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douglaswise

High ISO photographyuiv)

47 posts in this topic

I am a fairly incompetent photographer with very shaky hands. I would like to produce sharp images, but am not too bothered about artistic impression. Last year, I was given advice about operating at high ISO and this greatly improved my satisfaction. I set the camera at 1600 ISO and worked in Programme mode. I didn't detect any deterioration from "noise" (or it was far less apparent than the previous blurring from shaking hands!).

 

I have just come back from the Pantanal where the weather was mainly dull and overcast (2.5 days of sun in 13). I upped the sensitivity to 3200 on the duller days and, again, noticed no "noise" deterioration. Notwithstanding, although some pictures were, by my standards, acceptably sharp, they were by no means all satisfactory. I am wondering about the accuracy of the autofocus in dull light and am beginning to think that shakiness may not be my only problem.

 

I am using a Nikon D3200 camera with a 70-300 lens. At full zoom, the 35mm equivalent focal length is 450mm and maximum aperture size is f 5.6. The quickest shutter speed is one 4000th of a second. I have set the camera to Programme mode and I produce JPEG Fine shots.

 

At 3200 ISO and 450 mm (35 mm eqiv), shutter speeds ranged from 1/1000 sec to 1/4000 sec and aperture from f 5.6 to f 13. This all seemed quite logical. However, I couldn't understand how the camera was making its decisions when ISO was 1600. Usually, the pictures were taken at f 5.6 with speeds ranging from 1/250 to 1/2000. Why, therefore, were there occasional apparent anomalies? For example, the camera chose to take one picture at 1/200 sec at f 7.1 and another at the same shutter speed at f 14. As it happened these pictures were quite good so shakiness is clearly not always a problem for me at 1/200. However, I would have expected the auto programme selection to have chosen f 5.6 and a faster speed in these two cases - as it appeared to do in the majority. Can anyone explain this?

 

Is it possible to take a picture before the autofocus has fully adjusted? Could I be inadvertently taking a picture before the camera is ready? Alternatively and particularly in dimmer light can autofocus prove inaccurate and lead to pictures that are not sharp? If so, if I persevere with high ISO settings, might it be better to work in aperture priority mode to gain greater depth of field in the hope of overcoming inaccurate focussing?

 

I would appreciate any advice from the experts here.

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Posted (edited)

@@douglaswise

 

You could have one of two issues: (1) camera shake brought on by the lack of shutter speed (1/200th of a second); or (2) the inability for your camera/lens combo to focus in low light.

 

With respect to the latter, many cameras often have functions which disables the shutter when nothing is in focus. You might want to engage that function... or you may not. It could also be that the camera thinks it is focused on something but it's not totally precise in low-light as you suggest.

 

Also, try Aperture Priority as you point out. I never use the Program Mode.

Edited by Safaridude

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@@douglaswise

 

I would like to add a bit to the analysis. There might be more problems / challenges to overcome in the quest for good pictures. I would say that ISO 3200 is about the upper limit for a D3200 for what I would accept nice wise. Actually I think it might do very well in some circumstances with iso 3200 and terrible in others. Most of that comes down to correct exposure. The higher iso the more it depends on correct exposure. An underexposed picture with iso 3200 will look really bad. I guess in the jungle with dull weather, hence fairly low light, and with a maximum shutter of f 5,6 often available light will not suffice. And there is a risk that the camera will underexpose or camera will choose really slow shutter time. Other problems might be correct focus / how you work the autofocus system. If you use it with some kind of auto mode, operating the autofocus on the shutter button (compared to back thump/af-on) and when the system uses more then one focus point, risks are fairly high that focus will be fooled and looked on to grass, leaves etc. I would also never use program mode. Control is to little, and camera will make bad choices in these demanding situations (easy situations is people in good light, but that will also be very good with a smartphone). I would choose aperture priority with D3200, and auto iso. Actually I mostly use manual with auto-iso, but that will not work difficult with the d3200 as it lacks one of the operating wheels (one for aperture and one for shutter) that "better/higher end" cameras have.

