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05-24-2011, 07:48 AM   #1
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Sharpness

Ok, I've found another newbie question to ask:

How do I check if my lens is focussing correctly together with my camera?

I'm slowly becomming obessed with sharpness. I find myself deleting images because I find them to soft or out of focus, but my friends and family find those same images very sharp.

So, is there some way to check the sharpness of my setup?

05-24-2011, 08:28 AM   #2
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Checking sharpness and checking focus are entirely different things. For focus, I recommend a test chart like the one at focustestchart.com. Or, once you've fully understand why that chart was designed the way it was, you can construct your own. But most people fail to understand, and create invalid tests because they don't realize the importance of an unambiguous target. So study that site and the chart carefully.

As for sharpness there are resolution charts you can print and shoot once you're confident about focus. But I prefer real world subjects. Skin works for me, as does fur.
05-24-2011, 08:47 AM - 2 Likes   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Clavius Quote
I'm slowly becomming obessed with sharpness. I find myself deleting images because I find them to soft or out of focus, but my friends and family find those same images very sharp.?
I have a friend who was taught by Ansell Adams. He shoots large format and knows a thing or two about sharpness. It was very interesting, therefore, to hear him say a few weeks ago that we've become too obsessed with sharpness. If you're a bird photographer then yes, you can't be too sharp, but for most photography I do believe that we often miss the point of taking a photo, which is to create an emotional connection with the viewer, to tell a story, to present a view of the world, express an opinion. It's not about making an image so sharp you can cut people's eyeballs with it. May I suggest you have a look at some photos from years ago that aren't particularly razor sharp but which have impact, which speak to you. Try Cartier-Bresson, Erwitt, Capa. Ask yourself whether that's what you'd really like to aim for. There's nothing "wrong" with a sharp photograph, but there's a lot more to it than mere technical proficiency.
I hope that's helpful.
05-24-2011, 11:22 AM   #4
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Best solution for sharpness problems: print small.

I think it's worthwhile to do some reading and testing with a focus chart, to know how your camera works and get it to work for you. But unless you have a consistent issue in images, I would not go overboard, like testing every lens.

05-24-2011, 02:04 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Just1MoreDave Quote
Best solution for sharpness problems: print small.
Or, print larger, but view from a normal distance for the print size. Or view on a computer screen and size the image to fit the screen.

What *not* to is is print big then examine from up close, or view on a computer screen with the image blown up much larger than the screen (eg, "100%"). I mean, sure, do it if you like (admit it - we all do), but realize this has nothing to do with how people normally view images, so what's the point of worrying about this, really.

That's kind of like judging a car by how well it handles when driven at 140MPH.
05-25-2011, 01:26 AM   #6
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Thanks for all the replies.

I agree fully that I need to check if my setup focusses correctly, before I start checking for sharpness. So, I'm going to study focustestchart.com first.

I just want to know if I'm seeing a flaw in my setup, or if it's just me becomming way to obsessed.

Actually, I really don't mind taking soft image, if I intended it to be that way.
05-25-2011, 02:35 AM   #7
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A B&W image hangs in a corner of the room I'm in, the newsprint cover of a pulp art journal, an image of some impact. The original may have been quite sharp. This rendering isn't sharp yet is compelling. Searching for details is useless; but details don't define this subject.

* To produce a finely-detailed compelling photograph: EXCELLENT!
* To produce an image that remains compelling when muddied: COWABUNGA!

My approach: I try for the sharpest images possible, but I don't go postal if I'm less than perfect. And amazing fixup work can be done in PP.
05-25-2011, 03:23 AM   #8
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I fully agree...

But, I just want to verify if my setup is working as it should. If my setup is doing fine, then that confirms that I'm being way to paranoid about sharpness and focussing.

So, doing the focuschart thing will be my first point of action.

I just have to discover how I get my camera in a exact 45 degree angle.

05-25-2011, 05:05 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Clavius Quote
...

I just have to discover how I get my camera in a exact 45 degree angle.
Exact angle doesn't matter much. it doesn't matter at all if the camera focuses properly.
05-25-2011, 05:48 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Clavius Quote

I just have to discover how I get my camera in a exact 45 degree angle.
This focus chart sits at 45 degrees, so just get your camera level, and at the right height.
PENTAX DSLRs: PART-1. Free Autofocus Adjustment charts for front and back focusing problems. Good for Pentax, Canon and Nikon.
05-25-2011, 06:01 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by gp1806 Quote
This focus chart sits at 45 degrees, so just get your camera level, and at the right height.
PENTAX DSLRs: PART-1. Free Autofocus Adjustment charts for front and back focusing problems. Good for Pentax, Canon and Nikon.

MAGIC!

Thanks...
05-25-2011, 09:18 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
...That's kind of like judging a car by how well it handles when driven at 140MPH.
Kyle Busch!

QuoteOriginally posted by Clavius Quote
I just want to know if I'm seeing a flaw in my setup, or if it's just me becomming way to obsessed.
Well, maybe. This quote might be an indicator:

QuoteOriginally posted by Clavius Quote
...I find myself deleting images because I find them to soft or out of focus, but my friends and family find those same images very sharp...
You have already produced images with an impact, so they might be technically good enough. It's OK to get better if it makes you happier, but when it's only you seeing the flaws, your standards may be too high.
05-26-2011, 11:03 PM   #13
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If you think you are getting paranoid you probably are...
05-27-2011, 05:24 AM   #14
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QuoteQuote:
That's kind of like judging a car by how well it handles when driven at 140MPH.
If you're a fan of the program Topgear you know that 140 Mph is exactly the speed they use to judge a car.
05-27-2011, 06:34 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Clavius Quote

-------

I'm slowly becomming obessed with sharpness. I find myself deleting images because I find them to soft or out of focus, but my friends and family find those same images very sharp.

--------
You should of cource convince yourself that your camera focuses properly.

But "sharpness" then: Next time, before you press the delete button, you should perhaps rather ask yourself a few questions, essentially all circling around the same: Is this picture about as sharp as can be --- given the circumstances?

- did I shoot over heated ground with a lot of turbulent air/dust/mist?
- is this rather an issue of lack of contrast/flare?
- did I use the proper aperture and thus, did I get the proper depth of field from what I wanted?
- is it (if anything) the lens that could be better?
- etc.

There are also other factors to consider:

- do I tend to do excessive pixel-peeping, not because I need to, but because I can?
- do I compare with other pictures I have seen, that may very well have been subject to agressive post-processing? (Some day you may very well grow tired of that kind of "shapness")
- do I use in-body camera settings that corresponds to my personal preferences (sharpness, contrast, saturation)?

My advice is: Do not delete each and every of all those pictures that may have a fine story to tell and that may have preserved precious moments - and that may serve as valuable references as your skills and self-confidence develops.
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