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Old Apr 23, 2011, 04:40 PM   #1
munkees
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example of Soft , sharp pictures

I am wondering does anybody have a link or pictures of the same subject that are soft and sharp so I can see the difference.
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Old Apr 23, 2011, 07:06 PM   #2
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Something.

And before someone asks, it's not a misfocus, I did manual focus with 10x liveview.

OP, the degree of sharpness can vary wildly from lens to lens, even between two copies of the same model. The above is pretty much what you can expect to see, one picture somewhat blurry, the other a bit sharper, with neither having much relevance to your own camera/lens combo.

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Old Apr 24, 2011, 03:38 AM   #3
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If you mean on Preview (adjust colour setting), then try these two. The top one (i think) is set to 0, whilst the bottom one has a soft setting that isn't very high.

What you discover with the soft/sharp setting is that you can't use it for any picture, it's very dependent on the right colours and textures. So i fyou whack in soft on some pictures it just makes it look badly focused.

I'm having constant discussion about whether some of my shots should sharp or soft, and there is no easy answer. Some look great with either. Although, there is a stylish thing on some to go soft. I'll try and dig another out.



IMG_5543_tonemapped by Tinman00, on Flickr


IMG_5546_tonemapped by Tinman00, on Flickr
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Old Apr 24, 2011, 10:50 AM   #4
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Curious as to why you are asking. Is a question of one format vs another with the same subject (i.e. phone vs P&S vs crop format DSLR vs full frame DSLR vs medium format)? Is it a question of lenses (i.e. consumer zoom vs pro zoom vs prime)? Is it a question of technique (i.e. hand-held vs hand-held with VR/IS vs consumer tripod vs pro tripod; or on-camera release vs remote release)? Is it a question of focus technology (i.e. various auto-focus technologies vs other auto-focus technologies vs manual focus)?

Many factors contribute to whether an image turns out "soft" or "sharp." Some end up being more important than others (i.e. some will be immediately obvious to any observer while others may only be obvious when the image is blown up or when viewed by those with some experience).

Depending on what your question is, I can try to add some other images to the one in the first reply that might high-light some of these differences.

My hunch is that you are asking because you are considering a gear upgrade and wondering if you are going to be able to notice a difference. This may be an incorrect assumption though. Maybe you just aren't clear what the two terms are referring to.....

Here is an example where you can see both sharp and soft elements:


It was taken hand-held looking down on a leaf on my driveway. The lens used had image stabilizing technology (termed VR by Nikon). The center of the leaf is in focus and sharp (though maybe not tack-sharp since I wasn't using a tripod, but it isn't bad). Portions of the leaf aren't perfectly sharp though (easy to see as you move toward the top of the leaf or as you travel down the stem). Also notice the difference in sharpness between the driveway in the lower right corner vs the driveway just to the left of the leaf. These differences in sharpness are a result of focusing: even though it was shot at f/5.6, the imaging plane isn't parallel to the leaf/driveway. If I'd used a smaller aperture, more of the image would have appeared sharp. However I was already hand-holding at 1/60 sec, so I really couldn't stop down any more without using a tripod.

Had I used a different camera/lens combo, all elements of the image might have looked a bit blurry, even the center portion of the leaf. How obvious those differences would be is a matter of conjecture. I'd have to shoot the same subject with different gear to point out how big or how small the differences would be and if they would be noticeable by average viewers.

If that is what you are interested in, I can try to oblige. Realize that the differences are going to be somewhat subject dependent.

This thread might be helpful. I started it as a comparison of depth of field with a full-frame DSLR vs a decent P&S. The images weren't taken to compare "sharp" vs "soft" but you might be able to draw your own conclusions. No phone images for comparision and the P&S has a pretty good lens for a P&S.
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Old Apr 24, 2011, 02:27 PM   #5
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Took a random shot with my best and worst cameras. Horrible subject, horrible lighting, horrible composition.

Here is the "best gear":



Leica M9, 50mm cron lens, ISO 200, f/16, 2 sec, on a Gitzo tripod with Markins head, remote release.

Here is the "worst gear":



iPhone 4, handheld, no flash, HDR off.

