Need help

Joined
May 10, 2008
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New Hampshire
So I took my D7100 and Sigma Sport yesterday to my granddaughters field hockey game and I'm totally depressed with how the pics came out.

It was a partly cloudy day with breaks of sun. I was sitting on the first row bleachers with a monopod so between sitting and the monopod I was pretty stable.

I don't think I got one acceptable shot.

Here's an example. Jpg right out of the camera. The focus point is right on my granddaughter's face (girl bending over on the right side with the blue goggles).

This is sadly one of the sharper pics. 1/2500, f5, 150mm, iso 400, OS1, AF-C

This particular shot was Aperture priority but I shot most in Shutter priority at 1/640. Should I have had the lens stopped down more?

The camera is new to me, really first time using it and other than a few test shots which I thought we OK, this is the first use of the Sigma.

I'll take any and all comments and help. Even shots where there wasn't a lot of shadow seem fuzzy. There is also a lot of noise which I wouldn't have thought for iso 400. Next time I'm going to use my D600 and see if that's any better.

My Lightroom skills are nowhere near good enough to make these look good to me.

And I have not used the dock on the lens yet.


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Here's a crop

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Joined
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Curious why 150mm, I would have shot much tighter. I shoot the S with the D7200.
I'm in Manual - Auto ISO - SS 1/2000th - typically wide open or stopped down a 1/3
Mine slightly back focuses -2 and I only used the dock for the AF firmware updates.
Here's one from 50 yds 100% crop SOOC 600mm f7.1 ISO500 1/2000th handheld.
AF-C 9pt release. Get 'er dialed in...suffice it to say, that sensor loves this lens. GL ;)


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Joined
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My only excuse is lack of experience. I have been shooting a lot of indoor events using faster, wider primes and cropping for the best composition with good success. Just an old habit I need to break.

What about AF? How do you set yours up?

Thanks
 
Joined
Dec 1, 2008
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New York
1. You were too far away from the action. Zoom in to make tighter shots.

2. 1/640 is too slow in general. You may be able to get away with that if an athlete is moving toward you. Side to side movement requires a higher SS.

3. Dial up the ISO. It's better to have a sharper picture with more noise than a blurry picture with good IQ.

4. Use this camera lens combo to shoot stationary subjects. Check sharpness to determine if there is any front/back focus issue.

5. Can you post some of the unacceptable pictures straight out of camera? Out-of-focus shots can be due to extreme cropping, slow SS, or focusing on the wrong subject. The last reason (focusing on the wrong subject) can be further caused by one of the three reasons: lens front/back focus issue, photographer's skill (able to track athletes' movement), and ability of lens to track fast movement. It takes a methodological approach to look at each potential factor and determine what may be causing the issue.
 
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While I don't have this lens, I too question why you shot this at only 150mm and chose to try and crop later. Use your lens to your advantage and fill the frame with the action as best you can.

Another thought I had was if you were shooting with the OS enabled. It's not needed at such high shutterspeeds and is likely giving you soft shots at higher frame rates if the OS does not have a chance to "settle" between frames. Shut off OS for sports with high shutterspeed like you have here.
 
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What about AF? How do you set yours up?

Thanks
I can only relate to my experience using a D4S. I don't have a D7100 but many of the techniques are similar.

1. Use the AF-ON button to focus. That decouples focusing from hitting the shutter button, which is a better technique. I don't think the AF-ON button is available on D7100, but you can program another button to serve the same function.

2. Use dynamic focusing D9 or D21. D9 is more commonly used by sports pros.

3. Shoot in burst mode.

4. Focus on the face, not the torso. This is a harder skill, but it's worth it and sports pros use it. There are times an athlete's face could be 6 inches or more in front of their torso (such as a dive toward you), and the shallower DOF of long lenses can only make the face sharp but not the torso.

5. I use focusing mode focus+release for bursts. That means first shot needs to acquire focus. Subsequent shots may not be focused perfectly but I don't want the shutter button to lock up.

6. Use apeature priority and open up the lens to its highest f-stop to get maximum isolation. This also has the advantage of giving you a higher SS.

These are just guidelines and are not meant to be cast in concrete. There are times I stop down a bit to show more of the background.
 
