Not super impressed with my new D700 tonight

Started Apr 27, 2012 | Discussions
DWEverett
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Not super impressed with my new D700 tonight
Apr 27, 2012

I haven't had a chance to use it much before now but tonight was the dress rehersal for two of my daughters so I took a bunch of pictures of them and their friends. Some of the shots were great. Few weird things though. Setup is the D700 with the new Sigma 70-200.

1) in the low light sometimes the camera really struggled to find focus, especially when I got further from the stage. Lens just kept vibrating back and forth as it tried. I honestly don't think my old Sony A700 would have had that much trouble though it might have incorrectly locked somewhere. I was shooting AF-C and tried using both 9 and 21 AF points as well as releasing on shutter and shutter + focus. Didn't seem to matter

2) I had one point where the camera semi-locked up with an Err message. It was weird because it didn't seem to stop the camera from functioning

3) several times the metering guessed extremely poorly. Was shooting A priority at 3.2 or 2.8 with auto iso, min shutter speed of 320 and max iso of 6400. Not sure if the exif comes across but this shot (ignore that exposure is the least of the problems) selected only iso 2500. There is nothing remotely bright that it could have picked up.

Another shot the camera appears to have completely ignored every setting. Choose iso 200 and a shutter speed of 8000

When it did work there were some nice shots -- definately better noise than my old sony and maybe even more importantly the files can be worked much more signficantly, even the jpegs. I have no idea what was happening though. Could be user error since I'm not familiar with the camera yet. Any ideas if there was something I might have been pressing, etc.? Sound like a camera, lens or user error?

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Dennis2958
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Re: Not super impressed with my new D700 tonight
In reply to DWEverett, Apr 27, 2012

Ever think it might be the lens? I learned a long time ago not to stray away from the Nikon brand.

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RicAllan
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Re: Not super impressed with my new D700 tonight
In reply to DWEverett, Apr 27, 2012

It's not a point and shoot camera...

My first suggestion is do NOT shoot 'auto' ISO... select your own (take some test shots and see what gives you the best working results.

My second is... shoot aperature priority. Take a few shots wide open and see what shutter speeds you're getting. If they suffieciently fast, stop it down to get more DOF.

And... if you have a grey card, use the PRESET MANUAL method to set white balance (pg 148 in manual)

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VadimOm
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Re: Not super impressed with my new D700 tonight
In reply to DWEverett, Apr 27, 2012

Did you buy this D700 brand new or used?

Based on the symptoms you described (lens hunting and FF error) it definitely sounds like either a problem with the lens or lens to camera communication [bad contact] (which explains FF and that crazy iso200/shutter8000 shot. Do you have an opportunity to test this body with another lens ? Or try this lens on another body?

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95_9C1
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Re: Not super impressed with my new D700 tonight
In reply to DWEverett, Apr 27, 2012

there's nothing to be unimpressed about the D700

nothing that coudn't probably be traced back to the photographer ...

your last photo is great

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anotherMike
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Re: Not super impressed with my new D700 tonight
In reply to DWEverett, Apr 27, 2012

In terms of your AF problems, it ain't the camera, it's the Sigma lens.

Exposure for theater is best done in Manual, using a right center weighted metering, and a lot of attention paid to the histogram to keep from either under or over-exposing. It's not something a beginner will be very good at until they've had quite a bit of practice.

-m
(20 years of theater/dance shooting experience)

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anotherMike
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2nd edit to above.
In reply to anotherMike, Apr 27, 2012

2nd Edit: Should read "tight" center weighted. Sorry...

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PHXAZCRAIG
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Re: Not super impressed with my new D700 tonight
In reply to DWEverett, Apr 27, 2012

1. Clean the lens/body contacts with deoxit.

2. Shoot in manual mode and check the histogram every now and then.

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Clark Hampton
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You MUST shot in manual mode for stage pictures. MUST
In reply to DWEverett, Apr 27, 2012

You dial in exposure for the stage lighting then leave it and every shot will be dead on. The stage lighting is very consistent but exposure meters can't handle it too well due to wildly variant backgrounds.

just shot manual and all will be well.

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m_appeal
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Why must? Why can't you shoot in aperture priority...
In reply to Clark Hampton, Apr 27, 2012

?...

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VadimOm
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Re: Not super impressed with my new D700 tonight
In reply to DWEverett, Apr 27, 2012

Those who suggest user error and recommend switching in manual - how do you explain that dark shot, for which the camera was in A mode? There is definitely a hardware issue here.

