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Bigtree
Nov 25, 2007, 10:30 AM
I have been into photography since 1970. I've had 4X5's and 2 1/4"s. I currently have Canon Digital SLR's. I have a 20D , 400D, Canon 100mm macro, and a Canon 70-200M F4L lens.
I'm not pleased with Canon's soft images! I see so many razor sharp images coming from Nikon. Granted, Canon's higher ISO's are better with less noise, but I want a razor sharp image!

So I'm I stupid for selling all my Canon stuff to buy Nikon, or should I buy the higher priced professional Canon? I really don't think if I stay with Canon the images will get much sharper.



compuwar
Nov 25, 2007, 10:45 AM
I have been into photography since 1970. I've had 4X5's and 2 1/4"s. I currently have Canon Digital SLR's. I have a 20D , 400D, Canon 100mm macro, and a Canon 70-200M F4L lens.
I'm not pleased with Canon's soft images! I see so many razor sharp images coming from Nikon. Granted, Canon's higher ISO's are better with less noise, but I want a razor sharp image!

So I'm I stupid for selling all my Canon stuff to buy Nikon, or should I buy the higher priced professional Canon? I really don't think if I stay with Canon the images will get much sharper.


Buy a good tripod and head if you don't already have one. Sharpness issues are due to three things- subject movement, camera movement and the AA filter used in DSLRs. If you really want to avoid the third, you'll have to go MF or LF digital or back to film. Shoot indoors on a tripod with MLU and a remote release if you have it and then adjust sharpness in post and see if you don't get acceptable results. I also tend to not put UV filters on digital cameras, so remove any filters while testing (I'm a fan of plain glass filters if the lens will take one.) You may also want to shoot a ruler to see if your lenses have front or back focus issues.

In my experience, changing brands doesn't help people who have sharpness problems, it's normally a technique or hardware problem.

mcarnes
Nov 25, 2007, 10:52 AM
Dude, you've been shooting that long and you still don't know how to make a sharp image? Yawn.

Bigtree
Nov 25, 2007, 10:53 AM
Buy a good tripod and head if you don't already have one. Sharpness issues are due to three things- subject movement, camera movement and the AA filter used in DSLRs. If you really want to avoid the third, you'll have to go MF or LF digital or back to film. Shoot indoors on a tripod with MLU and a remote release if you have it and then adjust sharpness in post and see if you don't get acceptable results. I also tend to not put UV filters on digital cameras, so remove any filters while testing (I'm a fan of plain glass filters if the lens will take one.) You may also want to shoot a ruler to see if your lenses have front or back focus issues.

In my experience, changing brands doesn't help people who have sharpness problems, it's normally a technique or hardware problem.


AA filter? You mean i.e. Smart Sharpening in Photoshop????
BTW I'm still using my tripod I used for my 4X5! I also use it every chance I get! I also use to work as a photographer for one of our local TV stations.

Bigtree
Nov 25, 2007, 10:55 AM
Dude, you've been shooting that long and you still don't know how to make a sharp image? Yawn.

DUDE I believe you don't know what sharp is.

davidjearly
Nov 25, 2007, 10:57 AM
I have been into photography since 1970. I've had 4X5's and 2 1/4"s. I currently have Canon Digital SLR's. I have a 20D , 400D, Canon 100mm macro, and a Canon 70-200M F4L lens.
I'm not pleased with Canon's soft images! I see so many razor sharp images coming from Nikon. Granted, Canon's higher ISO's are better with less noise, but I want a razor sharp image!

So I'm I stupid for selling all my Canon stuff to buy Nikon, or should I buy the higher priced professional Canon? I really don't think if I stay with Canon the images will get much sharper.

I agree with compuwar. The only reason the Nikon images appear sharper (excluding and hardware faults) is due to the Canon applying more gentle processing to its images. Sharpening can always be done in PP, and it can also be increased in the camera menu system.

