D300 clarity issues

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by dominic_schrock, Jun 18, 2009.

  1. <p>Bear with me I'm new to Digital Photography. I'm using the D300 with a Nikon 18-200mm lens<br>
    And can not get the clarity I want. Here is a photo<img src="http://lh6.ggpht.com/_qYzTVD5vt0U/SjqPnBoDUMI/AAAAAAAAA8w/r5ufnQtsPRs/s800/redhead.jpg" alt="" width="800" height="371" /><p>
  2. Could you elaborate on what you mean by clarity? The above photo looks fine.
    Try stopping around 100mm and stop down to f/8 or f/11 to shoot a static object on a tripod, you should get much better sharpness that way. From what I remember (I don't have the 18-200mm), the lens is a bit soft in the corners and wide open.
    However keep in mind that zooms have to make compromises to cover a range of focal lengths and thus primes are generally sharper.
  3. Unfortunately, the way you created/posted that JPG file, none of the EXIF data is intact. That means we can't look at how the camera was set up for the shot, and that you'll need to give us the details the old fashioned way.

    Lack of clarity can come from focusing on the wrong thing, having the camera set up to release the shutter whether or not it's got focus lock, camera motion blur or subject motion blur (which can require a quite high shutter speed to overcome), and any number of other things. If you use the 18-200 at 200mm, and had it on a tripod with the VR turned on, that alone could cause you some trouble.

    In the image you've provided (how cropped is that?) it looks like a possible combination of focus issues, some detail loss from a high ISO setting, and perhaps some subject motion blur. Hard to tell without more to go on, here.

    I also have that lens, and that camera body. In short: if you're using it at 200mm, make sure you have it stopped down a bit (say, f/8), and make sure you've got a decent enough shutter speed (say, 1/500th when going for birds on the wing). If you have to raise ISO to 800 to do that, so be it. A bit of noise is better than softness. Don't use VR if you're on a tripod.

