I'm a mom who is obsessed with taking photos of my now 2 year old daughter. I currently have a Nikon j1 which I like, but I find the shutter speed is still a bit slow and when you're trying to take photos of a speedy little girl, I end up with a lot of blurry images. So I'm looking for a camera with a very fast shutter speed that will allow me to take good photos of a very fast moving child. Also that can take photos in low light. I've been looking at the canon eos rebel but I'm not sure. Would like it to be able to take videos as well. Any advice?
The way to capture fast moving subjects like your daughter is to use a shorter shutter speed. No big surprise there. The way to achieve a faster shutter speed, though is often misunderstood. The camera is only part of the equation. The speed of the lens is the other part.
Before you decide to buy an entirely different camera, I would encourage you to try some things with your Nikon J1 first.
- Raise the ISO you are shooting at. In simplified terms, ISO is a number used to describe the sensitivity to light. As the ISO number is doubled, your shutter speed can be halved and still get the same exposure. So if you need 1/40 sec. at ISO 100, you can shoot at 1/80 sec. at ISO 200, 1/160 sec at ISO 400, and so on. Your Nikon J1 produces fairly good image quality up to ISO 800, and ISO 1600 is still fairly usable for small prints or web sized images.
- Use a wider aperture. The lower f-number selected, the more light is allowed through the lens. Like ISO, a wider aperture allows you to get the same exposure with a faster shutter speed. A lens like the 1 NIKKOR 18.5mm f/1.8 will allow you to use a shutter speed much faster than the 10-30mm F3.5-5.6 VR that probably came with your camera. Setting the aperture at f/1.8 allows a shutter speed less than 1/4 as long as with an aperture of f/4.
- Update to the latest firmware for the Nikon J1. Nikon has released a firmware update that addresses an issue regarding slower shutter speeds being selected by the camera in most automatic shooting modes. Here is a link to the current firmware.
By combining higher ISO and wider aperture, you can significantly shorten the shutter speed needed to properly expose a scene. If you are using ISO 100 and f/4 and the scene requires 1/40 sec to properly expose it, by moving to ISO 800 and f/2, the same scene can be properly exposed at less than 1/1000 sec!
For more, please see these related questions here at Photography SE:
Focus problem vs. motion blur vs. camera shake - how to tell the difference?
How to take photos of children in difficult lighting?
Prime lens or flash: which upgrade will most improve baby photos?
What lens should I buy to get better pictures of a one-year old running around a dimly-lit house?
We also have a good number of other questions here with the [children] tag.
My main recommendation would be to get a camera that supports a decent flash. If your getting blurry images due to the shutter being open too long then you are correct that you need to get the shutter speed faster. This either means a faster lens (which also makes depth of field shallower and harder to get good focus on a moving child, though if you stick to a small sensor like the J1, it shouldn't be much of a problem), cranking up the ISO, which means more noise, though a higher end camera will do better at high ISO than lower ISO, or throwing more light at the scene.
For your situation, it sounds like throwing more light is the ideal solution and that means using a flash. The cheap flash on an entry level DSLR will probably get sufficient, but marginal results. To really get ideal results you will want to move to a decent flash. Third part should work fine to save money since you don't need the professional features in Canon or Nikon's speed light lines. Sunpack is one of the common third party flash makers that costs about half the first party flashes for very similar performance.
You need to use an appropriate ISO setting to increase the sensitivity of the camera and make the shutter speed quicker. A wide aperture (small f stop number) will allow more light in, achieving quicker shutter speed as well as a blurred background which is often desirable in portrait photography. You want a shutter speed of probably at least 1/60th of a second.
How much experience do you have with DSLR photography? Or how comfortable are you with manual mode compared to aperture priority or shutter priority? [I can't comment yet - not enough rep, I'm afraid]
There is nothing wrong with your camera shutter, it has a maximum speed of 1/1600s, which amazingly fast (most DSLRs have a shutter speed of 1/4000s or 1/8000s).
The problem is that in your current settings the camera is deciding to use a slower shutter speed.
You can go to shutter priority mode and set the shutter speed yourself (anything faster than 1/500s should freeze the scene). But if you are a novice, your best chances to get pictures of moving subjects is to set your camera in sports scene mode (I'm not 100% sure about this particular model but it should have it).
About low light, a camera with a bigger sensor would yield better results, but do not expect any miracles. Your best allies for low light photography are a tripod and a flash (or a few of them), no matter which camera model.
You should become familiar with the exposure triangle. Basically, in order to prevent motion blur from your fast moving subject, you'll need to choose a fast shutter speed, probably 1/250s or higher to freeze motion. In order to compensate for the reduced light from the shutter speed, you'll need a larger aperture and/or higher ISO to achieve a properly exposed picture.
If you aren't yet comfortable with the exposure triangle, Sport mode will typically choose settings that will make a reasonable guess for fast moving subjects like a toddler.
A flash can help a lot by adding more light to the scene, allowing you to choose a lower ISO and/or smaller aperture. The built-in pop-up flash will give relatively harsh and unflattering light, since it is a small light source close to the lens. A hot-shoe mounted flash that with a tiltable flash head that can be bounced off the ceiling is more likely to give pleasing results.