Category Archives: Capturing the Image

Using DX Lens on Nikon D800 FX Body

The only full frame lenses I currently have are from the days of film, all manual focus.  After aquiring a Nikon D800, I ordered the Nikon 24-120 F4, which is designed for full frame.  When using my Nikon D300, I really liked my super wide Tokina 11-16 mm f2.8 zoom but buying yet another lens right now was stretching the bank.  So I did experimenting with my Tokina DX lens.  For those not familiar with Nikon terminology, FX is full sensor size, using the same area of 35 mm film.  DX is their name for their smaller sensor with a 1.5x crop, used on many of their DSLR cameras, such as the D300.  When I attached this DX lens to my D800, I could see that at the 16 mm focal length, I was not getting any noticeable vignetting, even when I was using the full image sensor.  Of course if I tried to zoom at to 11 mm, the vignetting occurred significantly, down to just outside the grid lines for the DX sensor area.  So what if I used this Tokina lens on my D800 and should I use the DX sensor area (which gives me 15.5 megapixels) and zoom as I wish from 11 to 16 mm, or should I use the full sensor area (which gives me 36 megapixels) and use only the 16 mm focal length?  These two images show those two extremes.  I left the filter on the lens for all these tests, but did discover that the filter is causing some of the vignetting so there is the option to remove the filter to go even wider.

11mm-DX Drop

11mm-DX Drop

I guess I am not surprised that the the perspective is almost the same for the ftwo photos.  This does open up the possibility of using this lens with the full FX sensor area, but limiting it to 16 mm focal length, which is indeed a very wide perspective.   This will give you the same perspective as using the lens at 11 mm and DX crop (1.5 crop).  By using the full sensor area you will end up with potentially a sharper overall image and for this lens I did such a test and can see that.

With the Nikon D800, there is another optional sensor crop besides DX and that is the 1.2 crop, which still uses 25 megapixels of sensor area.  This photo was taken using the Tokina DX lens with the 1.2 crop, zooming to 14 mm.  On the left is the image as taken where you can see some slight lens vignetting in the corers.  On the right the same image after applying lens correction and vignetting adjustment in Lightroom 5.

14mm-1.2 Crop

14mm-1.2 Crop Corrected

So how sharp is this DX lens. Here is a highly cropped portion of the above photo. Looks pretty sharp to me.

14mm-1.2Crop-Small Crop

In summary, if you are moving from a APS-C sensor camera like the Nikon D300  to a full frame camera like the Nikon D800, you don’t need to immediately sell off your lenses and you don’t necessarily need to use the FX crop sensor.  There is no doubt a lens designed for full frame works better, but you can see that you can often use those old lenses until you get the means to replace them.

Shooting RAW Images

What are RAW Images

A digital camera takes the information from the sensor and converts that information into a JPEG image using the in-camera settings for such things as white balance, brightness, contrast and sharpness. Those settings are either selected by the photographer or are automatically selected. Digital SLR cameras offer the option of saving the information that comes off the image sensor and save it directly to the memory card before conversion to a JPEG file. Such an file is referred to as a RAW Image file.  If you choose to save  your images as only JPEG, then the internal workings of the camera will take all that data from the sensor, process it, and save the file as JPEG.  But a JPEG only haves 256 levels of brightness for each of the three RGB color channels (red, green and blue).  On the other hand the RAW image has 4096 levels of brightness for each color channel, so if you save only as JPEG you camera will throw away some information.

Unlike RGB files such as JPEG and TIFF files, there is no standard for RAW images and each camera has it’s own format. Even within one manufacturer there are differences between camera models. The RAW image contains information from the camera’s sensor plus other information such as white balance setting, exposure, sharpening settings, and any other in camera color adjustment settings. Exif data is also stored in the RAW image.

Do RAW Images Lack Punch?

As digital cameras started to proliferate, we saw many of the camera manufactures build in their camera to digitally add more punch to the JPEG images.  Although this started back in the days of film, it was the movement to digital that allowed for much more in camera processing.  This is fine when the output in a JPEG where the camera can do the processing of the data off of the sensor.

With many cameras, when you shoot in RAW you can set the color adjustments in the camera.  These do not actually change the colors inside the raw image, but the camera setting is recorded there.  When you use the software that is sold by the camera manufacture, it will read what you set in camera and apply an equivalent of these settings to the RAW image.   Then when you create a JPEG from the RAW image it will look similar to what the camera would have produced a JPEG itself.