Both images run through "auto-adjust" in Aperture 3. The iPhone image is considerably softer (look at the text on the buttons especially), though it's hard to know how much is due to the lens/camera and how much is due to camera shake from hand-holding. There is distortion in the iPhone image as well, likely due to the very short focal length of the phone's camera paired to its tiny sensor. One would expect a very deep depth of field from the iPhone for this very reason, but little in the image is sharp. "Soft" image vs "sharp" image.

This also serves as a great example of garbage in --> garbage out. Neither of the images is particularly interesting. Gear can't compensate for bad choices at the time of capture made by the photographer....
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Old Apr 24, 2011, 03:28 PM   #6
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Unsharp by any means and soft focus are very much NOT the same.

You'd get good examples by looking at 80s fashion and beauty shots. (also some portrait and wedding photographers today.... :S)

Softing was very in at the time due to its ability to seem sharp but not crispy sharp and fortunately for the fashion guys some of the medium format cams did this naturally. This meant that skin looked nice and smooth opposed to today's lenses and cams where you can pretty much catch every single pore.

The closest thing I've come around it is the filter called diffused glow, which can produce awful results when not controlled.
Otherwise, pick up an old Pentax... or was it Contax, I cant remember.

EDIT: None of the above photos show what you ask....
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Old Apr 24, 2011, 04:19 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by legreve View Post
EDIT: None of the above photos show what you ask....
Are you sure? Do you know what he was asking? You may be right, but my suspicion is that my last post showed exactly what he was asking. The OP hasn't weighed in, but my gut tells me that the OP is struggling with a gear upgrade decision. P&S A vs P&S B. Or phone camera vs a P&S. Or P&S vs DSLR.

I can't imagine that the OP is a professional photographer looking for the nuanced view you posted. I mean honestly, do you really think a professional photographer would word their post this way? Would they even bother posting here?

Far more likely is that the OP is just starting out in photography and getting their feet wet. Not happy with their current images and trying to decide on gear choices.

I may be wrong, and if so I apologize. But I'm not sure references to 80's fashion photography really apply to the OP's question.
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Old Apr 24, 2011, 05:10 PM   #8
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Thanks for you posts, I will try to clear things up.

I am a beginner photographer, I am trying to make my photos better, it is like every thing, a learning curve.

I see post all the time here and in other forums people commenting that the images are soft, or soft around the edges, yet I do not see it. I am trying to understand what makes a soft image, what makes a hard, then maybe I can figure out how to make my photos better.

@kallisti

the leaf photo I think is a good example of what I understand. that the center is sharp but the edges are soft.

My next question what could be done to make the picture sharp all over? I understand this needs to happen at the time the photo is taken. I also understand that the lenses has limits, but with a good lens, what makes it take a sharper image, does the aperture need to closed a few stops down?
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Old Apr 25, 2011, 06:43 AM   #9
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Ok, thanks for clarification Munkees.

Regarding your question with edge softness. That is often common in lower class lenses. The build sacrifices the perfect cut of the elements inside, and in turn brings down the price.

Regarding the leaf, here's a situation of a narrow depth of field. Even though shot at 5.6 the photographer is up so close that the depth will soften out fast in relations to the leaf.
The softness in this case in actually unsharpness, but an attractive unsharpness.

You can obtain the same effect with many different lenses. A general rule (not completely true) is that the longer your focal lenght is, the less you are aperture dependant to get a soft look around your subject.
Fx. if you have a 135mm lense and you frame a persons face and maybe shoulders, the background behind the person would become soft (again... depending on the distance to the background), but you could also achieve something similar with a wide lense like a 35 mm, if you step closer to the person to once again frame the face and shoulders.
But in case of the wide lense you would need a lower aperture to get the same result.
On the 135mm you could probably achieve it even af F11, while with the 35 you'd probably need F2.8 or something near that.

I would suggest that you play around with it. Set your camera settings to AV if you can (meaning that you control the aperture and the camera controls everything else) and then try to do the same setups with different aperture values. Make big adjustments to really see the effect.