Those who suggest histogram - how the heck do you use it in high contrast situations like theatrical performances? With dark scenes when subjects will be spot lit the histogram will be screaming at you "you're clipping blacks and whites!!!" simply because there won't be any midtones in shots like that. So what are you going to look for in it??

I think blinkies will be a lot more useful - you just make sure you're not blowing faces and push to the right as far as you can.

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BrianSaunders
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Re: Not super impressed with my new D700 tonight
In reply to DWEverett, Apr 27, 2012

Nice kids. I have had the D700 since day one with excellent results. Your frame of reference is with the A700? My only thought is the Sigma lens. I know the problems they cause and returned a few. I use the Nikon 70-200 VRII with no problems. That's one idea. I would most likely not use Auto ISO, after time you will get to know the settings and set things manually. That's another thing and I'm not saying but maybe it was to soon to take the D700 to that shooting situation without getting very familiar with the nuances. Other ideas, a1: Release, a3: 51, a5: AF-On, a6: Auto. Don't kick yourself, those situations will come up again.

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Luke Kaven
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Re: You MUST shot in manual mode for stage pictures. MUST
In reply to Clark Hampton, Apr 27, 2012

Clark Hampton wrote:

You dial in exposure for the stage lighting then leave it and every shot will be dead on. The stage lighting is very consistent but exposure meters can't handle it too well due to wildly variant backgrounds.

just shot manual and all will be well.

Stage lighting is not constant! The last show I shot had 81 scenes and hundreds of lighting cues. Exposures ran a wide range.

Now if you're talking about shooting manual exposure with auto-ISO , that's a much better option.

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arachnophilia
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Re: You MUST shot in manual mode for stage pictures. MUST
In reply to Luke Kaven, Apr 27, 2012

Luke Kaven wrote:

Clark Hampton wrote:

You dial in exposure for the stage lighting then leave it and every shot will be dead on. The stage lighting is very consistent but exposure meters can't handle it too well due to wildly variant backgrounds.

just shot manual and all will be well.

Stage lighting is not constant! The last show I shot had 81 scenes and hundreds of lighting cues. Exposures ran a wide range.

Now if you're talking about shooting manual exposure with auto-ISO , that's a much better option.

even on a scene with static lighting, stage lighting that looks uniform isn't constant from one side of the stage to the other.

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arachnophilia
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some advice
In reply to DWEverett, Apr 27, 2012

i've been shooting local high school stage plays for, i guess about five years now. i've recently started using a D700, but i shot for years on a D200, and in JPEG (imagine that for a second). stage photography is by far the hardest thing i've ever shot. i've had a couple of my skilled photographer friends (including someone that routinely does sports), and they've had a hard time at it too. don't expect to pick it up right away, and don't feel bad when your first results suck. it takes practice, and familiarity with the camera and subject material.

that said, here's some tips that might help.

I haven't had a chance to use it much before now but tonight was the dress rehersal for two of my daughters so I took a bunch of pictures of them and their friends. Some of the shots were great. Few weird things though. Setup is the D700 with the new Sigma 70-200.

this is your first big mistake. it takes time to get accustomed to a new camera (particularly if you've switched brands!) and to make sure everything works as it should. from the post that follows, i think your lens might be busted. or at least, just kind of suck. focus accuracy and speed go a long, long way towards making your life easier in these situations.

also, when i shoot plays, i almost always shoot more than one rehearsal. the first time, i'm not so much shooting as i am looking for good shots i can get now, and taking mental notes for what i need to get tomorrow. at this point, i haven't seen the play yet, and i don't know what's going to happen. the second night, i have a much better idea. and a better idea of what worked with my techniques, and what did not. i think of the first night as a warm up.

1) in the low light sometimes the camera really struggled to find focus, especially when I got further from the stage. Lens just kept vibrating back and forth as it tried. I honestly don't think my old Sony A700 would have had that much trouble though it might have incorrectly locked somewhere. I was shooting AF-C and tried using both 9 and 21 AF points as well as releasing on shutter and shutter + focus. Didn't seem to matter

AF-c and multiple AF points are just going to mess you up. i joke that it's like "sports, in the dark, where you can see the same game again tomorrow". but it's not really like sports. it's much slower, for the most part. AF-s has worked perfectly for me, for years. get that focus and lock it, and don't let the camera screw around with it before you take the picture. now, back-button focus might work better for you. try that. but i like half-depress, AF-s, and as few points as i can use. on my D200, i used the "wide" setting, even. the goal was to get the point into place quickly and get the picture, and not screw around.

now, the hunting could be because of the lens. ditto on the exposure issues. dark, contrasty situations really separate the men from the boys when it comes to AF systems.

