Custom Curves for the D300

Started Dec 28, 2007 | Discussions
ron wrucke
ron wrucke Senior Member • Posts: 1,065
Custom Curves for the D300

I personally think it’s time to just admit that the D300 seems to have a tendency to over-expose images. I really don’t have a problem with that. My old D100 under-exposed everything, so I loaded up a custom curve which pretty much acted like a general fix .. it’s still loaded up. I’m not sure what the fix is for my D300, but it needs something.

A little background: over the holidays, I was P&S’n the g’kids opening up their presents on Christmas morning and with my SB-800 I was blowing out the images (even with the diffuser dome on and bouncing it). I was shooting Spot, so the flash was just TTL. I dialed in a 1-stop exposure compensation on the flash, and the images were still too bright, so I dialed in another 1-stop compensation on the camera and the images were finally OK .. so, I plan on doing some flash experiments just to see what was going on because that seems like an awful lot of compensation. With the D100, I used to get pretty good results and never had to fiddle with any compensation ..

In the interim (i.e., yesterday), I decided to try out my Nikon 70-200VR with a 1.7 TC attached. With my D100, this combo was slow to focus and I was curious to see how the combo would work on my D300. I went into the backyard pines and just tried it out on a few backyard songbirds. I was amazed at how fast the lens combo and D300 could find focus ( I was using Continuous focus mode, Spot metering, with Dynamic Area Mode (9 points) ... much, much more 'efficient' than on my old D100. On the latter, picking out the birds sitting in the pines would have been excruciating and manual focus would probably have been required. On the D300, there was hardly any searching at all ... finding a little bird buried in the branches is a pretty tough task, and I was dumbfounded at how easy it was.

The attached aren't award-winning images by any stretch of the imagination, but just having the ability to take these images of 'flitting' birds back in the pine branches with ease has me scratching my head since these types of images used to be close to impossible ..

OK .. so back to exposure .. I forgot that exposure compensation doesn’t reset when you turn the camera off, so the attached were all shot with a 1-stop negative compensation. However, out of the camera they looked just about spot-on exposure-wise. I took one of the bird pics into NX, put in a +1-stop compensation, and then played with the curve a bit just to see how much adjustment was needed. You can move the mid-point adjuster to the right, or just pull the curve down, but in general it looks to me like a ‘reverse White Wedding’ curve is what is needed. I had to bring the midpoint of the curve down to an output level of about 100 (vs. a 127 input) to get things to look ‘right’ ..

I know I’m tempting the fates by posting this, but I’m curious if anyone else is thinking like I’m thinking and if anyone else has done any experimenting with custom curves .. ?

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Ron Wrucke (Va Eastern Shore)
http://home.baycrk.net/rwrucke

 ron wrucke's gear list:ron wrucke's gear list
Nikon D300 Nikon D100 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Tokina AT-X 12-28mm f/4 Pro DX +2 more
VadimOm Senior Member • Posts: 1,903
Re: Custom Curves for the D300

I've been noticing that I keep bumping contrast to +1 in PP on most of my D300 shots, so I'm getting close to the point where I'll just have it permanently set to +1 in camera. However, I am yet to see a single "overexposure" on my D300. If anything, I've been compensating to +0.3/+0.5EV on some occasions. Your shots look a bit too dark to my taste. I brought them into CS2 and tone curved slightly (pulled the highlights up a little bit). Certainly another half a stop would have given better results.. not sure what one stop would do though...

Jim Fenton Veteran Member • Posts: 4,433
My Take

I don't find that it overexposes at all. Most of my shooting is wildlife and I find that it's excellent as far as exposure goes (I mostly use center area with EV compensation).

Outdoors for landscapes, even using matrix in snow it seems to expose perfectly.
--
Jim Fenton
My Wildlife Images at:
http://www.pbase.com/soonipi1957

hammonda1 Regular Member • Posts: 162
Re: Custom Curves for the D300

Just as I found.

