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Old May 30, 2007, 1:09 PM   #1
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I am having trouble taking photos at long focal lengths when using my Sigma 70-300 lens, especially over 250mm. Although I seem to be geting the focus ok, when I look at the end result, the image appears blurry and out of focus.

I am quite new to this and am still learning, so any help would be much appreciated. I guess I am using too slow a shutter speed? the speeds I am using vary, so would there be a recommendation not to go lower than a certain speed when shooting at over 250mm?

My camera does not have an image stabilizer, nor does the lens I am using.

I am using a Nikon D50. Otherwise a graet camera and have produced some (relatively) good shots - bearing in mind I am a novice!

If anyone has any useful links, or information they could give me to help improve my shots, I would be really grateful.

Thanks in advance, Chris
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Old May 30, 2007, 1:48 PM   #2
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By most accounts, your lens is a bit soft on the long end (users of it tend to comment that it starts getting softer much over about 200mm)

Stopping down the aperture (higher f/stop numbers) may help a little bit. I'd probably try it at around f/11 and see if it's any better, keeping in mind that smaller apertures (higher f/stop numbers) will require slower shutter speeds for proper exposure. Most lenses are sharpest a couple of stops down from wide open.

Also, make sure that your shutter speed isn't the issue (you could be getting some blur from camera shake).

The "rule of thumb" for reducing blur from camera shake is that shutter speeds should be 1/focal length or faster. IOW, if your focal length is 100mm, you should use 1/100 second or faster, if it's 200mm, you should use 1/200 second or faster, etc.

With a DSLR using an APS-C size sensor, you'll also have to correct for the narrower angle of view (more apparent manification) you have with a DSLR compared to the same focal length lens on a 35mm camera.

So, it's probably a good idea to make sure your shutter speeds are at around 1/500 second or faster on the long end of a lens like that if you're not using a tripod..

Some people can hold a camera much steadier than others, and some people may require even faster shutter speeds to prevent blur from camera shake. So, keep in mind that 1/focal length or faster is only a rule of thumb.

A tripod can help. But, if you're careful about holding it steady against your face, using your elbows against your body to help out, and smoothly squeezing the shutter button, you can probably get by with much slower shutter speeds if blur from camera shake is the issue.

You can also use a higher ISO speed to help out. Each time you double the ISO speed, a camera can use shutter speeds twice as fast for the same lighting and aperture. Don't go any higher than necessary, since higher ISO speeds will start degrading image quality. But, a bit of noise/grain is often preferrable to blur.

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Old May 30, 2007, 1:52 PM   #3
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At the far end of the focal length, all movement is aplified. Any kind of vibrations, shakey hands, unstable body movenent.... anything. Also longer shutter times, 1/60 or longer.

Until someone else chimes in, either try to stabelize the camera better up against a stationary object (tree, post, car door)or using a tripod OR try to bump up the shutter speed (1/200 or faster).

Hope this helps for now.

edit: JimC beat me to the send button....
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Old May 30, 2007, 2:15 PM   #4
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Thanks for taking the time for the replies, extremely helpful and informative. You have helped me a lot with this information so thanks very much.
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Old May 30, 2007, 4:20 PM   #5
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Since you don't have a tripod I think the problem is the shutter speed. Like what JimC said, at that high end of the focal length, everything is ampified. A good rule of thumb to go buy is the use the reciptical of the focal length as the shutter speed or faster. Like if the focal length is 250mm, than your shutter speed shouldn't be slower than 1/250 sec.
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Old May 30, 2007, 7:30 PM   #6
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Take a look at this site. Like others have said, it sounds like a shutter speed problem and it is addressed here. It also could be more basic like good techinque which is also discussed.

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Old Jun 6, 2007, 9:15 PM   #7
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There's nothing wrong with your camera...

I too sometimes suffer this from time to time with my D80 andits standard 18-135mm lens and more so with the Sigma 70-200mm lens, even moresowith a 1.4 teleconverter stuck onto it. One thing I have learned though is most of this blur can be categorised into 2 groups...

1. Your settings (most notably shutter speed)...

2. Movement - vibration or your own arms/hands movement.

Shutter speed can be quite easily overcome by experimenting with higher speeds, but you may have to compensate with different ISO and/or aperture settings to get the desired effect. However, "movement" in my opinion, is the MOST undesired side effect of all when taking, well, any sort of shot really, but more with distant and zoomed in shots. Even with a good tripod, I still get movement and sometimes I just can't seem to get rid of it. Again, sometimes I will mess around with shutter speed which always helps but under some low light situations, it just completely destroys the shot...

Here's3other ways to help... First, if possible, use a tripod, and one of good quality too (nice and sturdy and steady).. Second, try to lower the zoom if you can, even by a bit, as less zoom will magnify the movement by equally less times. Third, and one of my favourite little additions, is to use a remote triggering device whenever/wherever possible. After buying this little beauty, I NEVER take a shot from a tripod without using the remote, It's a godsend and eliminates the most blurring at magnification. Oh, you may want to usemirror lock if your camera caters for it, and, if the shots also caters for it.

I still can't get rid of all the vibration produced as some of it is purely part of the internals moving as the shot is taken. Even on the tripod and with the remote,, lined up on something with a high amount of zoom, I can still witness some movement as the camera goes "click".. That's what Photoshop is for....
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Old Jun 8, 2007, 5:25 PM   #8
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Thanks again for the replies. I wish I had come here sooner as would have learned a lot - a lot quicker!!

My pictures are improving - slowly, and the good thing about all the replies here, is that they all make sense. A few months ago, I would have had trouble understanding.

I have done a lot of reading, and plan to do a lot more. I also plan to take a lot more pictures to learn from my mistakes.

Very grateful for the help. Regards, Chris

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Old Jun 9, 2007, 2:06 PM   #9
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As others have noted, your problem is almost certianly shake (any non deliberate camera motion while the shutter is open), but it is worth doing a few tests to make sure. With the longest zoom, set your camera on a table, bean bag, car hood, ... and take a shot using the camera's self timer. (Then you can be sure there was no camera motion.) Also take two or three of the same shot hand held. Compare them and see if the first is clearer.

Try that at a few ISO/aperature/shutter speed combinations and you will figure out what the slowest shutter speed is useable for you at the longest zoom.
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Old Aug 24, 2007, 3:22 PM   #10
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A tripod will help you out a lot. If you aren't using a tripd you can steady your shot with a little practice. Position your body in a steady pose and breathe calmly. Your aim will be steadiest during the short time at the end of your exhale and before you begin to inhale so try to release the shutter then. This will help but a tripod is always better.

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