The lower the number, the more soft (unsharp really) it will seem around the subject.
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Old Apr 25, 2011, 06:28 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by munkees View Post
Thanks for you posts, I will try to clear things up.
My next question what could be done to make the picture sharp all over? I understand this needs to happen at the time the photo is taken. I also understand that the lenses has limits, but with a good lens, what makes it take a sharper image, does the aperture need to closed a few stops down?
There is no substitute for fine lenses. There you will find the holy grail of sharpness and image quality impossible to reproduce with any other aspect of your gear without that fine glass.. After all, the film or digital sensor can only record what it sees. How it sees, is through the lens first and foremost. Some refer to a well focused image that is not sharp as being "soft." This is different from what is known as "bokeh", which are areas of the image that are out of focus. Many (hundreds) of lenses can provide a sharp image once you have discerned what the "sweet spot" of a particular lens is, which means experimenting with aperture values, yes.

In my opinion, it doesn't make any sense to pay a fortune for fast aperture lenses only to have to stop them down to get sharp results..

Olympus has several digital lenses available that are sharp virtually from corner to corner, show none or very little chromatic aberration, and do not need to be stopped down for magnificent performance. I'm sure others know of the good lenses in their manufacturer's line up as well. Have you decided on a system yet or pondering entry?
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Old Apr 25, 2011, 07:42 PM   #11
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IMHO this thread is moving WAY off track in the wrong direction. This isn't (or shouldn't be) about expensive glass. Edge-to-edge sharp pictures are easily obtainable using the kit lenses on modern DSLRs. Stop down to f8-11 and virtually any modern lens is capable of tack-sharp results across the frame. The key is having a proper understanding of photographic fundamentals, good technical execution, and an appropriate handling of your shots on the computer (post processing).

If your images are being called soft, that is not shallow DOF. Soft images are blur, mis-focus, camera shake, subject movement, or poor/insufficient post-processing. There is a very clear difference between these, and it is easy to differentiate one from the other when looking at a photo. Someone knowledgeable in photography would not criticize a photo with too shallow DOF as being "soft". And if they do, they are misusing the terms.

Each of these topics is far too big a topic to cover in a single reply, but hopefully here is an overview.

I'd recommend you go out and read up on the concept of aperture and depth of field. Get a book if you have to, it might be more comprehensive and also presented better than a smattering of random articles on the internet. When shooting, you need to select the appropriate aperture for the situation you are in, so that the parts of the image you want to be sharp are in the zone of acceptable focus.

Getting the right focus is also key to a sharp shot. Autofocus works very well most of the time, but it is not a cure-all. If you take 5 shots of the same scene (especially in marginal light), letting the camera refocus it every time, chances are some will be a tad sharper than the rest. If your camera has live view, that is best method of getting critical focus on your subject.

VR, like autofocus works great for getting a usable shot, but again is no magic cure-all either. You will have to learn the limits of your gear, as to know what to reasonably expect from it. There is no substitute for a tripod or other appropriate support when tack-sharp results are desired.

Don't ignore the role that post processing has in the image creation process. Nearly all digital cameras have an antialiasing (AA) filter in front of the camera sensor that softens the image slightly. It does this on purpose, in order to combat moire (which is another subject entirely). No matter how good your glass, or how sturdy your tripod, you need to apply some sharpening to every shot on the computer to counteract the AA filter, in order to resolve all the detail your gear is capable of. Sharpening itself is a skill that must be learned, as it is easy to under or over sharpen an image. There is no magic formula that works for every image. Finally, there is a difference between sharpening the shots before and after resizing down for web posting. The shots you see on the web that truly have that extra crisp feel were sharpened again after they were resized down for web use.

Which of the above problems do your shots have? We don't know- unless you post some examples . Suffice it to say that if you can't get sharp results from the lens/camera you have now, going out and spending big bucks on a fancy lens or new camera isn't going to do a thing except make your wallet lighter. Garbage in, garbage out indeed.

Ruahrc

edit: kallisti's images are a great illustration of the above-mentioned points. The top shot, while well taken and in focus, has lost some of the crisp edges and fine detail of the full-sized original because it does not appear that any post-resizing sharpening was applied. I've applied some quick sharpening to the top shot, you can see how some of the fine details are brought back out, probably more like the full-sized original.