 

For more explanations look att the thread I started a while ago: http://safaritalk.net/topic/16060-what-settingstechnique-do-you-use-for-wildlife-photography/

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Posted (edited)

@douglaswise "Why aren't my pictures in focus?" is like the ultimare photography qyestion. There are so many possible causes. It is worth googling in case the answer is one that is obvious when you see it written there. But assuming it is not quite so obvious:

 

Have you had this focus problem in dull weather at home (you get plenty of it in the UK)?

 

As @@Gregor asked, how do you focus? What focus setting do you use and how do you operate the focus?

 

Also, how humid was it and if it was humid or you were going from hot to cool, did you check that the glass on your lens wasn't fogging at all?

 

Since you travel quite a lot if your glass is quitre old, have you checked it carefully for fungus recently?

 

Does your lens have VR and if so did you turn it off when the shutter speeds were high? (If yes, and no, there is a thread on that topic here - but I don't think it would degrade your pics beyond the acceptable - just take the shine off them a bit).

Edited by pault

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Posted (edited)

Are you sure the problem is "shakiness"? It could also be the camera is focusing on the wrong thing. If you let the camera pick out by itself what to focus on it will usually focus on the closest object, which in wildlife photography tends to be vegetation. So if you are having all of your autofocus points engaged and let the camera pick one it will not always focus on what you are intending to photograph. On a related topic the camera might be choosing f14 because it "senses" there are many things hitting the autofocus points and wants to get them all sharp so it gives you a large Depth of Field.

 

If it is indeed real shakiness you are referring to no amount of high iso is going to compensate for when the camera decides to pick f14 and then leave you with a slow shutter speed. As mentioned above you should perhaps consider using AV mode and use larger apertures (which confusingly translates to "smaller" f stops - f4 or f5.6) - but then you have to make sure you are focusing on the right subject with the autofocus point.

 

Some camera and lens combos do have difficulty in low light - but usually it's in very low light. But unless you have been taking pictures before or after sunset I doubt this is the problem.

 

since you seem keen on improving your photography I would highly recommend you pick up an introductory book on wildlife photography, or photography in general - if you have the patience you could also search online.

Edited by cheetah80

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The lens will also play a huge part in it. For example my better half shoots with a EF-S 70-300 canon (which I am guessing is a bit like your Nikon). It is capable of very, very good results but it is also capable of producing far more 'fluffed' shots than some of our other lenses. It certainly doesn't reliably nail focus like other lenses. Results are often quite soft.

 

Use of one single focus point may also help. Some cameras have a central point with higher sensitivity than the peripheral points. I find that sticking to the central point helps. At least the camera has to do less 'thinking' about things.

 

Lastly as others have said - stay away from progamme mode.

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@@douglaswise perhaps it would be helpful to upload a couple of photos with the settings so that you can get some more specific answers?

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I would like to thank all those who have offered advice. Seems most of you suggest the avoidance of programme mode. This is a bit disturbing since I had started to think that my move away from simple "point and shoot" auto represented a big step in sophistication! (Actually, as far as I can understand, my only advantage in moving from auto to programme mode has been in allowing me to move from auto ISO to a predetermined and higher ISO in the latter). I am satisfied in my own mind that this has greatly improved the quality (sharpness) of my pictures. I can now hand-hold and am not totally reliant upon a bean bag or someone else (like a guide) to take my shots for me. I may have a long way to go compared to many of you, but, at least, it has been a step forward. I am now sifting through your advice with the aim and hope of taking another small step in the right direction.

