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nikon 400mm f2.8


17 Jun 2011 3:39AM
Hello
I'm not sure if I'm in the right place I have just signed up about 2mins ago.
I would like some hints and tips on using the above lens on a D300 I'm starting to loose the will to live with it. Alot and I mean alot of my images are SOFT by images I mean wildlife shots, They look ok on the camera screen (smaller etc) but when uploaded they are such a disapointmentSad
Settings are on continuous 5.6 upwards. Raw Auto W/B Iso 200-400. Gitzo tripod Wimberley head purchased to see if this would improve things. It seems to be anything that does not fill the frame is out (95%)I would say these are not fast moving targets but the like of Crested Grebes. Any help, hints, tips would be Great

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17 Jun 2011 3:45AM
Sorry I see I have posted in the wrong section
Overread 6 3.9k 18 England
17 Jun 2011 7:56AM
It's tricky to assess what might be the problem without first seeing some example photos, though there are a few basics you can go over to try and isolate if its user or gear errors (or a combination).

First up get some example shots, both resized versions for the net and a few 100% crops from those photos and upload them to the net. Photobucket and Flickr give you fairly large free uploading facilities and you can link the account here just to show those photos (since you're EPZ account limits you to one per day).

Secondly - when posting the shots detail the specific settings, setup and how you took the shot as well as a general idea of the lighting present at the time. The more info you can give the better. AF and metering modes also helps.

Furthermore some tests/ideas to check:

1) Shutter speed - even with the Wimberly tripod head you'll still need a fast shutter speed on wildlife - 1/400sec as a starting point and, in an ideal world, faster than that is better. If you're shooting slower and not panning shots you're running the risk of softness in the shots from motion blur (and of course if shooting without the tripod also shake from your hands).

2) AF - check to see if your AF system is front or back focusing. Lens tests and test charts are rife on the net and you can google up some examples fairly fast. A simple ruler at 45 degrees to the camera works well - AF onto a fixed line at the 45 degree angle and check to see if the AF is landing a lock on on that point or if its forward or back from that line.
MikeRC e2
9 3.5k United Kingdom
17 Jun 2011 8:17AM
....If you sign up for E2 you can immediately post 16 images...time limit I think...that'd help anyone with advice.
User_Removed 10 17.9k 8 Norway
17 Jun 2011 9:12AM
5 will get you 10 you are not using a high enough shutter speed. Given the focal length AND the sensor multiplier factor, your absolute minimum shutter speed should be no slower than 1/600th at 200ISO.

Try bumping the ISO to 800, switch to Shutter-priority and set the shutter speed to 1/1250th - or higher - and try again.

Oh - and take it off the tripod and use the rig hand-held. Smile
BillyGoatGruff e2
7 191 199 England
17 Jun 2011 9:26AM
This may or may not be applicable!

All of the above comments are very relevant, but if your technique is solid then there is also the issue of digital capture itself.

The nature of digital capture creates a degree of softness in the captured data and some shaprening is always required to counteract this.
Additionally, when resizing the image for download or preparing the image for print, further sharpening is usually required.
This is especially true for creating a jpg to be displayed in an online gallery such as here. The very process of resampling the image during the downsizing can create quite a degree of softness, so you probably need to sharpen you file prior to uploading it.
As a matter of course I (and I think most people on here) will sharpen prior to resizing and then sharpen again (I use smart sharpen) once the image is at its final size, before using "save for web" to save the jpg.

This may be what's causing the softness in your images.