    OK, so: do tell us some more about the way you're shooting.
  4. I think Matt has it, but if I had to pick one issue to start with, it'd be AF use and settings. The D300 is an exceptional camera, but it also requires a fair bit of technical set-up to make it perform at its potential.
  5. The 18-200mm isn't the sharpest lens out there. And shooting a moving object is always a challenge. I've found that I need to shoot at 1/500sec when zooming out to 200mm when shooting hand held to get a really sharp image. Even 1/250sec can be soft if you don't really brace yourself.
  6. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The attached image shows a small bird in flight, and the bird is completely back lit under strong sunlight. Worse yet, the subject only occupies a very small area in the frame, which clearly has already been cropped given its aspect ratio.
    The fact of the matter is that lighting is very poor and the lens (even at 200mm) is way too short for the situation. Even though AF might have been perfect and you could be using the $5000 200mm/f2 AF-S VR, you are not going to get even a decent image out of that situation.
  7. Unfortunately, Dominic, that second copy of the image still doesn't contain EXIF data. However it is that you're preparing the scaled-down JPG for use here is stripping that data away from the file header.
  8. Isn't this a bit the same question as this one: http://www.photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00Ta0k ?
    Did you try take pictures and convert the RAW with something like ViewNX or Adobe products, as suggested there? With RAW, you can alter enough parameters of the picture to get the image qualities you value.
  9. Yes, It is... I'm not trying to beat a dead horse ,just looking for more help and info to get the right lens or what ever I need to do. Raw did help. But slows down my fps so that's not what I'm looking for.
  10. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    As long as you are using 12-bit capture, the D300 should give you 6 frames/sec with RAW and 8 frames/sec with appropriate batteries in the MB-D10. Shooting RAW will not slow you down unless you use 14-bit capture.
    I would say don't waste your time studying the EXIF data for this image. As I pointed out earlier, you need to find better quality of light and use the appropriate focal length for the subject. Once you resolve those issues, then worry about AF accuracy, shutter speed, etc. As the way it is the poor lighting is masking all other issues.
    As the way it is now, the camera exposed for the bright blue sky which dominates the frame and therefore the back lit subject is way underexposed. You can compensate for the subject but then you would blow out the sky. If you have to shoot under such back lit situations, you'll have to use fill flash or some other way to brighten up the subject.
  11. Dominic, I did not mean to imply you tried to beat a dead horse, apologies if it came across like that. I just wanted to be sure that the advices given there were tried, to avoid a repeat of that thread (which would not help you).
    I think the difficulty is in the word "clarity". For some people, that means strong mid-tones, relatively low contrast. For others it means very saturated punchy colours. Others will see it as sharpness, or high key or good bokeh... Can you show a picture which is to your liking, and then one of roughly the same scene with the D300 so you can describe in clear details what it is that bugs you? So a 1:1 comparison.
    And I fully agree with Shun above, the picture that's at the start of this thread is not very useful - try something simple stationairy and colourful to demonstrate the clarity thing - so that we know it's not due to AF issues, backlit subject, lens sharpness or other potential distractions. I think it's the only decent way to help you out - sorry if it all sounds a bit laborious. But the D300 is worth it ;-)
  12. A friend and I have been holding a shoot out with our old Nikon 35mm film cameras. Yesterday I shot a roll of film. Today I took about the same number of digital pix with the D300.
    Absolutely no comparison. The D300 is better. Really.
    Probably back in the bad old days when people shot slides, and back when you could have englargements made from negatives without having them scanned digitally before printing this may not have been true. But even with all these caveats, I have so much more control due to the software I use when I get home, I am convinced that for almost all purposes digital is vastly superior. And with good techinque and a sharp lens, the D300 will compete with the very best.
    Ansel Adams was convinced that good camera work, framing the shot, creativity, a knowledge of light, etc. were essential, but that his work in the darkroom was just as important.
  13. My dad once gave me some good advice; first get good, then get fast. Continuous shutter speed is only needed under special conditions, and RAW is alwost always worth the extra time needed.
    Additional, or better gear is rarely the answer. I've seen very good work with modest equipment, and poor work with very good equipment.
    The gear you have is very capable. When I started photography I was looking to get 'ultimate clarity' as well. If I were you, I would practice and take courses, that's what made the biggest difference for me.
  14. Dominic, Shun has given you a very good tip about your picture being back lit creating a shadow under the bird. Remember one basic, light is everything. I know it is frustrating trying to get that wildlife shot with the light shining on your back.
  15. Part of the lack of clarity may be due to the missed focus on this shot. It looks like the point of focus is on the barbed wire and that the bird is slightly out of focus. You could always rent a 300 or 400mm prime lens to see if you get any improvement for the type of images that you are making.
  16. I agree with Shun and Bob H. And with others as well. In the last Image, I see focus off- look at gravel and grass at side of road. First is poor lighting. 18-200mm is a useful lens, but not the epitome of sharpness or speed.
  17. Dominic,
    I'm writing this to share a few things I've learned since picking up a digital SLR. I have the same camera, a D300, and the same lens, 18-200. When I first starting making images with it, I was asking the same question as your original post. My photos lacked the punch I was seeking, and I kept looking for answers.
