10

I am trying to get my images sharp, but I always notice there are some blurry edges that are further from the lens.

I basically set my ISO to 100 and tried to work my way from there. Since I was using a tripod (no wireless shutter control but try to minimize the shaking), I decided that shutter speed can be slow (but I don't know if I should've made it slower to allow in more light so I can increase aperture). I didn't maximize my aperture to the highest, but I set it to something like F14, but I read that maximizing aperture and going downwards is the way to go.

Camera: Sony, ILCE-6000, a6000

Lens: E 3.5-5.6/PZ 16-50 OSS; 0.25m/0.82ft-0.30m/0.98ft

ISO: 100

Shutter Speed: 0.5"

Aperture: F14

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  • 6
    Possible duplicate of Why are my product photographs not sharp? One of the answers there has links to all of the other numerous duplicates of the same basic question here. Why do we really need another one? – Michael C Apr 26 at 0:23
  • @MichaelC, flag it as a dupe and move on? – Lamar Latrell Apr 27 at 9:58
  • What is the distance to the subject? It is relatively short, I assume? – Carsten S Apr 27 at 15:35
  • @CarstenS Yes, about 1/3 a meter and I zoomed in at the maximum when taking the photo to make it appear huge. – Pherdindy Apr 30 at 8:45

11 Answers 11

24

shutter speed 0.5 seconds

This is likely to be a bit of your problem. The shutter causes vibration of the camera. So, too, does your hand pushing the release button.

At faster speeds, this vibration does not affect the shot. Likewise, at very slow speeds (a few seconds +). But there’s a sweet spot somewhere between a second or two and ~1/30 where that vibration can ruin your shot.

If you have to use shutter speeds in that space, use mirror lock up and a remote release. If no remote, use MLU and the self timer.

Oh, and open up from f/14. That’s unnecessary. You should have plenty of DoF at f/8. Test with a DoF calculator to confirm.

  • 1
    This is the best answer. – relaxing Apr 25 at 23:57
  • 2
    BINGO! Half a second, even on almost all tripods, is too slow if the shutter button is being manually pressed with no timer delay. – Michael C Apr 26 at 0:36
  • Even better workaround for not having a remote release button is to take the picture with a delay (you know that function for family photos?). That way the camera has 3 or 10 seconds to stop shaking between you touching it and the photo being taken – Hobbamok Apr 26 at 9:39
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    @Hobbamok...you mean the...self timer...mentioned at the end of paragraph 3?... – Hueco Apr 26 at 12:01
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    The body in question is a mirrorless and supports remote shutter release with a smartphone app. – chrylis -on strike- Apr 26 at 18:41
7

It appears your aperture is still too open for the subject to be entirely in focus, at the current distance between the lens and the subject.

You could tackle this issue in three ways:

1) Close down the aperture

An open aperture will result in a narrow depth-of-field (DOF). The DOF entails the area in the image that is in acceptably sharp focus. Seeing as how almost the entire subject is in focus, I assume that -1 stop (so close the aperture by 1 stop) would do the trick. Note that lens diffraction becomes a significant issue when stopping down the lens to small apertures. Therefore, stopping down the aperture more than F/14 will increase the amount of subject in focus but will decrease image quality.

In short: open aperture -> little in focus // closed aperture -> a lot in focus

2) Apply the focus stacking technique

As per Romeo Ninov's answer. More work, but the best solution as a lens is usually at its sharpest 2-3 stops from its max. open position.

3) Increase the distance between your subject and the lens

Generally speaking, moving closer to your subject (as with macro photography) will get you a smaller DOF. This is especially the case if you use a camera with bellows. If you move the lens away from the subject your DOF will increase. To keep the subject the same size on the image, you will need to crop the image. Inadvertently this will result in a decreased image resolution and will also decrease the DOF. Do not increase the focal length to compensate for the subject size change, as this will leave the DOF unchanged from the previous setup. Do note that moving away from the aperture will also affect compression, which may be another unwanted by-effect.

How to determine DOF

Many lenses feature a scale to roughly determine the DOF at a certain aperture and distance to the subject. For a more accurate measurement, you could use a DOF calculator such as this one. You could also manually calculate DOF with the formulas on this page.

Best of luck!

