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11-19-2017, 01:52 AM   #1
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Maximum sharpness achieved? or lens not capable

Dear fellow forum members,

Introducing myself here for the first time on this forum. I am living in Italy near the famous northern alps. I enjoy and love all sorts of photography but in particular landscape focusing nature. Other than that, I do portrait photography either indoors or outdoors. I bought a K-50 body with the standard 18-55 kit lens 4 months ago and just last month after practicing my photography skills on the machine and looking at forums, I bought the famous Pentax SMC 50mm 1.7 M lens. So far, my photography hobby has taken itself to a great level.

Since earlier said, I enjoy landscape photography involving mountains, landscapes etc., I am still not convinced with the level I dream of from my photography since I have been looking some pictures at 500px which are sharp as a razor either close portraits or far distance landscape photography. For landscape photography, I use f 5.8 till 11 and select the best result however for close up I stay at 2 or 2.8. However mine aren't that sharp that I hope for. I am sharing my own photos here which I took in recent days using both the lenses I possess.

I would be happy to receive comments, critics etc. from the experts and suggestions of what lens I should buy for razor sharp photography (I do use a tripod with a weight hanging in the bottom of it to give extra stability). I prefer not to spend in excess of money (preferably below 300 euros).

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11-19-2017, 03:54 AM   #2
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Looks like your lens wasn't focused at it's best for the 3rd and 4th frames.
You can zoom in live view mode combined with optical DoF preview to set the lens focus for maximum detail.
If that doesn't improve enough to your expectations, you'd have to consider upgrading your camera to something like Pentax K3 or Pentax KP, the lack of optical anti-alias filter on those camera brings mode details in the images even with old lenses.
11-19-2017, 05:17 AM - 3 Likes   #3
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It depends a little on your personal "razor-sharp" standard, I guess. Frankly, I've seen quite a few images on 500px where people have gone completely overboard with regard to sharpening and adding clarity to the point where images look, well, posterized. Don't get me wrong: most of us will like our images tack-sharp where they need to be, myself included, but I think it's also important to resist the temptation of letting it turn into some sort of obsession.

That said, there is actually quite a lot that you can do to obtain that extra sharpness. Here's a selection (some of the points, likely, you will be applying already):
  • Watch your shutter speeds; the old reciprocal rule (longest hand-holdable shutter speed for, say, a 50mm lens being roughly 1/50s) is often too optimistic for today's high-res sensors.
  • Check your camera-holding and breathing technique, both general and in the moment of exposure (shooting and archery are instructive analogies).
  • For tripod work, disable SR, use the Mirror Lock-up feature, and get an IR remote control to eliminate camera shake; do critical focusing in LV, aided by zoom-in and Focus Peaking.
  • For hand-held macros, stop your 50mm down a bit more (F3.5-ish); that will maintain fairly nice bokeh while giving you closer-to-sweet-spot sharpness.
  • Many macro photographers, in hand-held work, will use a bobbing-and-weaving technique with a prefocused lens and continuous shooting (this is not spray-and-pray, just smart).
  • Shoot RAW and do your own post-processing with judicious (micro)contrast management and sharpening.
  • Use dedicated lens hoods.
  • Check your kit zoom for front- or back-focus issues, and apply microadjustments as necessary.
  • Rule out that you have inferior copies of your lenses, particularly with regard to decentering
The odds are that your lenses are perfectly okay, BTW. The kit zoom should offer you decent sharpness (with a little weaker corners, esp. at the short end), once you stop it down to about F8 or F11. From a classic 50mm prime I would expect beautiful, pretty uniform sharpness and high microcontrast from about F3.5 through F11.

