Need advice on D3100 and lens upgrade...

racheldistadracheldistad Posts: 36Member
edited March 2013 in Nikon DSLR cameras
Right, I'm a Fine Art student, and one of my main modules is photography. I currently use a Nikon D3100 with the 18-55mm kit lens, but have a 55-200mm VR and a 35mm 1.8 prime (my preferred lens). My favourite and most used style of photography is low-light/night photography, however that's not really a strength of the D3100, as I've found I often have noise, slight colour altercations and sometimes some banding, which is annoying as it affects my photos.. I shoot only in RAW, using either M or A settings.

I don't have a flash, but I will consider buying one, but what I'd like to know is whether it would give any benefits? Or whether there are any lenses that would suit my purposes any better?
The other option I'm considering is between a D90, D5x00 and the D7000, but I'm not sure about weather the ISO is considerably better.. I can't afford a d7100 or to go FX. Can anyone help me in any way? Thanks in advance, :)
Post edited by Msmoto on
«13

Comments

  • scoobysmakscoobysmak Posts: 214Member
    edited March 2013
    I guess I might ask, in this low light/night photography, how far are your subjects away from the camera. If they are over 100ft (and that is really pushing it) a flash will be almost useless. If your shooting like a night time city "landscape" shot then the answer is upgrading your camera. To which one, I don't know, I have not looked at the specifications for each of those, others here probably have a lot more experince with this.

    In the lens department, the lower the F stop = a faster lens (usually cost quite a bit more as well), this accepts light quicker and will help but might not cure the problem. Using a lower F-stop also will start to blur the background depending on focal lenght, the longer the lens the more blur. Some pictures look best with blur and makes the subject really stand out but in other cases might look like you didn't take the time to focus. Practice makes perfect.

    I will say adding a flash to your "kit" wouldn't be a bad thing, it can be quite creative in adding a touch to some photos but it takes plenty of practice to master how much flash you need and not blow out part of the picture or know when you need more light (to include more flashes).

    These are just generalizations, there is much more to this but hope I helped some.
    Post edited by scoobysmak on
  • racheldistadracheldistad Posts: 36Member
    edited March 2013
    I tend to shoot low-light cityscapes, and usually on a tripod and long lens, although when I tried using the camera in built flash, it was awful, so the flash is more of an idea, rather than a want.. I don't think it's the lack of flash that's the problem, more the ISO capabilities of the d3100.
    Post edited by racheldistad on
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,027Moderator
    I reckon you might be exposing to the left Rachel then trying to brighten which is where your banding and noise is coming from. OK, the D3100 isn't the latest and greatest, but it can do night cityscapes without a problem. Try concentrating on your exposures before you spend money on gear, it is prolly all you need. Research ETTR (exposing to the right) because you get round the banding and noise that way.
    Always learning.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    @racheldistad

    If you really want to upgrade, there are a lot of D7000 fans on NRF and we see some beautiful images. The current advantages include a probable good price at present with the advent of the D7100, one stop on ISO, built-in bracketing...excellent for tripod night shots, heavier construction, and three times the focus points.

    And, the D7000 would last for many years.

    In night scenes the bright lights may confuse the meter, and in particular if a car's headlights are in your face, this will cause an underexposed image. To find out how all this works, do multiple test exposures, bracketing manually about three f/stops over and under, then look at the overall image from that point of view. One can also use center point exposure, lock on, and then reframe. This can avoid the headlights fooling the meter.

    Anyway, when you get some shots you like, let's see them on Photo-A-Day.
    Msmoto, mod
  • tc88tc88 Posts: 309Member
    I would say use a sturdier tripod, turn down the ISO, and increase the shutter time. That would be the most cost effective way. Good luck.
  • racheldistadracheldistad Posts: 36Member
    @Spraynpray Exposing to the left? I'll look into that - I've never heard of it :/ I don't nessesarily want the latest and greatest, which is why I'm thinking of maybe experimenting with one of the flashes from the uni, or possibly looking at changing lenses.. @Msmoto Although, I'm looking mostly at the d7000, which would be an amazing camera, but I'm more concerned about the noise and slightly off-colours before drastically deciding to change cameras.. @tc88 funnily enough, I have just bought a slightly better tripod, I've yet to use it - fingers crossed it'll make a difference :)
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    Exposing to the right or left needs explanation, I think - never heard of that. I'm just guessing, spraynpray is talking about the tonescale. Left are shadows, right are lights. Only problem with exposing to the right would then be, that you get shadows with structure in, but the lights would easily blow out.
  • racheldistadracheldistad Posts: 36Member
    Right. Um I'm not sure still; am about to try a google search to see if it makes more sense!
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,027Moderator
    edited March 2013
    You will need a good tripod for sure Rachel but the problems of banding and noise will not be helped by that.

