My D70 takes fuzzy pictures!
September 5, 2005 5:03 PM   Subscribe

I have noticed (and other people have commented that they have seen this too) that when I take pictures with my Nikon D70 I tend to get what seems to be a haze or fuzziness on the pictures. They are still crisp but have a diffused light feeling to them. I have tried several lenses as well as removing my uv filter and nothing seems to help. Has anyone ever seen anything like this? It is very frustrating…

I have taken it to several camera shops, which have run all sorts of tests and tweaked the positioning of the CCD array (to check potential back focus issue), but have found nothing wrong with the camera at all. I don’t see much when I google for answers (although that may be my lack of google-fu). I have posted a couple of recent pictures as samples here, here and here if my description does not make sense. This occurs both on the digital versions and the print versions so it is not just my monitor or anything like that - and I have shot consistently in full auto mode with an ISO setting of 200 to 400.

I have only had the camera a year and I seem to remember that it did not do this when I first got it but I cannot remember. I am at a loss and annoyed about it…
posted by GrumpyMonkey to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you messed with the in-camera sharpening levels?
posted by bshort at 5:07 PM on September 5, 2005

It's probably dust on the shutter. Take the lens off and CAREFULLY raise the mirror with a gloved hand (or at least with a tissue between your fingers and the mirror. Then, gently blow compressed air behind the mirror, sweeping the shutter. Try to reshoot.

If that doesn't fix it, then it has to be a problem with the camera circuits. Have the camera replaced under warranty and you'll be set.
posted by richardhay at 5:09 PM on September 5, 2005

Those pictures you provide as examples are all low light pictures, which most digital cameras, including the D70, can't handle very well. That colour fuzziness and lack of dynamic range is typical of pretty much all digital cameras that cost less than $10,000 (slight exaggeration, but you get the idea), especially under such low light conditions.

I think the short answer is that you're going to need more light, in the form of the Sun or a fill flash.

Having owned and operated a traditional film lab for almost a decade, I still run into these same issues in digital, despite advances in technology. Digital picture quality at the consumer/"pro-sumer" level is pretty garbage-y when compared to a $7 roll of silver-halide film and a half-competent automated lab. Even using the latest and greatest at last years' trade shows, I can still instantly spot if a print has undergone digitizaton at any point in its process.
posted by Extopalopaketle at 5:36 PM on September 5, 2005

richardhay: Do you mean dust on the sensor? The D70 has a mirror lock-up feature, so you don't have to touch the mirror to blow air on the sensor.

I wouldn't guess that the described blurriness is related to dust, though. The times when I've had to blow dust off of the sensor, the problem has been spots in the pictures, not blurriness.
posted by aneel at 5:52 PM on September 5, 2005

What sort of twisted shit is going on around that first pic?
posted by H. Roark at 5:55 PM on September 5, 2005

Did you try storing the images in RAW format, rather than JPG? That should reduce the fuzziness a bit.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 5:58 PM on September 5, 2005

Ok, I took a bit more time looking at your photos.

If you are shooting in full-auto mode, it may be a light metering problem -- the examples you provide are underexposed, suggesting that your camera thinks it's very bright out, and probably reduced the aperture (f-stop too high).

Try shooting in aperture priority mode with f-stop down as low as it will go and increase exposure value. See if that makes a difference.

Use a tripod if you aren't already.

BTW. Don't resize your pictures for the purposes of analysis or printing. You need every bit of information you can get.
posted by Extopalopaketle at 6:02 PM on September 5, 2005

Best answer: My D70 shots do not look like this (and contrary to what Extopalopaketle seems to be saying, it is not to be expected with a D70, even in low light. With a tripod and a good lens, great low-light pictures can be made with the D70. I know, I've done it. The D70 certainly has limitations, but you aren't bumping into them here unless you are really pushing it shooting handheld at high ISO).

But, they all look, to me, both a little noisy and blurred due to camera shake, or perhaps completely un-sharpened or badly focused. ISO setting, shutter speed, and aperture would be needed for each picture.

What are the custom settings, if any, for these pictures (ie, what are sharpening, contrast, Noise Reduction, etc. set to)?

