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Old 12-03-2012, 09:07 PM   #1
dkhillerud
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Need help figuring out camera settings!

Hello, I recently bought a Nikon D5100, I posted a thread a few weeks ago and got a lot of help deciding what camera to buy! I really love the camera so thanks for your help!

I also checked out a few books from the library including "understanding exposure" which I have read twice. I must be a slow learner because I still have questions!

Here is my current problem. My kids are all in sports so I am trying to figure out how to "freeze action." I tried shooting my 7 year old daughters dance performance tonight. It was in a school gym with bright lighting. I was trying to shoot in shutter priority mode. However, I couldn't get a very high shutter speed. Is this due to the fact the f/4 was the lowest I could get the aperture? Really the best I could get for shutter speed was 1/50 or so. I did try to increase the ISO but was a little scared that I would get too much noise in the photo. What would be an OK level to increase to? And would that have solved my problem?

I did get some cute photos, mostly because at 7 they aren't "fast" movers! I know that when I try to get some pictures of my 15 year old and her color guard team I am going to struggle. (also indoors, gym with bright lights).

I am guessing I need a better lens. I was using a basic zoom lens Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G. Any suggestions for a better lens, this one was borrowed from a friend. I would like to stay under $1000.

Thanks for any help, suggestions!!
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Old 12-03-2012, 09:34 PM   #2
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I don't shoot Nikon so some of the terminology may be different, but the first thing is gymnasium lighting while it may appear to be good, really isn't good lighting. The first setting I would ensure is your metering. I would use spot metering for performances. Second, you will have to use ISO to ensure your shutter speed is fast enough to freeze action. I am guessing here, but I would think a shutter speed of 320-500 would be required. Because your lens is a variable aperture lens, meaning as you zoom it decreases in size allowing less light to enter. You then need to adjust one of the other parts of the photographic triangle. Since shutter speed is not the adjustment you want to make, it has to be ISO (aka sensor sensitivity). You are correct in that as you raise the ISO you will introduce noise. Fortunately, your camera has one of the best rated APS-C sensors. You should be able to go to 3200 and still get very usable images and there is enough dynamic range that will allow you to use some noise reduction software. I have the same sensor in my Pentax and have shot as high as 12800 (although I don't really like going that high even though the camera has the capability to go to 51200).

These are not exact settings but educated guesses. You need to look at your display and settings and adjust. Also watch your white balance and adjust that to the lighting to prevent a yellow cast, etc.
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Old 12-03-2012, 09:43 PM   #3
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Bright and gym are oxymorons in photography, unless the gym has a bunch of windows, and sunlight is streaming in.

I haven't tried it, but this DSLr simulator looks interesting and may help:
http://camerasim.com/camera-simulator/
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Old 12-03-2012, 10:01 PM   #4
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In your situation, you need to do two things (IMO).

1) play with your iso settings and determine what is the highest ISO you are comfortable with. each model camera handles noise differently, so unless someone has a d5100, their advice is really just a guide. But in addition, what one person might like with a d5100 might not be what you like. some people think a certain amount of noise gives a photo character. In fact, many photo editing programs have a setting to let you increase the grain/noise. So in short, find the level (1600, 3200, etc) that you think is the max you like and know that when you need to increase your noise you shouldn't go higher than that level without sacrificing quality.

2) Unless you want to fork over the money for a faster lens, you need to decide which you would prefer; frozen action but noisy, or noise free but motion blur. Personally, I will take some noise over motion blur, but only up to a point.

Welcome to indoor action photography, the bane of every photographer's existence.
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Old 12-03-2012, 10:01 PM   #5
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Agree with everything said. But also make sure the flash is off. It won't do you any good, but it will mess with the metering.
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Old 12-03-2012, 10:24 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dkhillerud View Post
I am guessing I need a better lens. I was using a basic zoom lens Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G. Any suggestions for a better lens, this one was borrowed from a friend. I would like to stay under $1000.

