Lightning Photography Camera's Without the Pro Price

I thought I would start this thread to see what others Use as far as Digital Camera's go. My problem is that I cannot afford a Digital SLR Camera. The latest addition to my Arsenal is a Kodak Easy Share (Z730) camera, shockingly I found a 64 second exposure option with this camera and I have captured some amazing shots. I also have the 30, 15,10,5 etc exposure options as well.

I was wondering what you use as far as NON SLR digital camera's go. Of course In the future I will buy SLR cause obviously thats the best bet. But for now since my next purchase option ranges from 250.00 to 350.00 Id like to hear about your NON SLR camera's that get the job done.

thanks...

-gerrit
 
Canon S2 IS served me well last year... only did a 15 second exposure, but I got some good single-bolt shots!

I also shot lightning with a Canon A85 before; again, 15 seconds, but worked.

I bought, but never used, the Kodak Z730. I bought it cause it had a 64 second exposure setting. I never got a chance to test it as I bought the Nikon D70s before the season started. As a result, I sold the Kodak before I had a chance to test it on lightning. My concern with the Kodak was noise levels, so again, no chance to see that in action.

I imagine any type of camera with an extended exposure of some type will suit you well. I missed the cable release method of the older cameras and find the biggest thing with shooting lightning with PnS type cameras is you're really not photographing lightning, just "shooting" it.
 
Before I got my first SLR a couple of months ago, I previously used a Sony F717. This is a very nice camera and it served my needs very well for lightning shots with only a 30 second exposure. When I bought it back in 2003 it cost me a grand. I'm sure one could find this camera for a good price somewhere. I purchased an SLR (Canon 400D) this year and the Sony will be used as a backup camera.
 
Alternately, you could shoot film. Film bodies are quite a bit less expensive, as are the lenses if you get one of the old manual focus bodies. Pop in some Velvia or Provia and there you go! :)
 
I used to have a Sony Cybershot, great quality camera for the prices and mine came with up to 30 seconds exposure on it. You can check into those if you would like to as well... I got some amazing lightning with it, all of the lightning shots on my website from '05 and '06 were with it.
 
Before I got my first SLR a couple of months ago, I previously used a Sony F717. This is a very nice camera and it served my needs very well for lightning shots with only a 30 second exposure. When I bought it back in 2003 it cost me a grand. I'm sure one could find this camera for a good price somewhere.
Minolta Dimage 7-serie, A1 or (Konica)Minolta A2 and A200 would be better options, 28-200mm is much nicer than 38-190mm.
But those are propably very rare and prices might be still quite high. (especially A2)
In F828 Sony included also wide angle.


The Digital SLR's are not really considered Pro-price anymore one can pick one up for well under $400...
I haven't tried "consumer" SLRs of other makers but Canon's consumer SLRs don't really have anything pro when it comes to ergonomics, I have normal size hand and grip is absolutely too small to be even anything remotely comfortable...
Yeah, I'm spoiled by A2+BP-400

I would say that Dpreview and Steve's Digicams are best places for finding does certain camera support long exposures.
http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/specs.asp
http://www.steves-digicams.com/hardware_reviews.html

Alternately, you could shoot film. Film bodies are quite a bit less expensive, as are the lenses if you get one of the old manual focus bodies. Pop in some Velvia or Provia and there you go! :)
Cameras might be dirt cheap but shooting itself definitely wouldn't be.
 
I have to back getting an old model dSLR. If the Canon XT is too much (with lens) you could even look at the old Canon Digital Rebel, Canon 10D, or D60 (or even the D30). You will be sooo much happier with the long exposure noise you will find in these cameras compared to the smaller Point and Shoot.

And you can get a cable release for about 20$ for these cameras, and this will help with camera shake and shutter.

Just my .02.
 
