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Old Nov 23, 2009, 8:38 AM   #1
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Here is a photo of my dog taken with natural morning light peering in through one window. Directly facing him.

The photo was shot with a Nikon D300, at f/16, shutter speed 1/30, ISO 2000 using a 85mm f/1.8 prime in Av mode. My question is...can I not get his brown fur as in focus as his face? Would his brown fur be more in-focus if I were shooting with a FX body? Or is this technically unavoidable since the AF points were on the face?

I get the same result whether I have the aperture set to F/8 or F/16.

Would it have made a difference if there was more light in the room? I don't think there was actual sunlight that day (hence the use of an ISO setting of 2000). I think some DSLR's (non-full-frame) are not as good resolving detail in the shade. Though I would think the D300 wouldn't fall into that category.
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Last edited by agc828; Nov 23, 2009 at 1:07 PM.
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 1:40 PM   #2
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At 85mm f/16 standing around 8ft away you would have a DOF of about 18" for 'acceptable sharpness' -of course your definition of 'acceptable' may be different. Of this 18", around 10" is behind the subject. The closer you are the smaller the window...

Here is the link to the calculator I use:

http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html

By the way, that's a really nice picture and I couldn't see any out of focus - but it may be just the size of the picture didn't allow for it.
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 3:51 PM   #3
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Thanks JS. Glad you liked it. While the brown/white patches (to the right of his head) of his fur is not out of focus it isn't AS sharp as his head. Since his head had all the active AF points while in Auto Area AF mode.

Canon's new EOS 7D has a few new AF settings. One is similar to "single-point AF" found on most DSLRs. Except this one includes 4 other points positioned NSEW of the one AF point (for a total of 5 AF points you can move where you like). So using this AF area setting I would position the central AF point between my dog's head and right side of his body. Leaving the W AF point on his head and the E on his body to the right of the head (plus the N & S AF points). Which I would guess would allow the two areas to have the same degree of "in-focus".

I would take this AF mode one step further...instead of only having 5 points...why not make it 7 or possibly 9. Lets say two AF points to the left and right of the central AF point (7 points). Or two AF points to the left/right and top/bottom of the central AF point.

The 7D also has another AF setting that allows you to select from 1 of 5 zones. Now if they could take this one step further and allow you to select 2-3 of the 5 and put them where you want...

See this link for a 7D video clip review which will show you the AF modes I mentioned and the others http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYXls...eature=channel

On my D300 (I just remembered), and on every other DSLR I believe, you can turn off the AF. And just set it to M (manual focus). This way I think I could get my dog's entire body at the same degree of "in-focus". Will try tomorrow when there is good natural light.

And thanks for the DOF calc link. I have that bookmarked already.

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Old Nov 24, 2009, 1:41 PM   #4
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Results don't seem to be that different shooting in manual focus mode. With the D300 you have just one AF point visible in the center of the viewfinder. I think the D300 just tends to bias the focus on the head relying on it's database of shots.

In this first photo I set the focus to manual. Moved the one AF point to the brown patch of fur to the right of his head. You see the bottom area more in focus than along the top where it's darker.

With this second I had the focus set back to "single" (S) again and Auto Area AF. This time I got three AF points in a row to appear to the right of his head. On the white/brown area. The AF points would usually be on his head only. This one seems to have the better overall focus.

What I'm trying to achieve is to get his entire body in the same degree of focus (as seen in the third photo). There seems to be noise on the dark brown portions of his fur obsecuring some detail. When there is enough light you see a much better evenness of detail sharing the same degree of focus. I guess this is the trade off (less detail in some darker areas..like the brown fur near the spine of my dog) for shooting in low light where the only light source is coming from in front of the subject.

Love to get my hands on a Canon 7D so I can test it's new Area AF choices. See if they work any better for me than with my D300. Might even go buy some film and shoot with my SLR. As well as get my hands on a FX body. As I have read full-frame DSLR's handle shadow detail a lot better. See if there is any difference.
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Old Nov 24, 2009, 2:18 PM   #5
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What if you try a lower ISO and a tripod?
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Old Nov 24, 2009, 2:35 PM   #6
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Hey Ordo. Was just going to post that. Most of these photos were very high ISO. No wonder there was some visible noise in the darker areas. Usually ISO 3200. Except for the last which was shot at ISO 1400. And they were shot hand-held.

Using a tripod and lower ISO would probably make a difference for sure. Will try that another time. The thing is you rarely have a tripod ready the moment you might want that shot (e.g. with highly active dog or small child). So you are left with handholding your DSLR. Even then you might miss the shot. Any how, I was testing purposely shooting with the camera handheld. Since, I do 98% of my shooting handheld. If my subject was an adult that could sit still it would be a different story. Then for sure I would have used a tripod and probably an external flash.

Having more ISO range would be so beneficial for me and my style of shooting (e.g. handheld). Which is one of many reasons why I'm waiting to see what Nikon does with the next version of the D700. I'm assuming (or hoping) they will base it on the D3s 102k ISO sensor (with 12,800 of "useable" ISO). A lot better than my max "useable" ISO of 3200. The Canon 7D has a useable ISO range of 100-6400 (extendable to 12,800). Almost as much range as the much more expensive D3s. Bettering my D300 as well as I think the newer D300s (as far as ISO range goes).

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Old Nov 24, 2009, 7:23 PM   #7
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I would llke that 18 Mp sensor too.
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Old Nov 25, 2009, 9:56 AM   #8
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I conclude that using a non-full-frame camera you're bound to loose some detail in the shadows. Or if a dark colored area is not lit up enough. As I last night found another photo of my dog taken with a lot more natural light in the room illuminating the fur on his back. Shot at ISO 3200! Showing more detail than man of the ISO 1000-2800 photos where there was less light and mostly shadow.

Really would love to hear from Nikon about their plans for the next version of their D700. Having a combination of a new FF sensor and better useable ISO range of up to 12,800 should make quite a difference.
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