Too Many Variables

Backyard birds are my favorite photographic subjects because they allow me to be extremely lazy but still make nice pictures. Shooting yesterday with both the new D7000 and the borrowed TC17e-II teleconverter, I captured the following images. I’m dissatisfied with the technical quality of these pictures, but I’m not sure if I’m misusing the camera, the teleconverter, my technique, or all three.

This is the most satisfying of the three, but I had to over-sharpen it in Aperture to make it look sharp at all. Now it just looks wrong.The shutter speed was 1/1000, and the lens was stopped down to f/7.1. Thom Hogan recommends turning off vibration reduction at speeds faster than 1/500, so maybe my failure to do so was part of my problem. And I should count laziness as one of the variables, because I know a handheld shot will never be as sharp as a tripod-based shot, regardless of shutter speed.

Not only is this compositionally weak, but it lacks critical sharpness as well. I know it looks sharp in places, but it really isn't. And at an exposure of 1/200, there's no reason to expect a sharp image from a handheld 340mm lens.

 

As the sun went down, this robin posed in a eucalyptus tree. What's my complaint here? Once again, the image is not as sharp as it looks, and I haven't yet learned the best way to post-process files from the D7000, so they all look artificially over-sharpened to me.

For convenience, I’ve been shooting the new camera in jpeg mode. Today, as I get ready for a short road trip,  I’m switching to RAW. A RAW file will always offer the best quality your camera’s sensor can produce. I’m also going to travel with two ultra-reliable lenses, my 17-55 and my 70-200. These have been top performers on my D300, so I’m going to spend a couple of days shooting a little more carefully with lenses I know to be sharp. The D7000 may well require changes in my technique, and will certainly punish inferior lenses with it’s high resolution sensor. But the best way for me to learn is to remove some of the variables and isolate the problem. More on this topic next week. Z

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Filed under Camera Gear, Camera Settings, Nature Photography

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