Have you tried just using the reset button on the bottom of the camera to make sure you don't have the camera in some bad state?

What lens are you using? Is it a cheap zoom? Are you using a tripod? The first picture seems to have slow-sync on, did you want that?

What software do you use to process the files? I've seen Adobe Camera Raw do bone-headed things like this to pictures by trying to over-amp the exposure on a Raw file.

Frankly, the ISO looks higher than 200-400 on these; are you sure it is at that setting? Auto-ISO can amp up all the way to 1600 if it needs to, and you get noisy images, like these, in that case (which can be largely fixed via software).

It could be your camera, but it might not be. More info. is really needed. It really looks more like technique to me, but I don't know you or how you shoot, so I'm not trying to say you're a bad photographer. If you have investigated all these things, I'd say your camera has some very weird problem.
posted by teece at 6:37 PM on September 5, 2005

Is it the focus softness that Ken Rockwell describes here?
posted by misterbrandt at 6:39 PM on September 5, 2005

teece: Those pictures have EXIF data, so you can look at the camera settings.
posted by aneel at 6:44 PM on September 5, 2005

I own a D70 and I agree with teece that more info is needed about what your settings are, but the pics obviously need to be color and white balanced. This is clear from the back wall in pic 1 and in the fake fur fringes on some of the kids clothing. If you are shooting in RAW, when you open a pic in your RAW conversion app, you will not see any in camera white balance adjustment. You will not see any kind of in camera adjustment, as a matter of fact. You must do this on your own. If you are shooting in JPEG, perhaps you don't have your white balance in camera set to auto or to the proper setting for your shooting conditions. Either way, you have a color cast because of one of the above reasons.

If you shoot in RAW you can remove color casts and set white balance in your RAW converter or in Photoshop. If you don't want to shoot in RAW, you should carry a white card and use the D70's custom white balance feature to set your white balance for each shooting condition. Also, don't forget that using a flash can make this a rather challenging task. You can also fine tune your JPEGs for color balance in Photoshop.

While I see Extopalopaketle's point, it's not fair to compare a RAW file (if that's what these are) with lab printed pics, because the color correction and contrast correction that you would do in your RAW converter or in Photoshop is the same corrections that a color lab would do to your negative.
posted by spicynuts at 6:55 PM on September 5, 2005

Response by poster: Hmm, I wil try a couple of those suggestions.

So far as the image size, resizing them would have caused one more failure point so I wanted them to be exactly as they were taken. Sorry, I should have put a warning in there about the giant sizes. These images are the files copied directly off of the card in the camera through the file system of the computer. I have not adjusted them through photoshop or the like.

So far as lighting and stability, I have taken photos in a well lit office with the camera resting on a desk and the results are the same. I am sure that they are taken with ISO ranges that are as stated (not using auto-ISO settings). The lens is the 28-100mm Nikkor - I included several files just to show that the problem exists with a variety of lighting and at different distances. I have not tried the reset button though.

I am obviously willing to try, but I really would imagine that a camera like this should be able to take pictures of my kids birthday party without a white card or light meter etc...
I will take some as RAW files and then mess with them some once they are on my computer.

Sometimes I really miss spending hours dodging and burning in a darkroom.
posted by GrumpyMonkey at 7:25 PM on September 5, 2005

I have not adjusted them through photoshop or the like

Would you expect a color negative from a film camera without any correction or adjustment from a lab or from your own manipulation in the darkroom to look fine? If you want to do minimal to zero adjustment after taking the picture and posting to a web site, you should make sure you are shooting in JPEG mode, that you are in auto White Balance, that you have some sharpening (maybe +1) added in camera and that you have some saturation (maybe +1) added in camera. Other than that, when going from camera to web site, you are going to have to expect to do at least a little levels correction in Photoshop if you want them to look like anything other than a snapshot. Particularly if you are using flash. If you want to print, then either take them to Target or Wal Mart or CVS where they will do the standard color correction when printing or to a lab where you can tell them what you want.

