D7100 + 200-500 f5.6; not getting results I expected

Joined
Dec 13, 2008
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217
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Alexandria, Va
as the title explains, I have a D7100 and purchased the 200-500 a couple months ago, but never had the chance to use it much.
I happened to stumble upon a Cardinal hang-out spot near work, so I brought the rig in to try it out.

Results seem to be very....how shall I say...disappointing.

Here are samples (cloudy day, about an hour before the relentless rain...)
1.
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Shutter 1/100, f14, -0.7 exposure comp, 500mm (with in-camera 1.3x crop). I have Auto ISO on, and the camera chose 5000.

2. (Underexposed, I know...)
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1/1000, f5.6, -0.7 exp comp, 500mm (crop), ISO 3600

These photos are straight from the camera, Fine JPEG, size Large.

It seems that they are very grainy, I’m assuming due to the Hi ISO setting the camera chose. I also have Hi-ISO Noise Reduction enabled.

Is there a Maximum ISO that one should use with this lens? I have not yet tried manual ISO at a lower setting. VR set to Normal.

When I try and take photos in my apartment, the AF is sharp. But these photos are not sharp at all. Pretty horrible in my opinion.

Anyone using this combo, or one as similar as possible to it (D7200?), what settings should I use to get better results?
HELP!!!:(
 
Joined
Nov 12, 2018
Messages
808
I am new to Nikon and don't have a D7100. I have recently purchased a D500 and the 200-500 VR. So take my advice with a grain of salt if you wish. It looks to me that you didn't have a lot of light. You say it was cloudy. I would have shot the first one at f5.6 instead of f14. I personally shoot the lens pretty much exclusively at 5.6 unless there is lots of light and I am trying to get more depth of field. I also would have taken out the -.7 exposure comp. I set Auto ISO max to 3200. Perhaps you can try again is better light and see if you are happier with the results. I think the 200-500 VR is a very capable lens, but it does need some light at 5.6 and 500mm.
 
Joined
Dec 13, 2008
Messages
217
Location
Alexandria, Va
Sorry, let me add...
I have the camera set to Aperture Priority. The -0.7 exposure seems to work on #1, but made #2 too dark.
I was kind of shooting quickly in between work projects when I had a few minutes to spare...so I couldn’t really dwell and fiddle with different settings.
These were hand-held.
I tried f14 as opposed to 5.6 for #1 to see if I can get a sharper image - no luck.

Thank you for the advice so far...

Most of my shooting is with a 35mm DX 1.8 and a Tamron 90mm 2.8 Macro, so I never have any ISO-induced grain problems. This 200-500 is a totally different beast....!!!
 
Joined
Dec 14, 2018
Messages
104
Nothing worse than high iso in poor light to make you unhappy with your new lens.
Your tests need to be in good light, with a high shutter speed, f5.6 should be ok for that lens,dont stop down to f14 as that can introduce other problems.
Hand holding heavy long lenses is an art that needs learning,wait for some good light.
Are you shooting jpeg, if so have you set up the in camera jpeg settings for sharpness and contrast, switch the in camera noise reduction off, i will bet there is nothing wrong with the gear you just need practise.
 
Joined
Dec 14, 2018
Messages
104
Sorry but i had to download your images to be able to have a better look, i think you are on the right track just better light and more trials.

First one,looks like the focus could be slightly in front, a couple of possible reasons but lets stick the the most likley, slight camera movement and it focused in front of the bird.

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Number two as you say was underexposed so bringing it back causes problems like noise which may not be there.

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Its a long time since i shot the D7100 and you have to be careful not to go too high with the iso but the noise is camera related not lens.
 
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Joined
Oct 24, 2017
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Dubois, Wyoming
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Bill
In low light for a sitting object shoot that lens wide open f/5.6 Don't dial in any exposure compensation because it'll be too dark and it'll just need to be brightened up in post processing which will introduce noise. Sounds like in your auto-iso settings your minimum shutter speed is either set too high or set to auto. I would set it to either the lowest SS you need to stop the action if the subject is moving or the lowest SS you can hand hold at for the focal length. With the VR turned on you can get pretty low like 1/250 or even slower if your technique is good.
 
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8,818
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Clearwater, Florida
"Shutter 1/100, f14, -0.7 exposure comp, 500mm (with in-camera 1.3x crop). I have Auto ISO on, and the camera chose 5000."