Digital Negatives

It may help to think of RAW image files as a digital negative. With a film negative you have all the information as recorded by the camera but they are not viewable directly but need to be processed before viewing or printing. So it is with RAW images, they need to be processed before you can view or print them. That process involves converting them to a RGB file such as JPEG or TIFF.

When a film photographer makes a print from their negative they would never think about throwing away their film negatives because those negatives contain information that is lost in making the print. Likewise the digital photographer would not want to discard their RAW images after converting them to a RGB file format such as JPEG.

Advantages of Shooting RAW Images

When taking the picture if only a RAW image is recorded, that file needs to be processed before using it. That is typically done on a computer using software that can read the RAW image and write a JPEG file. That would normally require an extra step for the photographer and for that reason many photographers just set their digital SLR cameras to record JPEG only. However capturing the RAW image has many advantages compared with saving only a JPEG image.

  • Higher image quality. Just as a film negative has more information that is contained in a print, a RAW image has more information that can be contained in a JPEG file.
  • More effective post processing. Using a computer program to convert a RAW image to a RGB file allows much better control over changing parameters such as white balance, contrast, brightness, sharpening.
  • Non-destructive edits. When you use a computer program to edit a RAW image you do not lose any of the original information. Any edits are stored either as data within the RAW image file (usually only if you are using software provided from the camera manufactuer) or in a sidecar file (as is done with Adobe products). Even if you crop the image, you can always go back to the RAW image and start over. If you crop a JPEG file, then the cropped area is lost forever.
  • You can use a lossless compression, or no compression, for the RAW image file. JPEG files use a lossy compression, which means some information is lost each time the file is edited and re-compressed

Disadvantages of Shooting RAW Images

  • Increased image size. RAW image file are usually 2-4 times larger than the JPEG file, or even more if their do not use any compression. Than means fewer images can be stored on a memory card and more hard disk space is used to store the images.
  • No standard. There is no standard for RAW image formats. I have both a Nikon D70 and a Nikon D300 digial SLR and both cameras use a different RAW image. So any software that is used to convert the image needs to be able to process a particular RAW image. Adobe has proposed a standard RAW format they call DNG for Digital Negative. So far the big manufacturers have not adopted it.
  • Post processing required. There is an increased time to process the image to a JPEG format that can be uploaded to a website or printed. However that is not as significant as it once was. With the great adoption of RAW image formats, you can now effectively use them directly. On a Mac computer you can view the images directly using the file browser (finder) and Windows offers add ins that can do the same. I can upload RAW images to my photo sharing site, Smugmug. The upload process does all the work to convert the RAW Image to a JPEG format for me. I use Adobe Lightroom and can export directly from there to SmugMug, having all the post processing applied to the RAW image before it is uploaded in a JPEG format.

Shooting RAW + JPEG

Many cameras offer the option to shoot both RAW and JPEG files at the same time so for each shot you get two images. This might sound like the best of all worlds. There are some disadvantages however. Two images will take even more space on the memory card. For my Nikon D300 camera the RAW image takes up about 13 mb using lossless compression and a JPEG Fine image takes up about 7 mb, so if I shoot RAW+JPEG Fine, each shot takes up about 20 Mb on the memory card and on the computer when transfered there. With the greatly lower prices on memory cards that is not as big of an issue as it once was.

There is also the added confusion of file management when you have two different files of the same image. If you rename the JPEG file and not the RAW file it is difficult to keep track of things. Some programs such as Adobe Lightroom do a very good job or recognizing that there is both a RAW image and a JPEG image with the same name, except different extensions, and shields you from the complexity of having two images.

Conclusion

So in conclusion I feel it is important to shoot all your pictures using the RAW Image format if your camera offers that option. Whether you take the extra step of shooting in plus JPEG, is a personal decision. If I had plenty of free disk space and was using a program such as Adobe Lightroom, I would probably shoot in RAW+Fine JPEG. There was a time I would shoot RAW + JPEG basic so I could upload the JPEGS to a website but that is not needed now since I can upload directly from the RAW images. If I was either lacking disk space or was using a photo library program that showed duplicate images with the potential confusion of handling both RAW and JPEG, I would shoot in RAW only and create JPEG files if I need to, such as doing online printing. What I would not recommend is shooting JPEG only. I don’t see sufficient advantages to compensate for the disadvantages.

