Tag Archives: nikon

Photo of the day: Full Moon

Taken with my Sigma 70-30mm lens using spot metering at shutter priority of 1/320, without a tripod.

Full Moon

Photographing the moon

When I attempt to take a photo of the moon, it usually comes out as a featureless white blob, due to being overexposed. Thanks to a tip on Flickr, I discovered that the secret to taking a photo of the moon that doesn’t suck is to use spot metering rather than matrix.

With matrix metering, the camera will use both the dark sky and the bright moon to determine the exposure, which usually ends up overexposing the moon to avoid underexposing everything else. Spot metering lets you use only the moon to determine the exposure, which avoids the usual blown out appearance.

Moon & Star

For this shot, I used my Sigma 70-300mm lens with shutter priority. Since I wasn’t using a tripod and this lens doesn’t have VR, I used a shutter speed of 1/250 with ISO 3200.

Follow-up on the Sigma 70-300mm lens

After using the lens for a few days, I’m very happy with it. For the price, it’s a great lens and a good addition for anyone who wants a higher zoom and macro capabilities. It does take some getting used to, but it’s possible to get some excellent results from it. In macro mode, you can get very sharp images with good bokeh.

Since the lens lacks vibration reduction, if you’re not using a tripod, you’ll have to use a very fast shutter speed, around 1/focal length, to avoid camera shake. I find I get the best results using shutter priority and raising the ISO if necessary. For this shot, I used a shutter speed of 1/320 and ISO 1600 at the maximum aperture, which is 5.6 at 300mm.

Little Orchids

The focus can be very slow, so in many cases you’ll probably want to use manual focus. The macro switch can be a bit tricky – it can only be engaged at a focal length of 200mm or greater, and you can’t switch it off with the second extension (used for focus) extended. In most cases, that means you’ll have to switch to manual focus to rotate the focus ring.

Despite those limitations, there probably isn’t another lens that offers the same capabilities for under $200.

Sigma 70-300mm AF Macro Lens

I received my Sigma 70-300mm AF Macro lens today. It was $147 from Overstock.com. For the price, it’s a good choice if you need a macro lens or an extremely long zoom. I got the non-motorized model, so AF won’t work on low-end cameras like the D40 or D60. The motorized version sells for about $30 more.

The major drawback of this lens is the extremely slow and noisy auto focus. It often seeks through the entire zoom range to focus. The lens has a macro switch providing 2x magnification, which can only be used above 200mm focal length. The lens doesn’t have an auto/manual focus switch, so you’ll have to use the M/AF switch on the camera body.

New Sigma 70-300mm lens

The lens feels very hefty and seems rugged with a rubberized surface. Mounting it on the camera can be a bit difficult, since it’s hard to grab it in an area that doesn’t rotate for focus or zoom.

Trying the Sigma 70-300mm lens

The macro mode gives a very narrow depth of field with good bokeh.

Midnight (Macro)

My next lens

Until now I’ve never considered a non-Nikon lens, but after seeing some of Jonathan Johnson’s sample photos, I’m considering getting this Sigma 70-300mm lens. The price is very appealing (around $150), it has a good zoom range & macro ability, and the reviews are fairly good.

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Nikon's public DSLR SDK

Nikon has released development kits for many of their newest cameras, including the D90, as well as a NEF (RAW) file decoding library. The SDK lets you write applications that control the camera directly via USB (like Aperture’s tethered mode).

To get any of their SDKs, fill out this form at Nikon’s site.

Getting perfect white balance

When you’re shooting in mixed light, most camera’s automatic white balance can give incorrect or inconsistent results. The most accurate way to get the correct white balance is by measuring it. Most photographers carry a gray card for measuring & setting white balance, but Photojojo has something a lot more convenient: the white balance lens cap.

White Balance Lens Cap

Instead of carrying around something extra, simply replace your lens cap with the white balance lens cap. Before you start shooting in a new location, measure the light and set the white balance. Then remove the lens cap and shoot normally.

On a D90, press the white balance button and turn the command dial until it shows PRE. release the white balance button and press it again and hold until PRE starts blinking. Set the camera to automatic exposure and snap a picture (which will be solid white/gray). The display will flash GOOD if it was able to successfully capture a reference image. That’s it – you can now shoot normally.

Here are two sample images, taken with automatic white balance and measured white balance, both with no adjustments. The wall is off-white and the lighting is a halogen lamp.

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Automatic white balance Measured white balance

Photo of the day

This is why I love the D90. I simply used ‘P’ mode with ISO 3200 to shoot our tree trimming party last night. I really love the lighting, sharpness, and clarity in this shot.

Tree Trimming

Many more photos here.

Video of the day

D90 Video I captured at last night’s tree trimming party, with music added in iMovie.

Lots more photos here.

A bit of Christmas cheer

The people in my condo really go all out for Christmas, so I walked around and took some photos of the decorations. The D90 still continues to impress and amaze me with its performance at high ISO settings. I simply used Aperture priority with the widest aperture and auto ISO with a maximum of 3200 when I took these shots.

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The D90’s video capability also came in handy.