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I am trying to photograph a piece of jewelry. I have a Canon EO 90D camera with EFS 18-135 lens. I am using a lightbox and a tripod with plenty of light. I zoom to 106mm. I manual focus to get a super crisp image. I shoot remotely from my phone on the Canon app to prevent camera shake from pressing the button. I tried both with IS on and off. ISO is 100.

How can I get it to shoot as sharp as I see it on live preview?

I tried the whole range of aperture sizes. On 5.6 it's much sharper than F36, but still not as sharp as the live preview.

Is it because the lens is not a prime macro lens?

Here is how it looks on the live preview (when I use the zoom button):

enter image description here

This the image when shot on F5.6

enter image description here

This is when shot on F36

enter image description here

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  • Since you are taking a photo of some jewellery, my suggestion (also to increase your own experience) is to take a photo at every (whole) aperture possible, and then compare on a large computer screen. Ignore the live-view screen entirely. Take note of your preferred outcome, and the aperture and shutter speed of that photo. Are you positive that there is no camera movement when you are taking the photo? Are you pushing the shutter release with your finger? Does your camera offer mirror lock-up? These are just general suggestions. – osullic Jan 10 at 15:33
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I don't think sharpness is the issue in the first shot.

I think the predominant issue is it's comparatively dark, under-exposed, and has less specular highlight and colour-push as you see in your live view screen.

enter image description here

I haven't attempted to colour-match because I have no idea which is most correct. Also one is a photo of a screen & the other is a photo of the object directly.
All I did here was to punch up the exposure & colouring on one of them, then roughly match the apparent sizes.

I'd say, given the disparate origins, they are of approximately similar sharpness. If anything the top is sharper than the bottom, though their origin can easily allow for that discrepancy.

I think the takeaway lesson is - don't use Live View as a judge of lighting.
If you're not certain, in this type of setup where your subject is never going to get bored waiting for you, run some test shots. Check them on your computer not just the back screen. Take as long as you like to get your lighting & exposure right.

If you didn't guess already, the top one is your photo, the bottom one is your live view.

I've ignored the one at f/36 as that's never going to work with the aperture that tight. Lookup 'diffraction limit' for further explanation.
If you want more DoF in macro, then you could close up to f/8 or maybe a little more, but if you want the entire object in focus you're going to need focus stacking - again a topic for another post.

One thing to note is we are not comparing like with like, even allowing that one is a photo of a screen. LiveView optimises the view to the screen, like a smartphone does. The resulting photograph, especially if shot RAW, has no optimisation at all applied. That will be highly dependant on what you open it with & what settings you use for it.

Mentioned elsewhere is that the mirror may be causing shake. On the photos as uploaded I'm not seeing any shake - even though the uploaded quality is quite low, making absolute determination difficult.

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  • Thanks, this is a good point. I'm not so concerned with the lighting and exposure. I'm just trying to get the maximum sharpness for now. The live preview image I posted above does not do it justice, it's actually much sharper in the live preview than the F5.6 pic. Is it possible the lens cannot capture as sharp as what is seen on the preview and what would be the reason for that? – sciman Jan 10 at 15:18
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    @sciman which lens do you think is being used to capture the image that you see on the live-view screen? – osullic Jan 10 at 15:30
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    Also note that live view is processed image output using the camera profile settings (sharpening/contrast/etc). If you are recording raw files then they will also need processed (sharpened) to get to the same state. – Steven Kersting Jan 10 at 16:28
  • @sciman You may not be concerned about exposure, but when you underexpose the camera will use more detail destroying Noise Reduction than when an image is properly exposed. – Michael C Jan 11 at 3:05
  • Thanks for your answer. It's true, it might be that there is different processing on the jpeg, compared to the live view image. Playing with the raw file, I was able to get better sharpness. I ordered a prime macro lens and will run more tests with it, I'm hoping that it will increase sharpness further. – sciman Jan 11 at 11:33
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Several things. One is that at f36 you'll run into diffraction effects that will soften the image. Best to stick to aperture values of f5.6, f8, or f11 for sharpest image.

Another issue is shutter speed. You have it on a tripod, but even so at certain shutter speeds vibrations from the camera mirror and shutter can cause blurring. If you have a mirror lock-up feature on your camera, use that. Try several different shutter speeds, slower and faster to see if resonance is an issue. You can also try loading your tripod by hanging something heavy off of it (camera bag, etc.). This will help.

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  • From Live View isn't the mirror already up by definition? I'm not seeing any motion blur in the OP's images - though admittedly they're a bit low-res to really pick out the full detail. – Tetsujin Jan 10 at 17:35
  • From my memory of my D800 and earlier Nikons you're probably right. It isn't completely clear that he was shooting directly from live view. But shooting from live view the shutter closes, reopens and closes again which can add some additional vibration over a 'normal' shutter open/close exposure. – BobT Jan 10 at 21:50
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    @BobT I'm not sure of D850/D5 or later, but for D810s and earlier, in Live View, cycle the mirror back down to actually take the image (through the entire lift-mirror, close-aperture, open-shutter cycle). – scottbb Jan 10 at 23:15
  • What are the shutter speeds that introduce vibration? My tripod is not that stable. The 5.6 shot was done at 1/800. – sciman Jan 11 at 11:31
  • In my experience slow ones. 1/60 on down depending on your setup. At 1/800 normal vibration would not be a problem. BTW, turning off VR/IS for tripod shooting is generally recommended. – BobT Jan 11 at 13:52

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