PS Have you found this with matrix metering as I did, and found centre weighted to be OK?

Regards
--
Dave Hammond

VadimOm Senior Member • Posts: 1,903
Re: Custom Curves for the D300

hammonda1 wrote:

Just as I found.

PS Have you found this with matrix metering as I did, and found
centre weighted to be OK?

Regards
--
Dave Hammond

he says these were spot metered

C_4 Contributing Member • Posts: 545
Re: Custom Curves for the D300

The camera isn't overexposing, it's that darned new "Picture Control" that's messing things up.. In general, the concept of being able to tune many different aspects is a good thing, but I really can't figure out why Nikon chose to create a set of defaults that is so very far different from the behaviour of their previous cameras.. The "standard" profile is in my opinion, completely unusable without significant tweaking, and even then, it's not great.. Of the default profiles, a tweaked "Neutral" is the best one, but I still prefer the D2X profiles- they're still not 100% equivalent, but so much better than the default profiles.. I'm currently using the D2X Mode I with +5/6 sharpness, auto contrast, and b2/m1 tweak to white balance. I find these settings give me the most accurate exposure and out-of-camera colors..

TrekSF6 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,090
Re: Custom Curves for the D300

ron wrucke wrote:

In the interim (i.e., yesterday), I decided to try out my Nikon
70-200VR with a 1.7 TC attached. With my D100, this combo was slow
to focus and I was curious to see how the combo would work on my
D300. I went into the backyard pines and just tried it out on a few
backyard songbirds. I was amazed at how fast the lens combo and
D300 could find focus ( I was using Continuous focus mode, Spot
metering, with Dynamic Area Mode (9 points) ... much, much more
'efficient' than on my old D100. On the latter, picking out the
birds sitting in the pines would have been excruciating and manual
focus would probably have been required. On the D300, there was
hardly any searching at all ... finding a little bird buried in the
branches is a pretty tough task, and I was dumbfounded at how easy it
was.

I think this is where the real improvement is. We all expected some huge AF speed improvement, and it is fast. But the real improvement is how well it works in tough situations. I don't think it is any faster to acquire focus than the D200 was. But it is way more likely to acquire focus in the low light or other challenging situations. It's taken me awhile, but I am starting to warm up to the idea that the D300 really is a nice upgrade from the D200.

As for exposure. That is one thing I definitely cannot complain about at all. I get what I want more often than ever with this cam. I mostly use manual mode, but I feel I can really trust this in camera metering. I find that if I do blow the exposure, it is usually toward the underexposed side.
--
Scott A.
Not much, but here are a few D300 shots:
http://www.saberphoto.com/album/D300/index.htm

 TrekSF6's gear list:TrekSF6's gear list
Sony a6500 Sony E 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 OSS Samyang 12mm F2 NCS CS Sony FE 28mm F2 Sony E 50mm F1.8 OSS +1 more
ron wrucke
OP ron wrucke Senior Member • Posts: 1,065
Re: Custom Curves for the D300

C_4 wrote:

The camera isn't overexposing, it's that darned new "Picture Control"
that's messing things up.. In general, the concept of being able to
tune many different aspects is a good thing, but I really can't
figure out why Nikon chose to create a set of defaults that is so
very far different from the behaviour of their previous cameras..
The "standard" profile is in my opinion, completely unusable without
significant tweaking, and even then, it's not great.. Of the
default profiles, a tweaked "Neutral" is the best one, but I still
prefer the D2X profiles- they're still not 100% equivalent, but so
much better than the default profiles.. I'm currently using the D2X
Mode I with +5/6 sharpness, auto contrast, and b2/m1 tweak to white
balance. I find these settings give me the most accurate exposure
and out-of-camera colors..

.. I don't use any "Picture Control" Settings, shoot RAW, and post-process as necessary - I think I'll probably shoot some test images for the next month or so (I've had some pretty good 'out of camera' images using no exposure compensation, so I need to figure out what conditions cause correct exposure and which ones do not .. ?) and then try to configure my D300 accordingly ..

