Custom Curves for the D300

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

anotherMike wrote:

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 think for the time being I'll just leave all in-camera controls to 'off' and shoot default for a few more weeks (I can always just dial in some exposure compensation when needed) just to get a better handle on what's going on. I suspect my long-term fix will be custom curves, but I'll wait a bit more before I start dragging a curve around ..

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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
bronwyn New Member • Posts: 24
Re: D300 Overexposure / Underexposure comments

You do use Picture Controls there are four built in and Standard is the default. Neutral is the on to use if you plan on post processing your captures.

First you must learn how and why the camera does what it does before you make any decisions or come to any conclusions, otherwise you will never learn how to use the camera as a tool, it only does what you tell it to do, it does not have a brain, nor is it a mind reader.

Picture Controls affect color, contrast, brightiness, sharpness, saturation, and hue.
As stated before Standard is the default. Go to page 148 of the manual.

First no camera will be perfect every time. Were you making the overexposure comment based on the LCD, Highlights, or Histogram feedback.

I find the display to be hot, that is depending on the lighting I set it the display brightness at -1 or -2.

I use the histogram, highlight (blinkies), and my eyes to determine satisfaction with exposure. I am still experimenting (and reading the manual) and learning what the camera is doing. I have changed my Picture Control to Neutral and will not change it from its default unitl I learn more of how other settings interact with Picture Control.

First I try to learn the camera by reading the manual before even picking up the camera. I had my D200 for two weeks before I took a picture with it, it was my first digital camera.

I have read that manual three times in the 18 months since purchasing the camera. Now the D300 is very similar to the D200 so I have started shooting with it, but only after first reviewing the manual for infomation on how to set the camera up for how I like to shoot. That is on the D200 I use the Optomize Image on Custom and set

Sharpness +1
Tone Normal
Color Mode II
Saturation Normal
Hue 0

So on the D300 the Picture Control is set to Neutral - and no modifications have been made to this.

For now I am shooting RAW 12 bit lossless. Until now I have been shooting in Auto White Balance, but will soon move to setting it for myself to a preset or use WHIBAL card to set a custom when needed.

I am expermenting with the AUTO ISO feature due to the high ISO low noise performance compared to the D200. (Shooting Menu)

The 51 area AF is stunning, I see no reason to use anything less as this allows me compositional placement not available with less when shooting fast. (a8)

I turn off Focus Tracking Lock-On (a4) this stops AF from tracking subjects moving perpendicular to you.

I set Easy Exposure Compensation to Reset (b4) so when the meter or camera turns off this is set to 0.

When using flash I use one of two SB800's with a Really Right Stuff flash mount that supports multiple flashes and the on camera flash with it's output set to either -- in the type or - 1.67. as the RRS hardware blocks the light and creates a shadow. I have found using the flash pointed at the ceiling with the white card up for bounce as the best lighting when just point and shooting, as the dome really diminishes the distance the light will travel and spreads it around, note the 14mm zoom setting when this is on. You also must keep in mind the height of the ceiling or wall you are bouncing light off of and the color of this surface, if its not white it is absorbing light and effecting your white balance.

Once I learn more about how the settings interact my plan is to set up test shots to set Custom Setting Menu option B6, optimize exposure setting. Although I think I will end up making no adjustment to this setting and I will remember what Arthur Morris has written about determining exposure based on the color of the subject being photographed and its surroundings.

See his book "The Art of Bird Photography" this book is the best book I have ever read on how to determine exposure and how to use Auto Exposure in todays cameras.

Keep an open mind on this camera it is stunning in it's improvement over the D200. It just takes a little understanding, you must "listen" to it, that is

RTFM - READ THE MANUAL!

It will only enlighten you, it will cause you to think of how you can combine multiple functions of this complicated tool to capture what you see in your mind, to express and share your enjoyment of whatever it is you like to capture, it keeps me awake at night thinking of what I want to do with it.

Make it a Great Day!

Happy New Year

larsbc Forum Pro • Posts: 15,759
Sensitivity to hot spots

olstrup wrote:
[snip]

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?

