I'm getting into photography and got myself a used Canon 1200D with a Tamron 18-200mm lens. And currently under no circumstance I am able to make a perfectly focused sharp and detailed photo. Or at least such in the middle of the photo.

As I'm researching now, it seems to me that to make decent photos I need at least a US$1000 camera. That's not very inspiring xD

This is not duplicate of Why are my photos not crisp?. This question is only about equipment, camera and lenes.

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    \$\begingroup\$ As one data point, I have no problem getting razor sharp photos on my $400 Sony a6000 + kit lens. So no, spending $1500 is not necessary. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nate S.
    Dec 11, 2019 at 18:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Did you try taking a pic with liveview? Autofocus could be off. Ps. Do you mean the 18-200 lens? \$\endgroup\$
    – Orbit
    Dec 11, 2019 at 20:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ please post an example image. What you mean by "sharp" might be not common sense \$\endgroup\$ Dec 12, 2019 at 5:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @juhist Note that no one has voted to close the question as off-topic. There are currently three votes to close the question as a duplicate and one for "needs details or clarity". \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Dec 12, 2019 at 19:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @lxknvlk I don't think saying "this is only about equipment" really helps set this aside as not a duplicate of the other one, because most of the entire point of that is "actually, it's not primarily about the equipment". \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Dec 12, 2019 at 19:24

6 Answers 6


under no circumstance i am able to make a perfectly focused sharp and detailed photo

Here are some possible sources of your difficulties:

  • The lens. Superzooms are notorious for having "poor" image quality. That is the price you pay for the convenience of having such a large zoom range.

  • The antialiasing filter, which intentionally blurs the image to prevent moire. Here is a sample image showing the difference between cameras with and without AA filter using the exact same lens (EF 40/2.8 STM) and exposure settings. The difference can be seen even at reduced resolution in the thumbnail. So it's not necessarily true that sharpness doesn't matter when reducing image sizes for the web.

    aa filter example

  • Misalignment of the focusing sensor. DSLRs have separate sensors to calculate exposure, focus, and capture the image. If they are not aligned correctly, the captured image won't be in focus. Higher end camera models have autofocus microadjustment settings to address this issue.

    You can rule this out as the primary source of your problem by using Live View with Quick Mode turned off.

  • Subtle camera shake can look like a soft lens or missed focus. You can address this with faster shutter speeds, image stabilization technology, and tripods.

Some options for glass:

  • Kit lenses (18-55/3.5-5.6) and fast primes (50/1.8) are plenty sharp, especially compared with superzooms.

  • EF-S 18-135/3.5-5.6 IS USM is a good sharp lens and not too expensive when purchased used. The EF-S 24/2.8 STM, EF 40/2.8 STM, and Nifty Fifty are also inexpensive, sharp lenses. For a telephoto zoom, the EF-S 55-250/4-5.6 IS STM is pretty good except for the plastic lens mount.

  • Some "pro" level lenses are relatively inexpensive. For instance, EF 70-300/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM is a generally better lens than the consumer level equivalents, but it's almost being given away because it didn't live up to the hype and wasn't quite as good as L lenses. The EF 70-300/4-5.6 L IS USM is also fairly inexpensive because it didn't measure up against the EF 70-200/2.8 L IS II USM.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the AA filter being part of the issue. Part of modifying my camera for astrophotography was removing the AA filter and the stars and delicate gas tendrils became instantly sharper afterwards. \$\endgroup\$
    – coblr
    Dec 12, 2019 at 1:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ another explanation : In-camera lens correction (to fix distortion and vignetting) may sometimes affect the picture quality, especially when there's a lot of distortion to correct. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 12, 2019 at 15:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Another possibility: the asker is "pixel peeping", and the photos are actually fine. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 12, 2019 at 18:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ accepting this answer as my own research shown me that a 18-200 lens should not be expected to produce good qualite photos, and also for the antialiasing idea. \$\endgroup\$
    – lxknvlk
    Dec 12, 2019 at 18:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ When I spoke to a pro a long time ago they mentioned two things: lens and film. (Prime lens and pro film.) 30 years later the recommendation to use a prime lens is still relevant. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 12, 2019 at 19:10

As im researching now it seems to me that to make decent photos i need atleast a $1000 camera.

So sayeth the gear collectors. Photographers are out shooting, and say otherwise. Many of us, myself included, still shoot film on vintage rigs. I've also shot with digital since ~2004 and my current digital camera is a 5Dmk2, released in 2008!