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Ron Wrucke (Va Eastern Shore)
http://home.baycrk.net/rwrucke

 ron wrucke's gear list:ron wrucke's gear list
Nikon D300 Nikon D100 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Tokina AT-X 12-28mm f/4 Pro DX +2 more
ron wrucke
OP ron wrucke Senior Member • Posts: 1,065
Re: Custom Curves for the D300

VadimOm wrote:

Your shots look a bit too dark to
my taste. I brought them into CS2 and tone curved slightly (pulled
the highlights up a little bit). Certainly another half a stop would
have given better results.. not sure what one stop would do though...

.. could be the monitor too, or just different tastes. I don't think you'd like them w/o some compensation however - I don't know if adjusting the exposure compensation up a stop is the same as just shooting at that level (I'm thinking it should be), but at 'zero compensation' in NX they were pretty washed out ..
--
Ron Wrucke (Va Eastern Shore)
http://home.baycrk.net/rwrucke

 ron wrucke's gear list:ron wrucke's gear list
Nikon D300 Nikon D100 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Tokina AT-X 12-28mm f/4 Pro DX +2 more
ron wrucke
OP ron wrucke Senior Member • Posts: 1,065
Re: Custom Curves for the D300

S.A. wrote:

As for exposure. That is one thing I definitely cannot complain about
at all. I get what I want more often than ever with this cam. I
mostly use manual mode, but I feel I can really trust this in camera
metering. I find that if I do blow the exposure, it is usually toward
the underexposed side.

.. that's what has me just a bit confused. I've had some very good results 'out of camera', and some not so good - the flash results had me scratching my head. I was thinking the backyard bird images were pretty good; no exposure problem here .. and then I checked the EXIF and saw the exposure compensation value .. go figure .. ?

To be truthful, I've probably only shot 200 + - shots with my D300 - still playing with the various AF/exposure options - so I don't have a good feel for the camera yet (I think it took me a year with the D100 .. I'm a slow learner .. ) - but I am starting to think about the possibility of needing a custom curve to tone things down just a bit .. I was curious if anybody else was starting to think the same ..

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Ron Wrucke (Va Eastern Shore)
http://home.baycrk.net/rwrucke

 ron wrucke's gear list:ron wrucke's gear list
Nikon D300 Nikon D100 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Tokina AT-X 12-28mm f/4 Pro DX +2 more
ron wrucke
OP ron wrucke Senior Member • Posts: 1,065
Re: My Take

Jim Fenton wrote:

I don't find that it overexposes at all. Most of my shooting is
wildlife and I find that it's excellent as far as exposure goes (I
mostly use center area with EV compensation).>

.. can you elaborate on what you mean by "EV compensation" ... ?

Thanks ..
--
Ron Wrucke (Va Eastern Shore)
http://home.baycrk.net/rwrucke

 ron wrucke's gear list:ron wrucke's gear list
Nikon D300 Nikon D100 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Tokina AT-X 12-28mm f/4 Pro DX +2 more
Beau Long Contributing Member • Posts: 972
My take....

ron wrucke wrote:

S.A. wrote:

As for exposure. That is one thing I definitely cannot complain about
at all. I get what I want more often than ever with this cam. I
mostly use manual mode, but I feel I can really trust this in camera
metering. I find that if I do blow the exposure, it is usually toward
the underexposed side.

.. that's what has me just a bit confused. I've had some very good
results 'out of camera', and some not so good - the flash results had
me scratching my head. I was thinking the backyard bird images were
pretty good; no exposure problem here .. and then I checked the EXIF
and saw the exposure compensation value .. go figure .. ?

To be truthful, I've probably only shot 200 + - shots with my D300 -
still playing with the various AF/exposure options - so I don't have
a good feel for the camera yet (I think it took me a year with the
D100 .. I'm a slow learner .. ) -

I think you answered your own question in the last paragraph. More time spent learning the camera is all anyone needs. It's not going to work right outta the box perfectly for every situation. It takes user input for a pro level camera like this to perform optimally.