 

I have been checking back on my photos to find what settings I have been using. I have then tried to compare quality against settings. However, I've only done this having culled out about 75% of the initial output. Worse, I have also done a bit of digital zooming and/or cropping on some of them before checking back. Clearly, sharpness will tend to go as cropping increases and this interferes with my attempted "post mortem" analysis. However, I have tentatively concluded that a higher proportion of shots are "successful" at shutter speeds of greater than one eight hundredth of a second and when I have stopped down from maximum available aperture. As I said at the outset, I'm happy that I've upped the ISO and largely overcome the camera shake problem. However, I am now getting a mix of very sharp pictures along with others of poorer quality. I think it is now time to time to address the focussing issue. (I have, on occasions, turned off the auto focus switch on the lens and attempted to focus manually. My conclusion, judging from results, is that the camera's eye is usually better than mine - another problem of senescence!)

 

In order to ensure that I have assimilated all the advice, I thought I'd go through the replies one at a time:

 

@Safaridude: You suggest that I may have one of two problems. I think I've got two of two. With respect to focus, I believe that, before I can legitimately blame my tools (camera/lens combo), I must discover whether I'm misusing them.

@Gregor: You express concern about underexposure at high ISO. I agree, but, to an extent, I can compensate when editing (I use the "fill light" function in Picasa). Is this very much a second best? You go on to discuss auto focus. I do, indeed, use it by half depressing the shutter button before an audible beep lets me know I can depress it fully to take the picture. My problem here is, again, shaky hands. Often, I find the halfway position is difficult or impossible to maintain and I get varying and oscillating pressure so that I either release the shutter prematurely or totally lose the pressure to maintain even the half-way depression. This may be playing merry hell with focus, but I don't know of any other way of attempting to autofocus. Anyway, I've looked at my settings and discovered that I'd been using AF-A and multi-point focus. I've now changed the camera to single point and this should help matters when I next come to take pix.

@pault: You ask whether I've had a problem in dull weather at home. I never take pictures at home, but, if I want to improve, I'll obviously have to do so and experiment. I don't think I've got a problem with the lens glass or anything because some of the output is, by my standards, very good. I had read that, at high shutter speeds of one thousandth plus, VR could inhibit rather than enhance sharpness. To be honest, I have did a little bit of experimenting with this in the Pantanal and found no discernible difference (you intimated as much).

@cheetah80: I think my problem goes beyond shakiness. As mentioned above, I've changed setting to single point focus. Although it may not be obvious from my naive questions, I have already done a fair bit of internet searching and reading on the subject of improving my photographic skills. Perhaps there's something out there specially for the senile and disabled that I've missed!

@@KaingU Lodge: It would seem that my results match the description of those of your "better half's". As mentioned, I will, as a result of the advice received, in future, become a "single point focusser". When light allows, I will try stopping down a bit at high ISO (to keep shutter speed up to one eight hundredth plus) so that a greater depth of field will be more forgiving of less than perfect focussing (I won't worry about bokeh).

 

Thank you all once again. If I have got hold of the wrong ends of any sticks, please let me know.

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Posted (edited)

@@douglaswise

I am not a Nikon shooter, so you may ignore me altogether :), but a few remarks anyway. Another setting to avoid, in my opinion, is the Af-A focus mode. If this is similar to the A mode in Canon, it lets the camera decide whether you are shooting a stationary or a moving subject. I would choose the Af-C or Af-S instead. In fact I leave my camera on AI- Servo (Af-C) most of the time, as it also works well on stationary targets. I don't know if this is true for Nikon, of course.

A way to overcome the 'half-press shake' problem might be to use what is called ' back button focus' One of the buttons at the back is assigned for the focusing part and the shutter button is just to actually take the picture. This may sound complicated, but it really isn't. It takes a little while to get used to it, but I would never go back to the 'half- press' focus. Here is a tutorial on how to do this with Nikon: http://improvephotography.com/4552/back-button-focusing/

Just my two cents....

Good luck and happy shooting!

