Why do almost ALL my pictures come out soft??

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

  1. Smoove910

    Smoove910 Golden Member

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    Well, look at the reasons WHY it's vibrating...

    1. Shitty tripod will probably vibrate because, well, it's a shitty tripod.
    2. If you have an L lens on a t2i body... well, there you go... I see it similar to putting a drag racing motor in a VW bug...
    3. If there's vibration in the body of the camera, look at why... you push the shutter button, the mirror has to then move out of the way so it can capture the image onto the sensor.

    Think about it, it will then induce vibration to the body. Now if you take your thought process one step further and think about how much those little tiny vibrations can affect something you are focused on at 400mm, then you can probably deduce why your pics might be 'soft'.

    What mirror lock-up does is exactly what it sounds like. It locks the mirror out of the way, so there's no action required to move it.

    que' no?
     
  2. waterjug

    waterjug Senior member

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    I guess I'm confused as to why that wouldn't be on by default, if it's that great. From what I just read about it, it locks you into single shot mode, so I guess that's a downside, but otherwise it sounds like it should be on by default for every camera, unless I'm missing something. I still don't get entirely what it is, or how it works.



    Dolica ST-400
     
  3. Smoove910

    Smoove910 Golden Member

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    In my case, it's not on by default, nor would I want it to be. Reason being I would need to hit the shutter button twice for a single shot. Once to move the mirror out of the way, and once to take the actual pic. Since I shoot HDR anyways, it doesn't serve a need for me since my tripod is nice and sturdy and my K7 body doesn't have much vibration that I can see.

    Only thing I can suggest is for you to take the initiative to look in your camera menus for it, enable it, and see if it is something you can make use of. Realize the camera is only a tool, nothing more and nothing less. Not knowing how to use the tool is like holding a screwdriver on a screw and not knowing how to turn it. I hope that it works to your advantage though!

    :)
     
  4. Charles Kozierok

    Charles Kozierok Elite Member

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    Here's a 100% crop of the image you sent me, waterjug, with my standard sharpening profile applied.

    [​IMG]

    IMO, there's nothing wrong with your camera or lens, only your technique and expectations.

    Look at the letters on the right-most battery. You can actually make out little jagged edges in the verticals. That's pretty decent detail for a 100% crop.

    A few things.

    1. Remember that when you look at an image from this camera on a typical screen, it is showing at 96 DPI. That means a 100% crop is like looking at a print of the image 4.5 feet wide by 3 feet high from a distance of 2 or 3 feet. Nobody actually does that with prints.

    2. Your shot was taken at 400 mm, subject distance 14 feet, f/5.6. Acceptable depth of field range is less than 1 inch from front to back with these parameters. Notice how you can see the jaggies on the far right battery, but not the one next to it, yet the one two over the jaggies are visible again? These variations are simply due to the different distances between the camera and these subjects. You can easily miss the focus.

    3. How did you focus this image? On which battery? Did you focus and recompose or use a focal point?

    4. Finally, ISO 400 is pretty clean on this camera, but ISO 100 is ideal. You'll get a bit more detail that way.
    [​IMG]
     
  5. slashbinslashbash

    slashbinslashbash Golden Member

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    You hit the shutter button once, and the mirror flips up and locks into place; you can't see anything through the viewfinder any more. You hit the shutter button a second time, and the shutter actuates, taking the photo, and the mirror flops back down.

    If you have a Canon camera set for Mirror Lock-Up and Self-Timer mode, the Self-Timer is automatically set to 2 seconds; hitting the shutter button the first time flips up the mirror, and the photo is taken 2 seconds later. This is the best method for 100% vibration free photos. Usually people only worry about it for photos between, say, 1/3 second and 1 second. But it will always give the clearest photo possible regardless of shutter speed (although it is of questionable usefulness for many subjects since it blocks the viewfinder). I generally only use it for landscapes where my shutter speed is greater than 1/4 second. But then, I have IS on most of my lenses.

    You may want to try renting a 100-400L IS and see if you can get better shots out of it. The aperture is the same f/5.6 at 400mm, and the image quality is not quite as good, but the IS will compensate for some hand shake/movement/vibration.
     