    What I found was that I needed to upgrade my skills along with my camera. And most assuredly, I needed to learn to look at light and consider it much more carefully than I had been if I was going to achieve look I sought. The human eye is so good at normalizing differences in light while cameras do the exact opposite, they emphasize differences in light.
    I've learned that there is no single right answer when it comes to making an image with impact. Its a recipe with many ingredients and techniques and when one of them goes wrong, the soufflé falls flat.
    Clarity starts from strong contrasts, often illuminating textures and surfaces that would otherwise fall flat. Backlighting is high contrast in subject to background, but its low contrast within the subject itself. The bird is dark and mostly in shadow. Hence your main subject is dark, negative space on the image. I learned to see this by asking my wife, a patient person indeed, to spend a little time in the back yard on a bright sunny day posing. I shot frames backlit, frontlit, sidelit, fill flash, shade. I had her face fill the frame in each shot. I tried holding a white poster board under her chin to reflect light into her face a few times. When comparing the images, all of which were exposed properly thanks to the D300's intelligence, I began to "see" light the way a camera does, and it helped me a great deal get closer to my goal.
    I learned that light has four key characteristics that affect an image, color, quality (sharp or diffuse), intensity (quantity), and direction. Each of them can change an otherwise identical composition dramatically.
    I've spent a great deal of time lurking here on the forums, and I've seen countless hours spent by individuals giving generously of their time and energy to help others. One of the things I've yet to see however is a hierarchy of importance when it comes to solving photographic questions. Most answers are often accurate in and of themselves, a lens may not be top quality or the focus may be off a tad, for example.
    But what is working for me is a list of ingredients for achieving a photographic goal that cover items in an order of importance. My personal list is still under development, but right now it looks a bit like this.
    In descending order, these are the most important elements in constructing a photograph. If an item "fails" to work, everything below it is likely wrong in one sense or another. Get them all right, and the image has impact.
    1. Light. Miss it and it doesn't work. Its a different photo.
    2. Camera technique - getting the basics right - camera shake, focus, timing the shutter release for the peak of action, correct settings. If photography was driving, it would be about operating the car itself.
    3. Creatively appropriate camera settings (using shutter, ISO, and aperture to control depth of field and subject blur or sharpness) and overall look (high, middle, or low key). This is vital to getting the look needed. Again using driving as an analogy, this is about choosing which road to take to get where you want to go.
    4. Framing and composition. Filling the frame with elements that tend to have more impact rather than less. Again, if I were talking about driving, this would be the destination.
    5. Storytelling. This is where the magic happens. When a single frame can encompass the emotional depth to tell a story, evoke a set of feelings, communicate an idea. Success here makes for a great image. Reaching back to the driving analogy one last time, this would be the a trip that ends in my absolutely favorite place (for me its the ocean at sunrise).
    I hope this is helpful. I know I found it useful for myself to write this out in one place. One thing about photography that I love is there there is always something new to learn.
  18. Just played around with the image a little. Is this what you were looking for?
  19. And the other picture, too.
    Kind regards,
  20. Thank you. This is the punch I was looking for.. I guess I'm just to new too photography for that kind of editing skills.. I will learn , :) Any body got any books or recomendations?
  21. Hi Dominic,
    Photoshop LAB Color by Dan Margulis probably is the book you are looking for. His book Professional Photoshop is also highly recommended. For now, let me try to explain what I did to the pictures.
    The one with the doves was most easy. I opened it into Photoshop and than did an auto levels to maximize contrast (its a bit blunt, normally I would do this by hand). Next I opened the curves window and looked where the darkes part of your dove was. I mad this ten units darker. Next I looked where the whitest part of your dove was and made this 15 units lighter. Finally I did an unsharp mask, 120% and 0,5 pixels (with a full sized file the number of pixels probably would have been one or even more). And yes, I did the unsharp mask on a separate layer, which I next set to luminosity mode.
    The other image, I converted to LAB. I increased saturation by making the a and b curve steeper and improved contrast by giving the L-curve an S-shape. Finally I applied an unsharp mask to the L-channel (which is more or less similar to setting mode to luminosity in an RGB file).
    Hope this helps. Anyway, its good to realise that a camera like the D300 produces "flat" pictures on purpose. Most of the nice professional pictures you see on calendars and in photobooks have undergone this kind of editing. Actually, you'll learn that some quick edits can literally be done in minutes and next may end up using RAW only and setting your camera options on no sharpening, no additional contrast, no additional saturation etc.
    It really is great fun,
  22. Ok, I am glad to see others having the same problem. I shoot with the D300, 18-200mm lense. Unless the sun is to the point where I might have to compensate on exposure, my images are soft!! I have changed my settings, called Nikon and reset to default and still having the same problem. I feel I paid to much for this lense for it to give me these kind of results. When using flash my images are of course better in regards to clarity. I base my clarity on 100% zoom.

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