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Wednesday, 26 December 2012


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I thought autofocus was supposed to be hardwired into the brain - long before the camera. Or at least the automatic backup default when the digital 'puter cannot do the do. So the fallback is you.

Just rhyme'n, not say'n.

I have never had trouble with the center sensor AF on the D700, even in relative darkness... I usually set it up in continuous focus and release priority so it will shoot even if the picture is a bit out of focus. I also like to focus using the button on the back of the camera. Then I let go and hit the shutter button to take the picture.

I have also generally found that if people expect you to be shooting pictures the big camera is no more disturbing than a small one. I only find that *carrying* and shooting with the big camera is getting to tiring for me. So I'm inclined to get something smaller.

Nothin' quite like that Nikon flash though.

I love the idea of "practicals".

And they didn't line up shoulder to shoulder! So good.

So, how do skin textures look with the 800, Mike?

In that picture you posted, the skin textures look very digital to me, like everyone is wearing the same make up or latex of some sort? Not trying to be critical, Im just in shopping mode right now.

The one digital thing I have trouble getting past is skin texture. Not tone, texture. I feel like digital just imparts a rubbery look in many situations and Im always going in and trying to defeat this in post. I see it in that picture from the Berwyn bungalow. Im considering an 800 right now but that picture is pushing on me a bit.

I still shoot most portraits on film with my trusty old Hasselblad 500cm because of this. I sometimes shoot a bit of digital alongside, but film always wins in this area.

[I'm having a devil of a time with skin tones in B&W. I can't get it to look quite right, and I can't decide if that's because it actually doesn't look right or if it's only because I'm accustomed to something else. —Mike]

Lots of articles out there about D800 and focus, and shutter speed/camera movement. All them scads of teeny weeny pixels apparently get very demanding on the lens and the photog. I still want one, but I am beginning to realize that for grab shots, as opposed to landscape or studio/set up shots, something less demanding, like my D700, and smaller, is probably in my future.

I use only the center focus point(D800) which seems to work well. But on occasion, for whatever reason, the camera won't focus though in fairness it may not need to. As with your experience, the no-focus events occur with wide angle lenses. If I notice the camera not responding (and I'm bothered by it,) I'll force a re-focus by either turning the focus ring or have the camera focus on my hand extended out in front of me then focus again on the main subject. Quick fixes.

The grouping response to the D800 is interesting, and I've not read of it before. Perhaps a street outing with mine should be in order!

It appears the Nikon orange skin syndrome is still present. Very nice picture though.

Which lens were you using. The other night/morning I took a picture of my living room lit only by decoration lights. The center point was able to focus immediately. Granted, I was using the lowly 35mm f/2 lens with faster aperture. No focus assist light was needed. Didn't need to focus and recompose.

In the attached picture, focus in on the end of drape (green circle) which has rather subtle white on white contrast.

Let me guess... Mari and Charlie were the original pair?

A very nice shot, Mike. You can be rightly pleased.

But there is that digital uniformity of skin tone that I used to see and comment on (as a medium format film user) but no-one else could see. I haven't noticed it from my X-Pro1 (though I haven't shot groups like yours with it yet).

It took me about 10 years and 1.5 million photos with Nikon DSLR's to become competent in their use. Skintone was also a problem for about the same duration. I find the shot above to be a perfect example of how Nikon cameras still suck for people, especially in artificial light.

JPG's (and skintone) from Nikon consumer bodies (i.e. D3200) are usually much more pleasing than those from Nikon's flagship cameras. Perhaps this is how it will always be?

The Editor wrote. "By the way, if I ever build a dream house—I won't, because if you build a dream house it ceases to be one—it's going to have slaved flash units in all the light fixtures.".

Why wait? Just put them in NOW. No wiring required.

And slave flashes are twenty dollars each, or less, on aBey.

I started using the rear AF button a few years ago with my D200 and really prefer it to the half-push shutter. Easier( for me) to focus and recompose instead of fight with the shutter button.
I haven't had any focus bugs yet, but I did screw up with the 4/5 setting and not having it show up in the viewfinder! Manuals are painful!

Mike, I've had mostly great luck with focusing the D800 -- even in dark environments where I don't expect it to do well, it locks in very quickly, probably even better than my D700 which was a champ.

But I have had one or two experiences that left me scratching my head. In one room I had dim but sufficient light, but I just couldn't get focus to lock. All my settings were the same as usual, but the lens just hunted and hunted. (I know your experience was a little different -- not even any hunting.) I never did figure it out -- I wasted five minutes struggling, and then I changed lenses for a zoom set to the same focal length and the problem disappeared. And that same lens didn't give me problems later.

Any other time I've had problems I've tracked it down to something dumb -- like a mistakenly bumped manual focus switch.

Anyway, I think you should expect a D800 do better in the dark than most cameras, not worse.

I feel your pain...I've had problems with my Nikon focusing at all, and that's under strobe modeling lights. I was using the 18-105 "kit" lens, which is normally very sharp at all settings; and the focus point set to a single point at the "top" of the screen when used vertically for portraits. Whether it was because at 105, the lens wide open is at f/5.6, so relatively "dark", or something else (when I read the manual, it said the center focus point was actually a different type than the edges, and that the edges wouldn't work as well under darker conditions). Anyway, all the damn thing would do is "hunt", until I reset it to the center. Just annoying...

Of course, since the camera has some sort of "light-pipe" focusing screen, that just makes it impossible to focus the old way, nothing pops in and out, especially at 5.6!

