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02-27-2009, 08:50 AM   #1
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Soft images in 16-50 lens with new k20d

Hello:
I previously started a few days ago a thread entitled New k20d owner with low ISO noise issue.

I received some excellent suggestions and information and this weekend will try to see what works.

I also am having, I think, some focusing problems with the DA* 16-50 lens and I know there have been issues with this lens model. I really want to keep the k20d and lens, but I am growing frustrated. This is my second copy of the lens and body.

If you look at the pictures I posted under my other thread they are examples of the best focus I can achieve. The indoor picture is generally in focus to the front and right of the picture. The rest of the picture is a bit soft. Not blurry, but soft. It was handheld with SR on. I did not include all of the EXIF information, but put in my post most of the settings. The outdoor picture of our home was handheld, with SR on, and also is a bit soft. I shot with a Nikon D300 with the 17-55 f/2.8 lens the next moment. I did this for both the inside and outside shots. The camera belongs to a friend of mine. It does not have SR (or VR) and the pictures are in focus and sharper.

The k20d camera was in natural mode with default settings and I shot RAW.
Last night I put the camera in **** JPEG mode, used Bright, and added +2 both to contrast and sharpness at the suggestion of another k20d user. The pictures had a more punchier JPEG look, but were no more in focus, though they did appear to look a bit better. I also have tried adjustments in Adobe Camera Raw.
My plan this weekend is to again try to test the front and back focus by placing the camera on a table or tripod, make sure SR is off, and have a set of 3 or four batteries about inch behind one another in a slight diagonal line and focus on the front battery and then go from -10 to +10 for focus adjusting. I did this the other day, and thought I turned off SR, but I think I may have left it on. My hope is that the focus just needs some adjustment. My fear is that the lens is not a good copy. I have been using high end telescopes for years and have a basic understanding of optics. I know the center generally will be the best in a fast lens and the things get softer as you go out. The Nikon 17-55 and the DA* 16-50, though are both f/2.8, albeit separated by about $500. And, the 17-55 is noticeably (upon inspection) sharper.

Can you let me know if you think I am on the right track and doing the right things? Do you have any other suggestions?

I have taken numerous pictures with the k20d, Nikon D300, and have a few dozen pictures from my living room with a Canon 40D to compare. Almost without exception the k20d is slightly soft no matter how many ways I take the picture. With the Nikon D300 I am able to make an almost exact settings comparison since I am shooting right then and there with both cameras under the same conditions and with as close, if not exactly, the same camera settings.

In addition, the Nikons images are more detailed. In the k20d close-ups of hair seem muddy. The hair in the Nikon pictures is visible as strands upon close-ups, but hair in the k20d upon close-ups is a bit muddy. Now, I know at that point I am pixel peeping, but I expected the k20ds resolution to meet or exceed the Nikon, albeit with more image noise. I am shooting indoors at either 100 or 200 ISO. At ISO 100 the DR is off, so that should not be causing anymore noise/muddying of details.

Am I correct to assume that if my images are bit soft the soft areas, upon closer inspection, are likely to look muddy?

Thank you all for your help.

02-27-2009, 09:09 AM   #2
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Trade it in for a Nikon.
I started with a Canon XS. It was terrible. Traded it for a K200d and it works much better.
02-27-2009, 09:11 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by lawjbm Quote
The hair in the Nikon pictures is visible as strands upon close-ups
You're pixel peeping? We already told you that will look different because of the resolution of both sensors
And what f stop are you pixel peeping for? If you're shooting wide open at f/2.8, that's no real surprise...

You might want to post where you are and see if there's a local Pentaxian who'd be willing to come over to swap lenses w/ you so you can take the lens out of the equation...
02-27-2009, 10:01 AM   #4
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Just curious.... You aren't shooting from a tripod with Shake Reduction on, are you?