Peter

Edited by PeterHG

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@@douglaswise

 

AF-S will make you miss focus a lot. What it does is setting focus at the distant at your first focus/button press. So if you press button and then move the lens, or the animal moves just slightly, you will be out of focus, when you trigger the shutter. AF-C is a must. Most people doing action/wildlife photography use focus on the thumb and not shutter. You will have to go to the menus and change to AF-on for the AE-L/AF-L button. Now you can start controlling focus and also follow your subject.

 

Aperture mode is preferred mode (most of the time it is more important to control aperture than shutter speed). You control aperture with the wheel. Shutter time is unfortunately not to be controlled with this camera. (in this mode.) But use auto-iso and there set a minimum shutter speed that you is comfortable with (your handshake/holding technique).

 

Underexposing at higher iso always gives you a bad image quality (IQ), and the playroom for exposure correction in post is small. (Try a picture at iso 100 and play with the sliders and do the same with a picture with high iso, and you will see then with iso 100 you can push the pictures 3-4 full steps, but with high iso a half step might completely mess the picture.) And even without any changes at all high iso pictures have more noise and lacks in sharpness, color, contrast, etc... This amplifies a lot when pictures is under exposed. A camera in any program (auto exposure) usually is very good in exposure, but I´m not sure what happens when light is lower then lowest auto-iso shutter time. Will camera underexpose, or use lower shutter times? Now I have taken for granted that aperture is set at lowest f-stop.

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@@PeterHG and @@Gregor:

 

I think that "the penny has finally dropped". I'm sorry @@Gregor that the wisdom of your advice was only really fully understood with the arrival of your second reply. Both you and @@PeterHG have recommended an AF-C setting and back button focus (of which I was previously unaware) and I will certainly be changing my camera settings accordingly and see how good my thumb is at following instructions from a dwindling brain.

 

I was, at first, concerned about using auto ISO in aperture mode. However, now that it has been explained that I can set a minimum shutter speed in this mode to compensate for my shakiness , I am entirely happy with the principle and will most certainly give it a go.

 

Thank you both once again.

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@@douglaswise

 

I am late to give any relevant advice as they have been already given (AF-C, Aperture priority, back-button AF).

 

However, let me try as I have gone through much of your problems, with similar gear (Nikon):

 

Nikon D3200 is a starting step to DSLR world. Thus it has relatively slow AF system, and its noise at higher ISO is also quite heavy. It does boast a 24,2 megapixel DX-size sensor, but for the camera of its class, this is more a like an obstacle than a benefit. Because each sensor "eye" is so small every minor vibration/shake/etc gets recorded, and amplified in the output result. Also those high megapixel sensors are very tough to commercial-level lenses, as many of those are not capable to match the resolution of the sensor.

 

I would never push the ISO up to 3200 on this body!! Specially not if shooting JPEG as its internal procesor just cannot do the same job in reducing the noise as some pro software like Lightroom can do (and for this you would need to shot RAW).

 

If you are using Nikon AF-S 70-300 VR lens, that one is notorious to become quite soft at 300 mm end; on the other side it is excellent if kept between 70-250 mm.

 

To give you more and better solutions for your problems, I think we need more informations:

 

1. what is the reason for your "shaky hands"? I know it is a very personal question. I have had blurred images compared to my wife. In my case it was a problem of proper technique. That one can be improved. If there are other reasons, solutions would be very different.

 

2. A 24,2 megapixel DX body is a sensor overkill! Looks good on paper but produce more problems than it solves. As example, to get a decently sharp image, all other variables being perfect, the shutter speed should be at least 2x the focal length; with 300 mm (450 mm on crop sensor) that is 1/900 sec and rounded up = 1/1250 sec!!

 

3. using a support sometimes is inevitable. If possible (not very likely for wildlife photography) use a tripod with an external release (Nikon has that tiny wireless ML-L3 remote release).

 

 

But above all, please upload a series of photos, those that looks good to you, and others that are not. If possible leave exif data intact. Only in this way we could understood what we are dealing with here, and what could be the proper "medications".

