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I currently own a Canon EOS 750D (Rebel T6i), which I mostly use with a Sigma 17-50/2.8 and a Hoya circular polarizing filter. However, I can't help but feel disappointed when in looking at my pictures. Fine details are often noisy and with landscape images they just don't have that relaxing feeling when you're looking at them. And I feel like there isn't a nice wide angle that costs you a kidney.

Either the 10-18 which in my mind will always be a budget lens, and the 10-22 which is old by today's terms and doesn't really offer that much more than the 10-18. Of course most answers you're going to get is to get a full frame, and I'm open to that but that does impact the weight and size of my gear quite a bit.

Any people here that recognize what I'm feeling? What's your point of view on this? Why is it I'm getting these what I consider to be sub-par results?

Shot with the aforementioned combo at ISO 400, 17mm f/10 1/250sec. This image isn't as bad, but I wouldn't consider it to be printing quality. Check the top ridges of the mountains and the sky. Also, the trees in the distance, although that is a bit pixel peeping.

ISO 400, 17mm f/10 1/250sec

Also shot with the aforementioned combo at ISO 100, 25mm f/9.0 1/40sec. especially notice the trees how grainy they look. The darker trees on the right side of the image, I consider to be a problem area. I have noticed there is a very slight bit of motion induced softness in the image when checking the mountain ridges, which begs me to question the lens' IS.

No sharpening or noise reduction was done. Only a little bit of tweaking done in Lightroom: +25 on the contrast, -40 on the highlights and +30 on the shadows. I've done more than that in the past and still had better results with it.

ISO 100, 25mm f/9.0 1/40sec

I always shoot full sized raw 6000x4000. When limiting myself to the summer image, sharpening was set to 70, radius to 2, details to 25 and the masking to 80. No noise reduction was applied just to be extra sure it wasn't that.

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    What, exactly, is your question? This reads more like a statement about how you are unsatisfied with your current results. But it does not ask a specific question about why the results are subpar or what you can do to improve them in some way. – Michael C Jul 20 at 15:37
  • Added a line to the post with the question – Sten Martens Jul 20 at 15:55
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    Everyone voting to close this because we can't handle questions about photography is making me very sad. – mattdm Jul 22 at 3:20
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    I am strongly with @mattdm here. This is, IMO, a totally legitimate PHOTOGRAPHY question, on a PHOTOGRAPHY Q&A forum. We need to give questions like this a chance. I am seeing someone who is having trouble achieving the aesthetic they are looking for, and are wondering if the camera, or lens, may be limiting them. That BELONGS here, ppl!! Let's inject some OPINIONS into the mix here, even if they are varied, and help guide the OP towards a solution and some success. This isn't a programmer forum. – jrista Jul 22 at 16:29
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Both of your examples are shot at apertures significantly narrower than your camera's diffraction limited aperture.

The EOS Rebel T6i/750D has a 22.3 x14.9 mm sensor with 6,000 x 4,000 pixels for a resolution of 24 MP and a pixel pitch of 3.72 µm. This figures out to a DLA of f/6.0

The answer linked above states the following:

With a digital sensor the DLA is the aperture at which the size of the circle of confusion becomes larger than the sensor pixels and begins to visibly affect image sharpness at the pixel level. Diffraction at the DLA is barely visible when viewed at 100% (1 pixel = 1 pixel) on a display. As sensor pixel density increases, each pixel gets smaller and the DLA gets wider.

DLA does not mean that narrower apertures should not be used. It is where image sharpness begins to be compromised for increased DOF. Higher resolution sensors generally continue to deliver more detail well beyond the DLA than lower resolution sensors until the "Diffraction Cutoff Frequency" is reached (a much narrower aperture). The progression from sharp to soft is not an abrupt one.

Further down it says:

So what happens once you select an aperture beyond the DLA? Diffraction begins to negatively affect the sharpness at the absolute point of focus. In exchange the narrower aperture increases the depth of field that is in nominal focus. There are techniques that allow you to maximize depth of field using the widest aperture possible. Learning how to calculate hyper-focal distance (or carrying a chart for each focal length you use) allows you to place the point of focus as close to the camera as possible while allowing for everything beyond that point all the way to infinity to remain acceptably in focus. At close distances and wide apertures the depth of field is about equally in front of and behind the point of focus. As the subject distance increases and/or the aperture narrows, a larger and larger percentage of the DOF is behind the point of focus. Here is a link to a DOF calculator you can use to illustrate this.

