Why do almost ALL my pictures come out soft??

Discussion in 'Digital and Video Cameras' started by waterjug, Nov 16, 2012.

  1. waterjug

    waterjug Senior member

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    why do all my pictures come out 'soft'. Well not all of them, but roughly 99.8 of them will. If I take 1000 pictures on a trip, I'll get 2 that are tack sharp and about 998 that are soft. I've been shooting with SLRs for 3 years now, and seen no improvement. I've gone from an XTi to a T2i, and from a kit lense, to a 55-250, to a 400mm 5.6L. I always shoot off a tripod. Good lighting & fast shutter speeds don't do a THING to diminish it. Good lighting, poor lighting, distance of subject, none of it makes a difference. I went from AI Focus on my AF Mode, to AI Servo, since the AF Mode seems to default to one-shot constantly. Barely made a difference. Switched to back-button focusing, nada. I've tried using multiple focus points, to just the center focus point, and aiming for the eye of the bird/animal I'm shooting. The eye still comes out soft.

    If you look at the examples below, the wren & the towhee came out pretty close to how I want them. Two very different lighting conditions & shutter speeds. Look how slow it is on the picture of the Towhee (black & rusty bird with the red eye), yet I still get a nice shot. That baffles me, since most of the time I'm taking pictures in well lit areas of stationary birds, at shutter speeds 10x what I did there, and they come out soft. Now the third picture look at the eye & bill of the duck. Soft. Look at the shutter speed, 1/1000th, off a tripod. Then the mallard head, aiming for the eye, off a tripod, with slightly higher depth of field, still comes out soft. I have probably 13,000 pictures like this. I just picked this one for example. I picked these 3 pictures because the subjects were all about 12'-15' away from me, so at least that's accounted for. I understand that I'm not going to get crystal clear shots of something 100' away, but the fact that EVERYTHING I'm taking comes out soft is enfuriating me. What am I doing wrong? I can post more 'soft' ones if needbe.

    Wren:
    [​IMG]

    Towhee:
    [​IMG]

    CanvasBack...soft
    [​IMG]

    Mallard-Head..soft
    [​IMG]
     
  2. randomrogue

    randomrogue Diamond Member

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    Glass makes a pretty huge difference. I admittedly am not that familiar with those lenses but that 400mm is probably your best lens and it's not that fast. It should be able to get a sharp shot though.

    I would do one quick test and that is go to a store and put a 50mm/35mm/85mm prime on it and see if you can get a sharp shot.

    Also, if you're comparing to shots you've seen in magazines keep in mind that post-processing really makes a big difference.
     
  3. Charles Kozierok

    Charles Kozierok Elite Member

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    Those images don't look soft to me. They appear to be about what you'd expect to get from that camera and lens at that distance.

    I could be mistaken, but you may be falling for the expectation that everything is going to be tack sharp at 100% on an 18 MP APS-C camera using a prosumer telephoto. It's just not going to happen.

    Randomrogue gives good advice -- try taking a picture using a sharp normal prime.
     
  4. waterjug

    waterjug Senior member

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    So with a better camera would they come out sharper? What I don't get though is why are the first two much sharper...



    I'll give that a shot; I have a 50mm 1.8 coming in the mail.

    The 400mm 5.6L is my best lens, it's from canon's (semi-)professional line. How would post-processing sharpen up the duck pictures though, like what should I do?
     
  5. waterjug

    waterjug Senior member

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    question 2: If I were to print these, would they come out fuzzy??
     
  6. Smoove910

    Smoove910 Golden Member

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    what F-stop are you using when taking your pics? I know all of my lenses have a 'sweet spot' depending on what F-stop I'm using... example, my DA 16-45mm has a sweet spot around F8. If you are shooting F5.6 all the time with your 400mm, I would suspect your shots to not come out as sharp as perhaps at F10. Maybe something to experiment with... try upping your ISO a little and using a higher F-stop.
     
  7. Charles Kozierok

    Charles Kozierok Elite Member

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    I'm not sure they really are. They just seem to have more fine-grained detail.

    It would be interesting to see the RAWs of these images.

    Will they come out fuzzy if printed? Not at a reasonable size.
     
  8. ElFenix

    ElFenix Elite Member<br> Super Moderator<br>Off Topic
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    what are you doing as far as post processing? your camera has an anti-moire filter placed right in front of the sensor which makes images soft by scattering the light just before it hits the sensor. images will need sharpening. how much sharpening depends on how you're going to view the image.
     