02-27-2009, 10:32 AM   #5
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At f/2.8, DOF is pretty small. It's unreasonable to expect the edges of most pictures to be sharp at f/2.8 - not because the lens is weak, but because the edges are rarely at the same focal plane as the center. You'd need to post some back to back pictures with the same exposure settings from both camera/lens combos in order to discuss what problems might or might not exist.
02-27-2009, 10:52 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
You'd need to post some back to back pictures with the same exposure settings from both camera/lens combos in order to discuss what problems might or might not exist.
with *full* EXIF...

Actually, one other thing about pixel peeping and higher resolutions, another task for the OP to try: resize the K20D photo so it has the same resolution as the D300. Make sure you resize down and run a quick sharpen (sharpen is optional but works really well when resizing down)...
02-27-2009, 11:14 AM   #7
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If a camera that costs twice as much as another camera, coupled with a lens that also costs twice as much didn't outperform the kit that costs half as much then something would be wrong.

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QuoteOriginally posted by lawjbm Quote
Hello:
Now, I know at that point I am pixel peeping, but I expected the k20ds resolution to meet or exceed the Nikon...
02-27-2009, 11:23 AM   #8
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Sounds like something is off. I know the reviews I've read stated that the K20D had slightly more detail than the other two cameras you mentioned.

If you already have the D300, why are you thinking of switching? I like my K20D kit, but I'd probably like a D300 kit just as much. (Maybe - I'd really miss the shake reduction.)

02-27-2009, 11:25 AM   #9
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Thanx for your replies

Thanx so much for your replies. I am not able to post more pictures until later tonight, but perhaps I can better explain my perceived issue.

I took pictrures with the Pentax (when on the tripod and table SR was off) the D300 and have some recent Canon 40D pictures. I think I have the visible noise issues more or less figureed out, both in terms of what I need to do to take the picture and the best way to view it on my monitor. I just have to determine whether that is acceptable to me.

Regarding the softness, I am just talking about opening up both RAW and JPEGs in Photoshop and viewing them. The Nikon and Canon pictures look like nice focused pictures. Sure there's a blurry or soft focus photo here or there, but that was because of movement and normal stuff that can affect a pciture. The Pentax under the same conditions used just a few monents later or before almost always, if not always, turns in a slightly out of focus picture. At this time I am not really pixel peeping. Yes, I am looking closely, but not more so than when I am looking at other pictures. I can look at the Nikon and Canon pictures and say those are nice sharp photos. The Pentax pictures, though not terrible, are simply soft(er) despite sharpening and conrast adjustments in the camera and some RAW adjustments. I am pretty good with Photoshop so I do not think I am making post processing mistakes, at least nothing major.

I am shooting at f/5.6 and f/8 for these test shots, though, even at f/2.8 the Nikon lens is better and sharper than the f/2.8 Pentax. The Canon photos were shot with a kit lens.

And when I am looking at 100% cropsof details like hair I think I can account for different resolution/scale and the Nikon sinmply is better. I expect that to some extent. It is a more expensive camera. I di not expect it this much. My hope is that the lens is not focusing properly and if I can get a copy that does than details will be better. The 40D kit lens has better small details. Again, the Pentax pictures are not bad, but all that good.

Any other suggestions are appreciated.

Thanx again.
02-27-2009, 11:46 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by lawjbm Quote
Regarding the softness, I am just talking about opening up both RAW and JPEGs in Photoshop and viewing them.
You're going to have to put the full size images with EXIF up somewhere...
If you've tried two cameras/lenses, I'm not sure if it's a hardware issue at this point. Crank up sharpening in-camera or in post is the only thing I can suggest w/o seeing anything...
02-27-2009, 12:09 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by lawjbm Quote
Thanx so much for your replies. I am not able to post more pictures until later tonight, but perhaps I can better explain my perceived issue.

I took pictrures with the Pentax (when on the tripod and table SR was off) the D300 and have some recent Canon 40D pictures. I think I have the visible noise issues more or less figureed out, both in terms of what I need to do to take the picture and the best way to view it on my monitor. I just have to determine whether that is acceptable to me.