Thanks for any help, suggestions!!
I forgot about the lens. Fast glass is always better, however it will be expensive and quite a bit heavier than the consumer 55-200. I'm not an expert in Nikkor lenses, so I will speak generically. The lens that is in all sports photographers bag is the 70-200 f2.8. In the conditions you describe, I use mine almost exclusively. Nikon makes one along with third party offerings from Sigma (which I use) and Tamron. The third party offerings tend to be cheaper. Purists quite frequently prefer OEM lenses, but budget sometimes precludes that based on your situation. If you are primarily going to use it for sports then stabilization is not required because you will be using high shutter speeds. However, if you going to use it for other situations then you might consider a stabilized lens.
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Old 12-03-2012, 11:45 PM   #7
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I agree that gym and good lighting just isn't a combo that exists - at least not to a camera. And if you were zooming beyond the 55mm you aperture would have been increasing above the f/4 up to f/5.6 if you were at 200mm.

My best advice - don't be afraid of some noise especially since your looking to stop the action. It's far better than blur and if you're doing any printing it's usually not as obvious compared to when you're pixel peeping on your computer. A faster lens will of course help but before running out and spending several hundred I'd recommend that you bump up the ISO and see where your tolerances are because it really only matters how you like it. Invariably my favorite pictures are more dependent on subject matter or catching a moment. There have been times I've attempted to keep the ISO lower than I should have and I've regretted it when I've missed something special that happened and what I got was blur. I'd try some at 1600 ISO and go ahead and bump up to 3200 ISO if you still aren't getting the shutter speeds you need. Spot metering should also help. And also use the fastest fps that your camera can do and shoot in bursts (looks like that is 4 fps). When you're having to be on the slow side of shutter speed shooting in bursts can increase your chance of getting that moment of stop action because few activities are performed at one consistent speed. So shooting in bursts increases the odds of catching the slower movement moments and stopping the action.
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Old 12-04-2012, 09:09 AM   #8
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Quote:
The lens that is in all sports photographers bag is the 70-200 f2.8. In the conditions you describe, I use mine almost exclusively. Nikon makes one along with third party offerings from Sigma (which I use) and Tamron. The third party offerings tend to be cheaper.
You could also look at older Nikons, 80-200 f/2.8, and buy one of those used. That or third-party is the only way to get it in the $1000 or under range.

Even with a 2.8 lens, though, you will have to increase your ISO. Just no way around it, gym lighting is horrible. You will probably need something like ISO 3200, shutter speed 1/250, and then the widest aperature (smallest f#) you can get. On the 55-200 lens you have, it's not very wide.... especially if you are zoomed in at all... so that's where the recommendation to buy a lens with a wider aperture (constant 2.8) comes into play.
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Old 12-04-2012, 09:33 AM   #9
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Thanks for all the suggestions! I see "bright" lights and assume then that there should be enough light for the camera. Thanks for the clarification! Makes me feel better, I was thinking I was doing something wrong for the camera to keep giving me the error message "not enough light" since looking around there seemed to be plenty!

I kept the ISO at 800. Rats, wish I would have tried to go higher. Oh well, live and learn right!

Along with the understanding exposure book I got the "Understanding Shutter Speed" book as well, also by Bryan Peterson. One of the things he was talking about was the "myth of ISO." He was saying not to go over 800, and he stays at 100-200. Guess I better re-read that book as well, I obviously missed something important!
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Old 12-04-2012, 10:08 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dkhillerud View Post
Thanks for all the suggestions! I see "bright" lights and assume then that there should be enough light for the camera. Thanks for the clarification! Makes me feel better, I was thinking I was doing something wrong for the camera to keep giving me the error message "not enough light" since looking around there seemed to be plenty!

I kept the ISO at 800. Rats, wish I would have tried to go higher. Oh well, live and learn right!

Along with the understanding exposure book I got the "Understanding Shutter Speed" book as well, also by Bryan Peterson. One of the things he was talking about was the "myth of ISO." He was saying not to go over 800, and he stays at 100-200. Guess I better re-read that book as well, I obviously missed something important!
At ISO of 3200, you probably could have shot around a shutter speed of 1/150-1/250. At 1600-3200, some noise will probably creep in.... but when you see the noise ratings reviewed in articles and on blogs, they are usually "pixel peeping" --- Zooming in and examining on a pixel level. Take a picture with moderate noise at ISO of 3200 and it may not even be noticeable in a 4X6 print. Or remove the noise in post-processing (the downside of doing this, it is can soften the details in the image as part of the process of smoothing over the noise). But take confidence that Nikons are among the best at low noise.