  • So for product photography, a longer lens is better for #3, to get a close up version of my product and move my tripod away? It does make sense similar to how it's harder for our eyes to see things as we move closer to the image. My issue is that my camera lens was at maximum zoom and quite near the subject to obtain that size – Pherdindy Apr 25 at 10:46
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    I would argue option 2 is the best, and the third the least favourable. The latter affects, as I wrote, the compression of the subject and a compressed subject would look off for macro photography. You'd also have to deal with cropping, thus getting a smaller image resolution. Zooming is the same as increasing focal length, something you should not do, as I mentioned. – timvrhn Apr 25 at 10:51
  • Thanks will look into the post a bit more in depth. – Pherdindy Apr 25 at 10:57
  • Note that DoF Master assumes a display size and viewing distance of 8x10 inches @ 10-12 inches by a viewer with 20/20 vision (as do most DoF scales printed on lenses, which usually also assume a 35mm frame size). Any change to any of these variables and the DoF will also change. For a DoF calculator that allows such variables to be entered, press the 'show advanced' button at Cambridge in Color's DoF calc. – Michael C Apr 26 at 0:33
  • @MichaelC I would argue that it does not necessarily take away all the extra DOF you created. That is highly dependent on the severity of the crop. Cropping will, naturally, take away resolution, and I already mentioned the third option is not favourable. It would work however, so a downvote is unjustified. Regardless, I have added the extra information to my answer – timvrhn Apr 26 at 6:12
6

Based on the article posted here, it seems that this lens sharpness does not increase with aperture size reduction:

https://www.imaging-resource.com/lenses/sony/e-16-50mm-f3.5-5.6-pz-oss-selp1650/review/

Sharpness At 16mm and f/3.5, the Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ OSS is fairly soft in the corners and across much of the frame, but the very center of the frame remains fairly sharp. As you stop down, f/5.6 and f/8 appear to be the sweet spot with the largest center area of sharpness; however, the far corners still remain relatively soft. Zoomed in to 35mm, overall sharpness improves, and at f/8, the corners start to look pretty good, although still not tack sharp. At 50mm, you'll see the best results at f/8. Based on the numbers, the best results overall are at 35mm at f/8.

Strangely, at 16mm at f/8, we saw the largest difference between sharpness at the center vs. the corners. The center of the frame was quite sharp, but the corners, conversely, were very soft. This is unusual in our experience; normally sharpness becomes more uniform across the frame as you stop down.

At all focal lengths, once you stop down to f/16 and beyond, diffraction limiting sets in, and you'll begin to see significant loss in image sharpness.

Based on your experiments, it seems that you have reached the optical peak performance of the lens.

The same behaviour was noticed by the people at DXOMark https://www.dxomark.com/Lenses/Sony/Sony-E16-50mm-F35-56

Sharpness 6 P-Mpix

Chistopher Frost reached the same conclusion in his review video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bh7xbdKG-oc

Are you able to rent / borrow other non-kit lens to test them?

  • 2
    This is the most useful answer, only because it gives OP specific advice about their lens. 35mm + F/8 is where you want to be with this lens. With that nailed down, OP can then look to other issues like camera shake and shutter speed. – J... Apr 25 at 13:34
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    Not much to do with "this lens" - f/14 on a high resolution APS-C camera gets you into diffraction and sensor dirt territory .... – rackandboneman Apr 25 at 15:35
  • Well, something to do with this lens: the SELP1650 at its widest only works acceptably at all because of HEAVY electronic correction, which can reduce resolution in the corners. – rackandboneman Apr 25 at 15:37
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    A lens being sharpest at F5.6-8 is true for nearly all lenses. OP's problem, trying to get an entire subject in focus, is a depth of field, not sharpness, issue. – xiota Apr 25 at 15:47
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    @xiota Yes, but F/8 on an APS-C body @ 35mm should have no problem getting that entire box in focus with a reasonable shooting distance unless the lens is just brutally mushy in the corners. Beyond any lens cheapness, OP is really fighting camera shake here, I think. – J... Apr 25 at 15:56
5

To get the entirety of a subject in focus, you need to increase Depth of Field.

  • Increase F-number (decrease aperture). I would not use an aperture smaller than F8-11 because of diffraction.

  • Increase distance.

  • Decrease focal length.

Another technique you can consider using is tilt-shift. This allows you to align the focal plane with your subject. Since you are using mirrorless, you can buy a relatively inexpensive mount adapter with tilt function to use with a full-frame lens.

Try searching for "tilt shift lens mount adapter" on your favorite shopping sites.

  • Tilting mount is basically the thing on the tripod, if i'm not mistaken, where you can point the camera up or down? – Pherdindy Apr 25 at 10:59
  • No, you'll need bellows or an adapter for that. You tilt the lens, not the entire camera – timvrhn Apr 25 at 11:01
  • Okay thanks complete noob to this lol. Gonna spend time to read on the stuff in this post – Pherdindy Apr 25 at 11:03
  • Cropping results in losing the DoF you just gained because you are increasing the enlargement ratio. The more you magnify blur, the more blurry it looks. – Michael C Apr 26 at 0:28
4

Increasing the aperture will increase the effect of diffraction. To make photos with big DoF you need to apply technique as focus stacking.

