Intro: Cheap Photography: the Guide to Photography on a Budget! ($20/£15)
So, a while ago I found a bridge camera from General Imaging Co. Model X400. It's very cheap, (£15/$20) and produces excellent photos for a camera in that price range. With a 14 megapixel sensor, and an easy to use software, its great for people who really want to get stuck into photography, straight away without having to save up. In this tutorial you will learn how to use the camera, (with a cheap price, comes some more work than professional cameras) and produce photos that should please most amateur photographers.
Step 1: Oh No...Shutter Speed and ISO
So lets get straight to the point, these settings control how much light is let into the sensor. They control depth of field, (bokeh(blurred part in the photo)) and how light (or dark) your photos are. On the X400 it has a set ISO of 3200, and it uses EV (Exposure value) I have never really messed about with the EV settings, so you can go figure them out as a challenge! :) So, lets get to the main settings menu:
a) Turn dial to manual mode. (Red Camera icon beside M)
b) Press +/- sign on the dial beside the screen.
c) You will be presented with a menu, the first bar is aperture, the second is shutter speed and third is EV.
d) Turn to the second bar, you can now change all your necessary settings.
In a half-lit room, with a decent amount of light, you should use a shutter speed of 1/4 of a second.
Step 2: Aperture, All 'bout the Bokeh
Depth of field on the X400 is... okay, its good for £15, and if you're only beginning its a great tool to get you into the world of bokeh! Personally, I love a good little bit of bokeh in a photo, the blur in a still picture adds effect, making the viewer focus on what is in focus. To do this on the X400:
a) Go into the settings page. (as seen in Step 1)
b) The first tab is Aperture, you can now change your settings.
QUICK GUIDE TO APERATURE
On the X400, aperture ranges from f6.6 to f3.0
F3.0 will be most focused on the closest subject it can find
F6.6 on the X400 is pretty much 'Infinity' which means everything is in focus.
If you have an object you want the viewer to focus on, bokeh can be useful, focus on the object of interest and try to 'blur' out all other distractive background objects. For example, the two pictures of the piano above this step, one is a lot more dynamic than the other, I also have some more examples of bokeh alongside them.
Step 3: WB - White Balance, Well... It Sucks!
White balance on this compact bargain of a camera is something of a nightmare. Its one of the only bad things I have to say about this camera. Most cameras that are over £200 ($250) are pretty good at getting the best white balance, automatically. The X400 is terrible at this, in fact it uses the same white balance setting it used the last time the camera was used. Most of the time the X400 ends up making the outside a strange tint of blue, and the inside yellow. Lets get to the white balance settings and then I'll explain more.
a) Press the func/OK button on the dial, a menu will pop up
b) Scroll over to the flower looking icon, you are now able to change your settings.
Here, there are scene modes for white balance, but whenever I've used them they are okaay... to say the least.
I like to use the manual setting, this requires you to find a white object and press the shutter button which changes the white balance to what I thought looked most accurate.
Step 4: Digital Zoom and Movie/Video Mode
Movie and Video mode are... exactly the same. You can find them on the mode dial, or there is button above the main dial. The final quality output of the video is good, (not sure what resolution is) and as it always is with internal microphones, they suck, there is tons of background noise but it picks up speech pretty well. The digital zoom of the camera is loud, but when recording somehow it doesn't pick up the loud zooming in and out that is quite clear to hear from a distance. Stabilisation is meh, sometimes it'll work, other times it doesn't. From that, there isn't much more to talk about when recording videos. Below is a quick 20 second video as an exaple of the quality
Step 5: In Conclusion
This camera is a nifty piece of equipment, for something as cheap as £15/$20. It is extremely portable, has most of the important settings a camera needs and is a great camera for beginners who have next to nothing when it comes to buying a camera.
- Plenty of features (including Panorama)
- Great for beginners
- Built in flash
- 15x Optical Zoom
- Good range of aperture
- Easy to use software
- Good amount of MegaPixels
- Plenty of Scene Modes and filters
- Bad auto white balance
- Bokeh quality is low
- Low quality screen
- No viewfinder
- Consumes battery quickly
As you can see, the pros knock the cons out of the park and if you find any of the cons a big disappointment, they really aren't devastatingly bad, I'm just being harsh to try and find stuff to say about this camera. Although, let this be said, the X400 is definitely not a camera for any amateur or professional, it is merely a camera to help beginners understand the different settings and elements that are used in photography.
Thanks for reading and leave comments and maybe a favourite if you liked this tutorial. Of course, if you go ahead and buy the X400 please do tell me about your experience, I'd love to hear about it! :-)
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you want the X400 at this price range, you're going to have to dig around. The RRP is around $129, but it has gone down in price and at $129 the X400 is NOT worth it!