Last edited by Madaboutpix; 11-19-2017 at 08:36 AM.
11-19-2017, 05:30 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by haroon88 Quote
Dear fellow forum members,

Introducing myself here for the first time on this forum. I am living in Italy near the famous northern alps. I enjoy and love all sorts of photography but in particular landscape focusing nature. Other than that, I do portrait photography either indoors or outdoors. I bought a K-50 body with the standard 18-55 kit lens 4 months ago and just last month after practicing my photography skills on the machine and looking at forums, I bought the famous Pentax SMC 50mm 1.7 M lens. So far, my photography hobby has taken itself to a great level.

Since earlier said, I enjoy landscape photography involving mountains, landscapes etc., I am still not convinced with the level I dream of from my photography since I have been looking some pictures at 500px which are sharp as a razor either close portraits or far distance landscape photography. For landscape photography, I use f 5.8 till 11 and select the best result however for close up I stay at 2 or 2.8. However mine aren't that sharp that I hope for. I am sharing my own photos here which I took in recent days using both the lenses I possess.

I would be happy to receive comments, critics etc. from the experts and suggestions of what lens I should buy for razor sharp photography (I do use a tripod with a weight hanging in the bottom of it to give extra stability). I prefer not to spend in excess of money (preferably below 300 euros).
You are already using a tripod which is the first step. Your equipment should not be a problem unless the lens is damaged. Use, live view, focus peaking, and zoom and your should be able to get there. Of course the wider aperture you are using will really give you a thin focus area, so with the focus zoom and peaking you should be able to pinpoint the focus.

Also another important step, If you don not already have it, get a wireless remote and set your camera to Remote Control (3 second delay), if you don't have a remote set it to 12 second timer, these settings will help you avoid shake from the mirror moving.

11-19-2017, 05:48 AM   #5
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If you don't have a remote, use the 2-sec timer, not the 12-sec timer. The 2-sec will use mirror lock up, the 12-sec will not.

Also, after down sizing an image (for web use) you should apply some amount of sharpening again to get that razor sharp look.
11-19-2017, 08:02 AM   #6
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Adding to what the other said, here's some other points to watch if you,re into getting the most details out of your pictures:

Keep ISO at 100. Picture #3 is taken at 1600 and you should not expect top IQ and details at this ISO if best absolute sharpness is what you're lookinbg for.

You didn't specify if you in RAW or if these are JPEG from the camera. If you want the best IQ, shooting RAW and PP are the way to go.

You also should have realistic expectations when comparing with pictures you see on websites like 500px. Many people there are using high resolution camera with high end glasses. Don't expect the same amount of detail from your K-50 and a 40 years old lens than with a 36-50MP FF camera with modern pro glasses. People aren't paying thousands of dollar for these kits if they could achieve the same results than with an 16MP APS-C camera and an old manual lens...
11-19-2017, 08:11 AM - 1 Like   #7
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Regarding landscape technique, for the absolute best IQ and sharpness a good tripod with a generous load rating (at least double the weight you will put on it) with image stabilization turned off, native ISO, remote shutter release, mirror lockup, aperture at the lens most sharp setting (the "sweet spot"), and for some scenes a polarizing filter. If the camera has it electronic shutter release may help in some situations to avoid shutter shock. For best focusing results I find back button focusing and focus peaking most helpful .

If you are still not satisfied using optimum technique and you want to do very large prints you may need to go to a full frame camera or even medium format to be entirely happy with your results. The K-1 is capable of incredible sharpness with good glass.

Last edited by wanderer2; 11-19-2017 at 08:20 AM.
11-19-2017, 12:07 PM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
Looks like your lens wasn't focused at it's best for the 3rd and 4th frames.
You can zoom in live view mode combined with optical DoF preview to set the lens focus for maximum detail.
If that doesn't improve enough to your expectations, you'd have to consider upgrading your camera to something like Pentax K3 or Pentax KP, the lack of optical anti-alias filter on those camera brings mode details in the images even with old lenses.
Thank you biz-engineer for your kind comments.
Regarding focusing, since they are at an infinite distance, I put my lens in infinity focus position and verify through zoom-in focus and it is the maximum focus I can get. Sometimes I wonder if the lens isn't exactly at infinity focus?
I would definitely had gone for a high end model of Pentax like you said but I am not willing to put a lot of money again, but for sure in future I would look into your suggestion. Thanks

