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Nikon Coolpix P900 on a grey day (1 Viewer)

Mike Beer

Well-known member
Hello. I have recently purchased a Nikon Coolpix P900. This is a really good camera if I only knew how to set it up correctly. My question is, as I live in England and currently we have a lot of grey overcast days. Most birds I photograph with a grey overcast background are mostly no good no definition at all. All my other pictures are fine. Any suggestions on where I should start my settings with a grey day background.

Please keep any advice simple to follow this is all fairly new to me.
I am currently using the following settings "A", Digital zoom off. ISO 1600, F.8., AF single spot.

Mike.
 

Neil G.

Well-known member
Hi Mike,
i started the "p900 images" thread where you can see what the camera is capable of if you are getting the most out of it.Firstly,iso 1600 is never going to get you really high definition images....i would never go higher than iso 800 with my camera and i only use this setting if totally necessary.
Secondly,small sensor cameras are not the best in low dull lighting conditions,especially with distant subjects.If you are shooting in these conditions,you need to be as close to your subject as possible with no more than iso 800 and if possible use a monopod for extra support.One of my Robin photos on the other thread was shot in dull conditions at iso 800 so it is possible to get good images in these conditions.
As for settings,swich off the noise reduction feature as this will improve image quality.Also,experiment with different aperures on a fixed subject such as text in a book at a fixed distance.....i found f6.3 the best on my camera.
I use small area autofocus and aperture priority.......auto programs such as bird mode will not give the best results from the p900.
One more important thing is getting as close to your subject as possible to give great results.Even though cameras such as the p900 have far reaching zoom lenses,getting close to your subjects will yield the best results.
Best wishes,neil.
 
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Mike Beer

Well-known member
Thanks Neil, a lot of information in your reply, I have looked at your thread P900 images, Gives me a lot to try out.

Mike
 

marcsantacurz

Well-known member
Assuming it is not the ISO problem that others pointed out, another problem you might be having is the camera is setting the speed (from the "A" mode) based on the light meter that is dominated by the sky background. The bird is likely much darker.

What I usually do is use M mode. Start with "A" and point the camera towards a neutral colored object and see what speed it says, then set that speed in M mode. If all you can find is a whitish object, set the speed a bit slower (like 1/3 - 2/3 stop slower) because the bird will be darker so you want more light.

Another way to do this is to use "A" mode as you suggest, but then set the exposure compensation to +2/3 to +4/3 stops, depending on how bright the background is compared to your subject. This tells the camera to take an automatica light meter reading, but then make the photo brighter by the given amount.

These same techniques apply for most shots with bright background, such as clouds, bright blue sky, sand, etc.

Marc
 

Mike Beer

Well-known member
My Robin Picture

No problem....if you need additional info just ask and i will do my best to help.

I took this picture this morning using my Nikon Coolpix P900 on settings A.
Once downloaded I am given the following information regarding the picture, some on which I understand some of which I do not. Is it possible to tell me what they mean.

Settings A I understand that
!SO 800 I understand
116 mm which changes every picture I don't understand
-0.3ev I don't understand
f/8 I understand
1/125 I don't understand.

Mike
 

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coopershawk

Well-known member
116 mm which changes every picture I don't understand

116mm is the focal length. The P900 is a focal length range of 4.3mm-357mm. Not sure if you want me to get into the details, but basically with the P900 you need to multiply this by 5.6 to get the "equivalent focal length".

The P900 is advertised as having a 24-2000mm focal range, so if you multiply 4.3 and 357 by 5.6 you get some pretty close numbers:

4.3 x 5.6 = 24.08
357 x 5.6 = 1999.2

So this shot was taken at around 650mm equivalent (116 x 5.6).

-0.3ev I don't understand

This is how much exposure compensation was dialed in. The camera was told to expose 1/3 of a stop darker than what it would normally do.

1/125 I don't understand.

This is the shutter speed. 1/125 of a second

With this camera I'd almost always shoot with the aperture wide open (rather than stopped down to f/8) since higher ISOs really eat away at the detail.
 

Mike Beer

Well-known member
Coopershawk, thanks for replying, Ok the focal length and numbers is far beyond me,
what would you suggest the correct exposure, lastly should I change the aperture to f2.8 just to see how
I get on. You probably realise this is all very new to me. On the setting I have been using I do get a lot of dark pictures on grey days.