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@xelas: I have been playing around with the new settings that have been recommended and already feel that I ought now to take a higher proportion of sharper pix.

 

I am using a Nikon AF-S 70-300 VR lens. I have read elsewhere that it is soft at 300 and best left at 280 max. However, I have never been discriminating enough to note any difference (perhaps all my pix are soft!).

 

Reason for shaky hands: Becoming worse with age (I'm near enough 75). Familial. Intention tremor, making things worse as one tries harder to keep steady. Often difficult to carry mug of coffee without spilling (good excuse to get wife to carry it to me!). Cup and saucer impossible. Only half fill whisky glass (don't add too much water). However, I can get away with hand holding (the camera, I mean), especially when seated and using high shutter speeds. I was, for this reason, using ISOs in the range 1600 - 6400 when in the Pantanal (cloudy and max focal length for birds). Occasionally, I took pix having failed to move from Guide back to Programme modes and then the camera selected much lower ISOs (I think it went to automatic mode).

 

I will try very hard to upload sample photos, taken at varied speeds, distances and ISOs and make my own comments. I have always had huge difficulty in undertaking this process and then only succeeded with help. I'm about to go off fishing for a week so won't be able to try this till I get back home. However, I have to say that I am not detecting noise, even at very high ISO. It would be very helpful, therefore, to receive some (if necessary, vicious) criticism from you and others who know much more about the subject than I.

 

I should add that I share this camera with my son and it cost us £880. He didn't seem inclined to upgrade as a joint venture so I hope your "medication" list won't include new investment!

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Posted (edited)

@@douglaswise

 

Enjoy your fishing week! When back, uploading is very simple:

 

Outside Safaritalk post

1. pick up the photo and resize it to 1000 pix wide size (that is to be done with a proper software)

 

Inside Safaritalk post

2. use More Reply Options

3. Click on Choose Files ...

3a. Find where the photos are store on your computer and select as many (up to 10 works for me) as you need

4. position the cursor where the photo should appear, and click on Add to Post for each individual photo

5. Click on Add Reply

 

At the fishing trip

6. Release the fish back into the water

Edited by xelas

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Posted (edited)

What a great thread.

A perfect example of how SAFARITALK really works for its members.

 

Great job @@Gregor @@xelas @@KaingU Lodge @@PeterHG @@cheetah80 @@pault @@Safaridude and of course @@douglaswise for bringing it to the forum in the first place. I am sure that others will benefit from the tips given here.

Edited by Soukous
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@@douglaswise I would personally see whether you can use a monopod for a proportion of your photgraphy to increase camera stability. They are relatively light and easily collapsible to a foot or so in length which allows them to be used in a variety of positions and situations that a tripod cannot. Initially it can feel awkward and clumsy but with some practice it becomes (almost) second nature.

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I found a helper for the uploading and followed @@xelas' instructions except for the prior re-sizing (so uploading was very tedious). @Pomwiki: I did try a monopod recently in the Pantanal and found it of no help (perhaps I lacked perseverance).

 

Anyway, pix below were all taken at ISOs of 1600-6400 and all but 4 at max focal length of 300mm (=450mm 35mm equiv). Camera in Programme mode with multipoint focusing using semi depression of the front shutter release button. The weather was generally dull. I provide further detail and my own comments below each. Please don't hold back on the criticisms.

post-48867-0-76281900-1467382968_thumb.jpg

1/500, f 5.6, 1600 ISO, focal length 280mm, pleased by my standards.

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Sorry, didn't mean to put up only one . Will try to add other examples in a group. I should have mentioned that none of the examples I'm sending has been cropped.