---------- Post added 11-19-17 at 12:15 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Madaboutpix Quote
It depends a little on your personal "razor-sharp" standard, I guess. Frankly, I've seen quite a few images on 500px where people have gone completely overboard with regard to sharpening and adding clarity to the point where images look, well, posterized. Don't get me wrong: most of us will like our images tack-sharp where they need to be, myself included, but I think it's also important to resist the temptation of letting it turn into some sort of obsession.

That said, there is actually quite a lot that you can do to obtain that extra sharpness. Here's a selection (some of the points, likely, you will be applying already):
  • Watch your shutter speeds; the old reciprocal rule (longest hand-holdable shutter speed for, say, a 50mm lens being roughly 1/50s) is often too optimistic for today's high-res sensors.
  • Check your camera-holding and breathing technique, both general and in the moment of exposure (shooting and archery are instructive analogies).
  • For tripod work, disable SR, use the Mirror Lock-up feature, and get an IR remote control to eliminate camera shake; do critical focusing in LV, aided by zoom-in and Focus Peaking.
  • For hand-held macros, stop your 50mm down a bit more (F3.5-ish); that will maintain fairly nice bokeh while giving you closer-to-sweet-spot sharpness.
  • Many macro photographers, in hand-held work, will use a bobbing-and-weaving technique with a prefocused lens and continuous shooting (this is not spray-and-pray, just smart).
  • Shoot RAW and do your own post-processing with judicious (micro)contrast management and sharpening.
  • Use dedicated lens hoods.
  • Check your kit zoom for front- or back-focus issues, and apply microadjustments as necessary.
  • Rule out that you have inferior copies of your lenses, particularly with regard to decentering
The odds are that your lenses are perfectly okay, BTW. The kit zoom should offer you decent sharpness (with a little weaker corners, esp. at the short end), once you stop it down to about F8 or F11. From a classic 50mm prime I would expect beautiful, pretty uniform sharpness and high microcontrast from about F3.5 through F11.
You do have a good point about people going over-board to achieve the sharpness that are found on 500px.
- My shutter-speed rule is that, if possible, I go for 1/250 of second shutter speed for hand held shooting but I let the camera first determine what shutter speed is optimum for the given ISO and aperture setting.
- Camera holding (other than tripod) is probably where I am not a master yet. I will work on it.
- SR is automatically disabled when on tripod and the 2s timer is activated. The IR remote is on its way to me.
- RAW is always the selected image format.
- I will search for hoods info but if someone can suggest me here, it would be great and thanking in anticipation
- I rarely use kit lens but have no idea about microadjustments till now. Will google it.

Thank you very much for valuable comments.

---------- Post added 11-19-17 at 12:19 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by CarlJF Quote
Adding to what the other said, here's some other points to watch if you,re into getting the most details out of your pictures:

Keep ISO at 100. Picture #3 is taken at 1600 and you should not expect top IQ and details at this ISO if best absolute sharpness is what you're lookinbg for.

You didn't specify if you in RAW or if these are JPEG from the camera. If you want the best IQ, shooting RAW and PP are the way to go.

You also should have realistic expectations when comparing with pictures you see on websites like 500px. Many people there are using high resolution camera with high end glasses. Don't expect the same amount of detail from your K-50 and a 40 years old lens than with a 36-50MP FF camera with modern pro glasses. People aren't paying thousands of dollar for these kits if they could achieve the same results than with an 16MP APS-C camera and an old manual lens...
Thanks for your comments especially about the camera selection by photographers. I am, however, always curious that how far I can go.

Regarding picture 3, for astrophotography, 1600 is where stars would be captured in perfect brightness condition.