Kodak P712 NOT MADE FOR LIGHTNING

I was very disapointed to learn that my new camera basically has no long-exposure capabilites... (that's what you get when it's a gift and you don't get to research yourself).
However the camera does make up for it with excellent sharp photography (thx to 7.1MP and .07 second click to capture).

Example Photo of Cardinal

What digital brand best supplies these exposure capabilites?
 
Has anyone used the lightning device for cameras that was at the chaser convention?
 
[SLR] Cameras might be dirt cheap but shooting itself definitely wouldn't be.

True, shooting film is more expensive, but the value is pretty high. That is, a slide of Velvia shot with a good lens contains a great deal more information than any of the DSLRs under $7,000. Yeah, it's like 33 cents per shot, but for long exposures like lightning, you probably won't go through more than a couple rolls per storm.

I do agree though, that the old Rebels are a great, great value for digital cameras. I'd definately get one of those before I got a point and shoot digital! :)
 
Esa Tuunanen said:
Cameras might be dirt cheap but shooting itself definitely wouldn't be.

Figure 3$ for E6 film and $5 for developing. You'll need to shoot well over a hundred rolls of film (~4 thousand images!) before you break even. (FWLIW, I shoot maybe 20 rolls in a typical monsoon chase season.) Low cost cameras are also nice in that they are somewhat expendable; if a gust of wind knocks over your tripod, you're out one hundred bucks or so, not seven+. Rain, blowing dust, etc. are also less of a worry. Throw in $ for data cards, a backup battery, etc., and 'cheap digital' starts to become somewhat less of a bargain.

-Greg
 
For roughly $200, you can get a used Pentax K1000, a couple of lenses (28mm wide angle and 50mm), a tripod and a cable release. The K1000 is an old-school 35mm film camera, but it will capture excellent lightning images on good film (Fuji Sensia or Provia, for example). It is a tank and can take quite a bit of abuse and rain exposure.

The newer digital cams can capture lightning very well, but if you're willing to deal with getting slides/negatives developed, lightning photos can be had with film for very little cost.

I'm still using film because I have my hands too full with video to spend a couple grand on a digital camera. When the lightning gets good, I just grab the K1000 from the case and it gets the job done.
 
At least with my new dSLR, Canon XTi, you have a 'bulb' setting that you can use while in manual mode. This allows you to take an exposure as long as you would like, best while using a remote that has a shutter lock. This is how most of your star pictures and things such as that are done, so you can have hours of continual exposure if you would like and have the batter power to do so.
 
Figure 3$ for E6 film and $5 for developing. You'll need to shoot well over a hundred rolls of film (~4 thousand images!) before you break even. (FWLIW, I shoot maybe 20 rolls in a typical monsoon chase season.) Low cost cameras are also nice in that they are somewhat expendable; if a gust of wind knocks over your tripod, you're out one hundred bucks or so, not seven+. Rain, blowing dust, etc. are also less of a worry. Throw in $ for data cards, a backup battery, etc., and 'cheap digital' starts to become somewhat less of a bargain.

-Greg

Actually I ran some numbers. From tracking my shutter count in 1 year I shot 4550 photos(yes I know this probably more than I would shoot without film). Using the cost esimates from above that's ~$1011 I should have spent on film assuming a 36 roles. That means I've almost paid for the camera. When it comes down to it I think digital is cheaper in the end, and with lightning photography it allows you to shoot more for that unlucky shot that you might not try for with film because your thinking of evey penny your throwing away if you don't get anything on film.
 
It depends if the original question is referring to a camera for only lightning or a camera for lightning + everything else. With digital, you tend to shoot many more frames than you would with film. A lightning photo shoot during the average storm might use half a roll of 36 (10 to 20 frames). Some storms you can shoot 5-10 frames and get great shots, especially with low ambient light. An exceptional night might consume 2 or 3 rolls. I agree that digital has its advantages, and if you have the money, definately go digital. But if you're looking for a standby chase camera to do lightning duty only, film is probably more economical.
 
