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Compare photos - Is lack of sharpness because of camera or lens?


Since I've had my 6d (about 2 years) I've said the photos were not that sharp. On a recent trip, comparing photos from my 6d with 24-105L, and my friend's 5D mk3 with 24-70L 2.8 it was once again really obvious.


My question is, are my photos less sharp than his because his camera is better? Or is it that the 24-70 2.8 is that much sharper of a lens? Or is it maybe that my camera or lens has something out of adjustment? I've experimented with every setting I can think of on my camera and it doesn't help.



It seems to me that the IQ of both cameras should be pretty similar, and from what I read the 2 lenses don't have any appreciable difference in sharpness, so I am just not sure why my photos are consistently less sharp and "real" looking than his.


My shot with the 6d and 24-105L



His shot with the 5d mk 3 and 24-70L 2.8



I really notice the difference on the deails of the fabric of my black jacket.


His photos are taken in L fine size jpg and mine are M fine jpg (sharpness set to max.) Yes the file sizes are different but I wouldn't expect that to affect the IQ. Another note, (I had to crop his photo in photoshop to get under the 5mb file upload size and that seems to have reduced its IQ a bit.)

Thanks for any ideas anyone might have!


Edit: teaches me to judge a photo without looking at it full size.  It looks much better than the preview.  Truthfully, that 5d3 shot could have been cleaned up real nice if you shot in RAW.


It doesn't help that the highlights are blown out (if you shot RAW you could have recovered that) on the 5d3 shot.  It's two different camera, possibly different metering modes, exposure compensation, etc.  But I'm sure the large shadow on the lower photo lead to a different exposure setting.


I don't like to preach about RAW, but I would give some thought to shooting JPG on a 5d3 (or 6D).  You're missing out on a large amount of performance that you paid good money for.

No lens data in the EXIF for the 5D.

John Hoffman
Conway, NH

1D X Mark III, M200, Many lenses, Pixma PRO-100, Pixma TR8620a, Lr Classic

"Just a quibble, but do we know which version of the 24-70 f/2.8 was used?"


It really doesn't matter as either version is a better lens than the 24-105mm f4.  I have used all three and like I said the 24-105mm is a, "best buy".  Not best lens.

I have not bought the newer version of the 24-70mm but I probably will.  It is good but not a great deal better than the one I have used for years.

You would not need all the fingers on one hand to count all the camera/lens combos that best a 5D Mk III with the 24-70mm f2.8 Mk II.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!


So many variables, but from the look of both photos, the top one (from the 6D) is actually better. You can see more detail in the face and even in the jacket.

Weekend Travelers Blog | Eastern Sierra Fall Color Guide


Thanks for all of the comments folks!

I see that some people said that the 6d photo looks sharper than the 5d one. As I mentioned, I had to reduce the size of the 5d photo to get it to upload to this forum and that has degraded the image. So here are links to the photos directly on flickr where you should be able to see all of the exposure data and perhaps see the actual images and EXIF data:

6d with 24-105L

5dM3 with 24-70 2.8

Yes, the photos were taken in different locations at different times with different exposures and in different light. I definitely understand that. What I'm trying to get at is the quality of the images. To me the 5d's just look at lot sharper and "real" to me. My friend and I travel a lot together and I've compared hundreds of our shots, and his all have more of that real quality that mine don't have. Mine just seem softer and less "live" and "real" in comparison. Perhaps "sharpness" is not technically the correct term to use, but to me that's what I see. There's a certain quality that all of his shots have that mine do not and that's what I'm trying to get at--if I need to get a different lens, a different camera, make some adjustments, have the lens/camera calibrated, etc.

RE: "Have you done AFMA on the lens?"

No, I have heard about it but am not sure how to do it myself or if I should have a professional do it.


RE: "Do you get better results with any other lenses?"

I've only shot on this camera with the 24-15L and a 70-300 USM which I know is a lesser lens and you can tell that in the images.

RE: "What shooting mode is this? Could the camera have set your shutter speed too low and you are getting subject or camera blur as a result?"
P mode, 1/160, f7.1, ISO 100, -2/3 exposure. I assume 1/160 would be fast enough to eliminate any shake--plus the lens's IS.


