera you can put on "automatic" and get a good picture by just pressing the shutter button. Auto focus, auto exposure, just 'point & shoot'. But there are times when "automatic" just won't get what you see in your "mind's eye" when you take a picture. Blurred shots from movement. Backgrounds out of focus. Something "missing" to the feel of the picture.
All of the better digital cameras have some 'manual setting' options to adjust for conditions that might be a little too bright or too dark. Some have focal point options. But that's about it until you step up to the $2,000 to $30,000+ range of digital cameras.
A couple of currently produced lower priced cameras have preset "sports" or "portrait" settings that hit the edge of exposure priority. And that's nice... if the "good" high resolution digital cameras even had these options, I might not be all that excited about the Agfa 1680. What makes the 1680 so special is the wide range of settings you can make in these areas.
Exposure priority gives you the ability to catch your jumping puppy without blurring, or have the mountains in the background of your picture look as sharp as the object that's only 10 feet away from you. It can get you a sharp, crisp picture of your primary subject and have the background be "in the background". It can catch the splash in the swimming pool in "mid-air". It can give just a "slight blur" to a runner against a sharp, crisp background to give a sense of speed. It can capture the look and feel of what you see in dim or available light without the harshness often resulting from flash photography.
Setting exposure priority on the 1680 means that the camera tells it's internal processor to "look at me first". With a priority setting made, the camera then adjusts it's shutter speed (if aperture priority was set) or aperture (if shutter priority was set) to let enough light in to expose the picture properly.
You can't set both as "priority" at the same time. It would eliminate the automatic exposure. That's because automatic exposure is a function of aperture (how big of an opening the light passes through) and shutter speed (how fast the shutter opens an shuts to let the light through the aperture). If you manually controlled both, you would no longer have automatic exposure.
To ensure proper exposure, the 1680 will distinctly show a red warning symbol with a "+" or "-" sign in the LCD screen if your priority setting is likely to cause an over or underexposure. If you see the warning symbol, you can redo your priority settings accordingly. Thus, even with "exposure priority", there is a built in safeguard for achieving good quality photos.
There are three primary reasons for using exposure priority:
- Stop-action pictures. Use 1/125 second or faster shutter speeds as your "priority" setting.
- Controlling depth of field. By using aperture settings as the "priority", you can increase or decrease the range of sharp focus (depth of field).
- To reduce the likelihood of blurring from "camera shake". Some people have a hard time holding a camera rock steady when pressing the shutter button. Also, on telephoto shots or extreme close-ups, even slight camera movement is accentuated, resulting in blurred pictures. Setting the shutter speed to 1/125 second or faster is a way to deal with "camera shake".
Again, remember the basic rule - With a priority setting made, the camera adjusts it's shutter speed (if aperture priority was set) or aperture (if shutter priority was set) to let enough light in to expose the picture properly.
Use each to your intent - if you get out of bounds enough to possibly cause an over or underexposure problem, the camera will warn you.
Comments in my sample pictures will tell you more about the practical use of exposure priority.
Remember, the camera also has a fully "automatic" setting, too. (If you don't want to use manual overrides.)
Guidelines for exposure priority settings on the 1680
- Manual shutter speed settings available:
1/2 Second: Camera support a must. Recommend using time delay shutter release to absolutely eliminate camera movement. Use for dim existing lighting conditions. Use only for inanimate and absolutely stationary subjects. Not for use with "anything that breathes or has a pulse". Long shutter time usually sets a small enough aperture to give excellent depth of field.
1/4 Second: Camera support a must. Recommend using time delay shutter release. For dim existing light conditions. This is as slow as you should ever go while taking a picture of a posed, "I promise to hold absolutely still for the picture" person. Even then, a possible light blur from the slightest movement.
** I often use 1/4 or 1/2 second exposures for sunrises and sunsets.
1/8 Second: Camera support a must. Recommend using time delay shutter release. For dim existing light conditions. A better speed for taking a picture of a posed person. (Less likely to get a blur from slight movement.)
1/15 Second: Camera support still required for most people... some "rock steady" photographers can handhold the camera at this speed for normal or wide-angle shots. For dim existing light conditions.
1/30 Second: Slowest recommended speed for hand-held use. Good all-around existing light shutter speed.
