D300 Revolution: Changing my shooting style

Started Apr 23, 2008 | Discussions thread
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Carsten Thomsen
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D300 Revolution: Changing my shooting style
Apr 23, 2008

After consistently shooting RAW with the D70 and D200 to squeeze the maximum performance out of the cameras, I decided to go back to square one and look at my needs.

First, I want more "keepers" and second, I want to spend less time in post-processing. I have three categories of needs.

1. Family snapsshots suitable for half page printing (A5 size in Europe)

2. Horse jumping in rapidly varying sunlight/shade, and sometimes dismal gray.

3. A few good poster quality shots.

Re. 1: For family shots I have evolved two strategies:

a. With the 18-200 VR: Auto ISO, min shutter 1/80, Max ISO 6400, 3 MPix Fine mode. This gives shake-free shots, and acceptable noise at all ISO settings. It is more important to get the shot than avoiding noise at any cost. My keeper rate is dramatically higher than my old RAW startegy where I didn't dare push ISO. ISO 6400 3 MPix look amazingly good.

b. With 50 or 85 mm prime: Aperture mode set to 2.8. Min Shutter 1/160, Auto ISO Max 6400, 12 MPix (Large/Fine) to give cropping latitude. Keeper ratio is very high.

Depending on lighting conditions I may throw in a some Active D Lighting.

The D300 is so good that I almost always get very acceptable shots straight out of the box.

Re. 2: Horse jumping in dramatically varying light (sun to deep shade) : 18-200 VR, Auto ISO Max 6400, Minimum shutter 1/800. 3 MPix Fine

Great results. Also on dark dreary days here in Denmark where you need all the ISO you can get.

Re 3: Poster Quality: NEF, of course. But not afraid to go Auto ISO if I don't have a tripod.

The bottom line in the past month or so is the following:

1. 12 MPixels is only necessary for ultimate quality and cropping freedom.

2. Having the courage to shoot 3 MPix when using the 18-200 zoom means I crop with the lens, and get maximum noise reduction by combining every 4 pixels in camera. Yes I could always shoot 12 MPix, but it gives an extra step in PP.

3. Shooting JPG sRGB has the advantage that I get the consistency of Nikon colors I want, as seen on the display, as printed and shown on the web. It also skips Capture NX so I go straight to Lightroom for fine touch-up (rarely needed).

4. I have learned to prioritize shutter speed over noise. Shake free is more important than grain.

5. I now nearly always shoot in a pseudo manual mode, but "change film" on the fly. I think about my minimum shutter speed and desired depth of field, and set shutter and aperture as required. I then let Auto-ISO and matrix metering run the rest of the show (changing film on the fly).

6. Details on pseudo manual mode:

When shooting action, I have a hard and fast minimum shutter speed, which I set in S mode.

When shooting non-action, I set the camera to P or A mode, and set the minimum shutter speed in the Auto-ISO menu. It works the following: As light disappears, the camera cranks up to the maximum ISO. With even less light, it starts slowing down my shutter, even below the minimum setting.

With primes I work in A mode to get the right depth of field.

7. NEF: Do conversion in Capture NX for the ultimate quality.

8. File transfer time, disk space, Flash card capacity all jump dramatically and save time.

9. End result: Better pictures, more keepers, less time on the computer.

Only request to Nikon: Introduce a user selectable minimum ISO 100 setting for Auto-ISO. Sometimes I want to get the better noise and can accept the reduced highlight range.

This is why the D300 has revolutionized my shooting process.

Carsten Thomsen

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