Photoholic

Our daughter wrote recently in her blog entry called PHOTOholic “So now I take pictures whenever I can of my family. I am known in my family as the picture nazi.” It reminded me so much of myself. When we had a young family I would constantly be taking pictures. Since it was the days of film I didn’t take nearly as many as I would today with a digital camera, but still enough that people would complain. Ann’s mother would often say “I hate it when you take my picture”. And yet those pictures over the years are one of the main links with the past and each year they increase in worth.

As many, I moved into taking video. But video is a very different animal. It takes a lot more time to edit and it is more difficult to share, more difficult to sort through and throw out way you don’t want. The video tapes sit on the shelf and are almost rarely used, while the still images are viewed frequently. I came to the conclusion that video was a diversion and for the most part stopped using that format so I could focus on still images. The videos I do create are mostly done with still images anyway.

So Sara, keep on taking those photographs. You can never recover what you did not capture. Your children will grow so fast that you only have one fleeting moment to capture each of them at this stage of their life.

Here are some additional images from our daughter’s blog which clearly demonstrate she has far greater talent than we do in capturing those precious moments:

SISTERS

SIBLINGS

Abigail - 1 week oldEmma - 2 1/2 years old

Peter - 5 years oldAndrew - 7 years old

Photographing Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake was formed by a volcano and is the deepest lake in the United States. It has not water inflow or outflow so the water in the lake is only from the local snow fall. It is one of the clearest water bodies anywhere and the deep blue from the depth of the water. The picture above is a merge of 3 photos. Click on it to see it enlarged.

Ann and Franz at Crater Lake

This was our first time to visit this National Park. It was less than a two hour drive from Medford. We arrived in the morning and took some pictures from the area near the Crater Lake Lodge.   Ann was shooting with her Nikon D70 with 18-70 mm Nikon lens and Franz with his Nikon D300, using both a 18-200 mm Nikor lens as well as some Nikkor prime lenses.

Ann at Crater LakeFranz

All the photographs were processed through Adobe Lightroom.  Little changes were needed however.  Only Photoshop CS3 was used for the photomerge at the top.

Nikon D300, 22 mm lens, ISO 200

Crater Lake

Nikon D300, 24 mm prime lens, ISO 200

Nikon D300, 18 mm, ISO 200

Crater Lake

Nikon D70, 70 mm, ISO 400

Crater Lake

To see how well the Nikon 18-200 mm lens did compared with the 24 mm prime, I have added two photos of each into one image. Click on the image below to view enlarge so you can compare.

This may not be a good way to evaluate since the scene is different and each had a different post processing.  In any case when I do a 1:1 image, the both look equally good.  If you need a highly enlarged and identical images to see a difference, maybe that difference is not so important in the first place.

We then got on our bikes and started to bike around the lake. Franz carried the Nikon D70 on a backpack so we could take some photos from different locations.  He started out trying to take it in a simple case but that did not work since it would swing to the front when leaning over to pedal so he returned to the car and took his LowePro Sling 200. That bag is a bit large to carry a single camera but it worked, but not ideally.  To carry a DSLR on a bike, a back pack is best, preferable one made for biking such as the Camel Bak bags.

Franz

The LowePro Sling 200 has the stability strap (you can see hanging in the photo below) to keep it from swinging to the front but it was still too much on one side to cycle easily with.

We ended up going half way around the lake but had to turn back because the rim drive road was closed at some point due to snow. Can you believe, snow in July!

On the drive back to Medford we stopped at the Rouge gorge to take a few more pictures. It is hard to capture water falls.  Franz put on a 24 mm prime lens that would stop down to f22 and he set the D300 to shoot at the lowest ISO setting.  Setting the camera to shoot in Aperature Priority mode still resulted in a shutter speed that was too fast to blur the water.  A neutral density filter would be needed. Also brining more than a table top tripod would certainly have helped.  But since that was all he had, he proped the table top tripod on the top of the fence as you can see below.

Ann just balanced her Nikon D70 on the fence post.

We had a great time and hope to visit Crater Lake National Park again. You can see all our pictures at our SmugMug Gallery by clicking here .

Photographing Zion National Park

Ann and I stopped in Zion National Park for a 3 day adventure.