 

post-48867-0-33742800-1467383963_thumb.jpg

1/160, f 5.6, ISO 1600. Not sharp. Slow shutter speed?

post-48867-0-41198400-1467384242_thumb.jpg

1/4000, f9.0, ISO 3200. Good by my standards.

post-48867-0-17048900-1467384483_thumb.jpg

NB. focal length only 200. 1/4000, f 8.0, ISO 3200. Reasonable/good.

post-48867-0-30247000-1467384754_thumb.jpg

1/2000, f5.6, ISO 3200. Reasonable/good

post-48867-0-51486900-1467385045_thumb.jpg

NB. Focal length only 135. 1/2000, f 11.0, ISO 3200. Good by my standards.

post-48867-0-47680400-1467385275_thumb.jpg

1/1000, f5.6, ISO 1600. Could be sharper.

post-48867-0-95324900-1467385500_thumb.jpg

1/1600, f5.6, ISO1600. Nearly sharp!

post-48867-0-79065000-1467385724_thumb.jpg

1/200, f 14.0, ISO 1600. Probably my sharpest photo despite slow shutter speed. Why did camera in Programme mode choose high f number and slow speed. Was it to do with breadth of perch and DoF with multipoint focus? Typically, camera elected for max aperture and fast shutter.

post-48867-0-07115900-1467386507_thumb.jpg

1/800, f 5.6, ISO1600. I'm quite happy with this.

post-48867-0-52419600-1467386715_thumb.jpg

1/250, f 5.6, ISO 1600. Looks sharp to me. Slow speed, but not much camera shake!

post-48867-0-87310300-1467386997_thumb.jpg

1/4000, f 10.0, ISO 6400. I like this, but is there a lot of "noise"?

post-48867-0-43313300-1467387255_thumb.jpg

NB. Focal length 112. 1/125, f 9.0, ISO 6400. My wife's favourite. Is it unacceptable due to "noise"?

Obviously, I haven't sent my worst samples because 80% were deleted at an early stage. Most of the above made it into a photobook that is purely for holiday momento purposes. The original files were all around 9-13 MB and there may be considerable loss of quality here. However, I'm assuming that applies to all pix I see posted here and am not attempting excuses. I really would appreciate comments, however adverse. Many thanks.

 

 

post-48867-0-82393300-1467383755_thumb.jpg

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Posted (edited)

Well, @@douglaswise , you have much less of a problem than I was expecting by reading your notes.

 

One thing first; we all tend to compare our photos to those posted on the web. Theya re all gorgeous, sharp, perfectly exposed, .... because only such have been selected to be posted! The rest which usual is about 90% does not meet the criteria and are either deleted or not worthy to be processed. So your 80% of "bad photos" are nothing special, believe me.

 

Non-sharp photos can be due to different reasons. My top three are

 

1. blurred ones (too low of a shutter speed or too much shaky camera)

2. out of focus ones (too narrow depth-of-field)

3. not contrasted enough (wrong exposition)

 

Now, looking at yours, I can say those that you like have deeper depth-of-field due to higher aparture (f/8 - f/14) while even when you have used high shutter speed, the lower f/stop (f/5.6) softened the subject.

 

In my opinion, your main problem lies with using low f/stop (wider aperture) Consumer lenses does not give you the most contrast at their widest apertures but mostly between f/8 - f/11. To keep the speed relatively high I would chose f/8 as your shooting aperture.

 

Most of the photos looks Exposed-To-The-Right = they are a bit overexposed = they are brighter. Modern cameras tend to do this because then the noise is less pronounced; however the contrast is lost. If you would take RAW photos, and would underexpose those photos for 1/3 or even 1/2 f/-stop those would appear "sharper" as they would have more contrast.

 

On the examples posted I can say the lens AF is relatively spot-on.

 

The "noise" on the two photos is not an issue to me. They both looks good. Noise is overrated; it is very prominent only on specific light conditions, and even then it is better to have a noisier photo than a blurred one!

 

 

My first medication:

 

1. Use Manual + AutoISO settings: don't fret, it is not that you will change the settings all the time!! The aperture should be set at f/8, and you can pretty much leave it there. The shutter speed put at 1/800 sec, and let the AutoISO to work for you.

