Autofocus and Noise: D90 v. D3 & 1D

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by LuckySo-n-So, Feb 13, 2010.

  1. LuckySo-n-So

    LuckySo-n-So TPF Noob!

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    First off, this is not a case of gear envy. I am happy with my camera. I am not ready for the big guns as of yet. Much to learn.

    I shot a gymnastics meet last night with a Nikon D90 and a Sigma 70-200 2.8.

    Student photographers were there as well, shooting with a Nikon D3 and Canon 1DMxx. They also had Nikon/Canon 70-200 lenses.

    1.) My Autofocus and fps were painfully slow when I was close to the action (vault, balance beam). It was decent when I was far away (Uneven Bars, Floor).

    The student photographers were shooting at the normal 9-10 fps attributed to those cameras, while I could barely get 2. During Vault and Beam, I was in just as good a vantage point as the students (who were on the floor, while I was in the stands).


    Question: Was my lens the cause of slow AF/fps? Or is it the D90? Or both?

    2.) Noise.

    I shot in Manual, shutterspeed 250-500, 2.8-5.6, ISO 500-640, all depending on where I was pointing my camera at the time.

    Most of my photos had lots of noise (and were very soft).

    I was able to compare my photos to those taken by the student photographers. There was actually NO comparison. Their photos were tack sharp, action frozen, and noise free. Magazine quality.

    Mine were soft, action not really frozen (but close), and a bit too noisy for my taste. Some were quite good and can be "saved" in PP, but most were throwaways.

    To put it bluntly, I was not very happy with the outcome. The only change I could have made was to up the shutterspeed to freeze the action, but the photos would have been way too noisy/dark. I think the softness is due to the lens.

    Big question: Are those two cameras THAT much better at AF and Noise reduction? I know my lens is not as good, but I have taken some exellent and (IMO) magazine quality football pictures with that lens and camera. I have taken great pictures with this camera (and a D40 before that), so I'm not getting rid of it.

    I realize no self-respecting pro photographer would show up at a gymnastics meet with a D90 or 40d/50d(maybe?), but I expected better.

    Or is it just me???

    :confused:
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2010
  2. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Mostly, it was the less capable Auto Focus module in your D90.

    Yes, they are that much better at AF and have far better ISO performance than a D90.

    The D90 is an entry-level camera. The D3/1D and 70-200 mm's are/were flagship, top-of-the-line, full professional gear.
     
  3. inTempus

    inTempus TPF Noob!

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    The images on your D90 might look soft for a couple of reasons.

    1) High ISO noise makes images look soft, especially if you're shooting JPG and letting the camera do NR for you. Even if you're shooting RAW, the noise can give the impression of being soft at 100% crops. Apply NR to your images and they do get softer.

    2) Your D90 has a consumer AF system in it. It's not nearly as capable, especially under adverse conditions like low light, as the AF found in the D3/1D. This can cause your camera to miss focus. Keep in mind that the AISERVO tracking system found in the 1D (not familiar with the D3's equivalent) is the best on the market. That means the camera can lock onto a target and track it even when you have other objects moving in and out of frame, it stays locked on the original subject. It also predicts erratic movement and anticipates where the subject will be in the next frame for the next shot.

    3) Make sure your shutter speed was fast enough to stop motion. If you're shooting with too slow of a shutter speed, obviously this will give a soft appearance to your images as well. That means going even higher in ISO or opening your aperture more if you can to get that shutter speed up.
     
  4. IgsEMT

    IgsEMT No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Adding to all above

    Nikon JPGs are a bit softer at default settings when compared to other brands. Therefore, boost the sharpness and you'll be set. On my Nikons, based on the lens that I'm using, my sharpness is set anywhere b/n 3-5.

    Next thing is if you shot wide open - your images will be softer. Sharpest apertures are about 2-3 stops down from widest open.

    Good Luck
     
  5. Dominantly

    Dominantly TPF Noob!

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    I don't think so Tim.
     
  6. gsgary

    gsgary Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I can't see how you were shooting at ISO500-640 and getting the correct exposure, thats probably why they were noisy (underexposed) also timing is more important than FPS
     
  7. LuckySo-n-So

    LuckySo-n-So TPF Noob!

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    While the histogram was admittedly on the left end of the graph, the exposures were technically correct.