The bottom shot, the one with the "crappy gear", suffers from a number of (intentional) technical flaws. His shot is not "soft" because it lacks DOF, it is soft because the image is blurred by camera shake, and also is mis focused. See how the screw on the electrical socket is sharper than the words on the cooker? The camera is not focused on the right area. Notice how the amount of detail in the electrical socket is about the same in each shot? Had the iPhone been mounted on a tripod it would have produced a result probably indistinguishable from the "good gear" shot when viewed at these web sizes. It has nothing to do with the gear, and everything to do with how you use it.
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Old Apr 25, 2011, 09:56 PM   #12
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IMHO
Thank you for you great explanation and example, I will follow your advice and study more on Aperture and focus, plus practice more. For after image processing I guess it is time to play, I have some great photos, that I will play around with to see if I can make them a bit shaper.
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Old Apr 26, 2011, 10:54 AM   #13
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Munkees - If you have a Canon camera I'd recommend getting the very cheap (but very good) 50mm f/1.8 in addition to a good book. (Not sure if there's a Nikon equivalent?).

I learnt a huge amount about using aperture by both reading a book (I think it was Understanding exposure) then going off and playing with that lens by photographing objects and my long suffering kids at loads of different appertures etc etc
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Old Apr 26, 2011, 04:30 PM   #14
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Ruahrc nailed it. If all you want is sharpness, stop down to f8 with any decent lens, even the kit lens, use a tripod and count down timer (or cable release) and focus correctly. The in-focus areas will be very sharp, virtually guaranteed. Try this: using a tripod, use your best lens wide open, then at f8, then fully stopped down and view the results. The f8 image will be about as sharp as it gets, the other two about as soft.

If you want sharp areas in a shallow-focus image, you might need an expensive fast lens that performs well wide open to reduce spherical aberration or "veiling."

If you want deep focus for landscapes, architecture, or tabletop product photography you might need a tilt/shift lens to get everything in focus without stopping down beyond f22 and introducing lots of diffraction (google this if you're curious).

If you're printing wall-sized you might need expensive gear (full frame digital camera or better, etc.) to get "sharp enough" results. Otherwise it's really insignificant stuff so long as you practice good technique.

If you've got really specific needs there is gear to cater to them, but if all you want is sharper images, just be smarter about ISO/shutter speed/f-stop selection first.
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Old Apr 26, 2011, 06:15 PM   #15
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IMHO this thread is moving WAY off track in the wrong direction. This isn't (or shouldn't be) about expensive glass.

...

The bottom shot, the one with the "crappy gear", suffers from a number of (intentional) technical flaws.
Ruahrc, as mentioned by a previous poster, you hit the nail on the head. I was aiming there, but I think I may have missed.

For most non-professional photographers out there, gear is the least important element in whether an image ends up being a "hit" or a "miss." Composition and lighting play much larger roles. Using the correct creative exposure plays a much larger role. Good technique usually trumps good gear (if you don't know what you are doing, the gear is a waste). There are obviously instances where specific images require specific gear, but for *most* applications for *most* consumer/amateur photographers the gear isn't the element that makes or breaks the image when looked at in broad strokes. This isn't the place to quibble about the exceptions.

To the OP, I wholeheartedly agree with Ruahrc's suggestion about reading a bit more. Here is the Amazon link to the book he suggested:

http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-...3859085&sr=1-1

He has a newer book (which I haven't read) which supposedly sums up this as well as his other books:

http://www.amazon.com/Bryan-Peterson...3859167&sr=1-3

I think I would suggest the latter, though since I haven't read it I can't be sure it trumps his original.

Either should be a good starting place to branch out and learn more about photography.

If you get to the point where you start caring about lighting, I would suggest:

http://www.amazon.com/Light-Science-...3859407&sr=1-2

Finally, while it is generally frowned upon to refer people to Ken Rockwell's site, I think it can actually serve as a good starting point for people just getting into photography. He is poo-poohed by experienced photographers, but for those just starting out I think his site is actually extremely helpful:

http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech.htm

More specifically related to this thread:

http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/lens-sharpness.htm

Again, many people have issues with his views. Some are justified, but some aren't. For a beginning photographer, I think his site is a good read. He is biased. He isn't always right. But it can be a good starting place when you are still getting your feet wet. At the very least, his opinions can get you thinking about your images when you take them. Maybe even get you to start experimenting and shooting more, while learning and building experience in the process. Nothing wrong with that

Take his gear suggestions with a grain of salt, though in hindsight I've tended to agree with him. DPreview is a bit more objective (a big understatement), but I still find Ken's reviews (on the stuff he's actually used) helpful. Have to wade through his bias though.