Here's an image that I took with said 5Dmk2 (click to enlarge):

enter image description here

This image was made by bouncing a 430EXII strobe off the ceiling (handheld) while using a 70-200 f/4 with some amount of extension tube.

So, there you have it. A sharp image taken by a camera from 2008 using a lens from 1999. Gear valued at ~$1K total today.

I'm getting into photography and got myself a used canon 1200d with tamron 12-200 lens.

There's your problem right there, lad. The lens maketh the photo. Now, skill does wonders and the question here: Why are my photos not crisp? will help you build that skill.

But, even a pro can only do so well with certain gear. And SuperZooms are that certain gear. Most SuperZooms need to be stopped down a bit and also have a sub range that is absolute junk. If you aren't stopping down and don't know your lens well enough to know its performance at all ranges, this will cause image quality to suffer.

In short, all lenses make design sacrifices. Key pillars here are image quality, speed (aperture), size, cost, and ability or amount to zoom.

SuperZooms that cover a massive range, like your Tamron, prioritize the zoom range at the expense of image quality and aperture speed.

In general, try to avoid zooms that go over 3x. Pro lens groups are along the lines of 16-35 (~2x), 24-70 (~3x), 70-200 (~3x). You don't have to use lenses like this but start to become aware of the tradeoffs that the lens designers made in creating the design and start to pick attributes that mean a lot to you.

So, do you need a $1500 rig to get sharp photos?

Well, no. You don't need a $1500 rig for sharp photos in some situations.

Your camera + a 50mm f/1.8 (~$100) will get you nice sharp photos for street shooting, portraits, etc.

But what if you wanted to shoot wildlife? Chances are you'll need a longer, and more expensive lens.

So, you'll likely spend way more than $1500 along the way to get the photos you want in all situations. The whole point of an interchangeable lens camera is in having the best lens for the job. This means having multiple lenses. This means spending money. It's probable that you'll have more than $1500 invested at some point in the future.

For example, I personally prioritize image quality and aperture (speed) and am constrained by cost (aren't we all?). This has led me to obtain and use the following lenses over the last 20 years:

  • 16-35 f/4 (landscape lens) (~$1000)
  • 50 f/1.8 II (~$100)
  • 100 f/2 (~$500)
  • 70-200 f/4 (~$550)
  • 300 f/4 (~$700 used)
  • 400 f/5.6 (~$1000 used)

Now, this is my kit. Many others here have vastly different kits. It is true that you can get sharp glass for cheap (like the 50mm), but the sacrifice there is in the fact that it's a prime lens (no zoom).

You need to start getting a feel for what you prioritize in a lens. But, I will say...if supreme image quality is up there, then be very, very careful when looking at super zooms as the vast majority won't measure up at all and of those that do, they'll only measure up for a limited amount of the focal range and only after being stopped down a tad.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I didn't vote, but the answer is all about buying gear. Maybe improving skill could work too? I started with a Tamron 18-270. Not very good image quality, but in many situations i could get good pictures with it. Shouldn't the 12-200 also be able to make a decent pic in many situations? \$\endgroup\$
    – Orbit
    Dec 11, 2019 at 19:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ can you link a full sized image? \$\endgroup\$
    – lxknvlk
    Dec 11, 2019 at 19:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Hueco Your gear (camera + lenses) adds up to $4000-5000. But I do agree, lenses are important. Kit zooms (18-55/3.5-5.6) and fast primes (50/1.8) are inexpensive and plenty sharp, especially compared with superzooms. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Dec 11, 2019 at 20:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xiota I'll shift the paragraphs around. My point at the end was that it doesn't take much for great images in some situations. But, kit for great normal distance portraits doesn't make kit for great wide landscapes nor do those make kit for long distance wildlife. My point was that, once you get kit for all of those things...you've probably spent a bit \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Dec 11, 2019 at 20:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Hueco I have yet to see an APS-C camera that can shoot at high ISO better than a 5D Mark II. The 2.25 (compared to 1.5X crop) to 2.56 (1.6X crop) greater area is larger than the difference in tech between 2008 and today. Now if you're talking FF sensors from 2003 to APS-C cameras in 2014 or so, that's a different story. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Dec 12, 2019 at 21:29

In short, No.

Be very wary of anything suggesting that you throw money at the problem for the newest and latest gear to solve your photography issues, as while the newest gear makes solving the problem easier, it won't in and of itself solve the core of the problem.

Consider this: Have you ever seen a sharp photo taken in the 1950's?

It was clearly not taken with the latest and greatest digital camera, therefore there are other things to account for...