 

2. Use exposure compensation button and underexpose the metering to -1/3 or if the sun is out in force, to -2/3

 

3. go out and get us some examples

 

 

 

My second medication will be related to the Picture Control settings; using what Nikon has set for us is not the way to squeeze the best out of this camera and sensor. So, do let us know what Picture Control settings you are using. (you know, Standard or Neutral or Portrait or Vivid or Landscape).

 

Edited by xelas
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Posted (edited)

One more thing: "multipoint focusing" but what was th focusing parameter? AF-A, AF-S or AF-C?? For wildlife, static one, the most recommended setting is AF-C Single point. So add this to above First medication kit.

Edited by xelas

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Posted (edited)

@@douglaswise

I am not a technical expert - but a few thoughts that might be helpful. No doubt someone will chip in if I am wrong.

 

1. I think you have a good eye for composing your photographs.

2. I think (not 100% sure) that Program mode is not clever enough to choose an aperture like f14 because of breadth of perch etc.

3. I do not think holding the camera still is the major problem - you have some here that are taken at fairly slow shutter speeds.

4. One of the issues with high ISO is the way that the camera processes the photo when shooting JPEG. It will process it to reduce the noise - but one of the side effects of that can be that it also reduces some of the detail - so in some cases this could lead to some loss of sharpness.

5. If you use multi-focus points, your camera will choose which point to use. Often it will choose the nearest object that a point covers. Although cameras are clever, they do not know what you want to focus on. In the picture of the macaw, if you look at the leaves just in front of the bird, these are sharper than the bird - suggesting this is where the camera focussed. I almost always use a single focus point (and usually the centre one thogh sometimes I choose a different on if I have more time). I only use multi -points if I try birds in flight when there are no other things that the camera could focus on.

6. I think the Programme mode chooses a very strange set of values. I think you will remain frustrated if you continue to use it. Although I have never used it, I thought that you could change the settings that the camera chooses - but I suspect you are using it like the fully automatic option (I may be wrong in that assumption). I would recommend that you try the Aperture Priority mode and experiment with it at home. I think you would soon get used to it and it would give you more control. If you want to continue with Programme, experiment with changing the settings so they make more sense.

7. I think the photo of the cows is a very nice picture. I don't think the noise spoils it. But the most important judge of that is you (and your wife). The term "acceptable" really asks - who is the primary audience. Is it for you to look at and enjoy at home? To post on here? (where I enjoy it) To make a giant print for an exhibition?

8. All of us delete a very large number of photos, and also have many more that we do not post!

I think it is admirable that you want to improve, but remember to enjoy the sightings and the memories as well.

Edited by TonyQ
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With #4 @@TonyQ touched another important issue: in-camera noise reduction when using high ISO values. That noise reduction is very radical, and undiscriminating, and obliterates many fine details, and its negative effects are most visible on bird's feathers.

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I am very touched by the great help I have received from so many of you. It has definitely kindled a desire to improve my photographic skills. Although I have been a fairly regular safari-goer for 30 odd years, I had never had a camera with a focal length capability of greater than 80mm until I borrowed my son's Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5 (35mm equiv 36-432) for a trip to Meru in 2011. It wasn't till 2014 that I persuaded my son that we should buy jointly the current Nikon D3200 plus 70-300 telephoto lens. I had expected to see very obvious benefits and, although I got some, they were nothing like as clear-cut as I had been hoping for. I do think things markedly improved last year when, half way through a Kafue trip, I was advised to use 1600 ISO to overcome my shake. I am now really looking forward to making further progress, thanks to all of you. I will now use back button, single point focus and AF-C. I am, as yet, uncertain as to whether to shoot in Aperture Priority or Manual Mode with auto ISO and minimum shutter speed of 1/500. I am currently leaning towards the former, having discovered that the camera will still allow photos to be taken with a slower shutter speed when it hasn't the capability of meeting the exposure requirements dictated by the F number and upward adjustment in auto-ISO.

