"Need advice on focus" Thu 18-Oct-12 12:05 AM by burchan
Last April I had my D7000 camera serviced at Nikon because I was not confident with reliable focus. It was much better and under normal use camera performed well but sometime I do have feeling that I need to put glasses on when viewing the photos. This time I had the oportunity to take some wildlife photos using my 18-200mm lens tripod and VR off. Large number of pictures are not in focus and I could not find the reason. In all the situations image is sharp in viewfinder but smudged after being taken. When using manual focusing image will be sharp if adjusted well enough. In the samples the first image was sharp. In the second image I moved closer and the birds had the sky as background. Of some 20 photos taken all were smudged. With manual focus I got better result. In the last sample I changed to single focus point but focus was out again. In all the images the result was the same so the problem is not camera movement. In other experiments photos taken at lens adjustment +10 gave good result some of the time but when focal lenght was changed I could not get good focus at all. From all the samples I could not find correlation what is best or worst setting or even that I have problem at all. All I know is that in D80 using the same lens I have constant good result but I still prefere the images from D7000. If the image is sharp in viewfinder then it should be equaly sharp when taken provided camera did not move. Should I visit Nikon service centre again? I just dont feel focus system is working right. Note: All are 100% crop
#1. "RE: Need advice on focus" In response to Reply # 0
Tallahassee, Florida, US
Some things to try:
You would get a sharper photo at f8 than at f5.6, so try stopping down a bit. I'm not sure what the sharpest aperture is at 200mm on this lens, but f8 will give you a sharper photo. You could up the ISO to 400 or even 800 to maintain or increase shutter speed.
How are you firing the shutter? If you're pressing the shutter release on the camera, that could induce some movement in the camera.
Because the 18-200 is not at its sharpest at 200mm, if you're getting sharper photos from your D80, it might be that the higher pixel count in the D7000 is revealing the limitations of the lens. But experiment with f8 or higher and see if you notice an improvement.
#2. "RE: Need advice on focus" In response to Reply # 0
Quad Cities, US
The birds here look a little underexposed. The metering saw the much larger brighter background and exposed for the sky. That has caused the shadow areas (the underexposed birds) to be kind of muddy. The lack of contrast on the surface of the birds may make them look soft even if focus was good.
These birds are also awfully small in the frame. You do not have many pixels covering each bird (the closest one is less than 300 pixels from head to tail) so the camera cannot record much detail. Add to that you were shooting wide open with the 18-200 at full zoom. I agree with Randy that the D7000 is showing the limitations of this lens especially with a deep crop like this.
#3. "RE: Need advice on focus" In response to Reply # 2 Fri 19-Oct-12 03:10 PM by km6xz
St Petersburg, RU
I do not see a focusing problem but as Dave said, there is no detail because of the severe crop means very few pixels are left to convey detail. Small birds against blue skies are some of the hardest objects that are popularly photographed. To do it well, those who specialize in birds invest in serious lenses so that the subject fills more of the sensor. What does the focus look like when shooting a subject that fills most of the screen? I suspect it is very good. Get closer, stop the aperture a bit to reduce the softness of that model lens at 200mm and crop less and you will be a lot happier with the images. Your other camera would have captured a lot less detail if cropped as much because of its lower resolution . Stan St Petersburg Russia
#4. "RE: Need advice on focus" In response to Reply # 2
I found your advice on underexposure most interesting. Would I be better to use spot metering in this situation? My manual focused results were much better then Auto. Attached are few more out of focus photos when bird was closer and f/10. I took the photos over several days with different settings. Out of several hundred bird photos I ended up with 10 acceptable. Normal photography of people and scenery is acceptable.
#5. "RE: Need advice on focus" In response to Reply # 4
Seattle, WA, US
Using these two shots as a basis, part of the problem may be your choice of focus targets. Here you are trying for the head and beak. In these two examples, the head is very small which may lead the camera to pick something else by mistake. If you were to pick the body where it joins the neck you would have a bigger target with good contrast.