Best of luck to you. Feel free to post your images in the photo of the day thread or just create threads asking for comments and critiques.
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Old Apr 26, 2011, 07:51 PM   #16
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Someone before mentioned the 50mm 1.8 Canon lens. If you shoot Canon or are planning to, This baby is the one to get for learning about shallow DOF on a budget. Here it's about 85 quid. Bound to be cheaper where ever you are!!
I got it and when I did it changed my photography life.

Also hunt down the strobist blog when you're ready. Off camera lighting?? Easy steps with this boy.

Books as well, that Peterson dude and Ansel Adams will sort you right out. Like someone hinted at before in this thread, the internet is good for info, but it's fragmented. Old school books man, it's what you want.

(Well okay! The web as well!! It is immeasurably resourceful !).
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Old Apr 26, 2011, 10:47 PM   #17
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Just a quick note on how to 'fix' soft lenses, I'm pretty sure all the new cameras offer what's called 'Lens Microadjustment'. This is something everyone needs to take a look at with each lens they own.

My 50 1.4 was terribly soft wide open (a problem fast primes are prone to having). When I had the 1.8 I didn't mind shooting wide open, but with this 1.4 I refused to because nothing was sharp.

Then one day while waiting in my car I was shooting my gauges and noticed a lot of fringing on the photos at the stark white/black lines on my speedometer. So I played with the microadjusting and watched the fringe go from green to purple and all places in between. When I got home I made a very contrasty image at the perfect iPhone retina settings and then focused my 50 1.4 on my phone screen and took photos, adjusting the microadjust setting up individual ticks until I found that at +10 my 50 1.4 on my 5D Mark II was about as sharp as I could hope for wide open.

I then tested it at various apertures and found f8 was the sharpest with the least amount of diffraction. YMMV.

SO, I hope that made sense. But give it a try on your camera.
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Old Apr 27, 2011, 05:09 AM   #18
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Just a quick note on how to 'fix' soft lenses, I'm pretty sure all the new cameras offer what's called 'Lens Microadjustment'. This is something everyone needs to take a look at with each lens they own.
Only Canon's higher-end cameras have that, it was even dropped from the new 60D so if you need/want it you're looking at a xD. (Or a used 50D.)
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Old Apr 27, 2011, 06:05 PM   #19
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Here is a "soft-focus" lens, designed to be sharp and diffuse at the same time. Cooke PS945:

http://www.cookeoptics.com/cooke.nsf...rgeformat.html

Scroll to the bottom of the text description to see links to examples from the lens in practical use from various photographers.

More examples:

http://www.betterlight.com/soft_lens.html

The effect is very different from using diffusion filters, smearing vaseline on lenses, tilt-swing, or any post-processing effect you can make in photoshop.

Of course, it is intended for use on a large-format 4x5" view camera, but could be adapted to some medium-format cameras (although at 229mm, it would be rather long on MF).
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Old Apr 27, 2011, 09:05 PM   #20
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Only Canon's higher-end cameras have that, it was even dropped from the new 60D so if you need/want it you're looking at a xD. (Or a used 50D.)
Wow, that's too bad. Maybe they didn't think enough people were utilizing it? If people can microadjust instead of sending in a lens for adjustment that would save them a lot of money I would think. (judging be reviews on Amazon, it seems people send in their lenses a lot for sharpness adjustments which, basically, is microadjustments to the lens, and even then it only matches up with your specific body)
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Old Apr 28, 2011, 03:41 PM   #21
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Just a quick note on how to 'fix' soft lenses, I'm pretty sure all the new cameras offer what's called 'Lens Microadjustment'. This is something everyone needs to take a look at with each lens they own.

My 50 1.4 was terribly soft wide open (a problem fast primes are prone to having). When I had the 1.8 I didn't mind shooting wide open, but with this 1.4 I refused to because nothing was sharp.

