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Old Apr 20, 2010, 7:03 AM   #11
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Yeah, shooting at ISO 1600 is going to give you noise (grain). Additionally you're in some really bad shooting situations - shadow on your subject but strong light in the background. As counter-intuitive as it seems, that's why there is such a thing as a flash. no camera on the market is going to have the dynamic range to get the whole scene right in those conditions. Either your subject will be exposed properly or your background will. That is, of course, unless you use flash. The idea is to let the camera expose for the background and use the flash to expose your subject in the foreground. But that isn't a point-and-shoot concept.

Now - as to the two shots where you said "The best I can tell, these next 2 were taken with no changes to the camera settings, but notice the difference in the detail in the dark areas, and how much brighter overall the second one is". This is a perfect example of what TCAV is talking about. The camera, being in auto mode, determined the two shots needed different exposure values. It did this based upon where your CENTER FOCUS POINT WAS. Spot metering uses the center focus point. Doesn't matter what focus points are used for FOCUS. So getting out of spot metering will certainly give you more consistent results.

Switching cameras won't fix what's wrong in these shots.
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Old Apr 20, 2010, 7:09 AM   #12
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I use a Nikon D90, I shoot mainly sports/action, I have Active D-lighting on, and I have never noticed a significant reduction in the the continuous frame rate. There are other settings that can cause it to slow down, like niose reduction, so I think that since this is a new camera, and mostly you've been shooting in Auto mode, you may want to do a factory reset. This will reset the camera to it's default settings (it even resets the date and time), so any setting that may have crept into you r camera, either by mistake, or from the camera sitting in the box for a long period while the internal battery weakens, will be cleared, and you'll start fresh.

You haven't done much with the camera, so you won't lose a lot of settings, and this is the easiest way to clear out any obscure settings that might be causing the problems you're having, either directly or indirectly. The reset switch is under the connector cover on the side of the camera. The proceedure for reseting the camera is on page 179 of the D3000 User's Manual.
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Old Apr 20, 2010, 7:20 AM   #13
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The Active D-Lighting requires a lot of processing "horsepower", and depending on the camera model, frame rate can be reduced significantly.

For example, note the D3000 timing tests at dpreview.com with and without it enabled. You can shoot at 3fps for 100 frames with no problems without it enabled. Yet, if you enable it, you only get 5 frames before it slows down to .37 frames/second (less than 1 frame every 2 seconds). ;-)

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikond3000/page11.asp

Basically, Active D Lighting is using technology licensed from Apical. Sony also licenses their technology for it's DRO features. If you look at some of their available engines like Iridix (which can do both video and still image processing), you'll get a better idea of how some of those features work.

http://www.apical-imaging.com/
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Old Apr 20, 2010, 7:56 AM   #14
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For something like the outdoor images just posted of backlit subjects where you're probably not taking a lot of bursts using continuous drive mode, Active D Lighting could come in handy. Fill flash could, too (but, you'll have limitations on sync speed with the built in flash that can make using it less practical in brighter lighting, as you'd need to make sure your shutter speed is no faster than 1/200 second with your camera model).

As TCav suggested, you may want to reset the camera back to factory defaults (which would probably be using different metering settings, lower ISO speeds, apertures that are not stopped down as much, etc.)

You may also want to use it in green Auto mode for some of your photos like you just posted, examining the camera settings used with an EXIF reader to get a better idea of how the camera's Auto algorithms normally handle those types of photos by default until you get a better feel for how your settings impact results. Then, post some samples of where it didn't do as well as desired so members can make suggestions on specific changes needed for a given shooting situation.

