I have Nikon D3500 with kit lens 18-55 VR and some other lenses af-p 10-20 among them.

As I renewed my interest for photography some time ago, I have some images at the LR scrutiny that were taken more than six months ago, when I was still refreshing my knowledge and making many mistakes.

Yet, I cannot realize how could I make some images look not so sharp when viewed on 100%.

I mean, image at 18mm focal, f/14 has hyperfocal distance slightly over 1m and with my habit to focus at least somewhat longer than hyperfocal, how could I miss it?

I know, depth of field is not a measure of ideal sharpness, yet, I don't Like many details on 100%.

Am I too demanding or there could be some problem with camera?

I'm simply wondering how to not take photo sharp enough with these settings. And shutter speed is 1/160, that shouldn't create a blur even with a bit shaky hands.

Am I missing something?!


I have added one of typical pictures where buildings in the back lose definition.

  • Related, similar question: How to take sharper photos – scottbb Jan 20 '20 at 2:44
  • "Am I too demanding or there could be some problem with camera?" - Yes. – xiota Jan 20 '20 at 4:42
  • Are you suggesting that 1/160 still can allow motion blur? I don't have enough "working hours" to practically verify such possibilities, but what I do know is that these two lenses have vibration reduction, while the one that I use, 35mm/1.8 hasn't. Through the practice I reached the knowledge that 1/60 may or may not produce blur, while 1/80 will mostly not. Of course, I could imagine there could be circumstances where higher shutter speed still allows blur. – DrazenC Jan 20 '20 at 11:41

f/14 can get you in trouble with the diffraction police on a 24MP APS-C sensor.

And hyperfocal distance is a compromise that gets a specified range of distances sharp enough, not perfect.

  • Could it be diffraction at f/14 already? In the meantime I learned that f/8 or f/11 is better for such short focal length as DOF is large anyhow. My problem seems to appear in photos where I'm trying to create as large DOF as possible, landscapes, cityscapes. When I focus at a single distinct subject the results are much better. – DrazenC Jan 20 '20 at 11:47
  • 1
    Also, hyperfocal distance tables assume that focusing scales on lenses are accurate. Often with SLR lenses, they ARE NOT. – rackandboneman Jan 20 '20 at 11:50
  • My lenses don't have scales, the only think of can do is to estimate lengths myself, with some distances it is not a trouble. Currently I noticed advise that it's better to focus double the distance of the closest desired sharp objects than to hyperfocal. – DrazenC Jan 20 '20 at 14:22
  • Diffraction sets in at different points on different lenses. Try f/5.6. Focus on something midframe. With 18mm, you should be able to easily capture infinity. – xiota Jan 20 '20 at 14:29
  • 1
    Might be me messing around with adapted lenses too much... I think distance scales on anything but rangefinder lenses are pretty much ornamental skeuemorphs :) – rackandboneman Jan 20 '20 at 15:28

At least some of the visible light spectrum is diffraction limited on a 24MP APS-C sensor at f/5.6, and all of the visible spectrum is diffraction limited beyond f/8. Depending on the lens, your results could be slightly worse than that.

However, looking at the image you linked to on flickr I would say that your main issue is atmospheric over distance... things like haze, moisture in the air, and heat turbulence. It's what's causing the mountains to obviously loose color/contrast/clarity as they recede into the distance, and it's affecting everything else as well.

  • Thanks for looking at it. I actually don't have anything against haze in background as this is exact atmosphere of the reality on these places. Sometimes I do dehaze if the entire image is hazy and look blurry, so noone would understand that things are really blurry here during wet southern wind days. What I cannot resolve easily, and happens on all buildings on distance is sort of glow when strong hard sun hits white or very bright facades. Facades receive some soft glow that sometims look as blurryness. Sometimes I do local clarity increase, but didn'r find ideal solution for this. – DrazenC Jan 20 '20 at 20:18
  • Have you ever looked at a street light in the fog? Notice the way it glows, seems larger, and more out of focus? That's what's happening to your white buildings reflecting strong light toward you through a light haze/moisture... it's just much less diffracted than a dense fog would cause. – Steven Kersting Jan 20 '20 at 21:29

I think the picture looks fine.

It is rarely needed to get pictures sharper than this. Viewing at 100% would be equivalent to printing in a size more than a meter long. Hardly anyone does that anymore, and if someone does, we don't put our nose on it and complain one of the leaves could be sharper.

Expecting perfectly sharp results at 100% will always leave you dissapointed. It is simply not possible because 75% of what you are seeing is made up and does not really exist. Any camera that can take color pictures has something like a Bayer filter. This filter filters out everything except one primary color per pixel (this statement is somewhat simplified, but the filter does block most of the light). Your camera has algorithms that try to recreate this information, but there is a lot of guessing involved. There will always be imperfections, called artifacts. Especially around sharp edges this leaves unsharpness.