    Also, I had pretty decent timing on a good bit of it, but faster fps would have gotten even more good shots. A gymnastics routine provides many more opportunities for good shots than my camera could provide.

    Not sure if I could have gone much higher than 500-640 shutterspeed without rendering the photos too tark or too noisy (which they were anyway).

    Oh well---another meet in a couple weeks. Then baseball starts up next weekend as well--DEFENDING NATIONAL CHAMPIONS of college baseball. :mrgreen:

    Thanks to everyone for your answers! :cheers:
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2010
  8. gsgary

    gsgary Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Just up your iso for a higher shutter speed, what was exposed correctly if it was to the left ? can we see some shots, i would have thought in a gym Iso1600would be minimum, i'm usually at iso3200 when shooting indoors
     
  9. IgsEMT

    IgsEMT No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I'm guessing you don't use flash.
     
  10. gsgary

    gsgary Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    No not allowed, even the dog was laughing at me it was so dark
    [​IMG]
     
  11. schumionbike

    schumionbike TPF Noob!

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    you shouldn't have much noise at 500-640 ISO unless it's in a deep shadow.
     
  12. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I'm gonna go with a combo approach...first off, not all AF-S or HSM lenses focus equally well or rapidly. For example, the Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S that I own is know to be a rather sluggish prime AF-S--if focuses slowly. Sigma has made multiple versions of their 70-200/2.8, and all of them are regarded as being slower than the Nikon 70-200 VR-G, the first generation lens.

    A few years ago, I was shooting 2 or 3 sports assignments per week, and was having occasional days when the 300 f/4 AF-S Nikkor on the old-time D1h body would not autofocus using the center AF point, especially on track and field uniforms that were just a solid,dark green color on the shaded side of the track. One day, I happened to get a good deal on a mint condition 300/2.8 AF-S II, the lightweight,magnesium-barreled version that came out just before the first-generation VR model. I got it for almost $1,000 below the then-current KEH price--and you know what? It is an incredibly fast-focusing AF-S lens.

    One day, to try it out on the dog-slow, 3 fps Nikon D70, I took it to a girls' soccer match. I was amazed at how much that lens "lifted" the old D70.

    Here's a photo I got on the first day with the D70 and the fast-focusing lens.

    [​IMG]


    Keep in mind, this is what is called "One-shot AF acquisition" and proper timing on when to actually press the shutter button--the D70 is SLOW for action work and you usually get only ONE frame per shot opportunity with the D70,so you've gotta' make 'em count. This lens offers REALLY fast and sure autofocusing--many other lenses are slower. Even "good" lenses.

    You might consider using the wide-area, 7-point AF pattern option on your D90's AF system. By using more than just the center point indoors, Nikon's mid-level bodies like D200 and D90 have more information to base AF decisions upon; if you use just a single point,at times it will come to rest on a flat-tone or low-contrast uniform bit; with more than one AF point enabled, the system can more-easily track a moving sports subject because it collects data from not just one AF point, but from multiple segments of the frame, and the computer has more data to make a better decision from. On the D-2 series, I prefer using a group dynamic AF, multi-pattern approach, using 4 grouped AF points, but that is another camera entirely. My experience though is that on plain,bland uniform fronts at close distances or really tight framing, the center AF point can perform worse than using a grouped AF point approach. (The proper AF approach is somewhat different between Canon and Nikon, in my experience,and it varies somewhat from camera model to camera model).

    And lastly--I don't want to sound snarky, but I do think the older Sigma 70-200/2.8 models are sub-par in terms of AF speed, based on the number of posters over the years who have reported similar complaints, and have then switched to the 70-200 VR since 2003. If you want, I can refer you to a small brick and mortar photo store that has three 70-200 VR's at $1,200 each. PM me if you do.

    As for the noise issues: I assume you shot in RAW mode, but what I do not get is your reported exposures of f/5.6 at ISO settings I consider medium-high: I'd venture to say you should not be using f/5.6 indoors on any sports photos at those ISO values and shutter speeds. f/5.6 is awfully small an aperture indoors at an ISO of 640 or even 800; why such a small aperture? I think part of the noise issues might be due to under-exposures. And the AF problems due to the lens, the way the camera is set up, and the level of experience you have with it in such challenging conditions.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2010

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