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How to test my Nikon against my Sony?

Discussion in 'General Equipment Chat & Advice' started by Say cheese, Mar 6, 2021.

  1. Say cheese

    Say cheese Member

    I have a D3100 with:
    • Nikon DX 18-55 lens
    • Nikon DX 55-300 lens
    • Nikon DX 35mm prime lens
    It's a bit of a sweeping statement but nearly all of the pictures I'm really pleased with have been taken with the 35mm prime. I understand a prime lens has less compromises than a zoom.

    A few years ago I posted here asking for advice on how to travel light on a holiday. As a result of that I bought a Sony HX400V super zoom.

    Many pictures from that holiday were disappointing and following a lock-down clear-out I was going to sell the Sony. But many people post fantastic pictures online taken with exactly that camera so I resolved to use it in only manual or AP or SP for a while and really learn how to use it properly. Now I've taken a number of pictures I'm really pleased with which, given the broad range of the inbuilt lens, I would have missed with the Nikon.

    BUT, nothing, (I've got), beats the Nikon plus 35mm prime for absolute quality. I suppose that's obvious.

    Now I like the Sony more I've a dilemma - which camera to mostly carry? Further, I've been given a present of a photography experience at a bird of prey centre. I'm thinking of taking the Nikon plus 35mm prime only for close and 'bokeh' bird portraits and the Sony for everything else.

    The Sony will always be better at doing everything at once.

    The Nikon plus 35mm will always be better at one thing.

    Somewhere In between the two I wonder if, now I'm a better photographer, something like the D3100 and (f4.5) 55-300 has a use anymore or should I sell it?

    It doesn't help to be using two different camera brands and having to remember each of their operating vagaries.

    So, ( ! ) I was thinking about how some practical tests could be performed to aid the decision process. An obvious series is to hand held and tripod mount pictures of the same item at various distances. Using the Sony on its own and then the Nikon with its various lenses.

    Anybody else got a better idea?

    Thank you!
  2. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    I find that concentrating more on pictures and less on technical "quality" provides me with satisfaction...

    Chieftain tank at Yorkshire Air Museum GM5 P1220804.jpg
    Ginger cat in Swindon SP570uz 4020016.JPG
    Tornado head on at Yorkshire Air Museum P1012276.JPG
    Three men sitting on bench outside Sidmouth market P3250009.JPG
    Catalina at Weston Super Mare Air Show G9 P1010564.JPG
    Stilt dancer in Princesshay Exeter DSC00361.JPG
  3. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    It’s good to get into the discipline of assessing your pictures as you file them. Technically poor pictures usually come down to camera shake and/or subject movement, inappropriate (or lack of) focus, or over/under exposure.

    Camera shake/subject movement is most often linked to using too great an exposure time for the focal length.

    Autofocus point selection is the main reason for inappropriate focus - the camera will always go for a close, high contrast area which might not be what you want once you go away from close-ish, bang in the middle of the frame subjects.

    Over/under exposure is the area that needs most experience and is the advantage of mirrorless cameras where you can see in the viewfinder if the electronic image is too bright or too dark. On a DSLR a test shot is needed.

    If you look at each picture and at the camera settings used then you can begin to make sense of what you’ve got. It sounds like you’ve started to do this a bit with the Sony.

    Although it is generally true that lens quality has an impact on the final result, the other factors have to be eliminated before you can see it. There is another long thread on this applied to bird photography where it can be a bit more critical as, at the end of the day you are often interested in the finest detail in something barely visible in the frame.

    Try systematically comparing the shots you have taken with the 18-55 set at 35 mm with those taken with the prime. I’ll guess that, with the zoom at F8, there is not as much difference as you think.

    Have a nice day at the bird of prey centre. I haven’t been to one for ages but I’d think getting “in your face” with a co-operative raptor and a 35 mm lens is being on the hopeful side. Later this morning I’ll see if I’ve got any birds of prey centre pics and see what focal length I used but I’m going to guess I’ll find I was using a 70-200 mm zoom.
  4. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    I am of the opinion that too many are now very hung up on technical quality and not concentrating on the aesthetics. It's great for the camera manufacturers as those of that persuasion are eagerly awaiting the slightest upgrade and thinking it is a quantum leap. Funnily their pictures from a 36mp camera are no better that they produced with 16mp. They they go on about speed etc and keep changing systems as A is better than B now, then changing to C as it's now better. They don't really take pictures or do anything with what they do take, it's all about the gear, nothing else. When I see all this I think of Jane Bown, who used one camera, one lens, yet managed to take acclaimed portraits.