Equipment Used:

  • Nikon D300 with Nikon 18-200 mm lens
  • Nikon D70 with Nikon 18-70 mm lens
  • Canon PowerShot A700
  • Nikon 50 mm 1.4 MF lens
  • LowePro Sling 200 bag

Software Used

  • Adobe Lightroom (Mac) to import and organize files
  • Photoshop CS3 (Mac)
  • Nikon Capture NX (Mac) for post processing for printing
  • Photoshop Elements 6 (Mac) for photomerge

I was shooting with my new Nikon D300 and Ann was shooting with the Nikon D70. I had purchased the LowePro bag before leaving home. That bag proved very valuable with all the hiking we did. Most of the pictures below are as shot from the camera, except where noted. Click on any image to see an enlarged view but not the original. The originals are all posted on our account at Smugmug.

On the first day we started out hiking up Angles Landing. We wanted to get a shot of the two of us together but there was no one around, so we took a picture of each other so I could later merge into this one.

I was wondering what she was taking a picture of until I later looked saw this image on the computer.

Hiking the upper portion of Angles Landing was difficult carrying the DSLRs since we had to use chains. But we managed and benefits from using the wide range zooms. I found I used the entire range of 18 to 200 mm during the day. Many pictures, as expected, were taken using 18 mm. At times I wish I had even a wider range. I was carrying a couple of prime lenses with me but frankly rarely used them. Since we were primarily hiking, taking photographs along the way, it just didn’t make sense to do a lot of lens swapping.

Our second day was biking so we only took a point and shoot Canon camera. We biked up Kolob Canyon, which has some beautiful views, with the road winding in and out of the national park. With the rain we ran into we didn’t take many pictures. Just getting back to the hotel with the rain and cold temperatures was all we could manage. Ann did take this one picture from the back of the tandem just before the rain started.

After drying out and warming up we drove up to see the Museum of Photography. I put on my fast 50 mm f1.4 manual focus lens before we entered. There we viewed some beautiful large prints of photographs. Many were taken by Michael Fatali using an 8×10 film camera and printed himself using the Cibachrome process. He takes pride in “No Filters, No Computers, Simply God’s Light”. I found myself dumbfounded viewing his images that he could capture such beauty with that approach. They didn’t let use take any pictures inside so I took these picture outside in the courtyard.

On our last and third day, we started out with a tandem ride, again carrying the Canon Powershot. Ann took this picture from the back of the tandem, while we were racing down the road from the Zion tunnel. Not bad for a point and shoot!

In the afternoon we hiked up Hidden Canyon and also Observation Point. With the sunny weather and beautiful clouds, along with the topography, made it an idea day to get some pictures

I took this one of Ann using the 120 mm setting on the lens (equivalent of 180 mm on a 35 mm film camera). The vibration reduction worked great.

We then make our way up the long hike to Observation Point. We came upon a slotted canyon that was most fascinating.

We took some more photos from high above Zion Canyon, but I don’t consider these to be that good because they try to cover too much from afar. Here is one example.

After returning to the canyon floor, we took a few more pictures. I particularly like this one and later made a 11×17 in print to frame. Here is the image as taken.

Here is the same image after I enhanced for printing. For this one I used Nikon Capture NX. It reads the “Vivid” setting I had used in the Nikon D300 and also I enhanced using Active D-Light. Notice how it brighted up the rocky mountain.

Ann Returns to Photography

Ann got her first SLR camera in 1979 (see picture to the left) but turned her attention to raising her four children. She is now moving back into photography. She and Franz were recently featured in the local newspaper for their plan to take pictures from a tandem bicycle during a 100 bicycle event. One of those pictures that Ann took will be published on the front page of ACTC club newsletter. Several other pictures will be published on an inside spread.

This photo was taken by the Gilroy Dispatch staff photographer for the feature article.

Above is a draft of the front page article to be published soon (click to enlarge). Although credit was given to both Franz and Ann, Ann was the one who took this particular photo, while moving at 20 mph on the back of the tandem bicycle.

What Makes for a Great Photo

When I first moved from film SLRs to a Nikon digital SLR, the D70, I would spend time at the online forums learning a lot about the digital world. Since I recently bought a D300 I have again been spending time on the D200/300 forum. It seems that one thing has not changed, one of the favorite topics is still which lens is sharper.

Recently my wife and I rode our tandem bicycle in a 100 mile event taking pictures from the bike of the participants. I had my D70 in a harness on my chest and would shoot one handed as I was controlling the bike. My wife used a Canon P&S from the rear. Guess what, her pictures turned about better than mine. How could that be. It made me think about what makes for a good picture.