 

very interested to learn from @@xelas that there is something inherent in my lens that will lead to sharper pictures in the range F8-11 rather than at larger apertures. I had thought that stopping down might be working for me because it gave me better depth of field and overcame poor focusing. This was probably a false assumption because, as @ TonyQ pointed out, the camera's AF seems to be OK except on occasions when the multi-point system I had been using chose to focus on the wrong target. Both @@xelas and @@TonyQ explained that, at high ISOs, the camera will process JPEG images to reduce noise at the expense of detail. This probably explains why some of my better images, to me, look sharp, but, nevertheless, lack detail.

 

@@xelas suggests that I might be over-exposing my pictures and thus losing contrast. I think I may have given a false impression. I omitted to mention that, though not cropped, the pix that I showed above had been tweaked by me in Picasa by using the "auto contrast" and "fill light" slider in the editing facility. In fact, I guess that a lot of the bird pix - those on perches in front of sky - were initially under-exposed. I have tried compensating with the use of the "wheel" at the back of the camera, but don't find it easy. I'm also reluctant to do so because it doesn't seem automatically to default back to 0 and I'm forgetful!

 

@@xelas, not content with the recommendations already made, is heroically preparing a second course of "medication". He asks about my Picture Control settings. To the extent that I understand the question, the answers are as follows: Image quality, JPEG Fine, Image size, Large. Brightness, 0. Background colour, white. Beep, (now) off. Standard. Vivid. This, I gleaned from the camera. When I looked at Properties of my pix in Picasa, I saw the following: Scene capture type, normal. Gain control, High gain up. Contrast, normal. Saturation, normal. Sharpness, normal. I don't know quite what it all means or even whether it answers your questions.

 

Am I wasting time by using JPEG fine with a large image size, bearing in mind that I'll never want a photograph that is going to be larger than 10x10 inches (25x25 cms), but remembering, also, that I may well wish to do some cropping/digital enlargement of the original photo as it comes out of the camera? Should I be contemplating RAW - it has always scared the hell out of me because I had assumed it would beyond the capabilities of an amateur such as myself?

 

On a more personal note, I would like to make a few comments to @@TonyQ and @@xelas:

 

@@TonyQ, I really enjoyed your Barranco Alto trip report and it definitely played a part in our decision to go there. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, despite the fact that the early winter season was neither very dry nor sunny. This was bad for the fishing. I suspect that it also limited mammal viewing options due to the thick vegetation. However, because we were there for 13 nights, we saw masses of foxes and plenty of giant anteaters as well as having an excellent sighting of an armadillo (plus glimpses of others) and of giant and neotropical otters. Unfortunately, only a glimpse of one tapir. The birds were wonderful (and I'm not a birder, as such).

 

@@xelas, my wife and I had a wonderful week in Slovenia a few years ago. We were mainly trout/grayling fishing, but also did some sight seeing. You live in a very beautiful country and those of your fellow citizens that we met were all friendly and, like you, very helpful.

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@@douglaswise

I am pleased you enjoyed Barranco Alto!

Re: JPEG - If using JPEG I would recommend that you always use the best quality JPEG (JPEG Fine). Memory cards are cheap - even with JPEG Fine you will get loads onto a memory card. I cannot see any reason or advantage to switching to a lower quality. As you say, cropping is always a possibility.

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@@douglaswise I would encourage you not to be scared of RAW! The file sizes are larger and essentially you are capturing as much data as possible using RAW. The camera will do some 'processing' of the image if you use JPEG. I'm not sure which programme you are using to store and manipulate your images. I personally use Lightroom and often find that I do litttle of nothing with a high proportion of my images but I have managed to get some usable (and to my eye pleasant) results from images that appeared fairly ordinary out of the camera, I find Lightroom has been easy to learn and allows me to make changes in a large number of discreet elements of the image. There are lots of reviews and resources out there. (apologies if I am stating the obvious).

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