    ETTR (exposing to the right) means when you view the hysterogram you will see the hump of the exposure is more to the right (over exposed) that the left (underexposed). Doing that means that you get better results when you darken the image slightly when you post-process than if you try brightening it. Google is your friend.

    @JJ_SO: Rachel is interested in night time shooting.
    Post edited by spraynpray on
    Always learning.
  • racheldistadracheldistad Posts: 36Member
    Ah yah, I'd just googled it! Makes sense, I think that might be what my main problem is - will definitely look more into that when I'm shooting :)
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    spraynpray, Google's also your friend ;) have a go with "hysterogram" and decide yourself, if "histogram" wouldn't nail it better :D

    I was aware Rachel's nightshooting. But unless she's not photographing the night itself as absolute darkness, then there are lights...
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    edited March 2013
    Well going to any of the bodies you mentioned really isn't going to help much. I guess you never really explained why you need a lens upgrade either. There are plenty of lenses and newer bodies, but you should be able to take night and low light shots with what you have. The D7000 would be about the only thing that might help some. If you are using either variable aperture lenses then a prime or f2.8 zoom might help some. It really sounds like a technique problem though.
    Post edited by tcole1983 on
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    That is just my experience and I shoot with a d5000 and don't have those problems you mention. That is my thinking behind the technique...the d3100 should be comparable or slightly better. Shooting in low light or night scapes is probably the most difficult shooting. What dobyou do? Bump the iso and get pixels or take long exsposures and get motion blur. Even a faster lens will only get your shutter speed up a little bit. Usually a combo of some iso and fast glass is the only answer. Good tripod and technique.
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • racheldistadracheldistad Posts: 36Member
    I have prime lens already, and I have found it fairs better results; I wouldn't say it's technique as such either, I think I'm not letting enough light into the camera, I'm thinking of maybe darkening shadows post production, as it seems to be the exposure issue @spraynpray mentioned earlier.. Or possibly borrowing a uni flash as a tester - I haven't tried a flash yet. I think I need to experiment more with my uses before doing anything drastic :)
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    As has been stated, night photography is not easy. A long lens on a tripod is subject to vibrations. A prime, like a 35mm on crop sensor is great. With a solid (big, heavy, stiff) tripod, one can flip the mirror up and initiate exposure via remote. A five or ten second exposure is nice as it will be easy to repeat at a wider aperture or double the time.

    This is with a D200, handheld, but 12-24mm Nikkor at 1/15th sec.
    LGBT Rallye Sep 2011 Greensboro
    and this with a D90 at ISO 6400.
    Greensboro Night
    You should be able to do these with the D3100 if exposing properly. Click on the photos and see them larger on Flickr where the Exif data is available.
    Msmoto, mod
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    edited March 2013
    I have prime lens already, and I have found it fairs better results; I wouldn't say it's technique as such either, I think I'm not letting enough light into the camera, I'm thinking of maybe darkening shadows post production, as it seems to be the exposure issue @spraynpray mentioned earlier.. Or possibly borrowing a uni flash as a tester - I haven't tried a flash yet. I think I need to experiment more with my uses before doing anything drastic :)
    /shurg guess I am wrong then...but your first post is such that you don't really know what you are doing or need...so not to offend, but I think it is most likely technique. You will see some gain in a newer body, but even the D7000 is only going to marginally help you. The D5200 would probably give you the most gains for the buck for lower ISO as it is a newer sensor and all, but it won't be night and day. You mentioned you have the 35 F1.8 which is a decent lens, but there are better and much more expensive lenses. Not having seen any of your pictures it is hard to judge any reason why your pictures might not be up to par. A flash can do some stuff, but isn't something you would use for a nightscape or what it sounds like you want to shoot. They have limited range and especially say in a city if you are shooting something you will get light and dark areas as the flash illuminates the things as different distance...so not sure what you would try to gain there. They have their place, but I don't think in where you are shooting it seems.

    The D3100 probably has better ISO performance than my D5000 and I can take low light/night shots with it...

    Here are numerous examples. Shot with anything from handheld to a monopod or tripod and never a flash. It can be done with your camera and your lenses...so what are you looking for? For the color that might be off I would think that is your white balance. The camera probably isn't giving you the best white balance in a night/low light setting with the extremes in darkness and lights.