I have to disagree with the comment about Canon dSLRs generally performing better with less noise at high ISOs. I find this to be the opposite and a strength the Nikon system has over the Canon, albeit the difference really is minimal.

David

Bigtree
Nov 25, 2007, 11:43 AM
I agree with compuwar. The only reason the Nikon images appear sharper (excluding and hardware faults) is due to the Canon applying more gentle processing to its images. Sharpening can always be done in PP, and it can also be increased in the camera menu system.

I have to disagree with the comment about Canon dSLRs generally performing better with less noise at high ISOs. I find this to be the opposite and a strength the Nikon system has over the Canon, albeit the difference really is minimal.

David
David,
You're right, I don't like the "gentle process". I feel like when I have to add "sharping" it is to make up for a poorer image.

Here's an example of an Nikon image from an Coolpix camera. I struggle to do this good. With a SLR! The second is one I shot with my 20D
http://gallery.mac.com/bigtree2/100128/DSC05116/web.jpg
http://gallery.mac.com/bigtree2/100183/M-20M-20Spider/web.jpg

BTW I'm NOT trying to be a troll.... Maybe the grass is green on the other side of the fence!

timnosenzo
Nov 25, 2007, 11:44 AM
I
I have to disagree with the comment about Canon dSLRs generally performing better with less noise at high ISOs. I find this to be the opposite and a strength the Nikon system has over the Canon, albeit the difference really is minimal.


I have to say that your findings go against pretty much every published test in regards to Canon ISO noise vs Nikon (at least up until the D3 & D300 were released, not sure about them). :)

To the OP, could you post some examples of the softness you describe? Do you shoot in RAW or JPG?

Blue Velvet
Nov 25, 2007, 11:49 AM
The first shot of the trout(?)-fly is overly sharpened; you can easily see the fringing around the unsharp masking. That's why it looks sharp when in reality, it's not.

I prefer the second image and if I wanted to sharpen a little in Photoshop before it went to press, I would do it on a copy. Personally, I wouldn't want master files, raw from the camera, to be overly sharpened in camera.

timnosenzo
Nov 25, 2007, 11:49 AM
Here's an example of an Nikon image from an Coolpix camera. I struggle to do this good. With a SLR! The second is one I shot with my 20D


Honestly, P&S cameras add a lot of sharpening in camera. You can do the same in post processing, or you can pump up the sharpening in camera. Most people would rather have control of sharpness in post.

Cave Man
Nov 25, 2007, 12:00 PM
Yup, first shot has undergone some kind of post-process sharpening. Was the second shot one you made with your 100mm macro? If so, did you shoot it as a JPEG or raw with post processing?

Bigtree
Nov 25, 2007, 12:02 PM
Honestly, P&S cameras add a lot of sharpening in camera. You can do the same in post processing, or you can pump up the sharpening in camera. Most people would rather have control of sharpness in post.

So why do I get super sharp pics right of the camera (these are the ones that smart sharpening doesn't help) and others smart sharping helps? Either pic still doesn't have that "bounce" of sharpenness? ( a pic you feel like you can reach in and touch it). Maybe I've been watching too much HDTV?

Blue Velvet, Are you saying you like the bit of softness?

Maybe I'm too critical... I believe quality is the one of the things we photographers have in our control.

cube
Nov 25, 2007, 12:06 PM
If you want sharp you have to go to a Kodak without antialias filter (possible source of other problems).

Now, I hear the AF of the SLR/c sucks. People say the SLR/n is a better camera.

I've been doing some tests with the 14n, which some recommend to avoid in favor of the SLR/n, and I'm quite happy so far (there was no SLR/n available here at the moment).

These cameras are much more usable today with the advances in RAW processing software as they were some years ago.

Blue Velvet
Nov 25, 2007, 12:06 PM
Blue Velvet, Are you saying you like the bit of softness?