I'm exhausted right now so struggling for a way to explain what I'm trying to say, but as with a consumer film SLR, the art is really in printing the negative, so long as that negative is properly exposed. You can either take that into your own hands in Photoshop or with some of the standard in camera settings, or you can put it in the hands of a lab.
posted by spicynuts at 7:43 PM on September 5, 2005

also, not to belabor the point, but I just re-read your post and caught this:

without a... light meter

The D70 is a digital is not a point and shoot. How do you intend to get a properly exposed negative (image file) without properly metering your subject? If you simply want to point and push a button, you probably would have been better off with a Canon ELF or the similar Nikon point and shoots.
posted by spicynuts at 7:46 PM on September 5, 2005

I haven't used the D70, but I have used other Nikon DSLRs, and found that out-of-the-camera, the images are rather flat and lacking in contrast.

I found out, though, that this is by design. DSLR's don't do a lot of in-camera processing, leaving it up to you to do that in Photoshop or whatever.

So what I'm saying is, you should expect to have to do a contrast adjustment to basically all your images. If you haven't expired the license for Nikon Capture, you can apply a curve in-camera to all your images. Read more about how to do that here. Otherwise there are macros you can create in Photoshop to apply a contrast adjustment.
posted by Brian James at 8:27 PM on September 5, 2005 [1 favorite]

what's weird is i dont see the ISO information in the EXIF data, but to me this looks like what i get from my 300D when its set to high (800+) ISO settings. in other words, sensor noise.

its true that the digital SLRs require a lot of post-processing in photoshop - sharpening and level correction (with my 300D i regularly am exposed too far to the right and the pictures look washed out unless i pull the histogram to the left). having said that though, at least the 300D will at least sharpen the image when its in .jpg mode. i always shoot raw, so i'm not sure what else it might do.

so yeah. what everyone else said. its an SLR so don't expect point-and-shoot results.
posted by joeblough at 8:42 PM on September 5, 2005

Thanks, aneel, I didn't think to look at them outside the browser.

GrumpyMonkey: All of the EXIF settings given make them seem like fairly normal shots, but I agree they aren't all that satisfying. Something is wrong with them. For some reason, ISO is missing from the EXIF data. The shutter speeds aren't really low, and the sharpening is set to normal on them all. Have you tried setting the in-camera sharpening to medium high or high, to see if it makes things look sharper?

They look to me slightly like high ISO D70 images, and slightly like generally just soft images. The noise seems too high for ISO 200. Maybe it's what I'd expect for an underexposed 400. I wonder if something is wrong with the way your camera sets its ISO? But that only seems like a part of the problem.

What lenses are these? The first one seems to be the kit lens. I'm not sure on the second two.

It's rather bizarre. I can tell, rather unhelpfully, that I get much nicer results with my D70s. (Do you have that firmware update for the D70?).

Do you have a tripod? If so, does a tripod shot at a middle aperture, with a fast-ish shutter speed, of something in bright light, and the shutter tripped by timer still look like this? If so, I'd say *something* is amiss, but I'm not sure what. Too bad you're so far away, or I'd say bring it over to my house, and try my 50 f/1.4 to make sure it's not the lenses.
posted by teece at 8:45 PM on September 5, 2005

It looks like the D70 puts the ISO in the NikonISOSetting EXIF tag. These all claim to have been taken at ISO 400.
posted by aneel at 9:07 PM on September 5, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the good feedback.

I very much understand the difference between an slr and point and shoot but the haze that I am getting is not normal. The pictures should at the very least be crisp out of the box I would think.

I guess what I was really looking for is a little validation from someone that has a D70 and experiences better results. aneel is right, all are at ISO 400 (or at least the last two are) – I really just took these three shots from the last batch of photos on my CF card pretty much at random. I have played around with a lot of the settings, but this haziness just won’t go away. After trying the reset options (two-button reset and reset button), I am convinced there is *something* amiss. After having an N80 for years, I am still a diehard Nikon fan, so I think I will send it up to Melville…any experience with Nikon warranty work? Not sure if I am better off just swapping it with a new one!

Not sure if this is kosher or not but could one of you who are happy with their D70 possibly send / post a couple sample shots at full resolution for me to compare? Really just looking for run-of-the-mill type stuff on full auto. Maybe one at ISO 200 / 400 and one at ISO 1200+.