Joined
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Here's one, still at 150mm but closer. Focus point was her neck and chin. 1/640, f7, iso 400. You have me thinking that most of the issue is my technique. What would be a good minimum shutter speed for this kind of action. Here's she's just walking fo 1/640 should have been enough.

EDIT:
mkemd21, I did break a couple of your rules above with this. I do typically focus on the eye but with this action and with the aperture at 5 and smaller I thought I had enough DOF to get her in focus but I guess not. But when I zoom right in on the focus point it doesnt look as sharp as I would like. I have used both my Sigma 150 2.8 which is tack sharp and my Tamron 70-300 in the past with excellent results but I certainly have more experience with those lenses.

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Joined
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New York
This picture does not show a DOF issue. It's shot at 150mm at f7. If you have distance information, you can use a DOF calculator to find out if the face and neck/chin is within range. My speculation is that DOF is not an issue here. When I zoom in the picture (100% crop), her neck/chin is not sharp either.

Generally I would aim for a minimum of 1/1600 for sports. Of course different sports present different requirements. Again, side to side movement requires higher SS.

The athlete is walking in this picture, so SS should not be an issue. I will rule out motion blur problems.

I download your picture and look at it at 100% crop. I then look at some of my pictures where an athlete occupies roughly the same portion of the frame. Some of my shots are considerably sharper at 100% crop.

So what does this mean? I believe it's a focusing issue. It's not due to slow SS or DOF.

1. Check the lens sharpness with stationary subjects. This will rule out front/back focus issues.

2. Without the AF-ON button, you have to depress the shutter button half way to focus. It's more likely to cause focusing problems. Set up a similar AF-ON button and you should see focusing improves.

3. Mitch mentioned OS setting on Sigma. That's a good point. If you have it on, turn it off. Don't use it for sports photos. The trouble with OS is that the camera/lens takes some time to settle, and by that time an athlete has moved a little and that can reduce focus accuracy. Clearly this is not an issue with stationary subjects.

4. Practice, practice, and more practice.

5. This may not apply to your case as all of your pictures are not sharp. The reality is that many sports pictures do not come out pin sharp due to the ability of lens to track subject movement. There is a hierarchy of lens ability. For example, all of these Nikon lenses have AF-S motors: 400, 70-200, and 24-70. I have higher keeper rates with 400 than 70-200 than 24-70. If you have good techniques, you should still see only a portion of your pictures pin sharp. I don't have any experience of using the Sigma lens, but perhaps others can talk about their keeper rates with this lens.

6. I've found that the center focus cursor delivers the most accuracy. There are 15 cross type cursors and they deliver reasonable accuracy but not as good as the center cursor. I generally avoid using the outer cursors for movement.
 
Joined
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In addition to the advice you have been given already:

1. You had VR turned on for the shot and you were pretty stable with monopod and sitting (like a tripod!) plus you were shooting at a very acceptable S/S therefore I believe it possible that this caused the slight blurring you are seeing. At these shutter speeds and for your action shots I would be looking at turning VR off.

2. Double check your lens elements are clean back and front in particular as this type of blooming can be caused by dirt or even condensation (latter unlikely at outdoor event?)

3. I somehow doubt it is front or back focus at the distance you were at but worth checking just in case
 
Joined
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I did a lot of checking, it does seem to need about +2 but that isn't the issue. Nothing appears to be very sharp or it's blooming. I actually just chatted with Amazon and they gave me an exception to the 30 day return policy so I am returning this lens. I have another one coming tomorrow and hopefully I'll be ablt to compare the two before I return it.

Here's a shot at 600mm with +2 in the camera, MUP, at maybe 40', which I think moved the sharpness from the last bottle on the right (closest) more towards the middle bottle.. This is the best I can get it. Focus point on the "ap" of the middle bottle. I just don't think that this is very good for a $2k lens, please let me know if my expectations are too high.

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Joined
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Hopefully when you compare lenses the new one may be better, but FWIW my impression

The sharpest appears to be the Low calorie and Facts lettering on the right hand bottle.

If you shot in raw what editor did you use and did you apply sharpening (still needed to get the best out even with no AA filter).
If JPEG check your camera settings for sharpening

I do not know the lens but I think it would be fair to say that you would get better out of a £9000 Nikon 600 prime ;):) I suspect if the lens is going to be weak it may well be at the far end of the zoom - hopefully others with experience will chime in. But perhaps your expectation is a little too high shooting wide open at the 600 end?

