RvdK Photography - Tips & Tricks


How do I reduce the rolling shutter effect on the Nikon D800/D800E?

The rolling shutter effect means that objects in the frame become skewed and ripple when either the camera or the objects move fast or jittery. Some people refer to the rolling shutter effect as skew, the jello effect or wobble(1). It is especially noticeable during panning shots or fast-moving lateral subjects like trains. The effect is illustrated in the following video. Don't watch it if you are prone to motion sickness. Otherwise, look at the jagged edges that appear at the right side of the tall building.

All DSLR with CMOS sensors cameras suffer from the rolling shutter effect but not to the same degree. The pixels on CMOS sensors are read out sequentially, whereas pixels on CCD sensors are read globally. CMOS sensors have a rolling virtual shutter that exposes each pixel separately where CCD sensors expose all pixels in the image simultaneously. Any movement in the image between the first pixel is read and the last pixel is read causes the rolling shutter effect. In theory, that makes CMOS sensors not ideal for video, but the D800 proves it can be implemented very well. The rolling shutter effect is well controlled in the Nikon D800/D800E, compared to other DSLR cameras, by faster readout of the image sensor.

General guidelines for reducing the rolling shutter effect

Reducing the rolling shutter effect all comes down to shooting technique. The D800 has no settings or features to reduce the effect for you. Consider the following general guidelines.

  • Use a tripod to prevent camera shake and make panning smoother.
  • Shoot with the slowest shutter speed you can get away with. The motion blur can mask the rolling shutter effect to some degree.
  • Shoot with a (much) higher shutter speed to force the camera in a fast sensor read out mode.
  • Use a shorter focal length i.e. more wide angle so you can lower pan speed while covering the same area during panning. To avoid a cut in the screen, you can slowly zoom out when starting the pan and then zooming back in at the end of the pan shot.
  • Try to pan in the other direction. Depending on the way your sensor is read out, one direction will work better than the other. Right to left generally works better.
  • The fps is not a real variable during shooting (read here) but slower frame rates are more prone to the rolling shutter effect.

If a fast moving foreground is causing the rolling shutter effect

If you are panning with a fast moving subject, try to track the subject more precise. The requires a lot of practice however. You could shoot the scene more than once and pick out the version with the least rolling shutter effect.

An advanced trick for fast action scenes is as follows(2). Test out the amount of skewing that occurs if you record the scene. Now rotate the camera slightly in the opposite direction and record the scene again. With some trial and error you must be able to counteract the effect. The rotated image will make the scene look more dynamic as an added bonus.

If a static background is causing the rolling shutter effect

If you are panning a shot and the background is show a rolling shutter effect, you could try the following.

  • Lower pan speed
  • Zoom in more on the subject, thus showing less background
  • Choose a relatively smooth, simple or empty background
  • Use a shallower depth of field (lower aperture number) to throw the background out of focus

There are various software solutions to lessen the effect in post, some some more effective than others. It is always better to precent the effect form accoring by caryfully choosing the right technique.

  1. The rolling shutter effect actually is not one effect but a group of effects. While the jello effect and wobble can be considered synonymous, skew is actually slightly different. It is not the aim of this page to explain the effects in more detail.
  2. Source: http://www.panasonic.com/business/provideo/flv/rhc_vids.asp?video=vid9

Related questions:

Or go to the index of all Nikon D800 video questions.

"The photographer is a joyous sensualist, because the eye traffics in feelings, not in thoughts." (Walker Evans)
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