While most today aren't likely to want to work with 40+ year old film gear, even if much of it can be had for very reasonable prices and produce fantastic results, there is still the question of older digital gear vs fancier, newer, and more expensive kit...

"But newer cameras are better!" - Ask yourself if you had seen photos from digital cameras that you were impressed with, and taken a decade ago...

The latest digital cameras haven't suddenly made that older and now cheaper gear inferior, and the old cameras are just as capable now as they were when they were new. [Some more capable now than when new, thanks to firmware improvements...] The newer gear is instead either as capable as the older gear, but sold at a lower starting point, or is able to push the boundaries more than the older gear.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Exactly this, I have Nikon D50 which was introduced in 2003 and so far most problems were resolved by using it better. The only real problem is noise and ISO limited at 1600 (very noisy). \$\endgroup\$ Dec 12, 2019 at 10:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Remember when 640x480 was state of the art? Those cameras take pictures today that are as good as they were then, but standards and technology have changed. New developments do make old tech inferior because there is something superior to compare with. When all that's available is to hand pump water from a well, that's what you do. But if indoor plumbing and running water are available, hand pumping is an inferior option. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Dec 12, 2019 at 19:42
As I'm researching now, it seems to me that to make decent photos I need at least a US$1000 camera.

Partially true, depending on the definition of "decent". I switched from Canon's cheap 2000D to EOS RP, and the picture quality difference is extraordinarily high. With 2000D, the problem was that nobody makes lenses that can give 24 true megapixels of resolution on a crop sensor camera. For full frame camera, lots of such lenses are made.

But, having US$1000 camera is not enough. The full frame lenses are expensive: in practice you need a US$1000 lens too.

But, what you consider decent may vary.

Here's moon shot using full frame + Canon 400mm f/5.6 lens:

full frame moon

Here's moon shot using crop sensor + Canon 55-250mm lens:

crop sensor moon

This should give you an idea how a US$250 lens + US$500 camera compares with US$1500 lens + US$1500 camera.

Before buying a US$1500 camera, I'd suggest throwing away the crappy 12-200mm Tamron superzoom and using lenses that are optimized not for the focal length range but rather for the image quality. You may be able to improve your shots quite much without needing to switch to a >US$1000 camera.

In right hands, a cheap camera could be enough. This was shot using the Canon 2000D + 55-250mm lens:

flying seagull

I wonder however how much better the image would be with EOS RP + 400mm f/5.6 lens.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If the argument is glass > camera then the moon example would be better illustrated by crop camera + 55-250 vs crop camera + 400. Not exactly apples to apples due to focal length but the resolution differences will be highlighted. Birds in flight are tough to get, nice shot. \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Dec 12, 2019 at 17:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I believe the crop camera + 400 would be even sharper because the 400/5.6 glass is extremely sharp and the RP pixel count (26Mpix) is the limiting factor. \$\endgroup\$
    – juhist
    Dec 12, 2019 at 18:06

Sony A6000 or NEX6/7, used or on sale, set to vivid mode: from $300

Sigma 30mm/f2.8 DN ART, used: from $150

Finding that this look is perfect for some pictures, and comes across abrasively smartphone-ish in others: priceless :)

The lens is key here: Prime, moderate aperture, and very high contrast.

Also, understand that perceived crisp-sharpness comes more from high contrast at medium resolution than from ultimate resolution. Medium-contrast, high-resolution lenses like eg a Tair 3s will not give that much of that crisp look.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Is that your rig? Can you share a full sized photo example? \$\endgroup\$
    – lxknvlk
    Dec 12, 2019 at 10:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not my most common rig, because it is often not the style I am looking for.... \$\endgroup\$ Dec 12, 2019 at 15:13

No, but you need to understand the limitations of your equipment and use it correctly in the conditions in which it performs best. More expensive equipment will have less limitations and all equipment will require that you learn how to use it.

Read reviews of your 18-200 lens, find its better focal length and aperture ranges, and then use your lens carefully (pay attention to stabilization). If autofocus is unreliable, try manual focus and try focus stacking. Also, realize that most Internet-shared images include additional sharpening, so don't expect your images to come out of the camera as sharp and vivid as those shared online by experienced photographers.

More expensive equipment will give you more reliable results. That is the cost trade-off. It's not that you cannot get a sharp image with inexpensive equipment, but it will take more work. Work to get money, then use the money to avoid working. :)

  • \$\begingroup\$ "Work to get money... to avoid working." - Too funny. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Dec 13, 2019 at 5:44

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