18-200LE at a playground

Discussion in 'Sony Alpha E-Mount Lenses' started by quezra, Aug 22, 2012.

  1. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Aug 22, 2012
    Hi guys,

    I'm new to amateur photography and was wondering if people could help me out with some questions

    I took the attached shot at a playground with my new 18-200 LE which I bought before I knew how to use it. It was taken at 1/320 f/6.3 ISO200 according to the properties (actually it was iAuto I think) I was wondering is the bokeh like that because of hand-shake or something else about outdoors? All were taken handheld (not sure if that's a good idea at 200mm?). What could I do to improve it?


    Also, would love to hear any other tricks for shooting at tele distances... I'm going on safari at the end of the year and want to learn how to do it "right"

  2. lapdog99

    lapdog99 TalkEmount Veteran

    Sep 3, 2011
    Learn to shoot in Aperture mode. Use a large aperture value like 4.0 to shorten depth of field and improve the speed set by the camera, which is helpful for using a telephoto lens. The intelligent automatic mode will deliver good exposure results,but you won't learn
    anything about the relationship of aperture setting, shutterspeed and ISO settings.
  3. dbmiller

    dbmiller TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Mar 2, 2012
    New England
    Not quite sure what you are asking here. What do you think is wrong with the image? Or more importantly, what were you expecting?

    If you had camera shake, the whole picture would be out of focus, so I am guessing that you are asking why the background looks blurred?

    Depth of Field is the concept of how much of your image will appear in focus. It depends on...

    • The focal length of the lens (How much you have zoomed in with the 18-200 - In this case 200mm)
    • The size of the imaging area (The NEX sensor in this case)
    • The aperture used (f6.3)
    • The distance from the camera to the subject
    How blurry the out of focus areas appear depend on all of the above, plus the distance between the subject and the foreground or background item.

    If you are used to a little Point and Shoot, you are probably expecting to see the background to also be in focus. Due to the smaller sensor size, they inherently have a greater depth of field. To get that effect (Non-blurry background), while keeping everything else the same (Zoom, camera, and distances), in the picture you posted, you would have to shoot at a much smaller aperture. In order to shoot with a smaller aperture and get a correct exposure, you would need either a longer shutter time (Hard to do with longer focal lengths, otherwise camera shake will indeed occur), or a higher ISO value. As suggested, you can shoot in Aperture preferred mode (Av), and then take photos at varying aperture values to see the effect on your image.

    Depth of Field is a concept that you will need to understand and learn how to make use of it to get the results you want.
  4. Dioptrick

    Dioptrick TalkEmount All-Pro

    Feb 4, 2012
    New Zealand
    Hi Joel... I'd like to add some comments as well.

    General rule of thumb: The bigger the aperture, the more blurred the background (and foreground) will be, because the area that will fall into focus will be shallow. And conversely, the smaller the aperture, the sharper the background (and foreground) will be, because the lens focus will cover a larger area.

    With handshake (camera shake), everything in the image will be blurred to some extent. Your photo is quite good actually and doesn't show any signs of handshake. To minimize the risk of handshake with telephoto shots, choose faster shutter speeds in S mode (or similarly, by choosing larger apertures in A mode the camera will acquire faster shutter speeds). Your camera also has a "sports action" setting under the SCN mode which will pretty much do the same thing for you automatically.

    The lens you have has a variable maximum aperture size, meaning at wide angle (18mm) your maximum aperture is f3.5 - however as you zoom towards telephoto (200mm) the max aperture of the lens gradually decreases to f6.3 (pro zoom lenses maintain the same aperture sizing but are much larger, heavier, and far more expensive).

    The photo you've taken at 200mm was already at the maximum aperture opening for that lens, so there's nothing more that can be done if you want the background to be more blurry (softer bokeh). If you wanted the background to be sharper, you can select a smaller aperture (say f8 or even f11) but be aware that this will make your shutter speed slower.