1/60 Second: Good for outdoor pictures under "less than ideal" conditions... Cloudy days, subjects in the shade, backlighted subjects. Also useful for brighter existing light scenes. Less chance of "camera shake" blurring in existing light conditions than at 1/30 second.
1/125 Second: Best all-around outdoor daylight picture shutter speed. Gives enough aperture in most cases for good depth of field. Generally stops blurring from camera shake, people walking, kids playing, and other moderate action.
1/250 Second: Good for stopping moderately fast action - Average running, swimming, or bicycling speeds, active animals, moderately fast sports, things like that. Pretty much eliminates camera shake blurring. Has more forgiveness for motion, but will often have less depth of field than 1/125 second.
1/500 Second: The fastest speed you can set on the 1680. Good for stopping fast action like running horses, jumping dogs, moving cars in traffic, basketball players, fast moving bicyclists, etc. Stops all but the fastest of action. As with 1/250 second setting, might have reduced depth of field in all but the brightest of conditions.
- Manual aperture settings available:
"Large" - f/2.8 actual. Shallow depth of field. Helps to put the background out of focus to give attention to your primary subject.
"Medium - f/5.6 actual. Good for a medium range of sharp focus around your primary subject.
"Small" - f/8.0 actual *. Gives better depth of field and overall image sharpness.
- * Too bad, because the camera has the ability to reach an f/11 aperture. Under actual use, the f/11 aperture is often set by the camera's operating system in very bright light while in the "automatic" or in the "shutter speed priority" modes. I wish there was a settable "Smallest" position for hitting f/11.
Instant Delete Option
Sometimes, even with the best of plans and intentions when you snap your picture, it comes up as pure junk. You can see it on the LCD screen as soon as it begins to process - Blurred movements, closed eyes, missed "target", and so forth. You know it as soon as you see it.
Press the "easy pilot" wheel/button while the picture is previewed on the LCD screen during the processing time, and processing halts. An option pops up on the LCD screen, asking you if you want to stop processing and delete the current picture.
Select "yes", and the picture is deleted on the spot, returning you instantly to the picture taking mode. A big time saver, and a big "megabyte" saver, too.
Select "no", and the picture continues processing.
I sure do like this addition to the camera's operating system.
The Big Threaded Lens
The 46 mm threaded lens allows easy attachment of add-on lenses and filters. (The 46 mm size is a standard camera size.) You might need a step-up ring to 49 mm, 52 mm, or even 55 mm to fit certain items, but these are also readily available. Threaded lenses (wide angle or telephoto) and step-up rings can be bought at most larger camera stores. Huge variety of possibilities for the adventurous.
Time Delay Shutter Release
Useable on any exposure or focus setting, the time delay is settable at either 5 or 10 seconds. When the shutter button is pressed, a "countdown" appears on the LCD screen. You can see 10, 9, 8, 7 ... and so on (or a 5, 4, 3 ... etc. with the 5 second delay) until the shutter trips. And when it does trip, you'll hear the familiar "beep" signal from the camera confirming that the picture was taken.
- I like it because you have a couple of time selections. (Sometimes 5 seconds is plenty.)
- Using it for tripod mounted telephoto or macro shots to totally eliminates camera shake. (Blur free.)
- Obviously good for self or family portraits when you are the photographer, too.
- The visible "countdown" is a neat deal - you know when it's going to trip if you watch the LCD screen.
I often use the camera on a monopod, raised high over my head for an elevated shot. I can do this with the timer, and then I can see when the shutter is set to trip, so I can be sure my subject is "framed" properly in the LCD screen. And the "beep" tells me I can let the camera down to review my work.
Megapixel Resolution makes a difference
The step up to 1280x960 resolution is significant for two key reasons -
- Cropping a section out of a full sized picture, then resizing it back to it's original dimensions can still retain sharpness and detail.
- Printing limitations... with 1280x960, you can print up to an 8"x10" crisp, detailed picture if you want to. Lower resolutions cameras tend to look "a little rough" on larger prints.
Speed (Much faster than it's predecessor, the ePhoto 1280)
Average boot up time -- around 5 seconds.
Shutter response time -- A consistent 3/10 second. Not bad...
Average processing time -- 4 to 5 seconds.