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I am a beginner and I am finding more and more images to be out of focus or grainy when viewed on a computer screen, compared to the camera LCD. Could anyone give a step by step listing of the settings and adjustments you would do in such a scenario?

I use a 45-200mm F/4-5.6 lens with a Lumix G5.

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    The LCD screens on the back of cameras lie like politicians! – Michael C Jan 16 '14 at 9:43
  • The terminology for camera settings will be significantly affected by the particular model camera that you are using, as will the preferred technique by the capabilities of the lens that you are using. Particularly, the lens' maximum aperture will determine which focus settings will be most effective. – Michael C Jan 16 '14 at 9:46
  • You could try to zoom in on the LCD screen to get a better idea on how the photo look like – Yao Bo Lu Jan 16 '14 at 9:48
  • @MichaelClark could you please explain more on the relation between max aperture and focusing mode? I use a 45-200mm F/4-5.6 with a Lumix G5 – dbza Jan 16 '14 at 9:55
  • Many camera's focus system have various elements that only work with lenses with larger apertures. Narrower apertures allow for less accurate Phase detection focus, because PD compares the light striking opposite sides of the lens. The wider the entrance pupil (effective aperture), the less accurate (and usually slower) the AF. Most cameras compromise by having some elements that can only use wider lenses (like f/2.8 or even wider) and some elements that can function (albeit less accurately) with lenses that only open up to f/5.6 or so. – Michael C Jan 16 '14 at 10:16
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The focus question and the metering are separate aspects.

Yes, point-focus makes most sense, so you can know it's the focusing on your target.

If you have a continuous focus mode, you should use this over a single focus mode, and the bird will be moving. This does remove the option of focus and then re-composing.

If your photo's are all out of focus, this might be not the focus point problem, but blur from it being hand held, or on a tripod in wind. Also if you are at long zoom lengths the camera is more susceptible to vibration. Even on the a tripod if you have a SLR the mirror flap can induce vibration, and delay shoot can help with this. But to tell if its vibration causing focus problems, the whole picture would be out, where-as with the focus point problem, there will be focused objects, just not the ones you want.

The metering question is hard, as if the bird has high contrast, you will have different result based on which part of the bird the meter point is on. Now this might be why you inclined to spot meter to avoid the bush/sky aspect. If the bird is sitting still-ish, I'd be inclined to manually expose, throw a few shoots again until the exposure is ok, shooting raw helps here also, and using the exposure meter guidance help getting to right faster.

  • It is all very specific to the design of each camera/lens combination. Many advanced cameras use focus information to help determine metering results and vice-versa. – Michael C Jan 16 '14 at 10:19
  • I'm not sure how you comment relates. Is the work together, but the out of focus pictures is not a metering issue. Just like overexposed pictures are not a focus issue, thus separating them. The addition to the above answer I would as is, that grain, will be from high ISO, caused by low light, or to fast shutter, but with out known if they are in auto mode, or manual its harder to fix, but you can apply a noise filter is post. – Simeon Pilgrim Jan 16 '14 at 10:28
  • Many cameras use information from the focusing system when metering. Which area(s) of the light meter are given the most weight is often determined by which focus point is actually in focus. At the time I made the initial comment, we did not yet know what system the user who asked the question uses. – Michael C Jan 16 '14 at 10:39
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It really depends on a few factors. How good/fast is your camera's AF? How many AF points do you have? Is the bird moving and, if so, how fast?

If the bird is stationary, then point AF is ideal for getting the exact point in focus you want, but if the bird is moving and you have a camera whose AF system can handle it, using area autofocus is probably preferable, especially if there isn't much else for it to get confused about being the subject. It will be virtually impossible to get a good shot using point AF on a fast moving bird while also trying to get a decent composition, certainly unreliable.

As for metering, it really depends on the scene. Point metering is going to base the exposure on whatever part of the bird you are focusing on. That may help you out if shooting with a strong backlight, but it also won't take anything other than the metered point in to consideration. My experience has been that evaluative, possibly with an EC dialed in based on what I'm shooting, tends to work pretty well. This does depend on how good your camera's evaluative metering is though too.

With so much variation between cameras, it really is probably best to try a little of each mode and figure out what works best for you. Just be sure to actually review photos on a computer screen when determining what worked and what didn't because the LCD is not a particularly good way to check photos in detail.

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