Photography Stuff – Part One: More Nikon P900

If you read a post of mine and it looks like I’m talking about photos that are not there, it probably means WordPress is messing with me again and wiped my links. In that case, let me know. In any case, the linked SmugMug Gallery will have all the photos.
For them not interested in reading, you can go directly to the SmugMug Gallery HERE.  
For a slideshow click HERE. When you click the link, it will open in a new window and you have two options:
1) Manually scroll through the photos by clicking the “<” and “>” symbols to the left or right of the photos.
2) There’s a PLAY/PAUSE button at the bottom-left of the screen with the transition set at about 5 seconds. Note: clicking the PLAY arrow will run a full-screen slideshow. You can then still use the”<” and “>” symbols to the left or right of the photos as this will pause the slideshow.
If you want the full experience, keep reading

This is primarily about photography and camera (Nikon P900) and post-processing. There are photos but if you’re not interested, watch this video and then go look elsewhere for something that interests you more. 

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So, I’m still pondering what the heck I should do about my photography. I mean, it’s a given that I’ll be photographing stuff. The question is more how I’ll be photographing stuff. 

Take a look at this photo:


It’s not bad . . . for the size. But, if you were to look at it in the original size (why I’ve not uploaded it to SmugMug) you would see a bunch of ugly pixels. 

But, I mean . . . who looks at the pixels any more? Most people don’t bother going to SmugMug and pixel-peep. As far as the above photo, most readers would say that’s pretty good. 

This photo, shot with the D7000 and at 600mm effective zoom and then cropped, is much sharper. Meaning, you can see more detail.

Same lens, same windy conditions, same level of "I'm. Frelling. Impressed".


Granted, different lighting conditions. Back to the P900 at 2000mm and slightly cropped. 


Not bad but the difference is evident if you look at the original size. Why I didn’t add the original size in SmugMug; because it’s not worth looking at. Don’t worry, there will be examples later on showing exactly what I mean. 

Still, photos out of the P900 at or near the maximum zoom are much “softer” than anything out of the D7000 with either of my two long zoom lenses. 

But, at the resolution that I’m presenting them (1280pixels as the maximum size) the photos mostly look pretty good . . . 


I’m not sure I could have captured the above photo with my Big Rig (that’s not all that big) . . . but, here’s a screen capture at 1280 pixels size for the horizontal side:

1:1 crop of edited file output at a maximum resolution of 1280pixels per side

You can already see a degradation of the image. Mind you, this image has undergone a number of edits to get it to look like this (I’ll also discuss that later). 

It’s perfectly fine for the blog; great, even. 

Want to see the 1:1 crop of the full-size photo out of the camera?

1:1 crop of file right out of the camera with no processing (click for full size)

Want to see the 1:1 crop of the blackbird?

1:1 screen capture (processed file)

OK, granted, the lighting makes a difference but there’s no escaping the fact sensor size matters. The small sensor of the P900 can only capture so much information so when you zoom in on a photo that is already “zoomed in” by virtue of leveraging a small sensor, the results can be ugly (sometimes very ugly). 

Yes, I’ve gotten “ugly” results with the D7000 and an expensive lens, but not as often and probably more due to poor operator skills. 

The P900, on the other hand, requires “better than average” operator skills if one is to use its maximum zoom in less-than-ideal lighting situations. 

If I take the time and prepare the camera for the shooting conditions (guess at the proper shutter speed and f-stop) and use proper shooting techniques (all things I should be doing all the time) I can get shots like these.

But, again, compare that shot with a similar shot from the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens mounted on the D7000.

Notice the last shot is noticeably brighter not just from the processing but because the D7000 sensor and the 70-200mm lens can “grab” both more information and more light.

From the P900, I can get passable and interesting shots (and hence the quality can be forgiven).

Those ducks were a long way off and while I can’t “enlarge” the shot any more than it is, the photo itself is not bad, really.

Neither is this photo (there are more in the SmugMug gallery) . . . 

. . . and neither is this one . . . 

It’s a cloudy day and I’m shooting at f/8 at 83X (2000mm equivalent zoom) and that’s what the P900 does best; it “reaches out” past where my regular lenses cease to be useful for capturing scenes like the above two shots. 

The photos look “soft” but the choice for those are either get a soft shot or no shot at all. 

I ain’t winning no awards but, come on; them be cute ducks. Plus, I can capture videos . . . 

Again, no award winners there but hand-held (why it’s difficult to get the subject in focus and hold them there) and at full zoom.

The camera is slow and I limit the ISO to 800 or below, hence the slow speed when shooting Programmed mode. Slow speed can sometimes match the action . . . 

But, a cute duck no matter what:

However, even when the lighting is pretty good (sunny) and the subject is pretty close (30 yards) the P900 is unforgiving when it comes to quality derived from improper techniques. 

That’s not exactly clear and sharp. These next ones are a bit better but still not as sharp as they could be. 

The last one is a bit better than the first two but still a far cry from the quality of a proper DSLR with even a mediocre lens. 

Plus, sometimes the camera has a mind of its own as far as what it will focus on . . . 