Upgrading the lens to something longer (55-300mm, 70-300mm) would also help with making the heads bigger in the focus point.
---------+---------+---------+---------+ Joseph K Seattle, WA, USA
#6. "RE: Need advice on focus" In response to Reply # 0
You live in a part of the world that has many beautiful birds and interesting animals. I spent a month working outside Sydney a few years ago and marveled at the birds I saw. I live in the Northeast section of the US and I can only see birds like that at the zoo. So I can see why you are frustrated that your photos aren't up to your standards. As Joseph mentions above you really need a longer lens. Your photos of the small birds look to be in focus but most of the resolution is lost due to the very large enlargement and cropping. The AFS 18-200mm lens just can't hold up to 100% enlargements from a D7000. My best bird photos are with a 560mm manual focus lens. I never go lower than 400mm. And I still have to crop.
#7. "RE: Need advice on focus" In response to Reply # 5
St Petersburg, RU
Joseph is right, if you did not know what was beak and what was grass, and think like a camera, you would expect the subject to the what fills most of the focusing point. The camera does not know that a similarly colored beak is not part of the overall scene found under the focus point. Consider also that the focus point for sensitivity is larger than the viewfinder box indicating the focus point. The box is the center, not the limits of the focus point. For best focusing with AF, give the focus sensor the least ambiguous target, something with distinct color and contrast borders that are not easily confused with the background. That is tricky to provide sometimes, so look for something that looks to be on the same focal plane as the area you want sharp and focus on that. If not too far from the desired subject for focusing, field curvature of lens will not be much of a factor(in other words don't pick a target far to either side of the subject because only some lenses have flat fields, the 18-200 does not) and by focusing on a better less ambiguous target that appears to be on the same plane as the subject the subject should be in focus also. From the size of the red focus point box, these are still cropped too much for much resolution. Manual focus is the main option when a target is not a good focus target for phase detection AF. Can you post uncropped versions of these images? I second the recommendation to get a better, longer lens. The 180 2.8 is an excellent affordable lens that will AF better because not only is it far better optically than a 18-200 but since it is a f/2.8 lens, a lot more light is available for the focus sensor and for manual focusing in the VF. The AF and metering occurs with the lens wide open and it stops down instantly after pressing the shutter release. So there is a big difference in contrast, color and light level information available for the focusing sensors with a f/2.8 lens regardless of the f-stop of the actual exposure which in your case was f/11. The other suggestion, for a little less, but also less sensitive to light, is the popular 70-300. It is better at 300mm than the 18-200 is at 200. Neither gives the advantage of wide base minimum apertures that helps focus so much. Stan St Petersburg Russia
#8. "RE: Need advice on focus" In response to Reply # 6
Thank you for all the advice and help. I am not dedicated bird photographer but will take oportunity when I can. I have lot of bird life in my backyard which is even to much for my 200mm but situation has changed on the holidays when I could not get that close. It is so easy to blame the camera focus and not the operator and changing conditions. I feel more confident with my camera now and I am keen to try it all again. Submited few photos from home birds when I had no problems at hand held 200mm 1/50s f/6.3 VR on. This was taken in early October just before problem trip. Looking at my previous bird photos I had excelent focus. Thank you.
#9. "RE: Need advice on focus" In response to Reply # 8 Sat 20-Oct-12 12:01 AM by RSchussel
I dont think any of your shots are razor sharp because you are using the 18-200mm zoom. For what it is its a good lens but its not in the same league as prime telephotos or pro zooms like the 70-200.
Also as other have commented in your intial photos you are shooting a relatively small object against a blue background.White birds at a distance are also hard to get good focus unless there is a lot of detail.
