In which I do battle with the Nikon’s camera software engineers, and they win

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

  1. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    To fully grok what comes next, let’s hold a couple of truths to be self-evident: (1) I have a great fondness for doing what is technically termed “stupid things” with my cameras: handheld night shots when it is too dark to see my feet, full digital and optical zoom shots of wildlife, etc. Why? Because sometimes these gambles pay off with a shot that I like, and with digital gear, the dice that I am rolling are pretty small. (2) When it comes to camera equipment, I consider myself to be the king, the boss, the high panjandrum. If I tell the camera do to something, short of an act that would be self-destructive to the equipment, it should do it, no matter how lame the request might be.

    So then: I have a Panasonic LX100 on order. It should show up in a month or so, but in the meantime, I am poking around DXOmark and I notice that, extrapolating from the results on the Panasonic GX7, which presumably offers similar performance to the LX100, the Nikon D3300 ought to offer (by dint of a larger sensor), more dynamic range, greater low-light sensitivity, and so on. Further Ken Rockwell, who enjoys a mixed reputation in the photographic community, has pronounced that this is a wonderful little camera that is suitable for just about everything. I figure I owe it to myself to check it out.

    So I sally forth to my local big box store (the one with the liberal return policy) and purchase said D3300. I spend a good part of the afternoon doing A-B comparison shots with the D3300 against my G12 and FZ200, and it acquits itself pretty well.

    But what I am really interested in is the results the D3300 will deliver when the sun goes down and the stars come out.With buckets of low-light sensitivity, I have high expectations. When the time comes, I go out, point the Nikon at a lone star in the sky framed by the pine trees and attempt to trigger the shutter. The camera won’t do it. I get a message on the rear screen “The subject is too dark.” I try again. (You have to understand, it is really dark. The moon is not up.) I hear a weird clunk. I’m thinking the camera has at last acquiesced and has flipped the mirror up for a long exposure. Nope – it has deployed the flash unit.

    I fiddle the menus and set the ISO to 12,000 something. Still no dice. In desperation, I set the ISO to Hi-1. I can hear Scotty in the engine room: “I can give you warp factor 7, but the dilithium crystals won’t hold; she’s gonna blow.”

    Meanwhile, I’m talking to the D3300: “Come on, baby, you can do it; you’re the little camera that could.”

    The D3300 in the meanwhile, stamps its little foot like a petulant debutante: “No matter what you say, I will never do that for you, and you can’t make me. If you ask again, I will hold my breath til I pass out.”

    I try various settings, including night portrait, but it won’t do it.Somewhere along the line, I manage to take a flash picture of the cars in the driveway. Not what I had in mind. I’m sure that somewhere in the bowels of the menu system, there is a way to do a time exposure, but for now, the Nikon camera software engineers have won.

    So I grab my FZ200, but it in P mode, and try the same thing. It says: “Yeah, boss, and renders for me a single white dot in a black field. I put it in high sensitivity mode and it delivers a white dot in a sky framed by pine trees, all of which is liberally dotted with horrible noise. I pat the FZ200, say “Good camera,” and slide it back into its pouch.

    Cheers, Jock
     
    • Like Like x 10
  2. MoonMind

    MoonMind SC Top Veteran

    578
    Dec 29, 2013
    Switzerland
    Matt
    Ouch - still, a gloriously funny write-up, thanks for that. Have you tried putting the camera into manual focus mode? I think it won't help, but it might - some entry-level DSLRs have the annoying habit of refusing to release if they can't acquire focus (I think that behaviour can be switched off, though - force shutter release on full press or something ...). Never had anything like that myself, but I haven't shot an entry-level DSLR yet.

    M.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    I think I tried Manual, and it still wouldn't do it. You're right: there has got to be a way to do it, but Real Men Don't Read Manuals, right?

    Cheers, Jock
     
  4. MoonMind

    MoonMind SC Top Veteran

    578
    Dec 29, 2013
    Switzerland
    Matt
    Oh, yeah, forgot about that :tongue: As you've shown, it's simply annoying - heck, if I want to take a bad picture, the camera should let me. If nothing else, it'd be at least a learning experience :wink:

    M.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    I'm glad your first instinct was to do this fantastically funny write-up (I rarely laugh before the coffee is done brewing.....you win), but normally I would have done something like this...... http://bit.ly/Yv6Cd6 :tongue:
     
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    There's a setting in there that will allow the camera to fire without acquiring focus. It probably wouldn't take but about 2 minutes to find in the manual. Find the PDF of the manual online and then you can search it and get to stuff like this REALLY fast. FWIW (probably not much) I actually find the Nikon DSLR interface to be about the most powerful I've ever used and pretty intuitive once you've spent a little bit of time with it. But, as with anything, if you already know one camera and add one you don't know, you're always gonna like the one you know until you GET to know the new one... Go for it though - that's as good an APS sensor as there is, at least to the extent that I'm aware.

    -Ray
     
    • Like Like x 2
  7. Covey22

    Covey22 SC Top Veteran

    658
    Feb 3, 2012
    Long time Nikonian here, so take that for whatever it's worth, :tongue: - depending upon the lens mounted, you can just set it to Manual focus directly from the lens - M/A switch. No need to dive into the camera menus. Set it to a Low ISO and say a 20s exposure and Bob's Your Uncle.

    Now, of course, your view is entirely dependent upon how good the pentamirror (not prism glass) viewfinder is, and how dim that lens is at the selected focal length. The other way of course is to use Live View and that lovely rear LCD, but honestly, not sure what you'd see through that either if the ambient light is that low. Ideally, you'd want an F-mount lens that still meters with the body (so that's an AF or AF-D as well as AF-S), and since you're manually focusing, you don't care if the body can't drive the lens focus. What you do care is that it would have a DoF scale on the lens preferably with at least *one* infinity mark at a given aperture.
     
    • Like Like x 2