11-19-2017, 05:13 PM - 1 Like   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by haroon88 Quote
I would be happy to receive comments, critics etc. from the experts and suggestions of what lens I should buy for razor sharp photography (I do use a tripod with a weight hanging in the bottom of it to give extra stability). I prefer not to spend in excess of money (preferably below 300 euros).
Welcome to the Pentax forum!!!
For portraits, your 50mm will be fine, but if you want images that are sharper than your 18-55mm zoom, you'll need to consider a modern DA prime. I do not know of any new primes lenses that are 'razor sharp' under 300 euros. Perhaps you can find one used. The closest would be:

a) Pentax HD DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited
b) Pentax HD DA 21mm f/3.2 AL Limited
c) Pentax HD DA 15mm f/4 ED AL Limited

When I was starting out in photography, due to bank account and my lack of confidence, I spent a lot of time with cheaper affordable lenses. But they produced below my expectations. I was so frustrated that the day came when I knew if I were to continue with photography, I needed the best, even if it was more expensive than I could really afford.

All those cheaper lenses are long gone, but I still have and use the more expensive lenses decades later. Given that you have a respectable 18-55mm zoom, I'd recommend the 15mm prime.

On the telephoto end, the Pentax-D FA 100mm f/2.8 WR Macro is exceptional, and as zooms go, the Pentax HD DA 55-300mm f/4.5-6.3 ED PLM WR RE is very, very nice.
11-19-2017, 05:25 PM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by haroon88 Quote
I will search for hoods info but if someone can suggest me here, it would be great and thanking in anticipation

Happy to oblige, Haroon. As I don't know which of the various 18-55mm kit zooms you have, I'd always recommend getting the original petal-shaped, bayonet-fitting ones.

As for your smc Pentax-M 50mm F1.7, I would likely go with a rubber 3rd-party option. Not strictly dedicated (i.e. for that particular lens only), but close enough. This one by B + W is a quality item that won't disappoint in actual use (make sure that you get the 49mm size):
B+W 49MM RUBBER LENS HOOD #900: Amazon.it: Elettronica
11-20-2017, 12:56 AM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by haroon88 Quote
Thank you biz-engineer for your kind comments.
Regarding focusing, since they are at an infinite distance, I put my lens in infinity focus position and verify through zoom-in focus and it is the maximum focus I can get. Sometimes I wonder if the lens isn't exactly at infinity focus?.
Yeah, Harron, don't use the infinity stop on the lens, actually focus.

I suggest magnified Live View for landscapes.
11-20-2017, 02:12 AM - 1 Like   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by haroon88 Quote
- I will search for hoods info but if someone can suggest me here, it would be great and thanking in anticipation.
I agree. Using hood can help. I use cheap eBay metal hood for typical 50 mm lens. I didn’t add 1.5x crop factor when search for a hood because I try added a filter behind the hood for 50mm lens and I can see vignette at f1.7.

QuoteOriginally posted by haroon88 Quote
For landscape photography, I use f 5.8 till 11.
Concerning lens sharpness alone, may be this test chart can help a bit.
http://www.takinami.com/yoshihiko/photo/lens_test/pentax_normal.html
As see from the test, the sharpest f-stop for M50 f1.7 is f8. It might be a good idea to try f8 and make sure you nail the focus. Don’t trust the infinity mark. Zoom in to 100% using rear LCD to confirm focus.

I have the M50 f1.7 too, and I can confirm, at f8 it is really sharp. In fact, I also have FA50 f2.8 macro and at f8, I cannot see a difference in sharpness between the two in real-life shooting using K-3. Note that, FA50 f2.8 macro got the highest sharpness score regardless of focal length from the lens testing site above.

While I like both lenses, I am thinking about selling them to get a 55* for its WR feature. (in fact, I already put the1.7 on sale. the FA will follow soon)

Last edited by pakinjapan; 11-20-2017 at 02:34 AM.
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