What digital brand best supplies these exposure capabilites?
Practically there isn't single brand which would have it in more models than others. That's why you have to carefully go through all available information when buying these.
And it has actually gone to worse direction in last years, now most brands have some kind dSLR out and they want to push people wanting more working controls than shutter button to cash cow side of markets instead of offering fixed lens cameras with advanced features.

As for exposure time 30s is quite common longest exposure for small sensor non-SLR digicams, even in bulb-mode.

One fixed lens digicam especially suitable for low light photography would be Sony DSC-R1 with its APS sized sensor but it also combines bad things from both sides so one of the rare situations when it would be actually better than normal dSLR is when shooting situation requires silence.
http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/sonydscr1/page2.asp

You should have stopped down aperture little (for bigger DOF) and/or at least moved focusing point to eye... that's what few serious/professional nature (mainly birds) photographers I know would say.


That is, a slide of Velvia shot with a good lens contains a great deal more information than any of the DSLRs under $7,000.
Seems to depend from what you include to that information, while 35mm slide is capable to higher resolution lower signal to noise ratio eats away lot of that advantage.
http://www.clarkvision.com/imagedetail/film.vs.digital.summary1.html
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/shootout.shtml

For long exposure lightning photos film could be definitely cost effective when used with deliberation, but in case of only camera for all needs it can't really compete.
Prices of 2GB or even 4GB memory cards are quite cheap and those are also more convenient to handle than small bagful of film rolls.
 
shooting film is more expensive, but the value is pretty high

My first film camera to capture lightning was a SLR Film Canon Eos Rebel K2, I definetely got some amazing shots using the 30 second exposure and Bulb option. Still in my mind I was desperate for a Digital camera, this way I see what I have captured immediately after every shot rather than going the next day to develop the film and find that out of 24 exposures I got about 7 great photos and the rest were trash.

I have been checking reviews on several cameras and will take your recommendations highly. I sincerely thank you for the Demo pictures, those really put in place the quality of the camera.

My next thought would be to exclude the long exposure options (seeing as most are mainly 30 seconds or less in most cases) and Go for a Point and shoot with a bulb setting with optional remote for operation of the Bulb. This way I dont waste valuable seconds with usuing the 30 second exposure option and waiting the addition 30-60 seconds for the digital image to process.

My Ultimate goal is to purchase a DSLR camera. I have been checking several sites that have reconditioned prices and of course ebay. I am fully happy with my current camera (kodak easyshare z730) the 64 second exposure is awesome, only thing missing is the bulb option. Im pretty sure I am going to save my money and just go for a DSLR camera, who knows within the next couple of months the prices may go down again. I remember 2 years ago the lowest costing DSLR was around 500.00 now its down to 400.00 and sometimes lower.

-gerrit
 
Sony R1

While it isn't cheap, it would probably be the best bet for lightning photography as far as non-DSLR's go. It has 24mm f2.8 on the wide end, 10mp APS sized sensor, and 30 second maximum exposure. You'd be pretty hard pressed to find a better combination for lightning photography in a prosumer camera.

Although, I would suggest getting an older DSLR....even an old Rebel 300D. You just can't beat the functionality of a good SLR camera. For the price of the Sony R1 you could get a decent body and even a pretty good wide angle prime lens...

My 2 cents.
 
Go old school!

Old Film SLR's are dirt cheap and my first choice when shooting lightning. They are easier to use and hold up in moist conditions better, not to mention more expendable. Purchase a slide scanner and you have the best of both worlds. Film is cheap and with long exposures you'd be surprised how little of it you use. I used my Digital nikon D100 once for lightning because i ran out of film. The quality wasnt anything close to results with my Nikon FE's loaded with Fugichrome Velvia... Or was it Provia???
;)

happy hunting
 
Maybe go digital because of the better ISO control? I've never really shot film so I shouldn't say much, but it seems like it might be a headache in some instances where you need faster film in the camera. Then again most all the lightning I've shot(not much) 100 ISO was fine and desired for the low noise. I shot one scene last year that I needed 800 ISO even with my 50mm at F1.8. I'd think the ability to flip the ISO around as needed, without having to change rolls, would be helpful. After some of the images of lightning I've seen with digital, I guess I'm not sure what more film could have done.
 
