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Old 09-02-2013, 10:42   #1 (permalink)
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Focus

I now this is going to sound daft.

I have been taking pics for a while and feel i have a good grasp of the basics
App, shutter, ISO and focus.

I only have a 18 -55 at the mo but I feel I cant get a crisp focus
without tinkering in Photoshop.

I have a bird font at the bottom of the garden. I tried all manner of setting
and also stuck it on a tripod with shutter release.

at 18 through to 55 I cant get a crisp shot. I use the spot focus and tried rear shuttering and all manner of things.

Could it be that the stock lens is just not very good.
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Old 09-02-2013, 11:20   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

Not so daft I think that this is more common than you would imagine. The 18-55 kit lens is adequate without being brilliant. When I returned to photography I bought a Nikon D70s and it came with the excellent Nikkor 18-70 kit lens which I think was an optional kit lens for other models too.

I list some reasons that could cause soft images either individually or in combination.

Camera shake. Seems you have covered this by using a tripod, but when hand holding you need to ensure that your grip on the camera and the way you hold it gives a stable platform. Tuck you elbows in and hold your breath. Firm but relaxed. Brace against a wall/tree/fence etc. Check that the shutter speed is high enough. Rule of thumb for full frame is same shutter speed or higher as the focal length. For crop cameras it will need to be a bit higher. This is assuming no stabilisation, but nevertheless is a good rule to keep in mind.
Focus. Are you using the focus point manually or leaving it on auto focus point selection? You say you used spot focus, but I think you are talking about spot metering - a different thing altogether.
Depth of Field. Varies with focal length at any given aperture and can be surprisingly narrow. Have you tried using between f8 and f16?
Poor quality lens. Some lenses can have build issues. If you suspect that the lens is falling short perhaps you could borrow or hire a good lens. The 50mm f1.8 is both cheap and excellent. The Nikkor 17-55mm f2.8 is both excellent and expensive!

All but the last point are technique issues, so this is really the first place to visit, but if you can use another lens it should highlight a lens issue with your kit lens.
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Old 09-02-2013, 12:47   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

Thanks for the Fast Comeback Graham.

Ruled shake out
Its on single Point AF which i in error refured to as spot metering.
have tried fast shutter with flash.Hi ISO with fast shutter err just looked grainy.
went though all the obviuse culprits. The glass lifting is a little noisy. looking if there is a setting how I can lift it out the way.

There is quite a lot of play in the focus bit when I manual focus. if you remember
back to when my uv filter had shatterd.

The lens has VR to.

I have printed out a focus chart. The focus close up at 18 isnt bad but not crisp as i have seen on other memebers pics.

May be time for a lens upgrade.
The hire a lens my not be a bad Idea to.
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Old 09-02-2013, 12:57   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

The one thing I omitted from my list was poor quality filters.

You do seem to have covered most of the bases, but I think it is worth noting the aperture and focal length with these pictures and do try some at between f8 and f16 and in the middle of the zoom range too.

Cheaper zoom lenses tend to suffer softness when using big apertures and/or the extremes of the focal length range.
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Old 09-02-2013, 14:29   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

Also switch VR off when tripod mounted, vr on can introduce shake. Got any sample pics we could look at. No offence but your expectations may be a little high and zooming in to 100% crop on the monitor always looks kinda soft, (I try to avoid it now lol)ts the nature of Digital photography to pixel peep and feel disappointed. How do they look printed to a4 ?
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Old 09-02-2013, 14:46   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazamonk View Post
Also switch VR off when tripod mounted,
Good point
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Old 09-02-2013, 16:08   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

Ye fair point. Taken same pick with my s3280. Will post both later to compare.
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Old 09-02-2013, 18:14   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

This is stright out of the Camera. All i have done is load it onto elements and reduced file size.

It was on a tripod and I used the 2 second timer instead of remote.

I know this should now be in the crit section so if it need to be moved feel free.

ISO 100
Focal Length 55mm
F number F/20
Shutter 1/6

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Old 09-02-2013, 19:29   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

Only looking at this on my laptop, but at f20 you might well be suffering from the effects of diffraction. What were you focussing on?
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Old 09-02-2013, 20:01   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

I normaly try for 2/3 in but this one I think I had the turret dead center. Tried lots of diffrent appature
and setting and they aways seem to be not quite in focus. Its not camera blur as its same on
fast shutter.
If it try manual I can get it crisp in the live vue and back screen but not on the pic taken

Just cant get a crisp shot for love not money.
I do think its somthing I am doing wrong just cant put my finger on it.

the d5100 has a delay to allow for the mirror to lift. going to try that tomorrow.
out for a walk in the hills.
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Old 09-02-2013, 20:32   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

On the settings you used the depth of field would be from about 5 metres from your camera to infinity IF you focussed at a point 10 - 15 metres from the camera position.