Oh yeah - all shots were taken with the kit lens.
posted by GrumpyMonkey at 6:07 AM on September 6, 2005

Best answer: For those three pictures, here are your problems:

#1: Backfocusing about a foot. If you shot this with a larger aperture (say, f/8 instead of f/4.5) it would put her in the focus range, but that's still no excuse. Basically, it looks like you've got a backfocusing D70. This is a known problem, and can be fixed by either: A. Sending in to Nikon to have it fixed, or B. Sending the camera back and getting another. In the future, test your camera for backfocus once you get it.

#2: Looks like front-focus. Now I'm not so sure about you having a backfocusing D70. You might just be taking pictures wrong. Are you in AF-C (continuous auto-focus) mode, or AF-S (single-shot)? If you're in AF-C, your camera is constantly refocusing based on whatever focus sensor your priority is set at (usually middle, although it's easy to accidentally bump this if you don't lock it on the back). Also, you're shooting f/4.5 again, which, assuming your lens isn't a fast (f/2.8 or faster) lens, means you're pretty-much wide open. I'm guessin from the focal ranges on the EXIF data that you're using the 18-70mm "kit" lens. That's no good at f/4.5 at maximum zoom. Most lenses need to be stopped down at least a stop from wide open, usually a couple of stops, before they achieve maximum sharpness. Only very very nice, very very expensive lenses are sharp all the way open. f/5.6 or f/8 in the future. You can fudge this a bit if your focus is spot-on by using unsharp mask in Photoshop later.

#3: The problem is you used the on-camera flash. It's a piece of dogshit. Don't use it; it's simply not powerful enough. Also, your color balance is totally off. That's because you were shooting indoors, probably with two regular lightbulbs providing the bulk of 3000k illumination. Then you whip out your 5500k on-board flash, and the color balance goes all to hell. The proper way to solve this problem is thus: 1. Use an off-camera flash (may I recommend the SB-800?). 2. Gel the flash (put a piece of clear plastic over the flash head that's orangish in color for incandescent lights, or green-bluish in color for flourescents). 3. Set your white-balance to incandescent and shoot away.

Unless you completely overpower the ambient light, you're going to have color accuracy issues whenever you use a flash.

Hope this helps.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:02 AM on September 6, 2005

Best answer: Grumpy Monkey,

I will take some shots with my D70 for you. Do you want them in JPEG or in RAW?

I honestly do not believe your camera has a problem. I mean, you are shooting FULL auto under artificial light which is letting the camera choose aperture and shutter. Have you tried shooting in manual mode and using the in camera light meter to gauge proper exposure and looking at the results? If you do the following things and still get problems, I'd say you have a case:

1) Shoot on a tripod
2) In daylight
3) In manual mode with autofocus
4) Using the in camera light meter to select aperture
5) In JPEG mode
6) With a subject within relatively normal dynamic range (no extreme highlights or extreme shadow)

Otherwise, I think you have a case of not realizing that auto mode is good only for snapshots processed independently by a lab.
posted by spicynuts at 8:16 AM on September 6, 2005

Oh..and I forgot the very important number 6 - use the timer for shutter release so that you clicking the button does not add camera shake.
posted by spicynuts at 8:18 AM on September 6, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks Spicynuts, just for comparison sake, jpeg would be great. I will start shooting RAW but I mostly am trying to prove a point to myself now.

I will also try your reccomended steps and see what the results are. I have done most of them although not intentionally as a test and have not really seen a difference. I suspect that it is something that I am doing but I still think that even with the full auto at least a few of my pics should have come out clearly.
posted by GrumpyMonkey at 8:37 AM on September 6, 2005

use the timer for shutter release so that you clicking the button does not add camera shake.

Better yet, get one of these teensy-tiny keychain universal remotes to remote-trigger.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:41 AM on September 6, 2005

Ok, Grumpy..will do. You are going to have to give me several days though. Is that ok?
posted by spicynuts at 12:01 PM on September 6, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks Spicy, I appreciate it.

And Civil_Disobedient, that is cooler than grits!
posted by GrumpyMonkey at 1:26 PM on September 6, 2005

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