I prefer natural. ;)

I honestly think you're confusing image quality with the perception of sharpness... if you do some reading up on how unsharp masking works, you'd realise it's not ideal to do in camera.

Bigtree
Nov 25, 2007, 12:08 PM
Yup, first shot has undergone some kind of post-process sharpening. Was the second shot one you made with your 100mm macro? If so, did you shoot it as a JPEG or raw with post processing?

Forgot to answer that question. I have shot both. Haven't worked with RAW enough to be sold on it's benefits. Should I be shooting in RAW and why?

compuwar
Nov 25, 2007, 01:05 PM
AA filter? You mean i.e. Smart Sharpening in Photoshop????
BTW I'm still using my tripod I used for my 4X5! I also use it every chance I get! I also use to work as a photographer for one of our local TV stations.

I found the tripod I used for my 4x5s and 5x7 wasn't sturdy enough for a smaller camera with a long lens- I also found I was less likely to lock it down with a small format camera. If you test with MLU on a locked down tripod and with a remote release and you're shooting a horizontal ruler and can rule out front or back focusing, then it's likely to be in the anti-aliasing (AA) filter and you'll have to sharpen in Photoshop.

Until you rule out all the rest, it's pointless to speculate too much- I shoot Nikon, but I get the same sort of results from Canons- and I've seen so many soft images from both systems that I'm convinced most of it is technique.

Test with both lenses and a ruler, then let's see what you get for results.

compuwar
Nov 25, 2007, 01:08 PM
Forgot to answer that question. I have shot both. Haven't worked with RAW enough to be sold on it's benefits. Should I be shooting in RAW and why?

If you don't work in raw, then the camera makes the decisions for you, and JPEG sharpening algorithms aren't predictable. JPEG settings for sharpness, saturation, etc. all vary from camera to camera, but I've never been satisfied with the defaults from any camera.

You're also letting the camera determine white balance and it's harder to post process white balance in a JPEG than in a raw file.

Bigtree
Nov 25, 2007, 01:15 PM
I found the tripod I used for my 4x5s and 5x7 wasn't sturdy enough for a smaller camera with a long lens- I also found I was less likely to lock it down with a small format camera. If you test with MLU on a locked down tripod and with a remote release and you're shooting a horizontal ruler and can rule out front or back focusing, then it's likely to be in the anti-aliasing (AA) filter and you'll have to sharpen in Photoshop.

Until you rule out all the rest, it's pointless to speculate too much- I shoot Nikon, but I get the same sort of results from Canons- and I've seen so many soft images from both systems that I'm convinced most of it is technique.

Test with both lenses and a ruler, then let's see what you get for results.
You mean this test?
http://gallery.mac.com/bigtree2/100191/len-test/web.jpg

Cave Man
Nov 25, 2007, 01:35 PM
Forgot to answer that question. I have shot both. Haven't worked with RAW enough to be sold on it's benefits. Should I be shooting in RAW and why?

Was that second shot with your 100mm?

The principal advantage of raw is that you get nondestructive unadulterated images and the most information possible. You can salvage poorly exposed raw images better than you can poorly exposed jpegs. I try to avoid jpeg unless necessary. I shoot raw, then export from Aperture versions to TIFF for pp in Photoshop. Do you use the highest JPEG compression setting on your camera? Perhaps you should try the largest jpeg setting with the minimum compression.

Also, keep in mind that most primes will be sharper than nearly any zoom, even Canon's L series zooms. Macro lenses, such as your 100mm, will also have sharp images from edge to edge, compared to the typical center sharpness (with some edge fall-off) of primes.

The sharpest lens I own is the Sigma 150mm macro, with my EF 85mm f/1.8 and 200mm f/2.8L right behind. All my primes (30mm Sigma, EF 50mm f/1.4, too) are sharper than any of my zooms at equivalent apertures and FL.

Can you post a couple of examples of the same shot from your 70-200 at f/4 and f/5.6? Usually the L zooms need to be one stop down before they become sharpest.