Rent/borrow a good telephoto to get a good comparision. Your expections of the 18-200 are not realistic
#11. "RE: Need advice on focus" In response to Reply # 10 Sat 20-Oct-12 06:59 PM by burchan
>I agree with the 18-200 statement. It's not really a >top-of-the-line lens. Not even a middle-of-the-road lens. >It's a "kit" lens.
Disapointed that I did not get the 70-200 in the first place. My 18-200 lens was not cheap as DX lenses go (paid $1000). For a bit extra I could have had better lens and be ready for future FX. Sometimes saving money is to waste money but at a time I did not know. One thing is for sure that most of my skill and knowledge come from being a member of Nikonians.
#12. "RE: Need advice on focus" In response to Reply # 0 Wed 31-Oct-12 11:58 AM by kingsgraphic
>Last April I had my D7000 camera serviced at Nikon because I >was not confident with reliable focus. It was much better and >under normal use camera performed well but sometime I do have >feeling that I need to put glasses on when viewing the photos. >This time I had the oportunity to take some wildlife photos >using my 18-200mm lens tripod and VR off. Large number of >pictures are not in focus and I could not find the reason. In >all the situations image is sharp in viewfinder but smudged >after being taken. When using manual focusing image will be >sharp if adjusted well enough. In the samples the first image >was sharp. In the second image I moved closer and the birds >had the sky as background. Of some 20 photos taken all were >smudged. With manual focus I got better result. In the last >sample I changed to single focus point but focus was out >again. In all the images the result was the same so the >problem is not camera movement. In other experiments photos >taken at lens adjustment +10 gave good result some of the time >but when focal lenght was changed I could not get good focus >at all. From all the samples I could not find correlation what >is best or worst setting or even that I have problem at all. >All I know is that in D80 using the same lens I have constant >good result but I still prefere the images from D7000. If the >image is sharp in viewfinder then it should be equaly sharp >when taken provided camera did not move. Should I visit Nikon >service centre again? I just dont feel focus system is working >right. Note: All are 100% crop >
Hello, have a look at the D7000 forum thread 'D7000 Focus Problem' where several users have noted a required adjustment to the AF Fine Tune. However in their, and my experience, the adjustment is always towards the negative. Try settings in the range -10 to -15 (and use the focus chart described in the thread) and see if things improve. I note in the EXIF data that AF Fine Tune is always OFF, but you mention +10 settings (?) Regards, Tony
#13. "RE: Need advice on focus" In response to Reply # 12
I'm not sure that AF Fine Tune is the right solution in this case.
As has been suggested above, the problem with the original examples seems to be a combination of loss of detail through heavy cropping, the basic ability of the lens used and the choice of AF target.
AF Fine Tune (used with care) can be very useful in the right situation, but is not a panacea for all sharpness problems. It is intended to overcome small inconsistencies between a particular camera and lens - and the fact that one or more cameras benefit from adjustment in one direction does not imply that every one will
#14. "RE: Need advice on focus" In response to Reply # 13
I just think your going way to slow on the shutter speed personally, but I am no expert. I get best results above 2000/s and I am finding that the new toy (70-200, 2.8 VRII) is so much better that my 18-200 in almost every circumstance.
#15. "RE: Need advice on focus" In response to Reply # 0
I don't know if this will help, but here's my experience. I struggled with poor focus/soft images for quite a while when I got my D7000. I tried all of my different lenses, with results all over the map. Finally one day I tried more aggressive sharpening of the NEF's in post and my images immediately looked much better! I came to the conclusion that either the sensor or the AA filter in the D7000 was different from prior bodies, and needs more sharpening in post. Maybe this will work for you, or maybe not, but give it a try and see if it helps you. It did for me.
#16. "RE: Need advice on focus" In response to Reply # 15
before even gettign to PP i would recommend increasign the sharpness seetting to maximum on the camera itself this makes a big difference if you havent already done it yet. from a lot of reports i have seen comments that the sharpness setting on the camera is average and bumping it up makes a big difference
#18. "RE: Need advice on focus" In response to Reply # 17 Fri 09-Nov-12 11:34 AM by ericbowles
Branko is using View NX2 as an editor for the screen shots posted here. View and Capture will honor the camera settings, so I would make appropriate adjustments using the picture controls.