Instead of shooting at f/9 or f/11, try opening up to f/6.3 or so, and focus on an object at or near the calculated hyperfocal distance using the DoF calculator. If you intend to display the images at greater than 8x10 inches (or pixel peep at greater enlargement ratios than the equivalent of 8x10" - when looking at a 24 MP image at 100% on a 23" HD monitor with a pixel pitch of 96 ppi, that's like looking at a portion of a 60x40 inch print!), then click the show advanced button and enter your intended display size and viewing distance.

Beyond that, practice good, basic technique for shooting landscapes:

  • Use the lowest native ISO possible for your camera (usually ISO 100 for recent models).
  • Use a sturdy tripod with a rock solid head to allow longer shutter times required by narrower apertures and low ISO.
  • Use graduated neutral density filters to avoid blowing out the sky or underexposing the non-sky areas.
  • Use mirror lockup and remote (wired, infrared, WiFi/Bluetooth, etc.) shutter release to reduce camera shake when actuating the shutter.
  • As much as possible, shoot when there is no or very little wind. Not only does wind move objects within the scene you are capturing, but it also can move the tripod enough to affect image sharpness.
  • Wait for the right light for your location and subject. You can do everything above, but if the light is not right, you won't get the photo you want. Weather, time of year/month/day, etc. all have an effect on the light illuminating your scene.

Bear in mind that most of the amazing landscape photos you see at sites such as 500px and flickr have extensive post processing applied that tends to sharpen the results compared to how the image first looks straight out of the camera. In some cases advanced techniques such as focus stacking and highly detailed lens correction are being applied.

  • Holy sh*t. I've heard quite a bit of numbers specs and calculations in the 3 years that I've been photographing, and used a fair share of it while shooting. But this is completely new to me. Thanks for the elaborate answer! – Sten Martens Jul 20 at 18:40
  • Sounds like overkill to increase the aperture to avoid diffraction confusion around 4 micron, and then accept 30 micron due to the DOF. – Orbit Jul 21 at 12:45
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    @Orbit 0.030 is only applicable at an 8x10" display size from a FF sensor. For 1.6X APS-C sensor, such as the OP's EOS Rebel T71/750D, the CoC for 8x10" is 0.016 mm. There's obviously a whole lot of pixel peeping going on here, in which case both 0.030 mm and 0.016 mm are woefully inadequate. The description of "noisy" is often what diffraction looks like to those who do not know the difference. – Michael C Jul 21 at 13:13
  • There are pro photographers now who do focus stacking for landscape pictures cause of the DAL problem on many new sensors beyond 30 MP or so. – this.myself Jul 23 at 12:57
  • @this.myself Yeah, that's mentioned in the last paragraph of the answer above. – Michael C Jul 23 at 15:29
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Fine details are often noisy...

In your first sample image, the fine details in the tree branches near the skyline are probably hitting the resolution limits of your sensor. The anti-aliasing filter of your camera is likely making them look fuzzier than necessary.

For the second image, I don't see much detail in the shadows of the trees. It might help to increase exposure to better capture shadow detail. However, as small details near the size of pixels, they resemble texture and noise.

Options to consider:

  • Use a longer focal length and stitch. – Small details that are near the size of pixels appear more like texture or noise than real detail. A longer lens is needed to increase the size of the details you wish to capture. Getting a sharper, more-expensive wide-angle lens won't solve the underlying problem.

  • Adjust your raw-processing settings. – Noise reduction is necessary to counter the effects of using a camera with an anti-aliasing filter and Bayer color filter array, as well as the settings you are using (highlights, shadows, contrast, sharpening, etc), which increase the appearance of noise.

  • Try a camera that does not have an anti-aliasing filter. Here is an image that demonstrates the effects of an anti-aliasing filter. The same EF 40/2.8 STM lens was used on two different bodies with the same exposure settings, f/2.8, 1/80, ISO 800.

    anti-aliasing effect

  • Use a lower ISO, lower shutter speed, and f/8. – Although diffraction limit calculators may state that f/8 is past the diffraction limit of your camera, practical limits result in many lens-camera combinations being optimally sharp past the nominal diffraction limit. Factors include lens sharpness, sensor resolution, Bayer color filter array, anti-aliasing filter, and gaps between sensels.

    To find the sweet spot for a particular setup, you need to test it. Many lens-camera combinations are sharpest at F5.6-11. Depending on your subject and objectives, it may be reasonable to trade-off some diffraction for increased depth of field or overall sharpness. You can read more about diffraction at Cambridge in Colour: Lens Diffraction and Photography, which has a couple of diffraction calculators.