Everytime I read about the "D300 overexposure problem", I am reminded of the tag line someone on this forum has, "Cameras don't overexpose, people do."

It has a hotter default (and who buys a camera like this to shoot with default settings??) than previous models for some sitches... that's all it is. A little knowledgeable user input and all's well. It's a significant upgrade to the D200.

olstrup Veteran Member • Posts: 3,676
Re: Custom Curves for the D300
  • but I am starting to think about

the possibility of needing a custom curve to tone things down just a
bit .. I was curious if anybody else was starting to think the same ..

In some situations I find the highlights bright and a bit washed out. Skin tones can suffer from that in bright light. The highlights are NOT overexposed (=clipped), since they are within the histogram, but it seems the default tone curve has been set high so that the highlight part is rather flat - and thus without much contrast (result: washed out look). To night I fiddled with it in Capture NX and made a custom Picture control profile by pulling down the curve at the right "3/4 mark" to 180. I'm not sure if is significantly different from setting the brightness to -1, but I'll see.

Now, what I really don't understand is all this whining about the D300 overexposing. It's NOT overexposing. It's a question of the default tone curve, and that is really not a problem at all, since it can easily be tweaked to anyones personal preference in NX - so far it comes free with the D300 - and then be transferred to the camera. The whole operation takes less than five minutes. The camera has room for up to 99 custom picture control profiles. What more can anyone want?

anotherMike Veteran Member • Posts: 9,504
Re: Custom Curves for the D300

The big thing that trips up existing Nikon users with the D300 is the dramatic bump in the mid tones with the default tone curve - funny how for so long people were complaining that the Nikons were underexposing and so many wanted what was coming out of the Canon bodies (which had a bumped mid tone in the tone curve) and now here we are.

The D300 is flexible beyond belief. And I am one who feels that it's default settings of "Standard" picture control is not the optimum - for one thing it is a touch too much in the mid tones, is a touch too saturated for people, and possibly a touch too contrasty. Those are easily changeable.

If you don't want to play with custom curves just yet, try setting the picture control to "Neutral", drop the sharpening back to +2 (so it doesn't over-sharpen), drop the brightness back to "-1" and bump the contrast up to "+1" and see how it goes.

I am using a variant of the above as well as a custom curve I made in View NX, and am much happier with the results versus the straight defaults.

But the beauty of the D300 is that you can find your happy place - just play with the picture control, the curves, and you'll get there. It's not a camera for beginners...

-m

ron wrucke
OP ron wrucke Senior Member • Posts: 1,065
Re: My take....

Beau Long wrote:

I think you answered your own question in the last paragraph. More
time spent learning the camera is all anyone needs. It's not going to
work right outta the box perfectly for every situation. It takes user
input for a pro level camera like this to perform optimally.

.. all I'm wondering is what that user input may be ...

Everytime I read about the "D300 overexposure problem", I am reminded
of the tag line someone on this forum has, "Cameras don't overexpose,
people do."

It has a hotter default (and who buys a camera like this to shoot
with default settings??) than previous models for some sitches...
that's all it is. A little knowledgeable user input and all's well.
It's a significant upgrade to the D200.

... I don't know why some people seem to have a hard time saying the D300 may have a problem re. out of camera images with the default settings? My D100 had a problem; there was an in-camera fix which I could choose to use or just do some more tweeking with s'ware. The D300 may have a problem, and if it does I think I can fix it. All I'm looking for is to see if anybody else is thinking custom curve or something else - if something else, what?

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Ron Wrucke (Va Eastern Shore)
http://home.baycrk.net/rwrucke

 ron wrucke's gear list:ron wrucke's gear list
Nikon D300 Nikon D100 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Tokina AT-X 12-28mm f/4 Pro DX +2 more
Beau Long Contributing Member • Posts: 972
Re: My take....

ron wrucke wrote:

Beau Long wrote:

I think you answered your own question in the last paragraph. More
time spent learning the camera is all anyone needs. It's not going to
work right outta the box perfectly for every situation. It takes user
input for a pro level camera like this to perform optimally.

