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Old Oct 21, 2007, 1:26 AM   #1
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If you have read any of the Nikon dSLR reviews, you'll note that it is always commented with being a bit softer than the Canons and some other dSLRs. The suggestion is always to use the "Vivid" setting which is available in "P" mode, but not in Auto.

This has worked great for me. Prior to using this I was always having to sharpen my photos in post production, which was pretty time consuming when taking hundreds of sports photography photos.

The issue for me is I want photos that I have the least to do with them on the computer after they are taken. Also, I almost always use an auto setting because over half the time I'm also handing my camera to someone else to take photos of me, and I want good results.

In bright sunlight, Vivid works great! no complaints. Photos and colors are crisp. However, when the light of the day starts to fade or a cloud comes out, the photos get real soft. The focus is slower and if I am taking a moving object, which is usually the case, it is blurry.

I am not changing any other settings in P mode, just using it like I would "Auto" but turning on Vivid.


Any idea what is going on or how I can get sharper photos with the same focusing speed as Auto mode? Please note, these are circumstances when there is plenty of light to shoot..just not a ton of light. Auto pictures come out just fine.

So, any help or feedback would be appreciated. I'm also open to any other suggestions to get sharper photos from the D80. Thanks!!!


-todd
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Old Oct 21, 2007, 9:01 AM   #2
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As light fades, shutter speeds will slow down. What we percieve to be bright with our eyes, is not very bright to cameras. To keep shutter speeds up, you will have to use a higher ISO and/or a higher aperature. Switch the camera to Aperature priority, and select the widest aperature. This will allow the most light in to maintain higher shutter speeds. If the shutter speeds fall below 1/125, dial in a higher aperature. This will result in noise, and some post processing, but is better than blurry. If you're shooting sports, that shutter speed will probably be too slow, or if you're shooting static subjects you could use an even slower shutter speed. Knowing more about exactly what and where you're shooting will allow us to recommend better and more specific advice.


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Old Oct 21, 2007, 10:27 AM   #3
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As rjseeney pointed out, it's probably your shutter speeds causing the blur and it you shoot at wider apertures (higher f/stop numbers) and increase your ISO speed, that can help out with blur. Each time you double the ISO speed, the camera can use shutter speeds twice as fast for the same lighting and aperture.

Your focus speed is slowing down in lower light because the camera's Autofocus Sensors can't see as well to focus.

Unless you're using constant aperture zooms (for example, a lens that can maintain f/2.8 throughout it's focal range), you may be able to help out by not zooming in as much and moving closer to your subject instead.

Most zoom lenses lose a lot of light as you zoom in more. For example, a typical "kit" lens starts out with a widest available aperture of around f/3.5 on at it's wide angle zoom position. But, it loses light fast as you zoom more, and most are down to a widest aperture of around f/5.6 by the time you zoom in much. Well, f/3.5 is roughly 3 times as bright as f/5.6. So, that means your Autofocus sensors don't see as well to focus in lower light if you zoom in a lot, and that also means that you'll neeed much slower shutter speeds for proper exposure for any given lighting and ISO speed.

Slower shutter speeds can cause both blur from camera shake (which will be magnified as you zoom in more) as well as motion blur from subject movement. A tripod can help with the camera shake part. But, you'll need faster shutter speeds for motion blur from subject movement.

So, keep the characteristics of your lens in mind when shooting in lower light. If that's something you plan to do a lot of, you may want to consider brighter lenses for that purpose (wider available apertures, represented by smaller f/stop numbers).

For example, a lens with f/2.8 available throughout it's focal range is 4 times as bright as a lens with f/5.6 available when you zoom in much. That's why they're larger, heavier and more expensive. But, you may not want to lug a heavier lens around. Primes versus zooms are usually smaller and lighter to get a brighter lens. There are always tradeoffs when selecting a lens (brightness, optical quality, focus speed, size, weight, cost and more).

But, other than AF speed, as long as the light isn't too low, you can probably get rid of most of the motion blur by simply increasing your ISO speed (which will mean a bit higher noise levels, but a touch of noise is often better than blur).

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Old Oct 21, 2007, 10:43 AM   #4
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P.S.

Be careful of what filters you use in lower light, too. For example, a Polarizer can cost you around 2 stops of light, depending on how it's rotated. So, that means you'll need shutter speeds 4 times as long for proper exposure for any given lighting, ISO speed and aperture. That also means that your AF sensors won't get as much light for focusing.

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Old Oct 21, 2007, 2:06 PM   #5
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Good info, thanks. Particularly the tip about realizing I need more light when I zoom in...I had forgotten about that. (my small lens has a fixed f stop, but the zoom does not).

However, my question is more of a Nikon question than a photography one.

These are situations where the camera works just fine in Auto mode. There is enough light for the camera to focus fast and take crisp pictures.