  9. waterjug

    waterjug Senior member

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    Those are all with 0 post-processing. I shoot in JPGs. I know people say to shoot in raw, but I have no idea what to do with the raw files.
     
  10. waterjug

    waterjug Senior member

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    the fine-grained detail is what I'm after :)
     
  11. blastingcap

    blastingcap Diamond Member

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    Test your lens with an unextended center-column on a tripod with all optical stabilization turned off, and using a self-timer or remote. Test it at various focal lengths and f/stops and ISOs. Without a control, your experimental variables are hard to decipher.
     
  12. ElFenix

    ElFenix Elite Member<br> Super Moderator<br>Off Topic
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    read the manual to learn what the settings do, there's sharpening settings and other things in the camera for jpgs.
     
  13. Charles Kozierok

    Charles Kozierok Elite Member

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    What I meant was the subjects vary in terms of fine-grained detail.

    If you are shooting in JPG, that's one thing you should change immediately. Always shoot in RAW. Especially given how cheap storage is now.

    It doesn't make your images automatically sharper, but it gives you more control over the process, and the ability to retrieve detail that can be lost if you shoot JPG.

    Use Adobe Camera RAW, built into Photoshop, to convert the RAWs to JPGs before editing, or if you like it better, a dedicated conversion program like Lightroom.
     
  14. waterjug

    waterjug Senior member

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    I've been shooting with it at 3 (out of 7) going to try 5 and see what happens.
     
  15. waterjug

    waterjug Senior member

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    holy moly, just looked up some quick tutorials on how to sharpen JPGs...makes a huge difference. May have to whip up a macro to run in batches.
     
    #15 waterjug, Nov 16, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2012
  16. finbarqs

    finbarqs Diamond Member

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    Looking at the last 2 images, it doesn't appear to have a perfect focal point, thus I believe it looks motion oof to me. Granted its on tripod, it could be the bird is moving a bit too fast for you. But the. Again, I would send the camera+lens to canon for repairs.
     
  17. waterjug

    waterjug Senior member

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    I've had similar results across cameras/lenses. Is there any test for what you were saying?
     
  18. waterjug

    waterjug Senior member

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    So I'd shoot in raw, then convert to JPG, then sharpen them in photoshop or whatever? Or I'd shoot in raw, sharpen them in photoshop, then convert to JPG? Just want to get it right!
     
  19. slashbinslashbash

    slashbinslashbash Golden Member

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    Shoot RAW, process RAW, convert to JPEG only when you're done.

    Something to consider is that some subjects are, well, soft. Bird feathers are like this. You can see the individual barbs on the feathers in most of those shots. But the barbs have tiny barbules coming out. They are fuzzy and soft and hard to see. Sometimes they catch light in a funny way.

    I would also do some tests. People make fun of test charts but if you're seriously having this issue (and it sounds like you are) then it would be good to print up some test charts and tape them to the wall and take some photos from the tripod, indoors, using mirror-lock-up and self-timer to avoid all possibility of vibration.
     
  20. Charles Kozierok

    Charles Kozierok Elite Member

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    Everyone has different opinions on workflow.

    I shoot in RAW, use ACR and process in Photoshop, and only sharpen at the end when ready to save a final file. Some people like to do a small amount of sharpening at the beginning and then more later.
     
  21. CuriousMike

    CuriousMike Platinum Member

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    My Sigma 17-70 is very soft at it's max aperture. I have to really clamp it down to get a sharp(ish) photo.

    F4 compared to F11 on a tripod
    [​IMG]
     
  22. finbarqs

    finbarqs Diamond Member

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    now that I'm on a computer, all the bird pics are soft... It seems to be similar in terms of focus. It still looks like everything is motion OOF. try shooting a still subject at the same distance, and the same focal point. Shoot something that has a lot of detail, a lot of lines, or just something that has detail in it. Then post it here again.
     
  23. waterjug

    waterjug Senior member

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    I'll get on that this evening; the first 2 birds were actually just sitting still, so maybe it's something with the lens.
     
  24. waterjug

    waterjug Senior member

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    I'm wondering if the lens is defective the more I read; everything I've seen from reviews/testing states that it should be sharp as a tack wide open
     
  25. twistedlogic

    twistedlogic Senior member

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    Try the battery test. Set up a set of 5 AA batteries, having them offset from one another by a couple millimeters, this would assure that it's not a back/front focusing issue.

    Also try shooting with Live View mode, as this will give you direct feedback of what your lens is seeing VS what's in the optical viewfinder.
     
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