  6. waterjug

    waterjug Senior member

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    Thank You! That's a good point about the actual size; it's several feet across if I was to print it. The battery I was focusing on was 2nd from the right. Each time I changed the f/stop or iso I refocused. I did notice the jagged lines on the battery writing, I went back to see if there were actually any on the batteries...I had to use a magnifying glass but they were actually there. That impressed me.
     
  7. iGas

    iGas Diamond Member

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    Look like the lens focus slightly in front of the focus zone...perhaps the lens and/or body need to be sent in for recalibration.
     
  8. waterjug

    waterjug Senior member

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    also, what sharpening do you do in photoraw, i.e. where do the settings for sharpening usually end up in your final products?
     
  9. VorpalBunny

    VorpalBunny Member

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    Briefly skimmed all the responses. Lots of excellent advice, though I'm one for getting the shot right in the camera as opposed to post processing.

    I have a friend who shoots Canon and complains about sharpness while using a tripod. His solution was to disable image stabilization. I have a similar problem on my Nikon and even though it's not as bad, it's noticeable.

    A professional I was shooting with one day said many lenses shoot best not at either end of their aperture capability but rather two stops from wide open. IMO, two stops is a lot especially for your L quality lens. Still, I would at least try one stop down. I'm not sure just how much it will impact your depth of field, but it will probably help just enough to while still giving you that bokeh you're looking for.

    When situation is appropriate, I use a 2 second timer for my tripod shots. But for quick shots, I'll go high speed and capture 3-5 burst shots. First one will probably not be very sharp as my hand isn't steady when I depress the shutter. But the second one usually is sharp.

    Hope this helps in some way.
     
  10. kbp

    kbp Senior member

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    This is a tripod I use and have good results with. I would not really recomend anythig of lesser quality. And, I do backpac this one in with me most anywhere I go. The only thing I have changed on it is I now use a "ball head" mount.

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...ipod_with.html
     
  11. Smoove910

    Smoove910 Golden Member

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    A very solid choice (no pun intended).... especially compared to OP's Dolica:

    http://www.amazon.com/Dolica-ST-400-.../dp/B001MYL1AQ

    It's no wonder there's vibration.... the thing probably struggles just to hold the camera level. I never understood the philosophy of having a $500 body and a $1000 lens held up by a $20 tripod and wonder why the shots look like shit.
     
  12. randomrogue

    randomrogue Diamond Member

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    I missed this. That's a problem. Cheap tripods vibrate for quite a while so you would need to let it sit there for a long time just to stop moving, use a remote shutter, and not have any wind.

    Google some videos comparing tripods. Then buy a real tripod.
     
  13. xchangx

    xchangx Golden Member

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    Woah guys, lets take a step back. Don't shoot raw just yet. When you begin to learn the various adjustments then start using it. Check your picture controls in your camera. Make sure the sharpening is somewhat high (but not the highest).

    Make sure shutter speed is at least 1/640 on the 400. It could be a number of things; bad lens, camera shake, focus, etc....

    The 400 should be fairly sharp at it's max aperture. If not then you may want to send it in to Canon and have them take a look. That goes for all L lenses.
     
  14. xchangx

    xchangx Golden Member

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    Were any of those shots cropped? If so, can you post the full image?
     
  15. waterjug

    waterjug Senior member

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    those are all cropped, the originals were ginormous...should I post?


    Also thanks for advice, could someone just explain in dumbed down terms how mirror lock helps get a clearer shot? I must be missing something...
     
  16. slashbinslashbash

    slashbinslashbash Golden Member

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    When the mirror swings up and down, it causes the camera to vibrate. But these vibrations go away after a second or two. So you lock the mirror up, wait a little while, then trip the shutter. The mirror does not move again until after the photo has been taken.
     
  17. Fardringle

    Fardringle Diamond Member

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    Your tripod is incredibly inadequate for the camera and lens. Just breathing on that setup would probably cause some vibration (motion blur) in your photos. While the motion of the mirror in the camera causes very little vibration, it does cause some and that will be magnified dramatically by the weak tripod and the very long focal length. If you can manage to keep the camera perfectly steady on that tripod (not likely) then using mirror lock will eliminate that extra bit of motion from your photos. But it really won't help much at all compared to the difference you would see with a better tripod that can actually support your camera and lens.
     