When you are viewing at 100% you are magnifying an image about 3x from a print size (300ppi to printer) therefore things can look a little soft. How do examples with other lenses appear at this magnification

FWIW a little play adding small amount of sharpening to your JPEG (not a good idea as sharpening already added but..) and cropping and overlaying unsharpened vs sharpened. Also in bottom right is how a print would be sized to compare

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New lens is absolutely sharper and clearer without blooming out of the box.

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That's all I can do for testing right now as I have to get the old lens to UPS and I cant get back to this until later in the weekend. This shot, jpg right out of the camera, has confirmed to me that this lens is at least as good and probably better than the one I'm sending back and since I am getting a refund from Amazon for the first lens, this lens is a new order and I have 30 days to check it out fully.

Feel free to let me know if it's just buyers enthusiasm but I really feel that in these limited tests the lens overall looks better both in focus and blooming....I rely on you folks to be objective where I might not be.

Thanks
 
Joined
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Even though there is about a 33% difference in image size (first one shot closer) when sizes equalised in PS the new lens does appear to be sharper and looking at the old image there seems to be better resolution across the frame. The first image appeared to be more OOF on the left hand side than the right. I wonder if this lens slightly decentred which could explain why you thought the focus point on the centre bottle when the actual sharper bottle on the right ?

The one you have now certainly appears to be better and hopefully you will find it to be a keeper
 
Joined
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TonyW, thanks. I actually played with the older lens today and AF Fine tune but I could not easily get the center bottle in focus. I did notice the distance difference in this latest test but I thought that the further distance of the new lens would have been a disadvantage to is from a sharpness perspective...closer meaning more sharp by virtue of distance.

Anyway for now I'm happy, hope to be able to take some real photo's in the coming weeks to get comfortable with it.
 
Joined
May 10, 2008
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Another game but this time as the sun was going down, new lens, manual mode, wide open at f6.3, 1/1600, iso 3200, 490mm (735mm), standing with monopod, distance to this goal was at least 300' as the field was surrounded with a larger running track.. some crop for composition, noise reduction etc. I'm much happier with this set of shots and I just picked one pretty much at random...too tired to wade through the 600+ pics I took right now ;)

I think this copy of the lens is fine and it's all my technique that needs a lot of practise. Lots of shots at iso 6400. I found it difficult to follow the focus spot especially at the longer focal distances.

Comments?

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Joined
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New York
From an image IQ standpoint, this looks good to me. With more practices your focusing skill will improve. But having the technical aspect down pat is the easy part. Taking good sports photos is much harder. Enjoy what you do.
 
Joined
May 10, 2008
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New Hampshire
Mkemd21, Thanks. These last two games were my first experience with a large field. With the lens at 600mm that damn focus point is all over the place ;) I seemed to settle in pretty quick with the monopod, again something I'm not used to. I also should have moved down closer to the home team goal as most of the game was at the far end of the field.

5. This may not apply to your case as all of your pictures are not sharp. The reality is that many sports pictures do not come out pin sharp due to the ability of lens to track subject movement. There is a hierarchy of lens ability. For example, all of these Nikon lenses have AF-S motors: 400, 70-200, and 24-70. I have higher keeper rates with 400 than 70-200 than 24-70. If you have good techniques, you should still see only a portion of your pictures pin sharp. I don't have any experience of using the Sigma lens, but perhaps others can talk about their keeper rates with this lens.
Believe it or not my keeper rate for focus was excellent....for composition not so much.

6. I've found that the center focus cursor delivers the most accuracy. There are 15 cross type cursors and they deliver reasonable accuracy but not as good as the center cursor. I generally avoid using the outer cursors for movement.
How do you deal with composition? I used the center for about half of my shots but then I noticed that I either had to focus on the middle of the body or cut off their feet if I focused on the head. I moved the point up and I tended to focus on their upper chest, still not being able to get in tight and focus on their face. I used back button focus and that worked well but things were moving too quickly to focus on the face and recompose. I supposed since this lens looks good I can afford to zoom out a bit to put the spot where I want it.
 
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