So many issues here that are hard to comprehend. Don't blame your camera or lens at this point.

f14 in low light? Shoot that lens wide open. If it's not sharp wide open, figure out why with some static testing and possible micro-adjustment if necessary.
Shutterspeed 1/100 at 500mm? This is asking for trouble even if you were using VR. Your technique at 500mm needs to be flawless. Any movement at that focal length will hurt the sharpness of your final image.
-0.7EV? This was not necessary given the images posted. If anything, I try to push the histogram to the right when using high ISO. Proper exposure is your best friend when trying to reduce noise at high ISO.
 
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Alaska
Others have said it all. You picked a terrible situation to use to try and judge a new lens. And threw bad technique/technical setup on top of that. It is notoriously difficult to pull detail out of a red subject due to blowing the highlights in the red channel. And with the bird was in a bad position to try and get decent focus on it. Then shooting at those ISO values on a D7100 and with in-camera NR killed any chance you had to capture fine detail. Also with that high rez sensor sharpness is negatively impacted at apertures above f8. Then shooting in crop mode with a crop sensor you were shooting an effective focal lenth of 1000mm at 1/100s. That's asking a lot of the VR. So you did several things that negatively impact IQ that have nothing to do with the lens.

Suggestions:
- for birds shoot that lens wide open
- try to limit ISO on the D7100 to 1600, certainly not above 3200
- turn in-camera NR off
- even with VR when hand holding try to stick to the 1/FL(effective FL) rule for minimum ss
 
Joined
Dec 13, 2008
Messages
217
Location
Alexandria, Va
Thank you all for the advice and suggestions.

@drr1531 does the in camera NR make things worse for noise with these conditions (long lens, low light)?
I guess I assumed I could slap the lens on and go for broke...but I see that it isn’t so.
I will wait for a pure sunny day!
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jan 2, 2009
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...does the in camera NR make things worse for noise with these conditions (long lens, low light)?
...
In-camera NR tries to reduce noise at the cost of detail. As does any NR whether in-camera or in post processing. For purposes of evaluating the base image it's a good idea to eliminate as many variables as possible and start from there. Everyone has his/her own philosophy on how/when/where to do the image processing. Nothing wrong with deciding to have the camera do the NR. Just be aware of how it is affecting your image.

Also no need to wait for perfect conditions to go out and shoot with your new lens. I'd be firing away even if I was just sitting in the living room shooting images of Christmas decorations on the tree. Just be aware of the challenges and don't draw any conclusions until you've shot various subjects under various conditions. Patience Grasshoppa.
 
Joined
Nov 12, 2018
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808
Here’s one with the 200-500 on a very cloudy and dreary day. It can work.
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Jan 28, 2009
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Indiana
No expert with that lens/body combo but I had a d7200 and nikon 70-200 f/2.8 with a TC 17eII. Rule of thumb is your shutter speed should be 1/focal length. So at a focal length of 500 your shutter speed should be 1/500. This will help eliminate camera movement. With that said, your first photo says ss of 1/100 while the second photo says ss of 1/1000. Is one of those a typo, making my above statement a moot point?
 
Joined
Dec 13, 2008
Messages
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Location
Alexandria, Va
No expert with that lens/body combo but I had a d7200 and nikon 70-200 f/2.8 with a TC 17eII. Rule of thumb is your shutter speed should be 1/focal length. So at a focal length of 500 your shutter speed should be 1/500. This will help eliminate camera movement. With that said, your first photo says ss of 1/100 while the second photo says ss of 1/1000. Is one of those a typo, making my above statement a moot point?
Not a typo...I actually had to double-check myself when I wrote it. As mentioned, I usually set the camera to Aperture Priority and let it choose Shutter speed. I suppose the fact that my Auto ISO was set to 7000 max, it chose 1/100 shutter and 5000 ISO = grain galore...
 
Joined
Dec 13, 2008
Messages
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Location
Alexandria, Va
So I got a couple chances to use the 200-500 again this weekend.
Yesterday we took a trip to the Conowingo Dam in Darlington, Md. it was about 3pm on a really dreary day (1 hour before the rain storm) and got these. Tripod mount, 500mm and 1.3x crop.

1.
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2.
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3.
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4.
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5.
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Made all the necessary adjustments with reducing max ISO and turning NR off. Still fighting with the grain and dark photos. Shooting at 5.6, 1/800 shutter speed, 2000 ISO (shooting manual mode).