    The only area that you an improve in that photo is the composition. It is a common occurence for beginners to unknowingly crop people's feet (I see it often in family or large group shots). In this case, you could either lower your aim to include their feet, or zoom out a little bit if you like to keep the rope swing pivots within your composition.

    In portraiture, there are times when the composition has to showcase closer personal features so the cropping of the person's body is necessary (heads and shoulder shots for example). General rule of thumb: When cropping the human form (or animal form), avoid placing the cropped boundary of your composition at the anatomical joints - neck, elbow, wrist, waist, knee, ankles, etc. Try to place the crop along the torso, arm, forearm, thigh, leg, etc. An canvas/oil-paint artist taught me that.

    Also do a Google or Youtube search on the "Rule of Thirds" with regards to composition. Read up on that too.

    I see you've already bought a tripod. You're going to need that... but sometimes setting up a tripod can take too long and you could miss a fleeting-moment shot. Other quicker alternatives are a monopod or a small rice bag. The camera can be left mounted on the monopod as you move around and explore, you carry it like a staff or walking stick... and rest it on the ground to take a telephoto shot. It's not as stable as a tripod but it's quicker and lighter. You could also use your tripod similarly but it's more cumbersome. The rice bag you can make yourself (just don't get it wet!)... use small plastic beads and a nylon pouch for a waterproof version. Use it like a pillow and rest your lens on it to shoot. You can place the rice bag on top of rocks, a fence post, car fender, etc. If there's nothing around, genuflect and use one of your knees (tilt screen on the 5N is perfect for this). Make it small enough so you can carry it around in your pocket. You don't need to have all of these, but you might just want to try it out to see if it suits your style.

    You can buy a cheap infrared remote trigger for your NEX if you want to be in some of your shots... :)

    ... and oh, don't stress about it all, just have fun! Watch out for those lions though...
  5. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Aug 22, 2012
    Thanks for the very helpful advice and comments!
    I was expecting the blur/out-of-focus background, but it looks like there's a bit of double-vision or shake in the background. Is that to be expected? I didn't notice it when shooting, only when getting home. Or maybe I just don't like it. It slightly annoyed me when seeing it, especially on a large monitor. Is it a feature of the lens? I don't get a more smooth blurring on the kit 18-55

    I found 200mm useful at the playground as I'm not actually in the middle of all the commotion and the kids ignore me, but what would be a good distance to capture motion with this lens? A lot of my shots were blurry and it was in bright daylight.
    Thanks, I'm definitely going to try shooting on aperture priority. Now if I had an ideal setup (yes, I bought the tripod because a lot of my photos were spoilt by handshake), could I slow it down again for less ideal lighting?
    Thanks, this is very helpful! I didn't mean to crop them at all, but I think I was too focused on their bodies that I forgot about the rest. This was literally my first time ever shooting moving objects (kids) at tele
    I really like the rice bag idea, thanks!
    Do you have any brands to recommend? I saw the Sony remote being sold at $69 and I'd rather set the shutter to 10-seconds delay and run than cough up for it at the moment :p
    Heh you betcha!
  6. Dioptrick

    Dioptrick TalkEmount All-Pro

    Feb 4, 2012
    New Zealand
    You're welcome.

    Different lenses have their own unique bokeh characteristics. Some are smooth and some show distinct soft faceted edges. What you're getting is an inherent characteristic of that particular lens. You can soften it a little bit more by getting closer to your subject and choosing a position where the background is farther, but with a maximum aperture of f6.3 on 200mm telephoto, your bokeh options are quite limited.

    Capturing or freezing motion has all to do with shutter speed. I suspect that your camera wasn't set-up correctly that's why a lot of your shots ended up blurry. If your subject is moving slowly, I suggest that you don't go any slower than 1/250 sec. If the subject is moving really fast (like running), then you might want to choose 1/1000sec or even faster shutter speeds.