Below is a shot I took with my Canon 85 f/1.8 at f/2.8 and a 100% (800 px x 800 px) crop. It was taken as a raw image on my 30D with an umbrella and an old Sunpak flash, but with no post processing (other than saving as JPEG).

Westside guy
Nov 25, 2007, 02:39 PM
I'm not pleased with Canon's soft images! I see so many razor sharp images coming from Nikon. Granted, Canon's higher ISO's are better with less noise, but I want a razor sharp image!

Hey, let's have a Nikon user jump in here - all heck will break loose! (BTW if you're too impatient to read this whole post, at least read the third paragraph below)

dSLRs in general - including Nikons - tend to be softer coming out of camera. If you read the review sites, like dpreview, you'll likely see that Nikon dSLR images are even softer than Canon's by default - they bump up the Nikon's sharpness when they do those "compared to" shots (I know that's opposite of what a couple people said here, but go look for yourself - check out the D40x review, at the bottom of the comparison images vs. the XTi (http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/NikonD40X/page21.asp)).

But, in any case, I don't think you'll be happy switching - I see Nikon users occasionally saying pretty much the opposite of you, and asking "should I switch to Canon"? Neither brand has a lock on sharpness. When a person has problems with sharpness, it's almost always technique (and I'm speaking from experience! hehe). I know that sounds silly given that you've shot for so long, but especially with lighter digital cameras I think it's easier to introduce a small amount of camera movement. Plus there are gotchas with digital that weren't even present with film.

With that spider lure photo - at least some of the blurriness looks like it's due to the shallow macro depth of field (and the fringing on the other photo probably isn't in-camera sharpening per se, although the in-camera sharpening is exacerbating the CA problems the tiny lens + tiny filter have). You do get much greater apparent depth of field with the tiny sensor on the point-and-shoot. More importantly: that spider photo was shot at f/20 - physics is your enemy here because diffraction is definitely killing your detail (something you didn't have to worry about with film). Try it at f/13 instead - that's probably the smallest you can go on your sensor w/o worrying about diffraction (http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/diffraction-photography.htm).

Are you seeing sharpness issues with non-macro photos? The first thing to do is try shooting something similar using a tripod and remote release (if you don't have a remote release, set the shutter to delay a couple seconds after you depress the button).

But back to diffraction - if you need to shoot at f/20, you probably should consider a full-frame camera. The diffraction limit is related to the diameter of each individual photosite. Larger photosites mean you can shoot with smaller apertures. But the larger sensor will somewhat shorten your depth of field for a given aperture, so there's still a tradeoff.

P.S. I don't buy into the "primes are always sharper" argument. They're certainly sharper than consumer zooms; but Nikon has some pro zooms that match its excellent primes (and I'm sure Canon does as well).

Bigtree
Nov 25, 2007, 02:47 PM
Now THAT'S sharp!!!! Now that's what I'm talking about!!!!!!:)

Here is my 100mm
http://gallery.mac.com/bigtree2/100199/100mm-lens-test/web.jpg

Cave Man
Nov 25, 2007, 02:48 PM
With that spider lure photo - at least some of the blurriness looks like it's due to the shallow macro depth of field...

This is what I was trying to get at. Hopefully, he will let us know.

P.S. I don't buy into the "primes are always sharper" argument. They're certainly sharper than consumer zooms; but Nikon has some pro zooms that match its excellent primes (and I'm sure Canon does as well).

If you're referring to my comment, I suggest you re-read what I said. Otherwise, ignore.

Westside guy
Nov 25, 2007, 02:56 PM
If you're referring to my comment, I suggest you re-read what I said. Otherwise, ignore.

Oh, nearly. :D You're right; I didn't read your statement carefully enough.

I do think that diffraction is part of the OP's problem - hopefully he'll wade through my longish post far enough to see that (otherwise I'm repeating it here ehhe).