... they just don't have that relaxing feeling when you're looking at them.

  • Your images look fine at web display resolutions, so you're probably doing quite a bit of pixel peeping, which is an inherently stressful activity.

  • If you're looking for an immersive experience, some options to consider:

    • Crop.

      cropped

    • Create stereoscopic images.

    • Stitch multiple images into a panorama.

    • Display multiple images side-by-side in a triptych.

    • Use a fish-eye lens.

    • Use an anamorphic lens.

    • Use a dedicated panoramic camera.

    • Get closer to photograph details of interest.

  • thanks for the elaborate answer. when limiting myself to the summer image, sharpening was set to 70, radius to 2, details to 25 and the masking to 80. no noise reduction was applied just to be extra sure it wasn't that (I've updated the question with full size image links). – Sten Martens Jul 22 at 16:41
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However I can't help but feel disappointed when in looking at my pictures. Fine details are often noisy and with landscape images they just don't have that relaxing feeling when you're looking at them.

Please post an image or two along with (1) either the EXIF data, (2) or the most important settings (aperture, shutter speed, ISO). Please also say whether you use a tripod. Also, are you using the image stabilizer? You can have a number of problems:

  • Out of focus
  • Too high ISO
  • Camera shake

...although the noise suggests it might be too high ISO.

Full frame cameras are known for their better high ISO performance (lower noise than crop at the same ISO). However, typical cheap full frame zooms are f/4, and you already have f/2.8, so that makes up for most of the difference. Are you using the lens at f/2.8?

Of course most answers you're going to get is to get a full frame, and I'm open to that but that does impact the weight and size of my gear quite a bit.

Canon EOS RP paired with 17-40L is actually quite lightweight and small in size. I wouldn't worry about anything except the higher cost. 17-40L is about the cheapest L lens you can find, and EOS RP is about the cheapest full frame mirrorless you can find. Ok, 6D mark II would in some cases be very slightly cheaper, but at the cost of a higher weight and outdated technology (DSLR, not mirrorless).

After getting the 17-40L and mounting it to RP, I compared the image quality to 10-18 mounted on 2000D. The results are:

  • Image quality is much better!
  • Autofocus actually works in the 17-40L + RP whereas 10-18 + 2000D missed quite often
(Sample image)

Yes, what you're seeing is noise indeed. Please use ISO 100 and increase the exposure time to something like 1/60 sec. Also, you can experiment with various noise reduction algorithms. Some are in-camera settings for noise reduction, others are done in post-processing, where it helps if you shoot RAW.

(Second sample image)

Now I see far less noise, so ISO 100 clearly helps. What you are seeing in the trees may be lack of resolution. If you expect top-notch results from your equipment, you have to have top-notch equipment. I'd say an upgrade to full frame could be worth it for you, but of course it costs a lot.

Don't buy the 10-18 if you expect better resolution! I don't think it will improve the resolution of your image.

But I'm also saying that you may be expecting too much from your equipment. To me, the second picture looks just okay. What you are doing here is sometimes referred to as "pixel peeping".

What lens to get, then?

Let's compare the Sigma 17-50 and Canon 17-40L on crop cameras: comparison -- as you can see, just by updating your lens to a high-quality lens won't obtain you any better picture quality.

What if you update to a very high-resolution full frame camera and Canon 17-40L: comparison -- now you can observe that the 17-40L + 5Ds R combo has an extraordinarily high image quality. Note it has more megapixels, too, and you can actually make use of these megapixels with the lens.

So I'd say the question is not "what lens to get" but rather "which full frame camera and what lens to get".

  • Oh, how I like the unexplained downvotes. – juhist Jul 20 at 9:38
  • I've added an image with its exif data like you asked. I can see where you're coming from with the EOS RP vs the 2000D and its definitely something i will keep in my mind! – Sten Martens Jul 20 at 9:42
  • That's for the detailed an clear anwer and thought process! Definitely going to let it play through my mind for a while, you also confirmed my thoughts on possible upgrades with my current camera body – Sten Martens Jul 20 at 10:48
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    First you say that all DSLRs are outdated technology (something with which many outstanding photographers would disagree), then you cite a very high resolution DSLR (EOS 5Ds R) as a possible solution compared to the significantly lower resolution EOS RP. Then you recommend the lowest resolution wide angle "L" lens in Canon's current lineup. For high resolution wide angle landscape photography, the EF 24-70mm f/4 L, EF 11-24mm f/4 L, or even EF 16-35mm f/2.8 III L would give much better results. – Michael C Jul 20 at 15:44

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