Focus stacking (also known as focal plane merging and z-stacking or focus blending) is a digital image processing technique which combines multiple images taken at different focus distances to give a resulting image with a greater depth of field (DOF) than any of the individual source images. Focus stacking can be used in any situation where individual images have a very shallow depth of field; macro photography and optical microscopy are two typical examples. Focus stacking can also be useful in landscape photography.

And also use some kind of remote shutter to minimize the camera movement

  • or the timer which is in most cameras so it will release a couple of seconds later instead of the remote shutter... if you use a DSLR you could also consider to activate the mode where the mirror is flipped up a couple seconds before the actual photo – LuZel Apr 25 at 10:30
  • @LuZel, usually timer is fine for one or two photos, but not for a lot of photos you need later to align – Romeo Ninov Apr 25 at 10:31
  • ok that's a good point. – LuZel Apr 25 at 10:34
4

You could try applying a post-processing filter to make it sharper. Some manufactures automatically apply a post-sharpening filter (namely Nikon) to squeeze out even more sharpness. Here is what your image looks like after applying the Shake Reduction filter in Photoshop:

image

You could go crazy and add a lot of sharpening, but then the image starts to get a bit of artifacting (depends on how large the image can be displayed):

image

  • 1
    "It appears that there is nothing you can do in terms of changing your cameras physical settings in order to make the image sharper" -1 for false statement – timvrhn Apr 25 at 17:29
  • @TimStack I edited to remove first paragraph... +1 as long as it's not edited back in... – xiota Apr 25 at 18:26
2

What I would do for this situation would be:

  • A good tripod: this is essential for keeping the camera steady. Note that good tripods (a) cost some amount of money (you won't find one much below $100) and are heavy (anything less than 1.5 kg isn't good if we're talking about regular height tripods, excluding the high-end carbon fiber ones).
  • Live view mode: this ensures the mirror is up already when the picture is taken, so no mirror movements => no mirror slap, no vibrations caused by it. Some good cameras also have a mirror lockup, but I have found live view mode an adequate substitute.
  • 10 second selfie timer or remote shutter release: this ensures you either give the vibrations of the tripod chance to decay, or alternatively don't cause vibrations at all
  • f/6.3 - f/8. The larger the F-number, the more diffraction you get. I'd say something between f/6.3 and f/8 is ideal. This of course depends on the camera: on full frame cameras, you can use higher F numbers. Of course there's a compromise between deep depth of field and low diffraction. Typically lenses are the sharpest between f/6.3 - f/8, but you might prefer f/8 due to the slight increase in depth of field.
  • Consider also an off-camera flash (or multiple flashes) with suitable light modifiers such as umbrellas. This would allow using faster shutter speeds.
  • 10s timer is great advice. – relaxing Apr 26 at 0:07
1

I see two different sources of sharpness problems in your images:

  1. We can see camera shake in the ghost-like artifacts at the near side of the box. This is probably caused by shaking due to the long shutter time. You'd need a remote and /or mirror lock up and a good tripod to prevent this.

  2. I don't have your exact focal length used, subject size, and distance, but using a few assumptions (50mm, 50 cm distance), i get a DoF of only about 5cm here, which is probably less than the size of the box.

You can mitigate both by stopping down even further and throwing more light at the scene (flash, strobe) to reduce the shutter time. But notice that diffraction will rear its ugly head at some point.

Other methods would be to use a TS lens, or focus stacking.

1

It looks to me like you have two different sources of unsharpness--both camera shake, and lack of depth of field.

Since you're already shooting at f/14, you're not going to gain much more depth of field--stopping down to f/16 or f/22 might increase it a little, but will almost certainly increase diffraction, so while the sharpness will be more uniform (it'll be closer to equally throughout the picture), none of that will be really very sharp.

A number of people have mentioned mirror lockup to reduce vibration. Since you're shooting an a6000 (which is a mirrorless camera), that doesn't really apply here. You can turn on the electronic front shutter, which can help a little, but since it's mirrorless, you never get the mirror-slap you will with an SLR.

You do want to use either a remote or the self-timer. If you have a remote, it's generally the preferable choice (and if you're doing lot of this, it may be worth buying one), but if you don't already have a remote, the self-timer should be entirely adequate.

Since it looks like your subject exceeds the depth of field you're getting (and, as noted above, you're already stopping the lens down pretty far) just about the only choices you have are to arrange for the plane of focus to fit the important parts of the subject better, or use focus stacking to increase apparent depth of field. Changing the plane of focus means either taking the shot from a different angle, or using a tilt/shift lens so the plane of focus is no longer parallel to the sensor.