  18. blastingcap

    blastingcap Diamond Member

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    Just use live view and self-timer or a remote trigger so you don't make a vibration with your finger.
     
  19. randomrogue

    randomrogue Diamond Member

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    It's been said a few times that waiting a few seconds is a good idea to let the vibrations settle. Or using the 2 second timer.

    I can't find the video but on a cheap tripod it takes longer than 2 seconds. I think the best tripods out there struggle to dampen 100% of vibrations within 2 seconds.
     
  20. SecurityTheatre

    SecurityTheatre Senior member

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    I'm really surprised to see everyone going on and on about post-processing sharpening, raw files, calibration, mirror lockup and the like.

    The problem (to my eye) is almost all motion blur, and likely almost all caused by that tripod. Holy crap, I didn't know they made tripods that cheap. Is it made out of cardboard? :)

    If you're shooting for 100% crops at 400mm, you need something heavy. You won't spend less than $200 (probably closer to $400), but since you already blew over $2000 on that kit, it seems reasonable to me.

    Seriously, the tripod is important. So is a good head (get a quality ball head). Don't get one of those crappy video heads with the handle like you have now, nor one of the 3-axis adjustment heads. They're not appropriate for what you're doing. The balls are very much superior for this type of shooting. There is also some technique to shooting on a tripod.

    Mirror lockup and 2 second delays, timers, etc are NOT appropriate for birding shots (generally). It's used for landscapes and astronomy and other things that don't move much. Forget what everyone said about that unless you're taking picture of stuffed birds or VERY still birds (owls come to mind). If you use it on moving birds with a 400mm f/5.6 lens, you're just going to get out of focus shots all day long.

    Remember, your depth of field is only a few inches.

    This is important. With your lens, your optimal DoF at 400mm f/5.6 is going to be just an inch or two. If you focus on the ass of a bird, you won't get a sharp beak. That's just a fact and something you'll have to deal with.

    Post processing is nice, and something you should get good at. If you want to do PP on 300 images per day and still have a life, you should really look into Lightroom (or something like it). It costs $150 and will save you an hour or two on EVERY SHOOT. It is not only designed to help you categorize your images, but also to batch process and manage the basics of editing quickly and easily. Import all your old photos and add a light sharpening to the WHOLE catalogue in 4 clicks. While you're at it, kick up the saturation and vibrance a bit for images that really "pop" (but don't overdo it). Not sure what your time is worth, but $150 to save me an hour a week seems totally worth it.

    Good luck.
     
    #70 SecurityTheatre, Nov 21, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2012
  21. slashbinslashbash

    slashbinslashbash Golden Member

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    We were not saying to use MLU for moving birds. Just to use it for test shots with static subjects so that he can figure out whether his focus issue comes from his camera+lens or his technique.
     
  22. SecurityTheatre

    SecurityTheatre Senior member

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    Fair enough. I wanted to make sure HE knew that. :)
     
  23. SecurityTheatre

    SecurityTheatre Senior member

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    One final thing. If you're posting 100% crops, it's best to say that. Many of the sharpest images you see likely are not 100% crops. Most cameras (due to their AA filter) do have a tiny bit of softness at 100% crop. It can be removed in post-processing, but comparing your shots to something you see in some other forum (unless it's labelled as a 100% crop), may not be apples-apples.

    Just something to be aware of.
     
  24. Throckmorton

    Throckmorton Lifer

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    A normal digital camera also interpolates every single pixel, because the grid is made up of alternating RGB pixels. So there is bound to be softness.
     
  25. waterjug

    waterjug Senior member

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    Thank you for your post! I'm getting a new tripod, I actually had a thread here a while back asking for leg & head suggestions.

    How do you remove the softness from the AA filter in PP? Just by doing what people already suggested, or is there a specific way to remove the softness? What I posted were small crops, that's about 20% of the image.