Old 06-12-2011, 11:17 PM   #1
jlg759
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Default Nikon question about setting

Hello,

I have a question about the best way to set a Nikon camera for taking photos of trains. I shoot raw and manual and I seem to get soft images. I have tried continues autofocus and usally set a center spot for focus is there anything else I should be setting that would help?


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Joe
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Old 06-12-2011, 11:53 PM   #2
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I don't know what Nikon camera you have, but on mine, I normally select the specific auto-focus spot where I expect the "sweet spot" will be, set the driver to C1, the focus switch to C and shoot that way most of the time. Depending on the camera model, sometimes I will have to set the camera to use multiple focus points if I can't line things up the way I'd like to. Make sure your focus point isn't aiming at a headlight or ditch lights.

The latest and greatest cameras focus better and faster than the older ones. The AF-S lenses focus faster and better than the screw drive lenses.

Without anymore information, I'm not sure what else would be useful to you.
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Old 06-13-2011, 06:03 AM   #3
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You probably shoot at too low or too high of an f/stop. If your on a DX(crop sensor) camera most Nikon lenses perform the best at f/8. I think you can get away with f/16 on an FX(full frame) sensor. I also don't like using continuous AF on trains, I found it to be inaccurate but that's probably just me....

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Old 06-13-2011, 09:55 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jlg759 View Post
Hello,

I shoot raw and manual and I seem to get soft images. I have tried continues autofocus and usally set a center spot for focus is there anything else I should be setting that would help?


Thanks

Joe
Post a photo with its data, Maybe a bad lens may be camera shake or the AF maybe off who knows. Do you sharpen in post processing? All most all cameras have a soft filter built in to control the zigzagy lines so most shots Need some sharping. Go to a camera store and try a lens other then yours and see if thats sharp.
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Old 06-13-2011, 12:12 PM   #5
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Default Sample Shot

NIKON D7000, ISO 320, 1/320 sec, f/10.0, 62mm (93mm), 18:46:35


Notice the numberboards. I don't think it's real bad but I was rejected for being soft which I have had a few. I had the lens and camera checked and all seemed well. Maybe it is my processing. I read where the continuous AF is the way to go so i may try it I always shot AF-S before.

Thanks

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Old 06-13-2011, 02:23 PM   #6
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NIKON D7000, ISO 320, 1/320 sec, f/10.0, 62mm (93mm), 18:46:35


Notice the numberboards. I don't think it's real bad but I was rejected for being soft which I have had a few. I had the lens and camera checked and all seemed well. Maybe it is my processing. I read where the continuous AF is the way to go so i may try it I always shot AF-S before.

Thanks
F/10 is to much, its soft from lens diffraction..
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Old 06-13-2011, 02:34 PM   #7
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Could you exsplain a little about lens diffraction? I will look it up but I always understood the higher the f stop the sharper the photo?
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Old 06-13-2011, 02:47 PM   #8
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NIKON D7000, ISO 320, 1/320 sec, f/10.0, 62mm (93mm), 18:46:35
What lense(s) are you using?
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Old 06-13-2011, 02:51 PM   #9
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For the shot above I used a Nikon 18-105MM
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Old 06-13-2011, 03:16 PM   #10
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Could you exsplain a little about lens diffraction? I will look it up but I always understood the higher the f stop the sharper the photo?
I've always understood that it is where the lens suffers from ''too much sharpness'' say for instance at f/32 everything is soft and kind of blurry.

Here's a good explanation of diffraction with some math. http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/diffraction.htm
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Old 06-13-2011, 03:25 PM   #11
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FWIW, the Nikon 18-105 is not going to make the most out of the D7000's sensor, so you're not going to get a perfect result straight out-of-cam. Some post-capture sharpening will be needed, and remember that raw results will tend to be soft due to the anti-aliasing filter. Compensate in post-processing; virtually every shot will need some at least.

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Old 06-13-2011, 04:58 PM   #12
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A couple of thoughts to add: It's tough to say for sure, but it seems to me that the foliage in your shot is sharper on the left about a third of the way down the train. If so, the camera may have focused there instead of the nose when you took that shot. You said you use center focus, and that seems to be the center of that shot, hence my thought. I had similar problems with my D90 when I first got it. Then I concentrated on how the camera was focusing and had better luck.

Another issue that may be affecting you is VR. I found that it takes a moment for the lens to "set" when VR is on, and if you fire the shutter before or during that moment you get some slight blur. You may try a faster shutter speed and an f8 aperture and leave the VR off. If you are at 1/500 for trains I don't think VR is going to help much anyway. I would add that I don't think f10 is so small that diffraction will occur. I think between f8 and f11 you don't have to worry about that effect so much.

You have a nice camera there, so I am sure you'll be happy with it once you get dialed in.
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Old 06-13-2011, 05:02 PM   #13
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I'd up the shutter speed a bit as well for a fast moving train that is heading at you. 1/500th is the minimum I'd use for a shot like this one. A tripod is a great thing as well.