I don't think it's just a matter of the tone curve, at least not in my case. What I've noticed is that my D300 seems very sensitive to any scene that contains "hot spots." By that, I mean things like windows in the background (occupying a small percentage of screen space). My D70 or D200 would require may +1 ev of exp compensation, but in some cases, my D300 has required +2, which is far more than I've ever had to dial in. But it's not just a matter of remembering to dial in more exp comp. It's a matter of changing my habits to be more attuned to any bright spot in the scene.

I've only had my D300 for a month now so I'm still learning its idiosyncrocies. But I will say that my D70 and D200 were much more consistent with respect to exposures than my D300 is. And I may end up switching to center weighted metering to see if that will improve things.

larsbc

ron wrucke
OP ron wrucke Senior Member • Posts: 1,065
Re: D300 Overexposure / Underexposure comments

bronwyn wrote:

RTFM - READ THE MANUAL!

... uhhh?

What did I say that made you think I hadn't read the manual .. ??

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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
hammonda1 Regular Member • Posts: 162
Re: D300 Overexposure / Underexposure comments

One way or the other it aint right.
--
Dave Hammond

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

anotherMike wrote:

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.

.. forgot to mention I was using 'Neutral' and sharpening at 2. I'll try your brightness/contrast recommendations since they are easily convertible over to a custom curve if I like what I get ..

.. btw, i went back and re-read your excellent post re. ".. tips and ramblings" :
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1039&message=26112498

.. it's a lot more meaningful to me now since at the time of your post I wasn't experiencing any problems yet ..
--
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: D300 Overexposure / Underexposure comments

hammonda1 wrote:

One way or the other it aint right.

.. well, if I had my Picture Control setting at Neutral, and the only tweek I had was Sharpening set at +2, and if I somehow ended up with what I considered good exposures with my exposure compensation mistakingly set at -1, then you're right .. something isn't right ..

.. but it should be pretty easy to fix. Options for me seem to include (1) Use Standard Picture Control and tweek the contrast/brightness, (2) Use Neutral Picture Control and tweek the contrast/brightness; (3) Create/Load a Custom Curve; (4) Any of the above w/ exposure compensation as needed.

Right now, I'm playing with #2 ..

Wish me luck ..

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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
hammonda1 Regular Member • Posts: 162
Re: D300 Overexposure / Underexposure comments

Having used many Canon and Sony cameras for the past 6 years I know they did constantly expose accurately and consistantly and preserved highlight detail well.

The D300's I have used in the past month do not do this.

At the moment I am unsure if this is due to tone curve or over exposure at first I must admit I thought it was simply over exposure.

If it is over exposure from what I can see it varies from +0.3 EV to as much as +1.0 EV. If it is the tone curve yes pulling down the mid point of the tone curve does appear to do sort of do the trick, but my pictures look better by reducing the exposure in matrix mode.

Don't forget many of you may be fortunate in having a good D300 that exposes correctly but there are many users in both the US and UK that are reporting exposure problems.

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Dave Hammond

nikond2000 Senior Member • Posts: 2,010
Metering

Has anyone addressed the SPOT metering issue as well....I think you said you were using SPOT....Did you lock in the exposure if so?? If not that will blow the scene big time...
On my monitor the birds pics look dark compared to other shots on the forum.

Or were you using matrix??

samjstern
samjstern Veteran Member • Posts: 7,009
Beau, your settings

eventhough in standard ,with the adjustments you made, are VERY close to what I do in neutral.
I am tweeking neutral UP and you are tweeking Standard down.

Very close.
Very interesting.

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RJSPhotography Senior Member • Posts: 1,686
Re: Beau, your settings

good tips

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monte12345 Senior Member • Posts: 2,672
How do you load a custom curve?

With my D70, loading a custom curve was no problem, Capture 4 described how to do it quite well. However, I have yet to figure out how it's done with the D300 and need help.

As for whether the D300 truly needs a custom curve, I have yet to decide on that. Currently I have tweaked the metering down by 1/6 stop but that has no effect on flash exposures, which are slightly overexposed when using the built in flash.

So, I am now at the point where I am thinking about tweaking up a custom curve for the D300 in NX. On my D70 that took about a month and resulted in my being able to print without any post processing. Which I cannot yet do 100% of the time with the D300 although the hit rate is pretty good and the D-lighting does help with most of the problem images. However, I find that the D-lighting can have a bit of a "heavy hand" at times and would prefer a lighter touch.