Bigtree
Nov 25, 2007, 03:12 PM
Hey, let's have a Nikon user jump in here - all heck will break loose! (BTW if you're too impatient to read this whole post, at least read the third paragraph below)

dSLRs in general - including Nikons - tend to be softer coming out of camera. If you read the review sites, like dpreview, you'll likely see that Nikon dSLR images are even softer than Canon's by default - they bump up the Nikon's sharpness when they do those "compared to" shots (I know that's opposite of what a couple people said here, but go look for yourself - check out the D40x review, at the bottom of the comparison images vs. the XTi (http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/NikonD40X/page21.asp)).

But, in any case, I don't think you'll be happy switching - I see Nikon users occasionally saying pretty much the opposite of you, and asking "should I switch to Canon"? Neither brand has a lock on sharpness. When a person has problems with sharpness, it's almost always technique (and I'm speaking from experience! hehe). I know that sounds silly given that you've shot for so long, but especially with lighter digital cameras I think it's easier to introduce a small amount of camera movement. Plus there are gotchas with digital that weren't even present with film.

With that spider lure photo - at least some of the blurriness looks like it's due to the shallow macro depth of field (and the fringing on the other photo probably isn't in-camera sharpening per se, although the in-camera sharpening is exacerbating the CA problems the tiny lens + tiny filter have). You do get much greater apparent depth of field with the tiny sensor on the point-and-shoot. More importantly: that spider photo was shot at f/20 - physics is your enemy here because diffraction is definitely killing your detail (something you didn't have to worry about with film). Try it at f/13 instead - that's probably the smallest you can go on your sensor w/o worrying about diffraction (http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/diffraction-photography.htm).

Are you seeing sharpness issues with non-macro photos? The first thing to do is try shooting something similar using a tripod and remote release (if you don't have a remote release, set the shutter to delay a couple seconds after you depress the button).

But back to diffraction - if you need to shoot at f/20, you probably should consider a full-frame camera. The diffraction limit is related to the diameter of each individual photosite. Larger photosites mean you can shoot with smaller apertures. But the larger sensor will somewhat shorten your depth of field for a given aperture, so there's still a tradeoff.

P.S. I don't buy into the "primes are always sharper" argument. They're certainly sharper than consumer zooms; but Nikon has some pro zooms that match its excellent primes (and I'm sure Canon does as well).

Wow This is GREAT! My head is spinning from all of this! Never heard of diffraction? How did you know I shot it at f20? When Marco shooting flies that are only 3/16" long, depth of field is so important, fly tiers want to see the whole fly. Hence, the f20. How do you have your camera set? As Cave Man pointed out with jpeg setting, is more important to have the right camera setting or get better in post-processing?

Cave Man
Here's one un-touched crop from my 70-200L shot at f7.1 this is one of my best, shot off of a mono-pod.
http://gallery.mac.com/bigtree2/100206/close-20eagle2.jpg?derivative=medium&source=web.jpg&type=medium

BTW What is you camera settings for such a sharp pic???
THANK YOU ALL!!!!!!

Westside guy
Nov 25, 2007, 03:35 PM
Wow This is GREAT! My head is spinning from all of this! Never heard of diffraction? How did you know I shot it at f20? When Marco shooting flies that are only 3/16" long, depth of field is so important, fly tiers want to see the whole fly. Hence, the f20. How do you have your camera set? As Cave Man pointed out with jpeg setting, is more important to have the right camera setting or get better in post-processing?

:) I knew about the f/20 because I loaded the photo into Photoshop. Most digital cameras embed a whole bunch of information in the photo - focal length, f-stop, ISO, shutter speed, etc. It's called "EXIF data". You can view it in Photoshop, iPhoto, Aperture, Lightroom, etc. You can also add additional information to a photo like your name, a copyright line, a caption - this is called IPTC info, but basically it's the same as EXIF. Then that information stays with the image wherever it goes, unless it's stripped out intentionally (such as with Photoshop's "save for web" option).