    If lighting conditions become too dim, shutter speeds will suffer and will end up slower. Placing your camera on a tripod will only get rid of camera shake (or handshake as you call it)... but it will not stop your subject from blurring from their movement (motion blur). Only fast shutter speeds will get rid of motion blur whether you're using a tripod or not.

    I just bought a really cheap one from eBay Hong Kong. I think a just paid $5 bucks for it including shipping to NZ. You should be able to get the same one for cheaper in Singapore. If you lose it, it doesn't matter... just buy another one (or two). You'll need it to fire the shutter during slow-speed tripod shots (1/30sec or slower for macro or night photography) because depressing the shutter with your hand will still wobble the camera even if it's on a tripod. Remember with slow speeds, moving objects will blur but stationary objects will stay sharp (provided the camera does not shake on the tripod).

    Try this as a lesson for experience: Shoot a traffic intersection in your city - at night. All the buildings and street lights will be sharp, but pedestrians and all moving vehicle headlights and tail lights will streak (motion blur). Shoot with 200mm telephoto at the widest aperture (f6.3) then try it with your smallest aperture (f22)... observe what happens to your shutter speeds, and the compare the effect it has on the image. (Use the self timer if you don't have a remote trigger).

  7. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Aug 22, 2012
    Yeah, I'm starting to learn about what determines the qualities of bokeh from the lens. I need to test this properly because if there's some in-built double vision in the bokeh, this is really going to annoy me. I checked some of the other photos and they're similar, so I plan to test it again with tripod this weekend. If I can prove the double vision is really the fault of the lens, am I likely to be able to exchange it?
  8. Dioptrick

    Dioptrick TalkEmount All-Pro

    Feb 4, 2012
    New Zealand
    I don't think it's a fault. It could be just the normal characteristic of that lens...
  9. dbmiller

    dbmiller TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Mar 2, 2012
    New England
    Agreed. A background isn't necessarily blurred in an even fashion. Rays of light from an out of focus area will hit different pixels. Light areas from one area leak into dark areas and vice verse. The shape and detail in the object will affect how this comes out. The building, chairs, and such may look odd, but not unexpected. The foliage in the upper right corner has texture, and so the bokeh there is probably more "interesting", or at least more like you were expecting.
  10. Dioptrick

    Dioptrick TalkEmount All-Pro

    Feb 4, 2012
    New Zealand
    This is exactly right Joel... the shape of the out of focus objects has an influence on the shape of the bokeh, and sometimes this has nothing to do with the size of the aperture either. I have enclosed two photos to show what dbmiller is describing.

    In this shot below, the maximum aperture of f2.8 was used from a vintage German manual focus lens. If you look at the top-right corner, you will notice a street light and tubular frame work that show that "double vision" effect. Other straight line objects (white lines on the red track) also do this, but irregular shapes like the marching band and the trees at the far background show a more "circular effect." This is an example of a "faceted" bokeh characteristic.


    This next photo is from a vintage Russian manual focus lens also using maximum aperture of f2.8. You will notice that the bokeh on this lens is much smoother than the previous photo. The street lamps on the top-right corner and other straight lines (edge of the water fountain) are softer and do not show a double vision effect. Both lenses are very good lenses, they just have different bokeh characteristics.

  11. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Aug 22, 2012
    Thanks again guys, I guess I'm just not very familiar with what bokeh is supposed to or can look like. I guess I'll have to learn to love it - after testing, it reappears with straight edged surfaces but not as apparent in round edges - I liked the even blur of the kit lens and that had become my expectation
  12. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Bokeh is a funny thing. No two lenses display it the same way. Sometimes the same lens will produce the holy grail of creamyness and on the next shot it will create discordant bokeh that sucks your eyeballs out of your head. Subject /background distance paly a part, as does the background itself.

    What I'm saying is that even if you find a lens that produces bokeh to your liking, it will occasionally show you somehitng that makes you say "where did that come from??!?"

    Bokeh- it is what it is, except when it isn't. ;)
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