Aside from the bit of blur, it’s obvious the camera was more interested in the bark than the bird. Note that the smaller the photo, the more in focus it appears. Look at it with its native resolution and it doesn’t appear as sharp.

I’ll use that photo in the next post where I talk about P900 and sharpening, removing blur, and perhaps mitigating poor focus. 

Here are a few of the photos I took of a chickadee (more in the gallery) . . .

I think those are perfectly fine photos even if not tack sharp.

These next photos include a bit of extra processing because the camera tends to drift red colors toward orange. Frankly, I don’t know the “true” color of the cardinal but I took a stab at it . . . 

There are a lot of photos of this cardinal in the gallery . . . along with photos of the female . . . 

Male . . . 

Female . . . 

Both . . . 

I think most people would be happy with those shots even though they are not great at the pixel level and if you wanted a print of them larger than 4″x6″ they wouldn’t look as good. 

Ducks 100 yards away are a challenge even in good light. Mind you, it was cold and I was probably shivering . . . 

And contrasty birds in sunlight and with a busy background are difficult to isolate . . . 

Those are two sequential shots at high speed. The second one was probably affected by me pressing the shutter release button. I probably pushed it rather than toggling the finger over the button. 

So, again, the camera — despite the small sensor — is capable of more than what the casual user (me) can get from it.

Part of the blurriness is also due to the highlights getting blown out. I can address that by picking the shutter speed and ISO.

Perceptually, that’s a little better but a 1:1 crop shows little difference between the shots so it is, in fact, mostly perception. 

There are more shots in the gallery but here’s one more . . . 

Given the right conditions, the camera is capable of shots that approach the quality of a DLR . . . not quite, but close.

Even at 1:1 viewing (the full-size originals are in SmugMug) the photos are pretty good . . . perhaps not ready-for-large-printing good but pretty good. 

So, proper camera technique, targeted settings, a steady hand, a careful release of the shutter and . . . 

I might even be able to get a decent print from some of these. I’m still sure my Big Boy camera would get me better results but these are not bad. 

Heck, choose the right settings, shoot carefully, properly support the camera and even ducks 100 yards away in the poor light of an overcast day begin to look good. 

. . . even at full zoom . . . 

One of the peculiarities of the camera is that — per my perception — it gives me better results if I underexpose the image a bit. It helps in bright light but also in poor light. But, you end up with noisy shots (lots of grain). 

The thing with grain is that while you can reduce some of it, it’s difficult getting rid of it completely. 

But, again, many people would be happy with those shots.  

Here’s a confession . . . all these photos took a fair amount of time to process; Lightroom, then Color Efex Pro 4, then Output Sharpener, then Define 2, then a bit more of Lightroom. 

Many people have no interest in that kind of effort for every shot. Truthfully, I seldom feel like it and the only reason I’m doing it for these shots is that they’re for the post. 

I like the photos but that’s about as bright as I can get them (the originals are quite dark) without messing them up beyond repair. 

Still, not bad. What I mean is this; I’ve seen worse in places that should have had better.

I just noticed I forgot my watermark . . . oh, well. 

Something that works well for many situations but is difficult to execute is spot metering and using a small Autofocus area in addition to setting the desired speed and floating the ISO value. The problem is that it’s difficult to capture and hold the desired target when the camera is at full zoom because that small metering and focus area dances around like crazy.

Still . . . 

. . . at full resolution, you can see a faint halo around the subject, especially at the boundary of bright areas. That’s something I’ll discuss on the next post where I’ll cover specific post-processing steps. 

This next shot is an example of the spot focus/metering drifting away from the bird although it’s also when the sun almost made an appearance. 

When the light backed off a bit and I hit the metering spot I wanted, I end up with a few more details even if I lose some of the highlights on the body feathers. 

When the sun almost completely hides, you get a completely different look and feel but it’s not bad . . . unless you pixel-peek. 

As a reminder, that’s a crop of a hand-held shot snapped at 2000mm equivalent zoom with the subject a tad over 100 yards away in fairly low light. You can only expect so much from a $600 camera and lens combination.

Although, the problem with underexposing is that it occasionally messes up the bokeh . . . 

. . . and the subject also suffers. 

But, hit the right spot and you can be fairly happy with the results. 

Pleased with the photo but not if you want to print it at any size. 

Same for the heron once the sun completely goes missing . . . 

. . . or a blackbird  . . . 

So, what’s with writing all this?

Well, last week I was ready to buy a DSLR (still debating between the D7200 and D500) and the 200-500mm lens. 

Except, I wanted to do a proper review of the P900 with an eye to getting the P1000 as an alternative. 

The next post will deal with editing P900 files to help recover quality photos from less-than-quality photos. You see, the editing tools have gotten to the point that some of what they do is pretty impressive. 

With that in mind, the post after that will deal with JPG and RAW files straight out of the P1000 edited to obtain the best possible results using techniques developed for editing P900 photos. 

No, I don’t have a P1000; I asked and got permission to use photos from sample galleries at two photography sites. 

I’m looking forward to seeing where all this goes. 

As a reminder, there are more photos in the SmugMug gallery than I showed here and many are full-size (for them who want to see just how bad the pixel level view is). 

Meanwhile, two photos to show how I use the P900 . . . 

And a joke . . . 

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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