    DSC_0052

    DSC_0011

    DSC_0029-1

    DSC_0027-1

    DSC_0084-1

    DSC_0297-1

    DSC_0059-1_5
    Post edited by tcole1983 on
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • KnockKnockKnockKnock Posts: 369Member
    I guess this is a good time to try posting a photo. D60 with your lens, the 35mm 1.8. Handheld on a windy night - it was DANG COLD, but leaning on a handrail. f/2.8, 1/5s, ISO800. Night-time landscapes with a tripod shouldn't be an issue. Maybe this isn't your type of subject though. The D60 is 2 generations older than your D3100 and I've learned not to shoot at higher ISO. Noise reduction with Nik Dfine 2.0.

    DSC_0297

    I will say that for more 'artistic' shots, a 50mm 1.4, or the new 85mm 1.8 will give you some amazing options with shallower depth of field.
    D7100, D60, 35mm f/1.8 DX, 50mm f/1.4, 18-105mm DX, 18-55mm VR II, Sony RX-100 ii
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,027Moderator
    @JJ_SO: Ah yes, it was late and I was on my way to bed ZZZzzz I-)
    Always learning.
  • GabGab Posts: 63Member
    The d3100 sensor is interesting in many ways. I personally think that even the d90, or the d5000 sensor is much better. The overall noise is the same, but the d3100 has serious banding problems. What I would consider is testing your raw files with a newer version of LR, I don't know what raw converter are you using, but LR improved a lot in the removal of chroma banding recently(it happened around Lr4.0-4.1 somewhere, I only noticed this a few weeks ago) , Capture Nx2 is really bad at this btw.

    About the d7000/5100. The sensor is indeed considerably better. The overall noise advantage in low light as msmoto said is about 1 stop. That sensor is MUCH better in bright sunlight too, massive DR advantage over the d3100 sensor. The D7000 at iso 6400 is quite usable at times & the current LR can fix the banding, or to be precise make the banding noise look more like film grain. Still you probably need to accept, that you will need to use a tripod if u want good image quality. I tried my d7000 at street/night shooting & while it works, I had to accept that sometimes even iso6400 & f1.8 is not good enough. Olympus mirrorless cameras are possibly better for this kind of photography, because you can have a fast lens & (in body) image stabilizer at the same time.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    @ spraynpray

    Sometimes an "hysterogram" looks kinda like a "histogram" if turned upside down.....

    The problems of night exposure are most often corrected by simply practicing... using manual mode, fixed ISO, and manually adjusting the camera so as to get a decent image. I would suggest setting the D3100 at ISO 3200. Auto ISO "off". Then shoot at wide open and try 1/125 sec 1/30 sec, 1/8 sec, 1/2 sec, and two sec. No need for a tripod, just shoot the images and see what the exposure is. Then if needed try some others. But, only multiple trials will get the requisite experience to do this consistently and get results.
    Msmoto, mod
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,027Moderator
    @ spraynpray

    Sometimes an "hysterogram" looks kinda like a "histogram" if turned upside down.....

    LOL! Histogram smishtogram... :\">
    Always learning.
  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,172Member
    edited March 2013
    ""hysterogram" LOL had to look it up !

    @racheldistad : Can you post some images (with exif) to show what you are seeing?
    When I take nightscapes I mostly use base iso ie 100 or 200. Mainly because you need the tripod anyway so you might as well lower the shutter speed. The advantage of that is at the base ISO you usually have the highest Dynamic Range(DR) for a given sensor so that with Post processing of the Raw files you can recover more details in both the dark and light areas.

    Post edited by heartyfisher on
    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

  • racheldistadracheldistad Posts: 36Member
    edited March 2013
    DEREK2

    DEREK4
    JEREMY1

    these are a few examples - hopefully will help :)
    Post edited by racheldistad on
  • racheldistadracheldistad Posts: 36Member
    - can anyone see the photos? for some reason i can't :/
  • dissentdissent Posts: 1,265Member
    I don't see any images either.

    Did you follow the instructions given in this thread?
    http://forum.nikonrumors.com/discussion/46/how-to-post-a-photo-on-photo-a-day#Item_92
    - Ian . . . [D7000, D7100; Nikon glass: 35 f1.8, 85 f1.8, 70-300 VR, 105 f2.8 VR, 12-24 f4; 16-85 VR, 300 f4D, 14E-II TC, SB-400, SB-700 . . . and still plenty of ignorance]
Sign In or Register to comment.