Regarding the softness, I am just talking about opening up both RAW and JPEGs in Photoshop and viewing them. The Nikon and Canon pictures look like nice focused pictures. Sure there's a blurry or soft focus photo here or there, but that was because of movement and normal stuff that can affect a pciture. The Pentax under the same conditions used just a few monents later or before almost always, if not always, turns in a slightly out of focus picture. At this time I am not really pixel peeping. Yes, I am looking closely, but not more so than when I am looking at other pictures. I can look at the Nikon and Canon pictures and say those are nice sharp photos. The Pentax pictures, though not terrible, are simply soft(er) despite sharpening and conrast adjustments in the camera and some RAW adjustments. I am pretty good with Photoshop so I do not think I am making post processing mistakes, at least nothing major.

I am shooting at f/5.6 and f/8 for these test shots, though, even at f/2.8 the Nikon lens is better and sharper than the f/2.8 Pentax. The Canon photos were shot with a kit lens.

And when I am looking at 100% cropsof details like hair I think I can account for different resolution/scale and the Nikon sinmply is better. I expect that to some extent. It is a more expensive camera. I di not expect it this much. My hope is that the lens is not focusing properly and if I can get a copy that does than details will be better. The 40D kit lens has better small details. Again, the Pentax pictures are not bad, but all that good.

Any other suggestions are appreciated.

Thanx again.
Well, I don't think you're doing anything extraordinary. In my opinion, the K20D shots should be just as good as the others, not consistently softer. Do you have another lens to use? I don't really pixel peep my DA*16-50 and I've been happy with it. Maybe it's not the sharpest? I don't know.

You should be able to "dial it in" with the AF adjustment, and I know you've tried.

Maybe it's your raw settings? Just for a comparison, try the Pentax Photolab software. That should give a good raw conversion and tell you if ACR isn't converting optimally.
02-27-2009, 12:46 PM   #12
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Have you tested to see if the camera back/front focusses a little?

One of the lemon K20d's I got (and exchanged) front focussed like crazy, but a slight front or back (that can be easily ajusted) focus may make an image appear soft.

Pat
02-27-2009, 01:32 PM   #13
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Hi lawjbm. I looked for the other thread with the example images, you refer too. Is this the K20 noise thread?

If yes: the posted images are too small to recognize any sharpness seriously. Further more you have made the faces unrecognizable - including the hair. So I cannot comment about whether single hairs are visible or not or whether they are in focus or whatever.

All in all I simply think, that it would be best for you to switch to Nikon. I know, that such decisions are at least as emotional as they are based on facts. And in your case, the emotions are pro-Nikon. That's not to critisize you, but just to help clarify things.
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02-27-2009, 01:33 PM   #14
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If you don't get a sharp image at f/5.6 with the 16-50 then something is obviously wrong. I would try to make sure that this is not a focusing issue. Try manual focus with focus bracketting, it's easy to do with a focusing rail, just move the camera a bit back or front.

Now it's quite possible that the 17-55 is a better lens but at optimal apertures in the center I don't think there should be big differences. Start from there. It's also of course possible that your 16-50 is a lemon...
02-27-2009, 11:01 PM   #15
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Thanx for the replies

I spent a couple of hours tonight taking pictures at various settings. I shot at ISO 100 with the flash and played around with the AF focus settings. I ended up getting somewhat inconsistent results, but ultimately the shots seem better. I was shooting JPEG, but just using the Pentax, not the Nikon.

I know some of you think I am trying to talk myself into the Nikon. I really like the k20d and like the extra thousand dollars I saved. My concern was that there was soemthing wrong with the camera and/or lens not that I wanted it to be the equal of the D300 or the Canon 40D.

I ordered the camera and lens from Amazon and they have been great with their customer service. I think all of my testing shows I do not have a bad lens.

I will play around some more with it and I have my frined who owns the D300 coming over to look at my various shots and give me some feedback. He is a very reasonable guy and I hope he can let me know if I am being unreasonable in my expectations.

So far so good, though, and I really do appreciate everyone's help.

Thanx.
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