Thanks

Mike
 

coopershawk

Well-known member
If the images are coming out too dark for your liking, I would raise the -1/3ev setting to 0ev (and again to +1/3 ev if they continue to come out too dark). You may need to readjust this on the off chance that you all do get a bright day ;)

The widest aperture you can set varies depending on how zoomed in you are. At full wide angle you'll be able to get f/2.8. As you zoom in, the widest aperture that you can set will decrease, eventually reaching a minimum of f/6.5. I have attached a chart that tells the maximum aperture usable at each focal length (source: https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/55730828). As an example, your 650mm focal length shot could have been taken at f/5.6 instead of f/8. I attached the graph since it's a nice visualization; you don't need to memorize it. Just zoom in to whatever framing you want, and before you take the picture, make sure that the aperture is set as wide as possible.

I hope that makes sense.
 

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marcsantacurz

Well-known member
The f-stop will affect how much depth of the photo is in focus. The larger the f-stop the more depth that is in focus.

For mid-zoom, it should not be a problem because you are around 100mm. At max zoom (360mm physical, 2000 equivalent), shooting at minimum f-stop might cause issues.

For example, at 360mm f/6.7, if the subject is 10m (32ft) away, you only have +/- 0.02m (0.78") depth of field. So even assuming the camera nailed the eye focus, the beak and wings might easily start to get blurry. At f/8, you have +/- 0.03m (1.2"), etc. These are approximate numbers and your camera might vary a little (I used the Panasonic TZ-20, also a 1/2.3" sensor of similar MP). At 30m subject distance, you get about a 10x depth of field from 10m. The calculator I use is DOFMaster.

While the physical focal length and f-stop do not depend on the camera sensor, the depth of field will. Smaller sensors have their pixels more tightly mushed together so they are subject to blurring (circles of confusion) more than larger sensor cameras.
 

Mike Beer

Well-known member
Thank you, I have printed what Marc and Cooper have explained, my next outing I will try the different setting out, the graph is very useful.

Mike
 

marcsantacurz

Well-known member
Assuming it is not the ISO problem that others pointed out, another problem you might be having is the camera is setting the speed (from the "A" mode) based on the light meter that is dominated by the sky background. The bird is likely much darker.

What I usually do is use M mode. Start with "A" and point the camera towards a neutral colored object and see what speed it says, then set that speed in M mode. If all you can find is a whitish object, set the speed a bit slower (like 1/3 - 2/3 stop slower) because the bird will be darker so you want more light.

Another way to do this is to use "A" mode as you suggest, but then set the exposure compensation to +2/3 to +4/3 stops, depending on how bright the background is compared to your subject. This tells the camera to take an automatica light meter reading, but then make the photo brighter by the given amount.

These same techniques apply for most shots with bright background, such as clouds, bright blue sky, sand, etc.

Marc

Another thing you can try is this, which is what many bird shooters user.

Set the camera to M. Set the shutter speed you want and the f-stop you want. For example, perching birds could be 1/125th at f/5.6 or f/8 (f-stop will depend on depth of field and that will vary depending on distance and focal length, etc.). Then use auto ISO. The camera will adjust the ISO for correct exposure. (you need to pick a shutter speed appropriate for hand-held vs tripod, and focal length and vibration reduction, etc.).

A variation on that is the bright backgrounds which I mentioned before. You can either user exposure compensation or the point-at-neutral-object and set it manually.

For BIFs, you likely want 1/1000 - 1/2000th and still at f/5.6 or f/8. But if you do not have bright lighting, you'll be pushing high ISO (1600 or above).

A useful way of thinking about shutter speed, f-stop, and ISO is by EV (exposure value). See something like https://www.scantips.com/lights/evchart.html. The basic idea is a subject is illuminated with a certain amount of light, so you need to adjust the camera so it is OK with that amount of light. slower shutter speeds, smaller f-stops (larger apertures), and higher ISO decrease the needed subject illumination EV (they let in more light), and the opposites increase the needed subject EV (let in less light).

If you look at the Tabulated values (wikipedia), you will see something like "Typical scene, heavy overcast" is EV 12. So you need to set the camera to let in that much light.

Let's say you know you want 1/1000th and f/5.6. From the giant table, "EV as an indicator of camera settings", go to the f/5.6 column and down to the 1/1000th row. You will see that as ISO 100 (what the table is for), this combination is EV 16. So you need to gain 4 EV somewhere (16 - 12 above).

Each doubling of the ISO or halving of the speed gives a -1 EV (lets in more light). Each f-stop decrease (i.e. 1, 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16) also gives a -1 EV adjustment. So, for 1/1000th, f/5.6 on a heavy overcast day, you would need ISO 1600 (4 doublings from 100).

The EV system does not depend on the lens or the sensor. The f-stop already takes into account the lens focal length and aperture size.
 

Mike Beer

Well-known member
Marc. Thank you for all the information. I went out yesterday armed with your instructions. The pictures using the M settings were greatly improved, well most of them. Thanks

Mike.
 

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