On the other hand, I can't seem to tell if a shot is sharp or not per the screeners. I had this one rejected and it's looks sharp to me. http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...&key=771156316

So I wouldn't take too much of my advice.
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Old 06-13-2011, 05:14 PM   #14
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Thanks to everyone. I do shoot in raw and I did sharpen using nx2. For the Nikon users out there do you use the 3D tracking ?
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Old 06-13-2011, 05:55 PM   #15
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Thanks to everyone. I do shoot in raw and I did sharpen using nx2. For the Nikon users out there do you use the 3D tracking ?
On my D3s, I don't. I keep it relatively simple for trains. Mainly I use a single point to get the auto focusing started. I think your 7000 has a very similar system to the D3s.
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Old 06-13-2011, 06:07 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carl Becker View Post
FWIW, the Nikon 18-105 is not going to make the most out of the D7000's sensor, so you're not going to get a perfect result straight out-of-cam. Some post-capture sharpening will be needed, and remember that raw results will tend to be soft due to the anti-aliasing filter. Compensate in post-processing; virtually every shot will need some at least.

~Carl Becker
I agree, I had an 18-135(which the 105 replaced) when I got my D80, it was the crappiest softest lens I've ever seen. The D7000 would really benefit from some of Nikons pro glass.

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A couple of thoughts to add: It's tough to say for sure, but it seems to me that the foliage in your shot is sharper on the left about a third of the way down the train. If so, the camera may have focused there instead of the nose when you took that shot. You said you use center focus, and that seems to be the center of that shot, hence my thought. I had similar problems with my D90 when I first got it. Then I concentrated on how the camera was focusing and had better luck.

Another issue that may be affecting you is VR. I found that it takes a moment for the lens to "set" when VR is on, and if you fire the shutter before or during that moment you get some slight blur. You may try a faster shutter speed and an f8 aperture and leave the VR off. If you are at 1/500 for trains I don't think VR is going to help much anyway. I would add that I don't think f10 is so small that diffraction will occur. I think between f8 and f11 you don't have to worry about that effect so much.

You have a nice camera there, so I am sure you'll be happy with it once you get dialed in.
Why would anyone want to use anything over f/8 for an average run of the mill train image? Maybe its me but its not like you need the treeline 50 miles behind the train to be in focus, since the first thing people notice is the train anyway. I used to shoot at f/5.6 all the time, all my images were muddy and soft, and were plagued by ugly bokeh around the train.

A good example at f/8, everything is sharp; I really didn't even need to sharpen it in NX2... But I added maybe +2 or 3 usm, and it is tack sharp. This is with the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR however.. I could maybe get away with f/9 or f/10 with the pro grade lens, but I don't see a need for it..

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Thanks to everyone. I do shoot in raw and I did sharpen using nx2. For the Nikon users out there do you use the 3D tracking ?
I use it for sports, and for animals on the D300. Tried it once on trains, it wanted to focus on a tree next to the train for some reason.. It maybe better on the D7000 since it is a newer camera... And NX2 is the best imho for Nikon RAW, since it doesn't wash out the colors like Adobe RAW..

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Old 06-14-2011, 01:16 AM   #17
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Why would anyone want to use anything over f/8 for an average run of the mill train image? Maybe its me but its not like you need the treeline 50 miles behind the train to be in focus, since the first thing people notice is the train anyway. I used to shoot at f/5.6 all the time, all my images were muddy and soft, and were plagued by ugly bokeh around the train.

A good example at f/8, everything is sharp; I really didn't even need to sharpen it in NX2... But I added maybe +2 or 3 usm, and it is tack sharp. This is with the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR however.. I could maybe get away with f/9 or f/10 with the pro grade lens, but I don't see a need for it..

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I think you are probably right here. I generally shoot f8 these days, but I have shots at f10 and f11 that look pretty sharp on my kit. My point was that I did not think diffraction was an issue at those f stops, but I guess that depends on a number of factors, including sensor size etc. so it would be wrong to apply that globally. So instead of flirting with the possibility of diffraction, I agree that staying at f8 is the best bet like you said.
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Old 06-15-2011, 02:52 PM   #18
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My first reaction based on the OP's description of the settings for the shot is that if I were shooting a moving train coming toward me, I'd be shooting something beyond 1/320th. Even with the slow-moving steamers I typically shoot, I would always sacrifice aperture to gain shutter speed, at least until I'm shooting 1/500th. As for VR, I'd always leave it on if shooting hand-held. I can't say I've ever had an issue with VR. Most of the time, I am shooting with an 18-200mm VRII lens and most of the time, you will find me at f8, unless I am looking to blur the background or the light is bad.

As for focusing....

I would not use AF-S as this mode is designed for stationary targets and the focus is frozen when you half depress the shutter release. If you have a train moving toward you quickly, this is a great way to obtain a soft to blurry shot. AF-C is designed for moving objects and focuses continuously when the shutter release is half depressed, so it is definitely a better option. It also eats up battery and it is possible for the shutter to be released regardless of whether or not the subject is in focus...you are relying on the predictive tracking system to get it done. Personally, I use AF-A. It selects AF-S when the subject is stationary and AF-C when it is moving. I think this is the most flexible and lowest risk mode....but that's just me.

WRT selection of the focus location, I am fully manual on that. The D7000 has up to 39 focusing locations, but that's too many for a quick manual selection. I typically reduce to 9 or at most 21 when manually selecting the focus spot I am going to use. I decide in advance what the composition will be and select the spot where the train will be in the frame...usually aiming for the nose of the locomotive.
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