It is often better to focus on other areas than optimising sharpness, but if you want to improve the sharpness, you could try the following.

1) Shoot at your lens's optimum aperture, this is usually around 4.5. You can often find this on the internet. At F/14 diffraction starts to play a significant role.

2) Check your processing sharpness setting. Pictures are made unsharp in most profiles to make them look more smooth.

3) Use a faster shutterspeed. The 1/F rule comes from the old days when people said that a 600x400 pixel television was very sharp. If you want maximum sharpness at a 100% on a modern camera you need to go much faster.

4) Buy better equipment. If you look at 100% everything matters. I would not recommend this though. My photo's started improving many times faster when I realized that learning about the artistic side photography was a much better way to spent my time than reading reviews and thinking about new stuff to buy. You will always find limitations in your equipment if you look for it, but they are rarely a big issue in normal use.

  • Thanks' these comments are very useful as I'm trying to establish a feeling on what is generally acceptable, not to go into so many details to always be unsatisfied (I already checked some numbers of images taken by fancy equipment that also have some issues, so it is pretty clear to me that ideal solution doesn't exist and should not be seeked just of mere punctuality on things noone will ever notice). The reasons to look at 100% at all is to check whether focus is right and to handle noise - and I also need to learn on how much very mild traces of noise are acceptable at 100%. – DrazenC Jan 20 '20 at 20:11
  • What you say about colour profile sharpening is what I don't fully know about. I thought that in-profile sharpening does the same as LR sharpening. Am I wrong? I get used to taking pics in Flat or Neutral profile, but start with Flat during LR post-processing. This gives most of options for selecting alternatives in processes, however I do know that Flat profile has zero sharpening. Can I restore missing in-colour sharpening via LR? I noticed that my images started with Flat don't have halo even at 80% sharpening, but they do receive artifacts if edges sharpened are basically a bit blurry. – DrazenC Jan 20 '20 at 20:12
  • "... except one color per pixel..." is massively incorrect. – Michael C Jan 21 '20 at 3:02
  • @MichaelC: Do you mean I should have said primary color instead of color? – Orbit Jan 21 '20 at 9:07
  • @DrazenC: It is not really only the color profile, it is what Nikon calls the Picture Control. You can find some information here: imaging.nikon.com/lineup/microsite/picturecontrol/tips/… and Here: onlinemanual.nikonimglib.com/d3500/en/10_psam_modes_05.html – Orbit Jan 21 '20 at 11:15

The pictures you posted look like you're getting motion blur or bad processing. If you look at things zoomed in you can see the bad edges. The little halo of blur around the edges is what happens around moving objects in low res video. It definitely shouldn't be there. The bush zoomed in looks bad. It looks super blocky and low res. These pictures look like they have a bunch of bad processing and are way too compressed. Zoomed in:

enter image description here

enter image description here

  • Appreciate every feedback, while to have it the most useful, understanding should be reached. The other people gave pretty good feedback on overall sharpness. Have you checked the image via large screen or via smartphone? This image was sent to Flickr in full resolution, so no any other compression but mere transition to JPEG, while I left quality slider on 100%. At 100% I am able to see some very small traces of halo, which are present from 35% sharpening to 78% that I set. Noise reduction is at 23%. – DrazenC Jan 22 '20 at 14:20
  • Normally I do not focus on having bushes too sharp, as they tend to look unnatural, they are are rarely completely still, and this image is taken at 1/60 with VR on. When checking sharpness I am mostly focused on buildings. As some other say, light glow is visible on light objects. My main concern is whether I can make it any sharper than this, having in mind that my equipment is not top-class, or I'm doing something wrong. – DrazenC Jan 22 '20 at 14:20
  • Oh, now I noticed that you used Imgur as a host. Artifacts around edges of bushing don't exist neither in original file nor on Flickr zoomed to maximum (which goes to one to one on Flickr), they might be caused by Imgur compression or by some system interpolation applied when image is zoomed by PC or smartphone system zoom command. – DrazenC Jan 22 '20 at 17:37
  • @DrazenC Yeah, I downloaded the image from your link which is twice the dimensions and has those bad edges? When i work off screenshot of your link, the double edge issues aren't there. I just posted through here. The post here has been touched but it looks the same on a 74% jpg - pixels move a little. – moot Jan 22 '20 at 18:40
  • @DrazenC You're talking about using sharpening and noise reduction. These are interfering with your sharpness issues. You shouldn't use sharpening. It's not doing what people think. Sharpening distorts everything. Focus gets distorted - the natural blurring and sharpening that occurs from distance is distorted. I know supposed experts use it but they don't understand what's happening. Also don't use noise reduction. It's like sharpening, it distorts things, it's creating false graphics, There are better ways to get that fix without using computer generated imagery – moot Jan 22 '20 at 18:52

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.