Then today at Dyke Marsh Preserve near home, a total opposite in terms of light.
This time shooting Aperture priority, still at 5.6, 1/1000 shutter and 400ISO (Auto) I had to increase exposure compensation to +1.7 because I was shooting into the sun (seems to be my quick-fix habit...not sure if it’s a good habit to use or not). Tripod mount, 500mm and 1.3x crop.

6.
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7.
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I am convinced that my D7100 needs some serious light for decent IQ with the 200-500.

Question: when shooting birds in flight like #’s 3, 4, & 5, what AF mode works best?

I know I need some serious practice with this lens...!!!
 
Last edited:
Joined
May 11, 2006
Messages
42,076
Location
CHARLOTTE
Real Name
Randy
So I got a couple chances to use the 200-500 again this weekend.
Yesterday we took a trip to the Conowingo Dam in Darlington, Md. it was about 3pm on a really dreary day (1 hour before the rain storm) and got these. Tripod mount, 500mm and 1.3x crop.

1.
View attachment 1630805

2.
View attachment 1630806

3.
View attachment 1630807

4.
View attachment 1630808

5.
View attachment 1630809
Made all the necessary adjustments with reducing max ISO and turning NR off. Still fighting with the grain and dark photos. Shooting at 5.6, 1/800 shutter speed, 2000 ISO (shooting manual mode).

Then today at Dyke Marsh Preserve near home, a total opposite in terms of light.
This time shooting Aperture priority, still at 5.6, 1/1000 shutter and 400ISO (Auto) I had to increase exposure compensation to +1.7 because I was shooting into the sun (seems to be my quick-fix habit...not sure if it’s a good habit to use or not). Tripod mount, 500mm and 1.3x crop.

6.
View attachment 1630810

7.
View attachment 1630811

I am convinced that my D7100 needs some serious light for decent IQ with the 200-500.

Question: when shooting birds in flight like #’s 3, 4, & 5, what AF mode works best?

I know I need some serious practice with this lens...!!!
Start with AFC single point and practice getting the sensor on the bird. Aim for the eyes
 
Joined
May 11, 2006
Messages
42,076
Location
CHARLOTTE
Real Name
Randy
So I got a couple chances to use the 200-500 again this weekend.
Yesterday we took a trip to the Conowingo Dam in Darlington, Md. it was about 3pm on a really dreary day (1 hour before the rain storm) and got these. Tripod mount, 500mm and 1.3x crop.

1.
View attachment 1630805

2.
View attachment 1630806

3.
View attachment 1630807

4.
View attachment 1630808

5.
View attachment 1630809
Made all the necessary adjustments with reducing max ISO and turning NR off. Still fighting with the grain and dark photos. Shooting at 5.6, 1/800 shutter speed, 2000 ISO (shooting manual mode).

Then today at Dyke Marsh Preserve near home, a total opposite in terms of light.
This time shooting Aperture priority, still at 5.6, 1/1000 shutter and 400ISO (Auto) I had to increase exposure compensation to +1.7 because I was shooting into the sun (seems to be my quick-fix habit...not sure if it’s a good habit to use or not). Tripod mount, 500mm and 1.3x crop.

6.
View attachment 1630810

7.
View attachment 1630811

I am convinced that my D7100 needs some serious light for decent IQ with the 200-500.

Question: when shooting birds in flight like #’s 3, 4, & 5, what AF mode works best?

I know I need some serious practice with this lens...!!!
Did the meter zero out with those settings ?
I know the answer, no, under exposed.
You’re probably getting too much advice here but here goes anyway:

Try this one day, shoot in manual with auto iso on. If your setting EV more than 1 it’s probably too much so stay with 0 for awhile.
 
Joined
Feb 18, 2015
Messages
1,104
Location
New York State
I would handle this in exactly the opposite way to you!

First if I used a "Priority" mode it would be Shutter Priority and I would set my S/S to the same number as my focal length (so 1/500 sec. at a minimum with that lens) — and four times that if fast action is involved.

My normal method is to shoot in Manual Mode with Auto ISO and mostly to use my lens fairly wide open.

Next, because I only ever shoot RAW, and because the internal metering on every Nikon that I have ever met systematically under-exposes by 2/3 of a stop, I set my Exposure Meters (via the menus) to plus 0.7 EV. That gets my shadows well away from the left-wall of the histogram and decreases Noise considerably.

Don't worry about the HLs, because you have more headroom than you probably realise; and, on a dreary day with flat lighting, you have very limited DR anyway.

Try doing that and see if it helps.
 
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