Given the shots you've shown and what you're trying to portray, it looks to me like focus stacking is the only one that's likely to give you what you want. As others have already noted, this is more work--but it's honestly not so much extra work that it's anything you really need to get scared about.

Post-processing can certainly help as well, but I'd (strongly) prefer to start with a good shot, and use post-processing to improve it, rather than trying to use post-processing to save a shot that isn't sharp (at least for a case like this where it should be easy to re-shoot).

  • Most of those who mention mirror lockup wrote those answers before the OP revealed what type of camera was being used. – Michael C Apr 27 at 19:18
  • @MichaelC: Fair enough. My mention of the other answers certainly wasn't intended to denigrate those answers of insult the people who wrote them--only to make it clear why I disagreed with the other answers, and that with the information now available, this may be more helpful. Lacking that, it can be easy to ignore an answer with no up-votes that appears to contradict the common wisdom (even though the other posters give answers more like this if they saw all the information now available). – Jerry Coffin Apr 28 at 7:37
1

A number of points of note:

  • What tripod (and head, if separate) are you using? Tripods are highly variable in quality; a cheap ultra-lightweight aluminum tripod isn't going to be anywhere as stable or sturdy as a well-built carbon-fiber tripod. If you lightly tap on the camera or lens while it's mounted on the tripod and it vibrates for more than a few seconds, you may need a better tripod.
    • You have a basic mirrorless camera with the stock kit lens. This setup isn't particularly heavy, so you shouldn't need a particularly high-end tripod. Indeed, an aluminum tripod of reasonable quality (like the Manfrotto Befree, model MKBFRA4-BH) is likely to be sufficient as long as you're not planning to put anything heavy on it. Carbon fiber is both lighter and more stable, but also substantially more expensive.
  • Use the 2-second self timer mode. Pressing the shutter button itself will produce some vibration; giving it a few seconds lets those vibrations settle down before exposure begins.
  • Some of the softness appears to be caused by the focus being set at the front tip of the subject (closest to the camera). As a result, the depth of field (the range of distances from the camera within which the image is sharp) does not extend to the entire depth of the subject. Try focusing somewhere between the closest and farthest parts of the subject, so that a larger portion of it is in focus.
  • f/14 may be smaller than is necessary for this subject. Apertures that are too small will degrade overall sharpness due to diffraction (more information at Cambridge in Colour), as well as increase exposure times which can make it harder to avoid camera shake especially if your tripod isn't particularly stable. Try shooting somewhere between f/8 and f/11 and see if the depth of field is sufficient to cover all or most of the subject. If that's not enough, you may want to use a technique called focus stacking, which involves taking multiple photos with the focus set at several different distances to cover the whole depth of the subject and merging them in post to produce an image where the entire subject is sharp.
1

The basic issue with the example images, which the question and almost all of the answers here seem to dance around without actually saying anything about it is that you need to add more light.

There's no substitute for having enough good light when doing photography!

Good light will allow better exposure times not as susceptible to camera motion and internal vibrations. One-half second is too long unless additional techniques are employed, even when the camera is mounted on a typical tripod.

Good light will increase the Signal-to-Noise Ratio. Even when using long exposures to overcome low light levels, digital camera sensors can heat up and become more noisy. (Though mirrorless cameras such as the specific camera used by the OP suffer from that no matter what the exposure time.)

Good light will allow for more options with regard to aperture value.

When that light is of reasonable quality (i.e. fuller spectrum) it will allow for better color reproduction.

  • Thanks for tackling about the light. I only have a fluorescent lamp from a reading light that I stuck to my product photography box as it is what I have at the moment. Can you suggest very affordable lighting options that I can use to have a standard studio for product photography of items such as the box? – Pherdindy Apr 30 at 8:48
  • 1) The sun. It's very affordable. 2) Good old incandescent bulbs. They get hot, though. – Michael C May 1 at 4:23
  • The thing with the sun is that there's a lot of thought I have to put in everytime I need to take a shot and I think it's not practical to do so especially if there are lots of shots needed. Perhaps i'll stick with the bulbs – Pherdindy May 1 at 4:33
  • @Pherdindy: While the obvious best solution for product photography is fixed studio lighting, a good alternative is a flashgun with Gary Fong Lightsphere attached. Aim the flash up so that most of the light from the flash bounces off the ceiling; the diffuser will make the light more evenly distributed over the subject. That will still cost a few hundred dollars but you'll get far better results than if you didn't add any light to the subject. – bwDraco May 1 at 21:30
  • @Pherdindy Don't waste your money on Gary Fong's high priced tupperware. For product photography you are much better off concentrating what light you have on the product, not lighting the entire room. This would particularly be the case if one is using a translucent light tent, which will take care of diffusing the light pointed at the tent. – Michael C May 2 at 12:21

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