    A decent picture speaks for itself, non-photographers (the majority of people) neither look for, nor care about minor technical faults
  5. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    I sympathise on the two brands thing. I've been doing photography for many years, and for a lot of it, I've used different-sized cameras for different purposes. Back in the film days, I had medium format, 35mm SLR, 35mm rangefinder, and compact cameras. Didn't really matter that much that they were all from different manufacturers, because the basics were similar - even an AF 35mm SLR wasn't that different to the others..
    With digital, going back some years, I had Canon DSLRs, MFT cameras (Panasonic G1 and Olympus E-P1) and a Samsung compact. And I found it extremely confusing just trying to cope with the menu systems...
    These days, I still have different sized cameras, but they're all from the same manufacturer, which makes it much easier to switch between them...

    Anyway, to the main point of your question. When I get a new lens, the only formal test I do is a quick(ish) brick wall shot to make sure it's not decentered. Then I just go out and use it.(same with a new camera). I shoot the sort of things I normally shoot, use it for a few days, then spend a few hours going through the shots at full screen size. I'll check a couple at 100%, but only to see that there's not something horrendous. I don't do formal testing, because I don't shoot test charts for fun - I want to know if a lens comes up to my personal standards in normal use, and any foibles I might need to be aware of. I accept that a small, light zoom that's convenient isn't going to give me the same IQ as a prime on a tripod, but does it produce usable results?

    Ultimately, I don't see the point of doing any test that doesn't replicate your real-world usage - it doesn't tell you anything really useful.
  6. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    I had a look at the birds of prey centre pics I took. It was back in 2015. It was a 70-200, used mainly between 170 and 200, on a camera with a x1.3 crop factor sensor.

    [​IMG]BV9R0023-2.jpg by Pete, on Flickr
  7. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    It seems to me that there are just three types of photographer:
    1. a minority to which the technical quality is the most important thing, no matter how boring the image is to most viewers;
    2. another minority to which the story is the most important thing, no matter how fuzzy or distorted the image is;
    3. the vast majority who are pragmatic and try to get a sharp picture but will always trade sharpness for interest.
    I go with the herd, myself. :p

    Horse drawn carriage Queen Square Bath 40D 6776.JPG
    ChrisNewman likes this.
  8. ChrisNewman

    ChrisNewman Well-Known Member

    I read up a lot on forums before replacing my film system with digital, and came across several horror stories from people reporting decentred lenses. So I decided that, with the negligible cost of digital shooting, I’d check any lenses I bought. I soon realized I was finding it difficult to judge whether one shot of a brick was sharper than another, so I downloaded and printed copies of the ISO 12233 Resolution chart. I think it’s a worthwhile way to check whether a lens is as sharp as I was expecting it should be (and the stored shots helped me out when a replacement lens from Tamron was inferior to the original). I also used the charts last year to confirm my suspicions that my heavyweight Sigma 150-500mm wasn’t picking up significantly more detail of small, distant subjects than my excellent new Nikkor AF-P 70-300mm F4.5-5.6E.
    Despite my use of resolution charts, I think your approach of making comparison shots of a broad range of interesting real-world subjects will be a far better way to decide which of your cameras and lenses give you the results you like best in particular circumstances. (I’ve never experienced your dilemma; ever since I first bought an SLR to take interchangeable lenses, my system camera has always been superior, with a more versatile range of lenses, than whichever compact camera I’ve had that I can carry in my pocket when I don’t want to be burdened with large, heavy kit.)

  9. beatnik69

    beatnik69 Well-Known Member

    I don't know anything about the Sony, but if you are going to be using to to take photos of birds in flight, is there any delay between pressing the shutter release and the photo being taken?
  10. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    In flight shots at birds of prey centres that do exhibitions are quite difficult to do. For entertainment purposes they tend to keep the birds “tight” and often fly them close to, or even through, the audience. Even with a DSLR/lens that has excellent follow focus you need a lot of luck as well as a bit of space so that you don’t wrap the camera into someones’s face. You can miss all the fun of the display while wrestling with the camera trying to lock focus on a bird. Mainly the centres fly few birds but have rather more raptors on static display offering portrait opportunities.

    Older bridge cameras did have quite a noticeable delay after pressing the shutter release while the camera acquired focus which made photographing action “experimental”. I don’t think it is as noticeable now they have in-chip phase detection focus.
  11. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    There is no reason why the Nikon should not comfortably match the performance of the Sony given good technique. I suspect the Sony is selecting a higher ISO and smaller aperture than you are using with the Nikon and that will make a difference. However, the 18-55 is produced in large numbers so it is possible that you have a less than sparking example. I have no experience of the 55-300 but it isn't a very fast lens and thus a high ISO will be required to enable a sufficient shutter speed and aperture depending on the subject.

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