HTH.
Bill
f8 11 9.2k 22 England
17 Jun 2011 9:27AM

Quote:Hello
I'm not sure if I'm in the right place I have just signed up about 2mins ago.
I would like some hints and tips on using the above lens on a D300 I'm starting to loose the will to live with it. Alot and I mean alot of my images are SOFT by images I mean wildlife shots, They look ok on the camera screen (smaller etc) but when uploaded they are such a disapointmentSad
Settings are on continuous 5.6 upwards. Raw Auto W/B Iso 200-400. Gitzo tripod Wimberley head purchased to see if this would improve things. It seems to be anything that does not fill the frame is out (95%)I would say these are not fast moving targets but the like of Crested Grebes. Any help, hints, tips would be Great



I had a similar problem when I bought my Canon 400 2.8, it needs a lot of practice to use it.
You seem to have all the right accessories (do you use a remote release?) if you are shooting moving wildlife a speed of at least 500th/sec is needed,poor light can also spoil the final result as does poor focusing. I suggest you try f8 at whatever iso setting to give you a fast shutter speed(as suggested above not less than 500th/sec) and see what results you get.
Finally do you use P/S or similar to process your pics? they could benefit from the sharpening tool.
As has been said if you upload a few examples of your work a better assessment can be made.
Good luck.
Phatboy 7 7 United Kingdom
17 Jun 2011 12:39PM
I agree with all of the above but does the Lens have VR? If you have VR switched on and are using shutter speeds higher than 1/500th there is a chance that VR could be causing the problem.
I read a reply to a letter in Nikon Owner magazine and it was saying that on the whole if you are using speeds higher than 1/500th VR is not needed. Any camera shake will probably be eliminated by the higher shutter speed but VR is an active system where lens elements are shifted off the central lens axis and although there is no camera/lens movement the VR system is still trying to sense for camera shake. This can have the result of images which can look slightly out of focus/soft.
I have a Nikon 200-400 and was having a similar problem until I switched VR off at higher shutter speeds and this seemed to cure the problem.
Hope this helps.
BillyGoatGruff e2
7 191 199 England
17 Jun 2011 12:42PM
To echo what Phatboy just said, here's a really useful article about VR:-

http://www.bythom.com/nikon-vr.htm
Phatboy 7 7 United Kingdom
17 Jun 2011 1:03PM
Wish I had seen this article a few months ago
17 Jun 2011 5:16PM
Many Thanks for your replies, I feel one test day comming up. One Comment HANDHOLD!!!!!!!!!!! no chance 5ft 2" female yes I'm strong but not that much LOL thanks again
I've owned and used a Nikon 400 f2.8, as it was an older version of the lens it didn't have VR
In the dark days of Northumberland I used the lens at f5.6 1/125 and got sharp pictures.
What I suggest is you look at this Adjusting the front-back focus see your D300 handbook for details.
While the lens was great on my camera, the co-owner had to adjust his to get good pictures.

The lens was way too heavy for me and I sold out my share and bought the Nikon 200-400 f4 which does have VR and is a much more managable lens for me.
Hope this helps
Merl
19 Jun 2011 10:23AM
http://www.moosepeterson.com/techtips/longlens.html might help.
As you have an expensive lens I assume you know about digital image sharpening.
Sharpening does not help if you have camera shake or the camera does not focus accurate.
Dealing with AF first some birds have low contrast plumage which in low contrast light can cause mis focus - though the effect varies with the bird and lighting. This is unlikely to be your problem as you are not satisfied with most images.
Your ISO may be a bit low.
Ignoring VR on 400's which have it - most can safely hand hold a lens at 1x effective focal length - 1/600 on DX - for a 10 foot wide subject.
If you are going in close to perhaps 2 feet wide in the frame it is just like using a 2400mm effective lens.
For hand holding you could then need faster than 1/2000.
Subject movement is similar magnified. Unless a bird is "parked" and sleeping going in close may need 1/1000 to stop all subject movement if it is preening.
You do not mention which Gitzo tripod - but Gitzo suggest a top of the range Series 5 if your lens does not have VR, if there is side wind, or if you are not using good long lens technique.
A Series 1 or 2 in my experience is not stable enough for a 400 on DX.
Fine Tune is unlikely to solve anything - Nikon rightly say it is not normally required.
If your body is at fault it would front or back focus with every lens - and in the same direction. As your problem is only with the 400 it is not the body.
Your camera AF uses exactly the same information focusing manually through the viewfinder. Unless you get unsharp images using flash when manual focus is good it is not the lens.
All this brings us back to too slow a shutter speed for the shooting conditions as the likely problem.
As already mentioned a sample image can help identify the most likely cause.

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