Westminster fountain at sunset

by Jorge Córdoba

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I'm having trouble getting sharp pictures with my D7000. I've tried it with a 70-200 and 18-70 and produce the same results. I've tried AF Fine Tune with one of those focus charts, but the value of 0 (no change) seems to work best. I've also tried it with and without a UV filter, and it still doesn't change.

Here's a link to the pictures that relate to the issue: http://imgur.com/a/PaQyF

They were shot at 1/1600 and 1/800, respectively. I tried turning VR on and off, and no change.

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Here are the JPEG's out of the camera, all focused on the obvious subject: dropbox.com/sh/f61p4hv8x5p0jb6/rw4_Q7YKvM Thanks. –  C.S. Mar 11 '13 at 2:27
    
Have you tried focusing in Live View? –  MikeW Mar 11 '13 at 2:58
    
@MikeW I have, same issue. In fact, I've focused manually and I can't get past this softness. –  C.S. Mar 11 '13 at 3:12
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Sorry. I've looked and I've looked, but I can't see softness anywhere. I can see a very shallow depth of field (I believe the usual term is "razor thin") and sub-optimal placement of the plane of focus (and some obvious JPEG artifacts) but there is at least something crisply in focus in all of the images. If you want more in focus, you have to sacrifice background blur (bokeh). –  user2719 Mar 11 '13 at 3:26
    
So not back-focusing then. Can you try against something like a brick wall, from an angle, so that you ensure something must be in focus? This would help determine if it's just missing focus that's the problem, or some other issue. –  MikeW Mar 11 '13 at 3:45

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I see four main things based on the samples you posted:

  1. Diffraction
  2. Widest Aperture was used
  3. No post sharpening applied
  4. All subjects seem to be in uncontrolled potentially windy environments

One of the images you posted(with the most branches) was shot at f/16. I wouldn't expect this to be that sharp as it probably is way over the diffraction limit.

The others were on the other end of the spectrum, f/4.5 and f/5. I don't know exactly what lens you were using but I am guessing that is basically wide open for the lens. Usually shooting with the maximum possible aperture or "wide open" will result in less then optimal sharpness, especially with telephoto zooms like this. See this for more info: Will using a lens at max aperture ("wide open") result in poor images?

Finally the third item would be that your camera might not be applying any sharpening if you are shooting in JPEG, or if you are shooting RAW you are not applying any in post production. Typically images do need some type of sharpening applied, whether in camera or in post(but probably not both!). Some discussion around that is here: Why do photos look best without any sharpening?

This is what the shot at f/4.5 looks like with some simple sharpening in Lightroom at 100%: enter image description here

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Thanks a lot for looking through all of them. I completely forgot about diffraction and shooting at the widest aperture...my bad! Thanks for the sharpening tip - I always thought that sharpening in post-processing was undesirable, but now I realize it's necessary! I did some searching and realize that the "Set Picture Control" function changes the sharpness on the D7000...so do people actually change it in there, or is it more of a post-processing thing? Either way, thanks a lot for the help. I took some more pictures and they have turned out great. –  C.S. Mar 11 '13 at 3:59

I tend to agree with dpollitt, the images don´t really look soft.

Recently I´ve started shooting with the D7000 and it appears to be somewhat unforgiving at areas that are not exactly at the chosen focus point. Looking at the photos I would indeed expect a larger depth of field as well as a wider focal plane, especially the one shot at f/16.

Also I think you should take into account that AF Fine tune is easier with primes than with zoom lenses. With my 70-200 Sigma I did fine tuning at different distances and focal lengths to get an overall idea of where the combination of body and lens performs best and find an average. It is not uncommon to experience a bit of a focus shift when zooming in/out.

I don´t know what camera you were using before the D7000, but I have noticed - comparing it with my D3100 - it takes some time to learn to work with the larger amount of measuring/focusing options. For instance the custom setting b4 (size of the center weighted area) can have a remarkable impact.

As a sidenote, I think you should really try shooting RAW to make sure the camera does as less compression as possible. Make use of the captured data; in post processing you´ll simply have more information to work with.

Hope this helps!

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