Shooting sports in low light where you need a faster frame rate is one thing (where you may need to make some adjustments for better results). But for zoo photos in daylight of relatively still subjects, you would use a different approach. ;-)
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Old Apr 21, 2010, 4:48 AM   #15
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Obviously everything the other posters have said is correct but in one of your earlier posts you said "would I be better off with the D5000".
If you look here http://www.imaging-resource.com/IMCOMP/COMPS01.HTM and put the D3K and D5K in side by side in the Comparometer, you will see that the D5000 is far superior in regards to ISO noise levels if that bothers .Also I in anything other than Auto mode the D5K will spot meter in any of the 11 focus points you select,I dont know whether the D3K has this feature.Plus the swivel view finder is good for getting low level shots of children (not if they are running aroung like mad though).
Your'e a lucky man as you have lovely family by the way.
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Old Apr 21, 2010, 6:07 AM   #16
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DXOMark.com shows similar results:

http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/eng...(brand3)/Nikon
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Old Apr 21, 2010, 10:22 AM   #17
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Thats an interesting site TCav I've never seen it before.
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Old Apr 21, 2010, 10:33 PM   #18
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Believe it or not, I think I'm getting it - one step at a time. I think for the zoo, I had ISO setting backwards - going to a higher number instead of a lower number (really dumbing it down here, I know), not to mention putting the camera in some tough situations like the kid on the shaded merry-go-round with the bright sky behind her. And not using the flash more. I'm guessing I need to use the flash much more than I first thought.

Here are a few more problem shots.

This is the loss of detail I was talking about - notice his pants. Looking back, I'll bet it's because we are looking almost straight into the sun. I have no idea why the "professional" photog that set up the shoot turned the kids this way, but they did. (Don't think I was really supposed to be shooting alongside her, but I did)


Here again during a game - looking directly into the sun, but can't help it here. Dumb question alert--- is there where the "hood" or whatever it's called that snaps on the end of the lens comes into play?


soft focus - not enough lens? not correct focus mode or focus point?


This shot was from the middle of a 3-4 shot burst - again is the focus problem more about light/lens or wrong focus mode?


Like I said, it's slowly starting to make sense, one setting at a time (maybe) - I've read the manual and the on-screen help, but I still don't understand the different focus modes or metering modes - but for now I'll just look at focus...

AF-A - single servo or continuous servo depending on shooting conditions or subject movement (the camera picks between the next 2 types depending on what it sees - correct?)

AF-S - single sevo - focuses on half-shutter push, locks when it gets focus

AF-C - continuous servo - focus does not lock on half-shutter push (so when does it lock, or start focusing?)

MF - manual

There might be other focus modes in other camera modes, I don't know - this is all from the "P" setting.

I've noticed that 1 to 3 or 4 of the spots in the viewer blink when it beeps for focus lock - but I thought you could use the directional pad to select which point it uses to focus - is that not in one of these modes?

Sorry for the long post yall - I don't get many chances to get on here, so I try to give all the info and ask all the questions I have thought of since the last time I was able to post.

oh - different type of question - I also heard somewhere that the image sensor in the D5000 is better all around than the D3000 because it's a different type of sensor?

Can't thank you enough...
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Old Apr 22, 2010, 5:07 AM   #19
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OK...

You've got multiple issues going on in these images. Yes, a hood can help with flare issues (the problem you had with some of those photos). You want to try and shield the lens elements from light, and a hood can help out in that area. If you can shoot where your lens is shaded by a tree, etc., and still get close enough, that can also help.

If you have any filters on your lens, I'd remove them shooting directly into the side of the sky the sun is on, too (as light reflecting between optical elements can make the problem worse). Of course, the best way is to reduce flare is to position yourself so that the sun is behind you versus in front of you if you have a choice. Note that if you have to shoot so that your subject is backlit, use a +EV setting with Exposure Compensation to get a brighter exposure than the camera is metering.

As for focus, you also have Focus Area choices in your menus. One way is to select the focus point (single point focus) using the control pad. Another way is to use 3D Tracking. Chances are, the camera is defaulting to Auto Area (where it choose the focus point for you). I'd try AF-C for focus mode. Basically, it's going to start tracking on the selected focus point with a half press of the shutter button. I see the description is misleading to you since they didn't use the word "lock".... It's not locked in the sense of staying at a fixed distance after a half press. Instead, it's locked on the target that was in your selected focus point after a half press until the shutter button is released again (so, focus distance will change when your subject moves). IOW, it's going to track your subject allowing you to continue shooting with focus on the subject you initially locked on until you release the shutter button.