I don't know how far away the turret is, but on the settings you used the DoF should start from around 8-10 metres from the camera regardless of where the focus was set.

Quote:
I normaly try for 2/3 in
Depth of field extends about 1/3 in front of the point of focus and 2/3 behind it, (depending on the aperture and focal length) so using a focus point about 2/3 into the scene might compromise the depth of field closer in, but it should not make much, if any difference in this shot.

I guess at this point with what you have tried so far is to try another lens ideally back to back with your lens. If there is an improvement maybe there is a fault with the lens and perhaps you could return it to the shop. In fact it might be worth going back to the shop to try another lens on the camera.
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Old 09-02-2013, 21:35   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

I assume you're shooting JPGs as there's no mention of processing from RAW. Try shooting in RAW, process as you would do normally and then sharpen the resulting image. All images from digital require a degree of sharpening, the amount depending on their end usage/size of image
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Old 09-02-2013, 21:42   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

Quote:
Originally Posted by Markulous View Post
I assume you're shooting JPGs as there's no mention of processing from RAW. Try shooting in RAW, process as you would do normally and then sharpen the resulting image. All images from digital require a degree of sharpening, the amount depending on their end usage/size of image
Good point

You can set the jpg sharpening in a menu. I don't know what the Nikon default is as I've never used jpg on either of my last two cameras, but if the default is no sharpening, it could make a difference.

The contrast also looked poor so in the same menu you should be able to adjust the setting too. It is called Picture Control

Nikon | Imaging Products | PICTURE CONTROL SYSTEM

Nice one Mark
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Old 09-02-2013, 21:46   #14 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

I shoot in both normaly. But can't show raw on this. I do seam to get crisper jpg shot with my s3280 that's why I think there may be an issue.

If the snow holds of going to have a play tomorrow.
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Old 09-02-2013, 22:12   #15 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

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Originally Posted by Fiztastic View Post
I only have a 18 -55 at the mo but I feel I cant get a crisp focus without tinkering in Photoshop.
(looks like while i've been writing this there have been a couple of extra messages, neverthe less...

Mark has beaten me to it. Your first comment suggests that you have to sharpen. RAW is an unsharpened image. If you set sharpening to maximum on any of your picture/scene modes, you will only sharpen the jpeg image that is embedded in the RAW file. The RAW data itself will be unsharpened and this is then up to the photographer to add the sharpening that they desire. Sharpening is just part of the processes of manipulating RAW files and is usually the last action applied to the image.

You also mentioned that you unfortunately broke the filter. Did you replace it with a cheap one? Filters can influence the phase focussing and cause errors. I have had experience of this even with a respected filter brand and just use the lens without the filter now - only the one lens and only on one camera - weird (live view / contrast focussing is unaffected).

Another issue is storage habits. When the camera is not in use retract the zoom to its innermost point. If you catch it on anything then the risks of disturbing the zoom/focussing mechanism are minimised.

Graham has recommended a couple of good lenses that are great for sharpness. However, one that is often overlooked is the 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 VRII. I am very pleased with as it keeps on finding its way back onto my camera. It will give my other lenses a good run for their money, sharp, good close focus, lightweight and has an excellent VR that has allowed me to take some decent shots at 1/2 second hand held from a boat. It is half the price, half the size and half the weight of the 17-55mm. It only has the disadvantage of not having the shallower DOF or the ability to freeze motion in poor light like the 17-55 can. For an upgrade step I can recommend it and it would probably balance well on the D5100.

Just a few thoughts...
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Old 09-02-2013, 22:31   #16 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

I am realy appriciating this feed back.
Below is the raw file tweaked,cropped and corrected which is crisp.
I would have though the JPG would be at least comparable.

Now I have done this, I think it is less about the lens and more the quality of the Nikons
conversion from Raw to JPG as a crisp picture can be crated from the raw file.
I did try with and without filter with no noteable diffrence


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Old 09-02-2013, 22:38   #17 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

Diffraction will certainly be limiting resolution by f/20. If the lens is properly centred (i.e. well made) diffraction should be limiting resolution after you've closed down 2-3 stops. Or less, with an excellent prime lens - half a stop can do in some cases.

Using a tripod isn't in itself enough to stop camera shake. Some tripod/head/camera combinations are inherently unstable. The shutter speed is too long to reduce the blur if the camera is in motion, and not long enough for the motion to have damped down.