However, the D80 does not let me use the Vivid setting in Auto mode for some reason. So, I used "P" instead which I thought was the next idiot-proof setting to Auto.

I will try the ISO tips, however, when I am out shooting. I do think that would be too much info for my wife or someone else to handle, when I'm just happy to have someone take ANY pictures. The sport is kiteboarding mostly. Therefore, the rider is always at different points making auto focus very convenient and the light changes with the sky. However, I noticed it yesterday when taking some kayaking pictures.

For instance. This picture would have focused fine in Auto mode;
http://images30.fotki.com/v41/photos...SC_1451-vi.jpg

This one should be crisper;
http://images29.fotki.com/v317/photo...SC_1457-vi.jpg

Now, yesterday, I just forgot to put the camera back to Auto, because I noticed this behavior in the past. But, I wish I wouldn't have to. All I really want is sharper images out of the camera.

Thanks again,
-todd

in a completely unrelated question (also from yesterday, though) what kind of bird is this? hawk or an eagle?
http://images29.fotki.com/v1036/phot...SC_1474-vi.jpg
http://images29.fotki.com/v6/photos/...SC_1475-vi.jpg


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Old Oct 21, 2007, 2:44 PM   #6
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toddjb wrote:
Quote:
For instance. This picture would have focused fine in Auto mode;
http://images30.fotki.com/v41/photos...SC_1451-vi.jpg
Sorry, but either you're stripping out the camera settings (for example, photoshop's "save for web" option will remove them, or your host (fotki) is removing the EXIF information.

I can't tell what settings were used for that photo. From all outward appearances, it was a shutter speed issue.

The camera doesn't know that you're trying to take photos of rapidly moving subjects, unless you tell it that. So, it's not unusual to see blurry photos from shutter speeds that are too slow in Auto modes. Try a different mode if you can't control ISO speeds in Auto so that you'll get faster shutter speeds to freeze moving subjects.

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Old Oct 21, 2007, 4:58 PM   #7
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yeah, didn't intend to have EXIF on that, just wanted to show an example, but thanks for looking. i am certain that it is a slow shutter and the wrong ISO - all picked by camera as i didn't override anything.
Quote:
EXIF Image Details
Make: Nikon Corporation Model: Nikon D80 Width: 3872 pixels Height: 2592 pixels F-Number: F/5.6 Exposure Time: 0.0333 sec. 1/30 Metering Mode: Multi-segment Exposure Program: Auto bracket ISO Speed: 100 Date: 2007-10-20 16:11:53
again, in AUTO mode, that photo would have been clear.
in P mode, not so much.

maybe i don't understand P mode. does it still pick the ISO and shutter speeds on its own or does it depend on my to do that? according to the manual, its supposed to pick that out, but maybe VIVID overrides some settings (it figured if you want bright colors, it doesn't know the subject is moving, and it slows things down to capture more.) I could not find any info really on what the Vivid setting does inside the camera.

i'll try VIVID in the Sport setting if it lets me do that. that would probably be ideal as it would assume a fast moving subject.

the confusion may be that i am unfortunately not a manual camera guy. i tinker a bit, but i mostly use all the automatic functions and when i do so i'm not adjusting ISO or shutter speed.

FYI, the other picture's EXIF details. But again, what I'm really going for is AUTO performance with the VIVID setting. Can't seem to recreate that...
Quote:
EXIF Image Details
Make: Nikon Corporation Model: Nikon D80 Width: 3872 pixels Height: 2592 pixels F-Number: F/4 Exposure Time: 0.008 sec. 1/125 Metering Mode: Multi-segment ISO Speed: 400 Flash Mode: Off Date: 2007-10-20 16:12:25
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Old Oct 21, 2007, 7:39 PM   #8
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Most cameras will let you adjust ISO speed in P mode. So, that would be the first thing I'd try. I see the first EXIF data you posted indicated 1/30 second at ISO 100. That's really too slow for anything other than a stationary subject using a tripod.

Increasing ISO speed is really not that hard to do. If you were shooting film, you'd have to change film to get something "faster" (i.e., use ISO 400 or 800 speed film instead of ISO 100 speed film).

With a dSLR, it's a simple menu choice to change the sensor's sensitivity to light. So, it's pretty nice to have that kind of flexibility;-)

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Old Oct 23, 2007, 4:17 PM   #9
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Thanks. I appreciate the feedback. I do understand ISO change and will try that when I am shooting. When I hand my camera to someone else, it is too much to explain. At a minimum, I want to make sure they can turn it on, take off the lens cap, work the zoom, and put it back in its case! Anything more is asking too much of a volunteer. As it is I have to encourage them to "hold down the trigger" so I can sort through the misfires to get their accidental great shots once I crop them.

So, it sounds like nobody has a suggestion for using "VIVID" in a fully automatic mode.

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