This is also the camera that when set on "all focus points", will do stuff like ignore the 15 people in the fore-ground of a picture I'm taking, and "ping" on a bridge abutment in the upper corner, three blocks away! I talked to a Nikon user who was a photo-journalist, locally, a few years ago about this, and he remarked: "I though it was just my camera!" All the years I used Canon auto-focus stuff, none of this ever happened...

BTW, my new Lumix G-3 doesn't have this problem at all, especially when set to face recognition, which of course, as an EVL, even shows up in the viewfinder!

I'm with David on the "skin" thing as well, my digital Nikon stuff never looks as "smooth" or something, at least never looks as good as transparency or negative film shot under the people lighting I've been using for 40 years. It always looks like a weird conglomeration of "soft" from the lighting and "ruddy/overly-sharp" from whatever the digital chip is adding (and the "wrap-around" lighting I'm expecting, doesn't seem to happen, no matter how close I move the reflector, it just looks hard)...by the time I can set this to look closer, the image doesn't look sharp anywhere!

It's actually another thing that is so prevalent, a lot of us Nikon users have been talking about the hard/soft thing for years, and how we can't get it to look like film. Once again, the Lumix G-3 I bought and am now testing, doesn't seem to have this same effect, at least, to the same degree!

"Nikon orange skin syndrome." It's not just me then - that's (kind of) a relief.

Re: acquiring focus, with my D700s it is the lenses that sometimes have problems, not the camera - my 105 macro hunts like crazy whereas the 24-70 pretty much nails it no matter what the light is like (no need for the autofocus assist light).

My d700 does brilliantly in dim light without the assist lamp. Not so well if the subject itself is very dark, though (black kittens, say).

However, about AF points -- the center one is better than many of the rest, and using a single point is going to work better in general than giving the camera more choices under difficult conditions.

Screw the camera, any fried pierogies with sour cream? How 'bout bigos?

[Both, and borscht, and baked salmon, and all the traditional meatless Wigilia foods...none of which I can take any credit for myself, but always enjoy. --Mike]

Needs more fill into the eyes; looks like my bounces when I'm too close (which the perspective also suggests; presumably your back was against something) and forget to extend that little card on the flash far enough.

[David, no flash here...I don't even own a flash, except for a studio monolight in the basement. --Mike]

Which is why bounce flash works so well -- it looks like the normal lighting in a lot of rooms :-) .

Hang in there, Mike.

The camera's worth working through the learning curve.

I keep the "little light" off. (I kept it on on my Minolta/Sony gear, because the red pattern used for the IR AF assist was far less obnoxious than the "flashlight" used on the Nikon). On the D7000, I keep mine in AF-C mode always, with the AEL button set to AF-ON, so I basically have instantaneous access to AF-C or AF-S at all times (press and hold or press and release). In conjunction with those settings, I use the 9-point AF array. I've seen this setup widely recommended, and it works quite well for me. I think my A700 may have been a bit more content to focus in dim lighting, but only with the center AF point (I found the outer AF points very poor at focusing in low light) whereas on the D7000 I find I can use any selectable set of 9 AF points. I understand that the D600 uses a similar (or same) AF system, while the D800 is more sophisticated, but maybe this will help you investigate. (If the D800 is setup like the D300 then you have an AF button as well as an AEL so you can program it for AF-ON without having to lose your AEL option).

Reminds me back in the early 80s I attached 2 Spiratone AC powered compact strobes with peanut slaves to the track lights on the livingroom ceiling of the apartment I shared, bounced off the ceiling. Even enough to shoot anywhere in the room, triggered with a small on-camera flash deflected up. Produced lots of rather strange impromptu shots. Lots of fun, I highly recommend it.

BTW, for the "orange skin" people and other weird skin color people on here, I'm giving away my biggest "trade secret" after years of dickin' around trying to get face color I like out of Nikon...yep, 81 series filter. usually 81 outside, with the camera set to daylight, and 81A with professional strobe and the daylight setting inside. People who use the camera attached strobe, you're on your own for experiments, since I never use it...

Spend months trying to get face tones I liked with my Nikon, and I don't know if all the models work this way, but I could either boost red, or magenta with my model, and not red and yellow or yellow and magenta, or anything variation of two colors that would give me "straw" or "amber", or the 81 series, so why fight it, just use the damn filter!

Too much to get into here, but the "correct" warming filter for light that is getting more blue, in the Kelvin sense, is the CTO series, which is orange; but that has nothing to do with getting skin tones to work. This is a good example why no one should let engineers build cameras without professional photographer input, and the professional photographers should have at least 30 years experience!

BTW, not to sound like a broken record, but again, my new Lumix G-3 can "warm" in the "amber" scale, already tried some stuff and it's certainly replacing my 81 series filters!



Here in Wales, Berwyn is an impressive (for the UK!) mountain range in the north of the country.

I too have found folks respond and compose themselves for the Big Dragoon. In addition there are other advantages to bigger cameras.

My main shooter used to be the Canon 1Ds. Over the years I've shot about 60K images with it.

After years of shooting with it, I thought I needed something pocket sized. So I switched (for a while) to the Nikon P300. Nice camera, and pocket sized. Fits in the pocket. Fits in a backpack and all other kinds of convenient places. And that's where it usually sat.

I noticed with a small convenient camera, I took far far fewer pictures; I expected the exact opposite. After a year of this, I went back a Big Dragoon and now upgraded to the Nikon D3s. And I'm taking many many more pics - because the camera is slung on my shoulder (lens cap off) or on the table at a restaurant, or in my hand as I walk - and behold I'm shooting images.

So thumbs up on your Big Dragoon - happy shooting.

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