Wow...my first real complaint with the D700
Who the #$%! designed the intervalometer menu?!
Let me begin by saying I've never had any use for this particular feature until tonight, so take these as the rantings of a first time interval shooter. Tonight was a perfectly clear night so I called up a buddy and we drove 90 miles out to Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Valley. Once we got there we found a great place to set up and go to work. Unfortunately it was 20 degrees up in the mountains with LOTS of wind, so I was working quickly while losing feeling in my hands by the minute.
The goal was a 90 minute set of back-to-back 30s exposures for a star trail photo. I go through the menu, set the start time to NOW...interval of 1 second, 180 intervals and 1 shot per burst. Makes sense right? Camera takes a shot, waits 1 second, takes another, and so on and so forth for 180 intervals. That's how it works in theory and that's how it works when you're shooting at 1/250th (or any other relatively short shutter time).
BUT...that theory falls apart when you start using the longer shutter times Apparently the number of intervals you enter, when multiplied by the length of each interval, gives you the total length of the series. So when I entered 1", 180 intervals and 1 shot per burst...I was getting 1x180 = 180 seconds of total time...and at 30 seconds a frame I was only getting 6 shots, instead of the 180 I wanted! The system is taking your exposure time into account when measuring interval usage. My first frame would begin at 180, then the counter would drop to 147 on the second frame, and so on. What possible use does this have?? When the shutter times are short it doesn't matter, but it becomes a REAL issue when you get in the longer times.
so what is one to do? well, you can enter 1" and 999 intervals...but that still only buys you 999 seconds or 16 minutes and change, hardly the 90 minutes I wanted. The only step from here is to start ratcheting up the interval time. Basically you're forced into putting larger and larger gaps between your photos the longer you want your series to run. Not to mention the math required to figure out the settings to shoot a specific number of frames.
Anyway, instead of designing the system like they SHOULD have done (ie, interval time is the gap between photos and the time during the exposures don't get counted), Nikon has handicapped their system for anyone using longer exposures at night.
Finally, why am I getting so bent out of shape about this?? because I didn't learn ANY of this information until after I gave up on the mountain and drove back the 90 miles to look it up. The evening was a complete waste of time. Yes, shame on me for not testing it out before I left, but I NEVER imagined Nikon would engineer something like this.
#1. "RE: Wow...my first real complaint with the D700" | In response to Reply # 0
I'm sorry to hear of your unfortunate experience
Personally, I prefer the way Nikon have designed this feature, but then I don't use it for long exposure shots. To me, it makes sense that if I set the "interval" time to (say) 1 sec, I get one exposure every second. I don't have to worry whether the shutter speed is 1/500th or 1/5th, the shutter still fires once each second.
By the way, page 204 of the D700 manual does state:
"...Note that the camera will not be able to take photographs at
the specified interval if it is shorter than the shutter speed or
the time required to record images..."
#2. "RE: Wow...my first real complaint with the D700" | In response to Reply # 1
The "correct" (in my opinion) programming for this feature wouldn't affect you at all, it would only help people shooting longer exposures. I'm proposing that the setting is as simple as
interval time = gap between shots
number of intervals = remains the same (or change it to number of shot series)
shots per interval = remains the same
and then don't include exposure time in the equations. If you're taking 100 photos at 1 second apart then you would still have to put in 1", 100, 1 like you would now...nothing would change for you. It would only get rid of the maddening issues with longer exposures.
I just want to put out another example of why this design is terrible. Let's say you want to do a time lapse over 6 hours with 30 second exposures. You don't care about the number of shots. You just want to pack in as many 30s exposures in 6 hours as you can. Programmed correctly each frame takes 31 seconds (30s to shoot, 1 second gap).
6 hours * 60 minutes * 60 seconds = 21,600 seconds.
21,6000/31 = 696 frames.
696 frames * 30 seconds = 20,880
20,880/21,600 = 96.67% of your six hour window is caught on camera.
now with how it's done today:
21,600 seconds in 6 hours.
21,600 / 999 = 21.62 we'll round to 22 seconds.
so we enter 22" intervals, 999 of them, 1 shot per burst
each frame takes 52" (30s shot, 22" gap)
21,600/52 = 415
415*30 = 12,450
12,450/21,600 = 57.6% of your six hour window is caught on camera. Instead of the whole six hours we get less than 3.5 hours out of six.
oh, and because of our rounding to 22" we're actually there for an extra 6 minutes, so the percentage is even lower.
OK, I'm done now. Does anyone want to take a shot at figuring out the inputs to get exactly 720 30s exposures? If Nikon programmed this correctly it'd take another 12 minutes, ie 6 hours 12 minutes to get 720 frames. I have a feeling the answer today would be north of 12 hours.
I can only hope Nikon corrects this issue with a firmware update. Very frustrating.
#3. "RE: Wow...my first real complaint with the D700" | In response to Reply # 2
>...and then don't include exposure time in the equations. If
>you're taking 100 photos at 1 second apart then you would
>still have to put in 1", 100, 1 like you would
>now...nothing would change for you.
But if I want the shots taken at precisely 1 second intervals, I cannot ignore the exposure times. An exposure time of even 1/100th of a second will cause the 1-second interval to "drift" over a long sequence. With longer exposures (but still less than 1 second), or with bursts of shots for bracketing purposes, it will drift even faster.
The system is not "incorrect"; it's just different from what you would want (however frustrating that may be). I agree that to set up a fixed number of fixed-length exposures, the current setup is not ideal, but that's not the only way interval shooting gets used and I guess Nikon had to disappoint someone
#4. "RE: Wow...my first real complaint with the D700" | In response to Reply # 3
Good point Brian, I hadn't considered that.
However...how many real world applications can you think of where a 1" drift every 100 shots is a big deal? I have to imagine anyone using an intervalometer for scientific purposes is probably using equipment that works in finer increments than whole seconds.
Given this new information I feel as if Nikon chose the wrong group to disappoint. Oh well, maybe someday they'll offer both. maybe add a mode making it very simple to take photos at certain intervals for a fixed period of time (without calculating the number of shots).
#5. "RE: Wow...my first real complaint with the D700" | In response to Reply # 4
For scientific applications one would use a more precise timer such as The Mumford Time Machine A Programmable Controller / Intervalometer for Cameras and Electronic Flashes. Here is a link: http://www.bmumford.com/photo/camctlr.html
It isn't cheap but is very capable.
Good Luck and Enjoy your Nikons!
#6. "RE: Wow...my first real complaint with the D700" | In response to Reply # 4
Nikon uses a different approach with the MC-36, so you might want to download the manual and read about it. You could also look at computer controlled tethered solutions like Time Lord by The Oxford Eye.
Your computer and camera do not have very precise clock chips because of the cost of a percise clock chip is not justified for a PC and there other sources to adjust the time of each of these devices. Your computer can be synced to any of a number a national time standards sources over the internet and your camera can be synced to your computer's clock. You could also add a tethered GPS to record an accurate to the second time stamp in the EXIF, the limit is the limit of the definition of the data field.
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