Anyhow, if anyone reading this could post the procedure for loading a custom curve into the D300, please post it.

James JC Regular Member • Posts: 135
Re: Custom Curves for the D300

Hi Ron,

You will never get proper exposure shooting kids and birds with your camera set to spot metering. Change the metering to center-weighted and your problems will go away.

I suggest milti-pattern metering for environmental scenes. I cant think of anything that spot metering would be used for. Try some simple tests changing the metering back and forth to observe the results. My D300 does not overexpose.
Good Luck

 James JC's gear list:James JC's gear list
Nikon D610
ron wrucke
OP ron wrucke Senior Member • Posts: 1,065
Re: Metering

nikond2000 wrote:

Has anyone addressed the SPOT metering issue as well....I think you
said you were using SPOT....Did you lock in the exposure if so?? If
not that will blow the scene big time...
On my monitor the birds pics look dark compared to other shots on the
forum.

Or were you using matrix??

.. as noted in the original post, I was using Continuous focus mode, Spot metering, with Dynamic Area Mode (9 points). Why do you think using Spot metering will blow the scene, if the 'spot' was dead-on the bird .. ??

re. 'dark birds', my monitor is calibrated (Spyder II) and they look fine to me, but maybe I like them darker than you ...

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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
nikond2000 Senior Member • Posts: 2,010
Re: Metering

Well on the birds spot is not going to matter but you stated you were using spot when taking pics of your kids with flash.....If you pointed at an area and did not lock in focus your metering is going to change...Thus you having to compensate way down....

As a side not----Most people are stating they are having problems with hotter pics in Matrix and not spot or centerwt...

The first bird pic looks good but the second looks darker to me...Might be what you like as stated....Are these Org files?? If not post some Direct from cam

ron wrucke wrote:

nikond2000 wrote:

Has anyone addressed the SPOT metering issue as well....I think you
said you were using SPOT....Did you lock in the exposure if so?? If
not that will blow the scene big time...
On my monitor the birds pics look dark compared to other shots on the
forum.

Or were you using matrix??

.. as noted in the original post, I was using Continuous focus mode,
Spot metering, with Dynamic Area Mode (9 points). Why do you think
using Spot metering will blow the scene, if the 'spot' was dead-on
the bird .. ??

re. 'dark birds', my monitor is calibrated (Spyder II) and they look
fine to me, but maybe I like them darker than you ...

JJ10 Senior Member • Posts: 1,078
Re: Custom Curves for the D300

I have not read all the threads here but using spot metering assumes you understand exposure per se and can dial in exposure compensation accordingly.

Just setting to spot and shooting away will not give good results.

Try a practical test to teach yourself.

Set up a white sheet of paper and spot meter then shoot. Look and adjust etc.

Try with green, blue etc and see what happens.

Don Ramon Regular Member • Posts: 498
Re: Custom Curves for the D300

ron wrucke wrote:

olstrup wrote:

Now, what I really don't understand is all this whining about the
D300 overexposing. It's NOT overexposing.

Yes it IS.

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

monte12345 Senior Member • Posts: 2,672
Thanks, got that far, however...

I am still not sure about saving a custom curve as a Picture Control from NX.

BTW, I tried a workaround that allowed me to not have to connect my camera to the computer. My system has a card reader built in so I just copied the Nikon folder directly to the root of the CF card for the D300 and loaded the D2x modes into the camera. That worked jsut fine and saved some steps.

Wiht Capture 4 I could load a custom curve and it would show up with all it's adjustments in the Levels dialog. So I could try and tweak a curve after testing it's effect in the camera. In NX I cannot find anyway to load a curve in it's "native" state. About all I have been able to do is save it as an application routine for the batch processor. Which works fine once the curve is perfect but it makes re-adjusting an existing curve a near endless loop of trial and error because I don't have any record of my last experiment point. The curve is applied and the Levels dialog just shows a straight line, not the custom curve that I am working on. I also cannot find any method for saving a set of settings as a .NOP file so the it can be loaded to the camera.

BTW, the NX help system refers to a camera adjustment subset for accessing Picture Controls but I'll be damned if I can find a Camera Adjustments menu anywhere within NX. Frankly, I am starting to think that NX is a giant step backwards.

bronwyn New Member • Posts: 24
Re: D300 Overexposure / Underexposure comments

The following statement tells me you either didn’t read it or don’t understand how it works.