I would not increase sharpening to the maximum level in the camera. Even if you remove the sharpening in post processing, the maximum setting is probably too strong. I would increase sharpening a little bit from the default setting depending on which picture control you are using.
My take is you can change the camera settings slightly to increase sharpening. Be sure Noise Reduction is turned off unless you need it for a specific situation.
With the 18-200, the lens is a little soft at maximum zoom. Be aware of that softness as it is better at 150mm or so, but use 200mm if you need it.
All of these soft images were shot wide open. Only the most expensive pro lenses are at their best wide open. If you are going to use 200mm with that lens, try stopping down to f/8. Obviously that will reduce light and subject isolation, but it will improve sharpness.
Your camera is working properly. I'd try some practice with targets to work on sharper images with technique and camera settings.
Don't mess with fine tuning unless you clearly are regularly seeing sharp in focus slightly off the focus plane. If nothing is sharp your issue will only be worsened with Fine Tuning. And if you are going to fine tune, you need to have a proper test methodology.
#19. "RE: Need advice on focus" In response to Reply # 0
One other point that should be helpful and I am surprised no one mentioned it. Your AF settings were on AF-A and AF-S. Especially when shooting small targets allowing the camera to pick the AF points is far from ideal. I would suggest you try AF-C single point, even though the targets are tough because of there size or color I believe that you will have much better results. 21 pt dynamic will allow the camera far too much latitude in choosing what it thinks you are trying to focus on. AF-S will not allow for any movement at all, once the focus is selected it will not adjust at all if there is any movement. Even if the camera nails focus as everyone has said here there are just no enough pixels to provide much detail in such a small portion of the frame. Good luck.
Marc There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.-Ansel Adams
#20. "RE: Need advice on focus" In response to Reply # 19
Good point on the focus modes. The first image posted at the top of the page was Manual Focus. I found that the AF-A mode was not very useful and avoid it.
I generally find that AF-C is my preferred choice, but if you are having problems with focus, AF-S with Focus priority is okay for stationary subjects. The camera will not fire unless focus is achieved. I agree with the suggestion of single point AF for perched subjects.
My guess is the biggest issue is simply the capability of the lens. These images all look high zoomed - to 50% or more. On the D7000 with the 18-200 lens at 200mm you are beyond the limit of the gear. The D7000 at 100% has essentially the same magnification as the D800 at 100% (1000 pixels across the frame).
#21. "RE: Need advice on focus" In response to Reply # 19
Achieving focus exact focus at a distance handheld can be very difficult to say the least, but even more onerous when the bird is moving either by flight or because what he's resting on is moving. I got so frustrated when I started capturing wildlife I blamed everything including the camera, the lens and then me!
To save frustration I now usually try to get closer eliminating the large crops which, as has been said, degrades the quality greatly. Achieving the desired focus point can sometimes be frustrating and near impossible. The attached image is one of 600 taken in 1 hour and this was one of only 4 I nailed with the focus on the birds head. The conditions were perfect and although Stan has quoted the difficulty of a blue sky, worse is a cloudy white sky which will usually end up with the bird in silhouette. It just takes practice, lots of it and now I restrict most to my images to kind light and closer distance. Keep the speed high and the aperture at best f7-f9 or just either side. This applies equally to birds in flight or static.
This image shows the focus point and the camera details. Take no notice that's it a 70-200mm f2.8, I took loads of keepers with my 300 f4 and sure I would have achieved the same with my 70-300mm. Everyone here knows how I struggled with my D7000 on focus and even I sent my first copy back, although the dealer did admit it was the camera not me. The second took me 6 months to master, but when I did got some good results.