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Had a really interesting experience yesterday involving a DSLR and a superzoom

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by Jock Elliott, Mar 28, 2014.

  1. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    I am always looking to improve my sky photography and lately I have been thinking specifically about low light sensitivity and color depth. Yesterday, I was wandering through a big box store yesterday when I saw a package deal on a DSLR at what appeared to be a good price: a Nikon D3200 with the 18-55 and 55-200 lenses and a bag to carry everything. The D3200 has DXO rated low light sensitivity over 1,000 (compared to around 100 for the FZ200) and significantly more color depth.

    So I bought it, brought it home, and ran off a few test shots with each camera at full telephoto at a distant wood pile. (I figured for wildlife shots -- my other passion -- the 24 megapixels of the D3200 would allow me to crop the image to get the equivalent zoom of the FZ200 and possibly better image quality.)

    Then came the shocker: at 100%, the D3200 with the 55-200 simply wasn't as sharp as the FZ200. Doubting what I was seeing, I moved the images from my laptop to my main work computer (which has better monitors). The result was the same: not as sharp.

    I announced to my wife that I was returning the D3200. "What about the low light sensitivity for photographing the stars?" she asked.

    Well, I said, I figure if it can't render a woodpile sharp at 200 yards, what is it going to do with stars at a few million light years?

    So if any of the denizens here have done astrophotography with their rigs -- I know killramsey has -- I would be glad to see examples with descriptions of your setup.

    Cheers, Jock
     
  2. BillN

    BillN SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 25, 2010
    S W France
    Bill
    Not sure what you mean
    FZ200 = 12.1 mega image at 300mm, (half it's full range of 600mm)
    versus
    DSLR = 24 meg image taken at 200mm x 1.5 = 300mm

    at the same ISO, shutter speed and f setting

    so you were effectively comparing a 24meg image with a 12.1 meg image both taken in RAW
     
  3. yakky

    yakky SC Regular

    57
    Nov 30, 2013
    Nikons DSLRs apply very little sharpening by default. Crank it up to 7 or 8 to match a Panasonic consumer cam if you are using jpegs. The kit lenses are not well matched to that dense sensor either even when stopped down to F8.

    Crank up sharpness and shoot in 13.5 mb mode an you will be pleasantly surprised.

    The D3200 is an amazing camera for the price when paired with good glass. Check out Thom Hogans review on it.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    Bill,

    No. I shot jpegs. the FZ200 at 600mm equivalent, the D3200 at 300 equivalent; P mode; I looked at both as shot (they both looked fine) and at 100%; the D3200 just looked soft. Then I ran them both through DXO9, which downloads the camera and lens modules and applies appropriate correction, and the D3200 still looked soft.

    My orginal thought was: if you take a 24 mpix image at 300mm (equivalent) and crop it by 50%, you get a 12 mpix image that's equivalent to 600mm and you might get some gain in image quality . . . or am I badly in need of re-education?

    In any event, I was not thrilled with the results from the D3200, and for several hundred dollars, I want to be thrilled.

    Cheers, Jock
     
    • Like Like x 1
  5. kyteflyer

    kyteflyer ~@¿@~

    Jan 31, 2011
    Newcastle, Australia
    Sue
    The kit lenses have let you down. They arent that good. The camera itself is excellent (and this from a Pentax fan) but kit lenses generally will not perform as well as you might hope. Sometimes you get lucky and get one that perfectly matches the camera and away you go, but often that isnt the case. If you want to do birding with a DSLR you have a perfectly fine body, but you need a good lens to go with it. *Then* you'll see a massive difference. Astrophotography really needs prime lenses too.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  6. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    Yakky,

    I think quite possibly the operative phrase here is "good glass." Probably one would be better off with the 35mm f/1.8 and the 70-300 vr zoom.

    Incidentally, these were not VR lenses, but I was shooting sitting on my front porch with my elbows braced on my knees, so I should have been pretty steady (and the shutter speeds were high).

    Cheers, Jock
     
    • Like Like x 1
  7. BillN

    BillN SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 25, 2010
    S W France
    Bill
    The FZ, (or F Zeeeee) 200 does look very good and Graham Houghton has produced some marvellous vids and info for free - well done that man!

    no not another camera!!!!
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. skywarrior

    skywarrior SC Rookie

    15
    Jun 3, 2012
    Something I've discovered as megapixels rise, is that technique is critical! As I've aged, I've gotten much shakier, and I find it more difficult to achieve the same level of handheld sharpness I used to achieve. These high megapixel cameras have such high sensor density that even slight camera movement shows up as a lack of sharpness.