Even professional sports photographers resort to relatively high ISOs.
ISOs of 100-400 work best in normal *natural* lighting situations, or indoor situations with flash.

Anyway, here is an example pic of my son doing Tae Kwon Do under similar lighting. ISO was 1600, Aperture of 4.5 and shutter speed of 1/160. I don't see any noise in regular sizes, only when I blow it up do I see any noise.


tournament-169.jpg by Havoc315, on Flickr

Last edited by havoc315; 12-04-2012 at 10:19 AM.
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Old 12-04-2012, 10:18 AM   #11
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I shoot nikon (d7000)

You want to be in Apeture priority.
Set your apeture to the lowest your lense will give you, you said f4.
Set your ISO at 3200. You may be able to go 1 step lower.
Set to continuos Auto foucus.

Fire away. you should get decent enough shots.

I would also recamend you shoot in raw. with those settings, it will be tough for the camera to autommatically pick the correct white ballance.

By shooting in raw, and post process ing in lightroom. You have a great deal of extra controll to fix exposure issues, reduce noice from the higher iso, and correct the white ballence.

also, youtube can be a great resource to find "how to" for DSLR cameras.

Adorama.com has a learning center with a great deal of vdeos as well.
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Old 12-04-2012, 10:20 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by dkhillerud View Post
I got the "Understanding Shutter Speed" book as well, also by Bryan Peterson. One of the things he was talking about was the "myth of ISO." He was saying not to go over 800, and he stays at 100-200. !
Bryan peterson is a great resource, however, one of his "schticks" is he has a very creative use of existing light and multiple external flashes. So when he talks about staying at 100 or 200 iso, know that he is usuallyusing some sort of external of camera flash.
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Old 12-04-2012, 10:36 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dkhillerud View Post
Along with the understanding exposure book I got the "Understanding Shutter Speed" book as well, also by Bryan Peterson. One of the things he was talking about was the "myth of ISO." He was saying not to go over 800, and he stays at 100-200. Guess I better re-read that book as well, I obviously missed something important!
Ideally you would love to keep ISO as low as possible. But that is not always possible, and you have to make the decision how important is getting the shot. For example, I love dark ride shots at Disney. I realize that in order to get a decent shot on something like Pirates of the Carribean I have to be willing to jack up the ISO, and deal with some noise during post processing. Both of these shots were shot with ISO of 10.000.


POTC Auction by traylorc, on Flickr


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Old 12-04-2012, 10:41 AM   #14
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Bryan peterson is a great resource, however, one of his "schticks" is he has a very creative use of existing light and multiple external flashes. So when he talks about staying at 100 or 200 iso, know that he is usuallyusing some sort of external of camera flash.
It looks like that book was written in 2008...when the D90 was released, and while it could shoot at ISO3200, it was "emergency only". As mentioned above, the sensor in the OP's camera is a bit more capable...
The book is still correct. You still want to shoot at ISO 100-200 as much as humanly possible as you still get the best dynamic range at base ISO.

But if you cannot improve the lighting, or you do not have faster glass, or you cannot improve the shot with technique (ie tripod or moving the camera with the subject) then you have to use a higher ISO, and most people are pleased with that sensor at ISO3200.
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Old 12-04-2012, 10:48 AM   #15
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It looks like that book was written in 2008...when the D90 was released, and while it could shoot at ISO3200, it was "emergency only". As mentioned above, the sensor in the OP's camera is a bit more capable...
Ahh, didn't realize it was a 2008 publication. This is probably where digital cameras have changed the most in the last 4-5 years. Lenses haven't changed much, still a matter of a good build, wide aperture. I actually use a couple 20-year-old lenses with my camera.
But cameras have made great strides in ISO capabilities and performance. My 2006 era Sony dSLR had a maximum ISO of 1600, and that was really emergency-only. It's pretty common to see newer dSLRs with ISOs of 16,000 or even higher. So a 2008-era camera performance at 800 ISO, would be pretty similar to a 2012-era camera performance at 1600-3200. (1-2 f-stop improvement).
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