Impressions of sharpness are more determined by contrast than resolution. The image as shown is low contrast, and this could be very easily caused by lens flare from a greasy or marked filter or lens. Or even the lack of a lens hood.
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Old 09-02-2013, 22:39   #18 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

Your new version wasn't there when I was posting. I think that you've now seen the effect of contrast on apparent sharpness...
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Old 09-02-2013, 22:47   #19 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

Looks like we got there in the end

Have you tried using the ACR in Elements to do the RAW conversion?
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Old 09-02-2013, 22:55   #20 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

Quote:
Originally Posted by grease spot View Post
one that is often overlooked is the 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 VRII.
Good shout Graham I loved my 18-70 kit lens that you can now pick up for silly money used as I don't think it is made any more. I never used the 16-85 as I'd moved onto the 17-55 before it came out, so consequently, just as you said, it is not in the front of my mind unlike the 18-70.
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Old 09-02-2013, 22:57   #21 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fiztastic View Post
I am realy appriciating this feed back.
Below is the raw file tweaked,cropped and corrected which is crisp.
I would have though the JPG would be at least comparable.

Now I have done this, I think it is less about the lens and more the quality of the Nikons
conversion from Raw to JPG as a crisp picture can be crated from the raw file.
I did try with and without filter with no noteable diffrence
As you've now found out, sounds like you need to tweak the JPG settings on the camera - all dSLR images require sharpening, the amount dependant on the finished size of the pic (as well as lens focal length and quality), which is why there's a "no sharpening" option in-camera. Usually sharpening is the final process (i.e. adjust contrast, saturation, luminance, size for usage and then apply a final sharpen)
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Old 09-02-2013, 23:13   #22 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fiztastic View Post
Now I have done this, I think it is less about the lens and more the quality of the Nikons conversion from Raw to JPG as a crisp picture can be crated from the raw file.
AFAIK Nikon software is made by NIK software - a very respectable company. I now think that you need to look at your workflow in the RAW conversion. You might need to adjust some, if not all of these things: exposure, contrast, brightness, saturation and sharpening. The more right you can get it in camera, the less tweaking you will have to do in processing, but as Mark said - all RAW files will require some processing.

You can sharpen twice if you are using RAW. This first stage is often called input sharpening and you can sharpen again if you output to jpg in the converter, or in Photoshop if you save in jpg from there. I sharpen in 16bit tiff (that I edit in), then convert to 8bit and do my jpg from there. I don't usually do any more sharpening after the first 16bit sharpening.

As Stephen said

Quote:
Impressions of sharpness are more determined by contrast than resolution.
So there is more than one way to skin a rabbit!
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Old 09-02-2013, 23:16   #23 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

To follow on from Mark (again!) you will find adjustments to your picture control settings (p92 of the manual), where you can set the focus value for jpeg (including embedded). When you view these in photoshop's thumbnails you will initially see a sharp result of the embedded jpeg, but the RAW will still need sharpening.

Tip: If you use Live View a lot ...
I use neutral imaging for the embedded jpeg as this give me a better idea of the dynamic range, but you can do the following with your preferred picture control. Make a custom copy (p95) of your preferred control (e.g. SD) and make a custom control with maximum focus (+9). Use this in Live View for focussing. You will find that you can quickly focus accurately.
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Old 09-02-2013, 23:39   #24 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

Yayyyyyy Found it.
The Sharpaning setting was well down. Haven't been into this bit in the camera menu.
Everything else was at 0.

At least I now know I was not cracking up.

Thanks Guy's
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Old 09-02-2013, 23:46   #25 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

I do all my processing in Elements Graham and use its Inbuilt RAW software.
on saying that I am just getting used to the sharpening bit ie what all the sliders do.:-)
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Old 10-02-2013, 00:16   #26 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fiztastic View Post
I do all my processing in Elements Graham and use its Inbuilt RAW software.
Thought when you said this

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fiztastic View Post
Now I have done this, I think it is less about the lens and more the quality of the Nikons conversion from Raw to JPG
That you were using Nikon software to do the RAW conversion.

If you are doing your processing with Elements, there is no Nikon involvement in the process at all.
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Old 10-02-2013, 00:23   #27 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

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Thought when you said this



That you were using Nikon software to do the RAW conversion.

If you are doing your processing with Elements, there is no Nikon involvement in the process at all.
Sorry Graham
I was refuring to the In camera processes of change the Raw data to Jpeg.
Before all your help I didnt relise there were setting that could be changed
to affect this process.

I am a wiser man after today.
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Old 10-02-2013, 00:37   #28 (permalink)
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Re: Focus

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fiztastic View Post
Sorry Graham
I was refuring to the In camera processes of change the Raw data to Jpeg.
Before all your help I didnt relise there were setting that could be changed
to affect this process.

I am a wiser man after today.
Bit confused 'cos I thought you said earlier that the LCD image was OK. That might be because the screen is very small.

Glad it is pretty much sorted.
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