    Rich
     
    • Like Like x 4
  9. BillN

    BillN SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 25, 2010
    S W France
    Bill
    Birding is expensive

    prime lens = £1,500 to £6,000+ ……...tripod and gimbal

    then

    hide ……..camo clothing ………..bird decoy recordings …...sandwiches
    etc., etc., etc., the list is never ending

    birding holidays £4,000 +
    valium pills to calm your excitement or disappointment ….you need to be retired or unemployed with loads of money

    and finally a very understanding wife, bribes in the form of expensive presents are good)

    and then you only get "moderate" images compared with the experts

    I'm not there yet


    OR just be happy and buy a pair of bins and walk around the local countryside
     
    • Like Like x 2
  10. BillN

    BillN SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 25, 2010
    S W France
    Bill

    Agreed - I am moving more to a minimum shutter speed of 1/1000th and auto ISO versus AV priority and a max ISO of 400


    and using my D300 more and more versus the D7100
     
  11. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    Bill,

    I don't know if you saw it, but I just posted this -- https://www.photographerslounge.org/showthread.php?t=27466 -- early this morning.

    Graham Houghton has done, I think, a wonderful job with his materials.

    Cheers, Jock
     
  12. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    Rich,

    I did not know that. No wonder the pix from my Olympus D550 (3 megapixel) look so wonderful to me!:biggrin:

    Cheers, Jock
     
  13. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    So possibly one of the "supercompacts" like a GR, Coolpix A, X100 for astrophotography??

    Cheers, Jock
     
  14. BillN

    BillN SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 25, 2010
    S W France
    Bill
    Jock the best image I have got with a zoom - (I have only taken one or 2), is as follows

    Camera Nikon D300
    Lens Nikon 70mm 300mm f4.5/5.6 VR zoom
    at 300mm
    taken as a Jpeg then cropped
    1/50th sec ISO 200 at f8 - obviously on a tripod

    (Zeemen crater)

    [​IMG]

    I will have a go now that I have a better (prime) lens

    but light is everything and I'll need to wait for a clear night
     
    • Like Like x 1
  15. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey SC Hall of Famer

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    Kyle
    I think it's been said already (I'm late to the party) but from my limited experience, shooting the stars is a humbling exercise for your glass. I love the look of the X100 at f2 for general shots, but as soon as I tried to render tiny pin pricks of light against a purely black backdrop, I started seeing sagital comas in the corners and other issues inherent in shooting wide open. So it seems that you've got to start with better glass than Nikon kit zooms, then you're generally better off shooting something a little wide, stopping it down (in the case of the X100 it's acceptable at 2.8, and that also gets your shutter time down to prevent trails), lowering the ISO as much as possible, etc etc. The sweet spot seems to be to do the following things in the following order:

    1. No more than a 20 second exposure. Beyond that you'll get obvious trails unless you're tight on the north star. But if you have anything in the frame closer to the horizon, you will see tracks above 20 for sure.
    2. Maximum acceptable f stop
    3. Lowest ISO that doesn't violate Rule #1
    4. Set exposure time
    5. Set 2 second self timer
    6. Hit the shutter

    Obviosuly the lower the ISO and the lower the shutter time, the better. So a lens that looks good at 2.8 is a HUGE bonus.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  16. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    If you're cropping an image to get the same field-of-view of a lens with double the focal length you are halving both the height and the width.

    1/2 x 1/2 = 1/4.

    1/4 x 24 = 6mp.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  17. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    Nic,

    Thanks for the correction. Nevertheless, at 100% (with no cropping), I was not thrilled with the image from the D3200.

    Cheers, Jock
     
  18. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey SC Hall of Famer

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    Kyle
    I blame the glass. The sensor is known to be capable.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  19. BillN

    BillN SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 25, 2010
    S W France
    Bill
    If they are 'giving" away the 55 200mm with the body it carnet be that good, although the 18 55mm kit lens has a good reputation
     
    • Like Like x 1
  20. kyteflyer

    kyteflyer ~@¿@~

    Jan 31, 2011
    Newcastle, Australia
    Sue
    Only if you want a wide angle.

    I use my Pentax (well, I did a couple of times) one night with the DA15mm and the next with the FA43mm. It depends on what you want to do. I'm no expert but there are plenty about. Since you have the 3200 already, I'd be considering a nifty fifty, they aren't very expensive.

    15mm
    [​IMG]
    Milky Way 1 par Sue Wotton, on ipernity

    43mm
    [​IMG]
    Milky Way 27/7/2011 par Sue Wotton, on ipernity

    and the same shot with extreme PP.
    [​IMG]
    A Billion Suns par Sue Wotton, on ipernity
     
    • Like Like x 1