Thanks for the responses, they are all helpful. I knew this would be a learning experience and am quite enjoying it. My 35mm photos are also benefiting.
Typically, I learn by purposely making exaggerated mistakes (to see what they are like) and get more control as the pendulum swings less each time.
These particular mistakes aren't on purpose, though, and it's been a long time since I've been in this situation, so I'm a bit rusty.
This is actually what has spurred me to get better in general. The camera arrived on a very overcast day and I just had to test it, and thus had to use the lens wide-open. It was one of those "I took this picture?" moments, so I decided my photos don't have to be flat and boring.
Originally Posted by clayne
For focusing, at first I though that a slight change of position would be less important on a larger negative, but then realized the size of the lens is more important in this case (simple physics, so I should have known better).
I forget exactly, but they were fairly slow speeds on overcast days or in a forest when I encountered these issues. I can identify my motion blur in the photos, but the point of focus was confusing me.
Originally Posted by mwdake
I wanted to make a clever response, but can't find a smart-phone app for that
Originally Posted by Dan Fromm
Seriously, though, you're right. I do have some rudimentary knowledge, but unfortunately I still leave it to the camera most of the time. If I'm doing something specific that I actually have to think about, I do okay (by my standards).
I try not to shoot less than 1/60th in 35mm, faster if possible. I only did 1/8th and 1/4th in the forest while muttering something nasty about myself for being stupid enough to forget my tripod. I didn't care enough to go back and get it because I'm still testing and getting a feel for it, and actually the hike was the object, not the pictures. I had my 35mm for non-testing photos.
Originally Posted by ntenny
The screen is difficult. I'm getting better, but wonder if a different screen might help. The micro-prism seems to work best for me on this camera, but it's so hard to see, relatively speaking.
I think I'm not holding still enough. Also, back to the lens DOF, I think simply shifting my position after focus can make a difference even if it's only an inch or two.
I've never used a good coupled meter before - this one is really throwing me.
I've only used Sunny 16 a few times, but was pleasantly surprised with the results. Back to the crutch thing, though, this was only with meterless cameras. (Yes, I was too lazy to pull out my hand-held meter.)
When I used the AE-lock in dappled light and got a good image, I think it was by accident (it was the shadows). Is there an easy way to tell where the "spot" is? I'd like to think in the exact center, but something tells me I'm wrong.
Originally Posted by polyglot
Unfortunately, I use the settings to make the in-camera meter happy, not to make the image better. (Basically, "line-up the needles" in the 35mm.) This is a large failure on my part with any format, but it is a difficult habit to break. Oddly, I'm very much against this type of thinking with other things.
This is also my first experience with this kind of metering. I certainly knew about it, but didn't imagine how different it would be from my 35mm.
I think I will now work backwards thanks to your comments. I'll be very deliberate and methodical until I get the hang of it, and only then do my typical experimenting. It is also nice to get confirmation on some of my suspicions.
I'll see if I can post some crummy examples.
I'm not frustrated or complaining, just getting advice. I really like this camera and learning to use it is a lot of fun.
It does remind me of my "good" classical guitar. I've two, both purchased used. One is a La Patrie and very nice, especially considering it is factory-made and has a bolt-on neck (which you don't do with classical guitars).
My "good" guitar is of unknown origin; it had been literally smashed over someone's head in a bar fight, and almost completely rebuilt by someone who specialises in classical instrument repair. This was before I acquired it, and although we don't know it's original manufacture, it is for all intents and purposes "hand-made." Quite a superior instrument. I don't consider myself good, but am even "less good" on the better guitar. It really exposed the weaknesses in my technique - things not noticed on the other guitar.