2) I had one point where the camera semi-locked up with an Err message. It was weird because it didn't seem to stop the camera from functioning

yes, that's bad. get that looked at.

3) several times the metering guessed extremely poorly. Was shooting A priority at 3.2 or 2.8 with auto iso, min shutter speed of 320 and max iso of 6400.

use shutter priority, here. trust me on this. if you're shooting wide open anyways, A is useless. put it on your shutter speed of choice, let it go wide open, and use your auto ISO. if you need to control both, use manual. some people are suggesting completely manual, but i don't agree. stage lighting is inconsistent at best, and unless you wanna run through lighting cues with the stage director and a light meter, and keep a notebook... just use the auto modes and make them work for you.

(another option is A, but the set ISO fairly high, and let the camera give you as much shutter speed as possible. i do that at night time sporting events)

Not sure if the exif comes across but this shot (ignore that exposure is the least of the problems) selected only iso 2500. There is nothing remotely bright that it could have picked up.

it's probably seeing that specular highlight. welcome to contrasty lighting. when you're given a black curtain like that, don't use matrix (or center), use spot. and learn to love it.

Another shot the camera appears to have completely ignored every setting. Choose iso 200 and a shutter speed of 8000

yeah, that's bizarre.

When it did work there were some nice shots -- definately better noise than my old sony and maybe even more importantly the files can be worked much more signficantly, even the jpegs.

got memory cards and HDD space? shoot raw. i find the exposure on my D700's not as reliable as my D200, but it's still pretty good. and raw gives you a lot more latitude to work with.

anyhow, here's one of mine, with the nikon 70-200 VR1.

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tony field
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Re: You MUST shot in manual mode for stage pictures. MUST
In reply to Clark Hampton, Apr 27, 2012

Clark Hampton wrote:

You dial in exposure for the stage lighting then leave it and every shot will be dead on. The stage lighting is very consistent but exposure meters can't handle it too well due to wildly variant backgrounds.

just shot manual and all will be well.

For the majority of dance and theatre work, I also recommend manual exposure. As Clark points out, auto-exposure has problems with background brightness compared to performer brightness. There is also an issue with auto-exposure and dark/light coloured costume when trying to use spot metering. On the whole, shoot manual exposure - in spite of the fact that you really have to learn to read stage light by eye. YMMV.
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shaunly
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Re: Not super impressed with my new D700 tonight
In reply to RicAllan, Apr 27, 2012

Seems like something is definitely wrong with your camera.

RicAllan wrote:

It's not a point and shoot camera...

My first suggestion is do NOT shoot 'auto' ISO... select your own (take some test shots and see what gives you the best working results.

You obviously do NOT understand how to use auto ISO.

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arachnophilia
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Re: You MUST shot in manual mode for stage pictures. MUST
In reply to tony field, Apr 27, 2012

For the majority of dance and theatre work, I also recommend manual exposure. As Clark points out, auto-exposure has problems with background brightness compared to performer brightness. There is also an issue with auto-exposure and dark/light coloured costume when trying to use spot metering. On the whole, shoot manual exposure - in spite of the fact that you really have to learn to read stage light by eye. YMMV.

my mileage does vary.

i find that lighting is way too inconsistent to make manual feasible (and i'm even pretty good at eyeballing exposure). on black backgrounds, i've had a lot of success spot metering off faces. if the face is smaller than my spot, well, i'm not really interested in that photo anyways.

for wider shots, there's usually a background of some kind. with backgrounds i'll typically shoot matrix. lots of success there.

i find my D700 a little less reliable than i'm used to; perhaps i don't fully have the hang of it yet. i used to do this with a D200 in JPEG mode. quite successfully, too.

anyhow, here's a couple of spot metered, against the curtains kinds of photos. works for me:

works pretty good for me.

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arachnophilia
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Re: Not super impressed with my new D700 tonight
In reply to shaunly, Apr 27, 2012

You obviously do NOT understand how to use auto ISO.

there are all kinds of different ideas about how to control exposure. the beauty of a proper dSLR is that you can lock each individual aspect of effective exposure (f/stop, shutter speed, ISO) independently, or let them all go auto. none of these solutions are "wrong" per se.

there are times when the camera's meter is fooled. disabling auto settings is the only way to circumvent that.

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Gabriele Sartori
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99% lens in my opinion
In reply to DWEverett, Apr 27, 2012

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a Sigma basher. I do have an old 15-30 that I love but I had my share of troubles and I decided to avoid wasting my time .

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Gabriele
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