I don't really shoot macro much at all; but diffraction is something to be aware of with any type of photography. The thing is, I did know that macro shooters tend to use very small apertures - f/20 isn't something the average landscape shooter would usually use.

Assuming you use a Mac (or, say, Photoshop Elements on Mac/Windows) - I'd suggest shooting RAW rather than JPEG (as others here have also suggested). With the current tools available, it's pretty painless, and you potentially can end up with a better photo. Even if you just let your software do the default conversion, it'll be at least as good as what you're seeing out of camera - and you have the potential to better control the level of sharpening, color balance, etc. Plus on those odd shots where your camera mis-guesses the light (white balance and/or exposure), you can recover the data somewhat better - although you still can't salvage an almost-black photo. :D

If you do start shooting RAW, a good habit to get into is saving the original RAW image separately from any JPEG/TIFF/whatever you generate from it - that way you can always go back to the original and "try again".

compuwar
Nov 25, 2007, 03:53 PM
You mean this test?
http://gallery.mac.com/bigtree2/100191/len-test/web.jpg


Yep, looks like about 8mm or so of apparent focus- was the spider at the same aperture and/or handheld?

Bigtree
Nov 25, 2007, 04:23 PM
Yep, looks like about 8mm or so of apparent focus- was the spider at the same aperture and/or handheld?

No at F5 at 250.
I always shoot on a tripod and use a remote shutter release. (for ruler and flies)
I don't lock the mirror.
This is my light source and light box made from 2mm coroplast (for the back) and depron (foam for the front).
http://gallery.mac.com/bigtree2/100214/Softbox-side.jpg?derivative=medium&source=web.jpg&type=medium
How do you get such sharp pics?

compuwar
Nov 25, 2007, 04:29 PM
No at F5 at 250.
I always shoot on a tripod and use a remote shutter release. (for ruler and flies)
I don't lock the mirror.

Sorry, I actually meant was the fly hand-held- however I'd recommend MLU as you may be getting some harmonic vibration in there- worth a test anyway.

Bigtree
Nov 25, 2007, 04:35 PM
Sorry, I actually meant was the fly hand-held- however I'd recommend MLU as you may be getting some harmonic vibration in there- worth a test anyway.

No the fly is held by tweezers, then held by a clamp. What is MLU?

compuwar
Nov 25, 2007, 04:38 PM
No the fly is held by tweezers, then held by a clamp. What is MLU?

Mirror Lock-Up. Depending on the system/tripod/lens holding the mirror up for about three seconds then snapping the picture should help sharpness considerably if it's vibration induced softness.

Abstract
Nov 25, 2007, 05:09 PM
Here's an example of an Nikon image from an Coolpix camera. I struggle to do this good. With a SLR! The second is one I shot with my 20D
http://gallery.mac.com/bigtree2/100128/DSC05116/web.jpg
http://gallery.mac.com/bigtree2/100183/M-20M-20Spider/web.jpg


Is this just a depth of field issue? Other than the legs being out of focus, the 2nd image looks fine. :confused:

Anyway, the problem may be a poorly calibrated lens. The 70-200 mm f/4 is supposed to be VERY sharp....one of Canon's sharpest zoom lenses. It should be sharper than the 70-200 mm f/2.8 model, which is already sharp. The difference between Canon and Nikon isn't sharpness. If you don't get sharp images with a Canon, you won't get them with a Nikon either.

dllavaneras
Nov 25, 2007, 09:35 PM
If you shoot macros on a tripod and that studio stuff, you might find Helicon Focus (http://www.heliconsoft.com/heliconfocus.html) useful for combining many images with a shallow DOF into one with a large DOF. That way you can get sharp images by shooting at larger apertures, no diffraction and a large DOF for your pics.

(DISCLAIMER: I haven't actually tried it, but from what I've read it's pretty good.)