“I don't use any "Picture Control" Settings, shoot RAW, and post-process as necessary”

All D300 users use “Picture Control” it is a function of the camera that cannot be turned off.

But we are going astray of your real issue.

Your initial post starts our “I personally think it’s time to just admit that the D300 seems to have a tendency to over-expose images.” This is after you take just 320 photos, that is the shutter count on the jpeg you uploaded.

The you state “…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.” You are using spot metering while point and shooting indoors with a single SB800 with the dome on, did you also have the flip down lens down under the dome? This is asking for exposure problems, remember that the spot meter moves around as you move the focus point and it is such a small percent of the image that any light colored objects will blow out as the meter is only paying attention to a single “spot” not the whole scene. What color is the ceiling of the room you were shooting in and how high is it, and were you on the floor or standing up, in other words what was the distance to the ceiling for the bounce. Did you look at the distance on the SB800 before you put it in bounce position? With the dome on and the lens UP you have 19 feet from the flash to subject if you were kneeling you might be at 3 feet above the floor with an 8 foot ceiling that means just to get up to the ceiling and back to the floor you use up 13 feet of the 19, and that’s before figuring in the 14mm setting on the flash, and with the auxiliary lens down you only have a total of 15 feet to cover the 114 degrees of a 14mm lens setting. That is expecting way to much of the camera and flash. And when not using a Nikon D or G lens the body does not transmit distance information to the flash.

Try the bounce position with the bounce card up and manually set the zoom position to 70mm when using the AF-S DX 17-55mm f2.8G IF-ED.

see the following image for an example

But back to your uploaded photos and you thoughts that the D300 is incorrectly exposing your images, “yardbirds 1” seems to be well exposed, but at 800 x 639, I have to ask is this a crop and if so what was cropped out of the image. I downloaded this image, opened it in CaptureNX and note that you have set the Picture Control to Neutral, the +2 sharpness setting is the default for Neutral all other settings are at 0.

The jpeg does not note any post processing so I cannot tell what or if you made changes. But keeping in mind that the spot meter follows the focus point (this jpeg does not show the focus point in ViewNX or CaptureNX) and if your focus point was the eye, the dark eye and dark feathers around the eye would skew the meter to overexpose, and the previously dialed in -1 underexposure would have balanced most or all of this. The meter sets exposure assuming the average of the metered area equals middle grey, so when using spot metering on a subject that is something other than middle grey you need to dial in the appropriate compensation.

As both of these photos were taken just after 1pm on a sunny day my first thought is this is part of the flat look to these photos. I use CaptureNX and have taken a 2 hour course at a local camera shop where the instructor was a Nikon employee who is part of the software development group. Have you learned how to use the control points, mainly the black and white, in CaptureNX? It looks to me that just setting the black and white control points could have added some contrast to the photo and made #1 noticeably better. The white belly feathers would be white which they don’t look now. Looking at #1 I would have used center weighted metering if I had the time to make this adjustment, otherwise I would have metered off the blue sky and dialed in -1 from there using Manual Metering Mode. So if I metered at ISO 200 at 1/200s at f/16 then I would have set my camera to 1/400s at f/16 and adjusted from there to the aperture/shutter speed combo I would prefer such as 1/6400s at f/2.8.

There is no one setting that you can discern, or curve you can create that will make every, or even most exposures, “right”. It doesn’t know when it is pointed at snow, snow geese, great egrets, golden eagles, or black bears; it just averages a scene to middle grey. It is just a computer; it needs creative and educated input from a user, to provide that user with it’s highest quality output.

Personally when photos I take don’t turn out like I thought they should, I don’t assume the camera is at fault. I know it is my lack of understanding of the interplay among all the settings and my use thereof that is in need of improvement. I just cannot believe that all of the people that post on dpreview all have bad cameras; it just doesn’t make sense that a manufacturer could displease this high of a percentage of its customers and stay in business. If we cannot accept the fact that we don’t know everything, then we stop learning. I must believe that the fault is mine because I can control what I know about and how I use the camera, but I cannot change the quality of it’s output if I think it is the cameras fault and don’t change how I use it. And in the case of digital there is also the software to learn….

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