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Sharp pictures: any bridge camera, camera settings (1 Viewer)

PaulCountyDurham

Well-known member
United Kingdom
Hi all,

I have the Nikon P950 and I've seen pictures with the same camera and they are pretty sharp. I don't have a problem getting close to birds and I take my pictures lying down with my elbows resting against the ground or sat down with my elbows resting against my knees, and so the camera is held pretty steady. I have made a point of not getting lost in the technical aspects and trying to strike a balance between getting close, keeping the camera steady and learning the technical aspects. I'm now at the point where I'm just taking pictures and not really improving, but my logic has been that I'd quite like to get out there and see a few new birds rather than pour over the technical aspects of a camera.

Now, I've reached the point of saturation in terms of taking pictures and not improving image quality. I can't get any closer and I can't keep the camera any steadier handheld and so there's nowhere for me to go except back to the camera settings. I am going to invest in a monopod to see what happens, but in the meantime my question is as follows:

Assuming I'm taking pictures in good light, ISO around 200, shutter speed 1000-2000, aperture 5 to 7, minimal cropping; in your experience which, if any, camera settings can really help generate sharp images?

Thanks in advance for any help,
Paul
 

njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
Do you use half press to activate the AF and then go to full press from there or are you going all the way in one press? I prefer using the half press, making the pressing of the shutter button less work and therefore less likely that you induce movement of the camera. Try getting used to slow pressing of the button.

Which area of the viewfinder do you have as active for the AF? My personal style is to use the smallest possible single area so that I am fairly sure that the AF is finding what I want it to find. If it is large there is likely a branch somewhere with a better contrast which is preferred by the AF. If the AF area is smaller but not small enough then you may have the tip of a wing or tail in focus but not the head for example.

Thirdly, set the camera to take series of photos and take about 3 in a row when pressing the shutter. One will often be better than the others.

This is all assuming you are not using an eye-detect AF or something similar which would open up some different can of worms.
Niels
 

PaulCountyDurham

Well-known member
United Kingdom
Do you use half press to activate the AF and then go to full press from there or are you going all the way in one press? I prefer using the half press, making the pressing of the shutter button less work and therefore less likely that you induce movement of the camera. Try getting used to slow pressing of the button.

Which area of the viewfinder do you have as active for the AF? My personal style is to use the smallest possible single area so that I am fairly sure that the AF is finding what I want it to find. If it is large there is likely a branch somewhere with a better contrast which is preferred by the AF. If the AF area is smaller but not small enough then you may have the tip of a wing or tail in focus but not the head for example.

Thirdly, set the camera to take series of photos and take about 3 in a row when pressing the shutter. One will often be better than the others.

This is all assuming you are not using an eye-detect AF or something similar which would open up some different can of worms.
Niels

I use half press, Niels, and I'd forgotten about slow press/rolling the finger but I'm certainly not stabbing at it.

Assuming the viewfinder is simply the screen on the back, I use the smallest possible single area and I have the camera on continuous burst.

I've posted this same post on the Nikon forum and one poster has mentioned using vivid picture control.
 

dixonlau

Well-known member
Malaysia
Your camera Nikon P950 can shoot RAW. Learn to do post-processing.

In my opinion, not much improvement can be done in settings as your skills are pretty much exceeded what your camera can do. Shoot in vivid color won't help much in improving the sharpeness.

Topaz DeNoise auto settings usually can give pretty good noise reduction at the same time sharpen your picture. Results are pretty good based on my experience.

I usually adjust little brightness, colors in Capture One Express (RAW) then export in TIF and further process it in Topaz.
 

PaulCountyDurham

Well-known member
United Kingdom
Your camera Nikon P950 can shoot RAW. Learn to do post-processing.

In my opinion, not much improvement can be done in settings as your skills are pretty much exceeded what your camera can do. Shoot in vivid color won't help much in improving the sharpeness.

Topaz DeNoise auto settings usually can give pretty good noise reduction at the same time sharpen your picture. Results are pretty good based on my experience.

I usually adjust little brightness, colors in Capture One Express (RAW) then export in TIF and further process it in Topaz.

Thanks for the reply and information.

I've been experimenting quite a bit with the camera and Affinity, and what I've learned is that vivid picture control helps on a dull day, 'brings the bird's colours to life a bit more, but apart from that I agree with you in that vivid picture control isn't to my liking on a bright day as too much contrast is not a look I like. I think the idea with vivid picture/sharpening is that contrast gives an illusion of a sharper image.

I've tried various settings with the camera and I'm pretty much back to where I started in that I'm back to standard picture, 0 contrast and saturation, and sharpening 2.

We've had a run of bad weather here so I haven't had a chance to give the following camera settings a go: neutral picture control, sharpening 0, active dynamic lighting off. Standard picture control adds a bit of contrast and saturation, not as much as vivid, but I still feel it's too much for my liking and neutral may be the setting for me. I'm also thinking that it may be a better idea to set the sharpening to 0 and do everything post processing. I'll be testing this over the coming week.

As for post processing: I've found a sharpening method, using bilateral blur, that doesn't give that crunchy look when notching it up a bit. I tried: clarity, high pass etc, but found they all gave an unrealistic look. The bilateral blur is much better, but again I feel that having sharpening on 2 in-camera and then sharpening again post processing is probably not the way to go - I'll find out this week. I'm not keen on doing too much post processing as it gives an unrealistic look to my eye, at least whenever I've tried it anyway; and I'm really not keen on the contrast and brightness adjustments as it just doesn't look right to me: I much prefer using a little bit of the white balance adjustment.

I've also read that using Nikon's own software, using RAW pictures and saving in TIFF before post processing in Affinity, will generate an improvement. Various people on the Nikon forum do this and swear by it, the logic being that Nikon's software is built for compatibility with Nikon cameras whereas third party software is making some sort of assessment that will be more off than Nikon's software. So, I've downloaded NX studio and will be taking pictures in RAW to give that a go.

There's also the issue of resizing which may help, and I've found a YT video by a professional designer who states that his method does not lead to a reduction in image quality, so I'll be trying this too.

All in all, when I've tried all of this I think I'll have gone 'round the houses and will have settings I'll more or less stick with, tweaked according to the conditions, but whatever the result I reckon my knowledge of cameras and post processing has improved quite a bit and I'm happy with that!

Edited to add: I am going to do a bit more with the background in Affinity too. Someone posted a couple of pictures of a robin, one with the background adjusted, I quite liked what he'd done with the picture. 'One to try when I've tested everything else.
 
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PaulCountyDurham

Well-known member
United Kingdom
its a pain in the butt to haul around but almost impossible to beat a good tripod for improving image sharpness

It's not so much the lugging around of equipment for me, it's more the loss of flexibility. And, I think when you have a bridge camera you need to be getting reasonably close to the bird. Quite a lot of my pictures are taken sat down or lying down and I think that's an advantage in that a bird is less intimidated. I suppose if a lion was stood in front of you and looking at you, it would look a bit more aggressive than one lying down in the shade.

I don't see how someone with a bridge camera is going to get anywhere near the picture opportunities as someone who is using the camera handheld, including being able to quickly adjust position which most of the time is needed. I've heard it said that with a bridge camera it's more difficult because you're not in control of the conditions, but that doesn't account for the fact that with a bridge camera you can quickly make adjustments such as stepping to the side to get some more light in or change the background of your picture.

That said, I suppose I'll never really know until I try it, and at some point I will get a monopod as when I've exhausted everything handheld it will be interesting to see the difference in image quality.
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

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