Wednesday, August 28, 2013

iPhone test, Part III: at Slippery Noodle

A third recent opportunity to turn to iPhone5 to photograph also was its most critical test -- low indoor lighting with moving objects, specifically, a couple of blues bands at the Slippery Noodle.

I was there on a night that two out-of-town bands had the stages. In the back was Dicky James and the Blue Flames, a five-piece band from Northwest Indiana, and on the front stage was the Scott Ellison Band from Tulsa, Okla., making what Ellison said was his annual visit to the Slippery Noodle and the sixth of eight stops on the band's "Walking Through the Fire" tour. Ellison was selling tour promotion T-shirts (front is above left) with all the tour stops listed on the back (right). That's Ellison (left) and his trio in the photo leading off the post.

I wouldn't normally want to use a camera phone to shoot live performances because you have no control over the settings; I just wanted to see what (and how) it would do. Examining the image files afterward, the camera shot every picture at f/2.4, at shutter speeds of either 1/15 or 1/20, and at ISOs of 800 or 1600. Phone cameras are a little easier to hold steady than DSLR models because of their lighter weight, so I expected I wouldn't have to worry too much about motion blur at speeds of 1/40 or 1/30. But 1/15 and 1/20? I didn't think so. You be the judge. It did enable a desired blur effect on the drummer's stick in the first photo immediately below.

I found my main gripe with the phone camera in this particular scenario is the face highlight and focus lock mechanism (a feature I'd ordinarily like). Unlike the same feature on more sophisticated cameras -- when you can focus on your subject then hold that focus while recomposing the shot -- the iPhone face highlight won't lock if you hold the focus button while trying to recompose. You'll see in the photos of the Dicky James band, when I wanted to focus on James (who was on the far left side, farthest away from me), the moment I tried to recompose the image to get everyone in the band in the picture, the camera's focus switched to the face closest to me, the harmonic player. While I did want to focus on the harp player for a few shots, it wouldn't let me focus on James for the others.


 Above: First of several shots of Dicky James and the Blue Flames.

Above and below: This was a dual-purpose shot. For one, I wanted to get James in focus during a solo, largely succeeding. But my real effort was to frame a shot to include the person in the balcony in the upper left area of the photo (in a quite dark area). That person was holding a camera to photograph down toward the stage. The gear he/she was using was emitting an electronic flash, and I was hoping to get my shot taken at a point when that person's flash was going off. But my camera couldn't focus and trip the shutter fast enough.

Above: Here was a shot I really did want to get the harp player (right) in focus. 

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