Then one day while waiting in my car I was shooting my gauges and noticed a lot of fringing on the photos at the stark white/black lines on my speedometer. So I played with the microadjusting and watched the fringe go from green to purple and all places in between. When I got home I made a very contrasty image at the perfect iPhone retina settings and then focused my 50 1.4 on my phone screen and took photos, adjusting the microadjust setting up individual ticks until I found that at +10 my 50 1.4 on my 5D Mark II was about as sharp as I could hope for wide open.

I then tested it at various apertures and found f8 was the sharpest with the least amount of diffraction. YMMV.

SO, I hope that made sense. But give it a try on your camera.
Most lenses are sharpest stopped down one or two stops. A previous poster stated that he didn't understand why people buy fast lenses and then use them stopped down. This is one of the reasons. The other reason being that you may really need the larger aperture and are willing to sacrifice a bit of sharpness to either isolate the subject or shoot with faster shutter speeds.

Rarely a lens is actually as sharp wide-open as stopped down. Often these lenses are VERY expensive--this is what you are paying for. Some professional zooms fit into this category. Some professional primes fall into this category (Leica being the obvious example). The theoretical sharpness of a lens doesn't always translate into differences that can be seen in an image however. Technique can trump gear (sometimes the case? often the case?). Or the lens can out-resolve the camera it is paired to. Image quality relates to the shooting conditions as well as the camera system taken in toto. You have to look at where the weak link is in a given lens/camera combo. Garbage in, garbage out....
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Old Apr 28, 2011, 04:55 PM   #22
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There is no substitute for fine lenses. There you will find the holy grail of sharpness and image quality impossible to reproduce with any other aspect of your gear without that fine glass.
....
In my opinion, it doesn't make any sense to pay a fortune for fast aperture lenses only to have to stop them down to get sharp results..
I actually don't agree with you at all and this is one of my pet peeves on photography forums. In *most* cases, technique (defined to mean both composition/lighting/exposure and the physical aspects of taking a photograph such as using a tripod or a remote/cable release) FAR outweigh the camera/lens used. Technique IS a substitute for "fine lenses," and is actually more important in creating "keepers" than most gear combos. There are specific types of photography that really do necessitate having specific gear to adequately shoot them. Nature photography, sports photography, low-light photography, macro photography, etc. That's fine. Specific applications may very well require specific tools.

But in general, gear isn't the "holy grail" many want it to be. Lenses and cameras are tools. Like all tools they have abilities and limits. They only become "better" tools if you are able to use them to create things that aren't possible with other, "lesser," tools. If your vision makes you gravitate to certain gear choices, that is cool. But "better" lenses (or bodies) just because they are reviewed by experts as better aren't going to make you into a better photographer. Gear doesn't create. The photographer creates. "Sharper" craptastic images are still craptastic images. Can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear....
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Last edited by kallisti; Apr 28, 2011 at 05:32 PM.
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Old Jun 23, 2011, 02:35 AM   #23
sharagim1
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Join Date: Jun 2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by wheezy View Post
Just a quick note on how to 'fix' soft lenses, I'm pretty sure all the new cameras offer what's called 'Lens Microadjustment'. This is something everyone needs to take a look at with each lens they own.

My 50 1.4 was terribly soft wide open (a problem fast primes are prone to having). When I had the 1.8 I didn't mind shooting wide open, but with this 1.4 I refused to because nothing was sharp.

Then one day while waiting in my car I was shooting my gauges and noticed a lot of fringing on the photos at the stark white/black lines on my speedometer. So I played with the microadjusting and watched the fringe go from green to purple and all places in between. When I got home I made a very contrasty image at the perfect iPhone retina settings and then focused my 50 1.4 on my phone screen and took photos, adjusting the microadjust setting up individual ticks until I found that at +10 my 50 1.4 on my 5D Mark II was about as sharp as I could hope for wide open.

I then tested it at various apertures and found f8 was the sharpest with the least amount of diffraction. YMMV.

SO, I hope that made sense. But give it a try on your camera.
i realy like ti micro adgusment for my all lens es,, canon 70-200,2.8ll
but i don"t know how?
any adive would be great
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