Although all the following attributes are important, I came to the conclusion that the ones towards the artistic side are more important than those toward the technical side. I t have broken these into three areas ranging from the more artistic aspect to the more technical.

While all of these are important I believe that too many focus on the Technical area because anybody who has money can buy the top quality equipment and with their expensive lens they can go out and take pictures of walls to show everyone how sharp it is. Does that make them a good photographer? Because it is a subjective matter, it may not be obvious. Can a super sharp picture win over one that has much more of the artistic attributes?

I think that answers why my wife’s pictures from the back of the tandem were better. She could take pictures as we were passing people, up close and personal with much better framing and interaction with the subject. I had to shoot from the hip because I still need one hand to control things traveling at upwards of 30 mph.

I am not saying a sharp lens is not important, but what I am saying is that is not enough.

Long Term Value

I am waiting at home for the delivery of my new Nikon D300 digital SLR. I thought it was a good time to clean out some of the files and worked to throw out some of the old receipts. It struck me how much money I had spend on computer related hardware and software and how much of that I can’t even recall ever using or where it is. The computer industry was a master at making things obsolete and over charging for things that had limited long term value. And what to I have to show for all those past purchases? Other than tracking my financial history and digitization of photographic images, very little. I am speaking of just the money spent but when I think of the wasted hours building computers, buying expensive memory, purchasing video cards that were underpowered with the next operating system, I realize how that hobby was a big money and time sink hole.

Today much more can be done over the internet. No longer do I need to buy a mapping program. Moving to the Apple Mac platform has also been very benefical because it comes with far more useable software than Windows ever did. Now days I rarely go to Frys. When I do I see that most of the customers there are overweight nerds. I am glad I have moved on in my life to other interests.

While cleaning out the receipts I saw some that were 20 years old for some camera lenses. I still have those lenses and have used them over the years. When I made the move to a digital SLR with the Nikon D70, I was not able to use them in a practical way since there was no metering and no real focusing aids for those manual focus lenses. But with the new D300 I will once again be able to use them. They still work great and are very sharp. What single computer related hardware or software item that is even half that old is still around? None.

And what do I have to show for the investment over the years in photographic equipment? I have a treasure of images that are priceless, especially of the family and kids when they were much younger.

Taking Pictures from a Tandem Bicycle

The local paper, visited us a couple of weeks ago to do a feature story that would run in conjunction with the ACTC annual Tierra Bella Century ride. They ended up running the story a few days before the event and included a couple pictures they had their staff photographer take.

Franz and Ann on Tandem

In the article they talked about our plan to take pictures of the Tierra Bella rides FROM our tandem. Most sporting events have pictures taken by someone who is in one place, capturing the riders as they come by. All this allows the best use of photographic skills, better framing, best lighting angle, etc., it makes for a lot of individual pictures that all have the same background and look pretty much the same.

Our idea was to actually ride the event and take pictures along they way. Franz had his Nikon D70 Digital SLR (DSLR) in a harness and would use one hand to shoot from the hip, while using the other hand to keep control of the bike. Controlling a tandem requires more effort than a single bike. Ann had a Canon compact digital camera she would use from the back of the tandem. She was able in many places to use both hands to operate the camera and her shots turned out better framed and in focus. For the DSLR, the setting of the zoom lens was too wide and it required considerable cropping to get a usable picture. Occasionally the lens would bump the handlebar, pushing it back to the very wide angle position (18 mm). The harness system would loosen form time to time and I had to keep tigthening it. It would have been better if the camera could have been held up even higher on the chest area because it made it difficult to stand and pedal on the bike without it buming into my knees or the handlebar.

We had a great opportunity taking pictures as we were going up Henry Coe, a 12 mile climb with over 3,000 feet of climbing. We often need to stand on the tandem so that required some coordination since Ann would need to put the camera away to hold on the bike. Franz could just just drop the DSLR and let the hang with the harness.

We ended up with over 300 photos of the riders, most all taken while we were moving. I used iPhoto to quickly process the photos, croppoing most of them. When you are taking pictures while riding you have to have the focal length set on the wide angle side so you get the shot you want. Some of the photos were out of focus or blurred because it was too dark in the early morning. The photos we kept were posted on the club’s photo website. Here are a sample of some of the photos we posted.