.. all I'm wondering is what that user input may be ...

Keep shooting and experimenting & reading... film's free.

That's what it's all about. What works great for somebody else, may not work great for you. You have to find your own nirvana.

Everytime I read about the "D300 overexposure problem", I am reminded
of the tag line someone on this forum has, "Cameras don't overexpose,
people do."

It has a hotter default (and who buys a camera like this to shoot
with default settings??) than previous models for some sitches...
that's all it is. A little knowledgeable user input and all's well.
It's a significant upgrade to the D200.

... I don't know why some people seem to have a hard time saying the
D300 may have a problem re. out of camera images with the default
settings? My D100 had a problem; there was an in-camera fix which I
could choose to use or just do some more tweeking with s'ware. The
D300 may have a problem, and if it does I think I can fix it. All
I'm looking for is to see if anybody else is thinking custom curve or
something else - if something else, what?

It's not supposed to work optimally right outta the box at default for every situation... no pro level body does. That's why they put the little scene modes on the entry and prosumer models. Custom curves are just another example of user input to get what you want out of the tool.

You already know what to do, so, as Nike would say, just do it!

samjstern
samjstern Veteran Member • Posts: 7,009
Ron, you said....

you were using the default settings.
I think that cam be part of the problem.
Can I suggest that you moving to Neutral Picture control.
For portraits I am using:
Neutral picture control:
Sharpening at 6
Contrast at +1
brightness at 0
saturation at 0
hue at -1

This works very well with flash so give it a try for some very good out of camera JPEGs.

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VadimOm Senior Member • Posts: 1,903
Re: My take....

ron wrucke wrote:

... I don't know why some people seem to have a hard time saying the
D300 may have a problem re. out of camera images with the default
settings?

I think a lot has to do with personal preferences... Back in my D70 days I was the first one out on the front lines complaining how my D70 underexposed. Then I learned about custom curves, loaded one and quited down.

D300 on the other hand, so far seems to be exposing exactly the way I like. Other people, perhaps yourself as well, appreciated D70/D200's metering the way it was, no adjustments needed. Obviously, D300's "hot" metering is NOT what you've been used to, so I think you're on the right path now - a relatively simple custom curve will make you a very happy camper

ron wrucke
OP ron wrucke Senior Member • Posts: 1,065
Re: Custom Curves for the D300

olstrup wrote:

Now, what I really don't understand is all this whining about the
D300 overexposing. It's NOT overexposing. It's a question of the
default tone curve, and that is really not a problem at all, since it
can easily be tweaked to anyones personal preference in NX

.. well, my flash pics were overexposed, and it was done by the D300; at this time I have no clue why since two days earlier I was shooting a Christmas Pageant from a church balcony, and all was well ...

Re. the default tone curve 'issue', it may not be a problem for you but it is a problem for me until I can figure out what the fix is. At least I know I can fix it once I figure out what the fix is, which is kind of the reason for my original post ..
--
Ron Wrucke (Va Eastern Shore)
http://home.baycrk.net/rwrucke

 ron wrucke's gear list:ron wrucke's gear list
Nikon D300 Nikon D100 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Tokina AT-X 12-28mm f/4 Pro DX +2 more
Beau Long Contributing Member • Posts: 972
Re: Ron, you said....

Standard picture control:

Sharpening at 3
Contrast at 0
brightness at -1
saturation at -1
hue at -1

This setting gives me great OOC jpgs which need very little if anything in edit.

Glass is a significant factor as well as far as IQ (especially the sharpness factor). Nothing but 2.8 and primes for this body (just like the D200). I know that a few don't agree with this, but it works for me.
--

http://beaulong.exposuremanager.com
http://www.nikonians-images.org/galleries/showgallery.php/cat/500/ppuser/108565

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