Note that filling the frame more with your subject (i.e., zoom in more or get closer) can help with detail and focus accuracy, as I see you're taking relatively wide shots of some of your subjects. You may also want to consider shooting more photos with the camera in portrait orientation. Without a longer focal length lens, you can't expect to cover the entire field. But, if you select your shots so that you're taking them when the subjects are closer to you, that can help improve your percentage of keepers.

But, your primary problem with the blur you're seeing is that your shutter speeds are way too slow. As it gets into late afternoon, you'll need higher and higher ISO speeds to keep your shutter speeds so they're fast enough to freeze action.

Your lens is also relatively dim (widest available aperture of f/5.6 on it's longer end).

With a lens that only has f/5.6 available, you may need to use ISO 800 to get your shutter speeds up so they're faster than 1/500 second in afternoon lighting. As it gets later, towards sundown, you may need to move to ISO 1600 or ISO 3200 to keep your shutter speeds up to 1/500 second or so. As it gets into evening, no matter what you do, that lens is just not going to be bright enough to get shutter speeds as fast as you may need to freeze action.

Now, because the younger kids may be moving slower, you can probably get by with a bit slower shutter speeds before it gets dark. IOW, try to get 1/500 or faster (1/640 second or so is even better). But, if it drops slower than that, you may be able to get some keepers at slower shutter speeds, depending on print/viewing sizes needed, direction of movement and more.

For that type of shooting, I'd probably use Av (Aperture Value, a.k.a., Aperture Priority) mode and open up your aperture as much as possible (smaller f/stop numbers). With your lens, I'd just set to f/5.6. Then, keep an eye on your shutter speeds (you'll see them in your viewfinder). If they drop down to much below 1/500 second, increase your ISO speed. Higher ISO speeds will mean more noise/grain. But, that can be better than blurry photos. Taking photos of relatively still subjects in better lighting at the zoo is one thing. Taking photos of running kids in late afternoon lighting as it gets closer to sunset is something else entirely. ;-) You're going to need to use higher ISO speeds in lower lighting to keep shutter speeds fast enough, more grain or not.

But, when the sun starts going down, you're going to need a brighter lens unless you are very careful about waiting until the kids are virtually motionless before taking any photos. Even then, you'll need to be careful about blur from camera shake (as I see some camera shake related blur in some of your photos, too). Your shutter speeds were very slow (for example, that last photo was only using shutter speeds of 1/60 second). It was at ISO 400. So, if you would have increased it to ISO 1600, your shutter speeds would have been around 1/250 second instead. Carefully panning with a moving subject can also help out. That way, part of them may be sharper (since they're not moving across the frame as much as you keep them in the same place in your viewfinder), even though you may still see blur in arms and legs.

About the minimum lens you'll need if the field has good lighting when it starts to get darker is a 70-200mm f/2.8 (for example, a Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VR, or Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM). The Sigma is running around $800 now at online discounters.

Note that f/2.8 is exactly 4 times as bright as f/5.6, allowing shutter speeds 4 times as fast for the same lighting and ISO speed. But, you won't be able to cover the entire field with a 200mm lens, and anything longer that's got f/2.8 available is going to be pricey. For example, a Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 runs around $3000 now at online discounters.

But, note that you'll have a shallower depth of field shooting at f/2.8. So, focus accuracy (and skill level) needed will increase to make sure you get keepers.

With that particular camera/lens combo, you're probably not going to get great results as it gets closer to sundown, since the lens isn't bright enough (it's fine for better lighting, but not for lower lighting like you'll have as the sun starts going down). So, don't expect to be able to get great shots of everything with it as lighting gets lower. Any choice is tradeoff (size, weight, cost, etc.) and for good light use, a lens like that can be fine -- but, it's going to struggle in less than optimum lighting.
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Old Apr 22, 2010, 7:33 AM   #20
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Jim's advice is good. The game shots you're too far away and don't have a long enough lens. Shots are at 1/60 so you've got camera shake and motion blur in them. You need 1/400 shutter speeds. There's a lot going on here as Jim said. The important point is - a DSLR is NOT a magic point and shoot camera. It just isn't. Improving your baseball shots can be done but there's a lot to do and you'll have to learn more about photography itself to get better results. Also as Jim mentioned when light levels get lower you need better quality lenses. Shooting at f2.8 and ISO 800 is fairly common in evening games.
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