I have shot lightning on film medium format and many 35mm film cameras and can say that these days digital is the way to go. Yes, you get great quality from the film, especially medium format but if you are not a pro who is trying to produce large posters - the cost of film per a good lightning shot plus developing time, scanning, etc. is going to become a major headache after a while. Some people preach about the quality of the film cameras, then scan their slides of a cheap scanner, too. I have been shooting digital for the past year and it is a delight to work with. Once you encounter numerous, fast changing lightning situations (various distances, different brightness levels, scenes involving artificial lights, etc.), the constant feedback and ability to adjust settings is simply priceless. And pretty much for free. Recently the price of DSLRs has gone down a lot. If you can save a bit more money and get yourself even an entry level DSLR you won't be disappointed. Also, think of the endless possibilities during the dawn, dusk hours and for daylight lightning photography...
 
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I have shot lightning on film medium format and many 35mm film cameras and can say that these days digital is the way to go. Yes, you get great quality from the film, especially medium format but if you are not a pro who is trying to produce large posters - the cost of film per a good lightning shot plus developing time, scanning, etc. is going to become a major headache after a while. Some people preach about the quality of the film cameras, then scan their slides of a cheap scanner, too.

Yea, scanning is a minor PITA, but the volume of really good lightning shots is not so high. Even a good roll seldom has more than ~10 'cantidate' images. A good scanner is hardly cheap, but if you're already entrenched in film, with a wide variety of manual focus lenses and bodies, it still makes little sense to 'go digital.'

An inexpensive 6x6 TLR with a decent multicoated lens will produce phenomenal images that blow any 35mm / DSLR into the weeds. FWIW, my lightning photography goals are fairly high. I want to shoot high resolution images of lightning, with unique scenery beneath. Imagine lightning over the Grand Canyon, Bryce, or the Bisti Badlands, with moonlight or deep twilight sneaking under the clouds to illuminate the landscape. An image of that sort may happen only once ot twice per year. I want to bring all the camera I can carry! If I had more $ (and maybe a sherpa to lug things about!) I'd run one or two 4x5 field cameras. ;)

Once you encounter numerous, fast changing lightning situations (various distances, different brightness levels, scenes involving artificial lights, etc.), the constant feedback and ability to adjust settings is simply priceless.
I'm certainly not 'above' using a $150 digicam as a light meter. Judging low light exposure is notoriously difficult. I just replaced my tits-up Oly P/S with a Canon A540, on sale at one of the 'Staples Depot' type stores. Chimping rules! :)

Sorry if this is getting too far away from the OP's question.

-Greg
 
I have been eyeing getting a digital canon for a couple of year. I should have bough a canon xt a couple of years ago but since I have used minolta since my teen years , I got a minolta digital on ebay for about $500. What I liked about it was the 10x zoon in it and the quality eventhough about 6 megapixel allowed me to blow up pics to 8 by 11.
It depends on what you are going to print things off blow them up like that like I do or smaller. If you don't need prints or just need small size you can get a lesser camera.
But I wanted a canon for the removable lens (minolta g-7 did not have it that way). But I took great shots with it in Yellowstone and more. But it died in December.
I bought what I targeted for XT on ebay for about $500 in great shape. I also looked over reviews , stormchaser notes , photoreviews . I bought the auto tamron 28-200mm for a little over $100 from ebay in great. shape. I am very happy with both and tried them out shooting the lunar eclipse a couple of weeks ago.I am still learning how to use the camera (lots of icons and gizmos) and the telephoto.
So far so good. Now I am ready to shoot some good storms.
 
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