RE: "What AF point are you using? I virtually always pick one AF point (usually the center one) and place it over the eye of one of the subjects. I only use all active points and allow the camera to pick if I am shooting stopped down enough to have lots of depth of field (f/8 or higher) in case the camera picks the wrong AF points."

For the 6d, AF was set to multi. The focus point on my right shoulder. F7.1 should give it enough DOF to be sharp on us.



RE: "What AF mode? I never shoot in anything other than the largest resolution. Especially if any cropping will be dome."

I shot in medium fine size and RAW. I'm not really zooming in on the photos in my comparisons, I'm just looking at the photos at normal size on my monitor so I don't think the image size should make any difference, but correct me if I'm wrong.

RE: ebiggs1 - "The 24-70mm f2.8 is one of the best lenses made and the 24-105mm f4 is a good buy, being kind here!"
"It really doesn't matter as either version is a better lens than the 24-105mm f4.  I have used all three and like I said the 24-105mm is a, "best buy".  Not best lens."

Is that a known fact or your opinion? (Not ask that in a smart-alec way, just wondering 🙂
If the 24-105L is really not that good of a lens I can accept that. Maybe that's the issue? The reviews of the lens here say it's really good and people say the sharpness is really good too, which is part of the reason that I'm unsure if the lens is the issur or not.

I'm not zooming in to infinity in examining the photos, I'm just looking at them on the monitor, and in the past in printed photos it was very obvious too that my friend's rig takes much better photos. But again, I'm trying to figure out if it's the lens or the camera.

From the Flickr links, maybe you folks will find something hidden in the EXIM data that's I'm doing wrong.

Thanks for your help!


I don't think it's the camera. In your sample, the 6D photo was taken when light was harsh, thus you will see a lot of contrast and make image looks less pleasing. In contrast, the 5D image light was softer (near sunset). None of the photo was out of focus or having focus issue so I don't think AFMA is going to help much. Just my opinion, but I think it comes down to processing techniques and lighting issue.

Weekend Travelers Blog | Eastern Sierra Fall Color Guide

RE: ebiggs1 - "The 24-70mm f2.8 is one of the best lenses made and the 24-105mm f4 is a good buy, being kind here!"
"It really doesn't matter as either version is a better lens than the 24-105mm f4.  I have used all three and like I said the 24-105mm is a, "best buy".  Not best lens."



I own both the 24-70mm f2.8 and the 24-105mm f4 and I have used the new version of the 24-70mm f2.8 extensively.  The first two I have had for years, the latter I am still deciding on whether, at this stage of my life, to drop another two grand on a new lens.

Don't get me wrong here, the improvement and/or difference is not monumental but it is significant.


I will take exception with Scotty and tell you the 24-70mm f2.8 Mk II is a fantastic lens and maybe the best there is, period.

In order they would be 24-105mm, version 1 of the24-70mm and the best, version 2 of the 24-70mm.


Are you going to need a great enlargement to see?  That is for you to decide.


There are some other choices out there, too, if you wish.  The Tamron offering (24-70mm f2.8) is darn close to the best that Canon has and it is half the price.  It would be right below (very close) the version 2 Canon in my rating above.


The notion that IS makes the lens better is pure fantasy.  IS makes you better, not the lens.  A non-IS lens can and sometimes bests the IS version.


I also disagree with the statement that primes are better that the 24-70mm f2.8 II.  A given prime, possibly, but certainly not all primes.  The Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art comes to mind.


I can't put it any clearer, the EF 24-70mm f2.8 L II is a very hard lens to beat with anybodies lenses.  Wow, I am talking myself into getting one!


You may have other photos to make your conclusion but you can't make a positive one from the examples you shown here.

Will your photos be better with the 24-70mm f2.8, again in a word, yes.  Will they be worth a two thousand dollar lens?  You tell me.


EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!

@ebiggs1 wrote:


I also disagree with the statement that primes are better that the 24-70mm f2.8 II.  A given prime, possibly, but certainly not all primes.  The Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art comes to mind.

Any fast prime beats the 24-70 II when you need faster than 2.8. 

I downloaded the two images, pulled them into Aperture, and turned on the focus points and looked at the EXIF data.  


I noticed a few things:


1)  According to the EXIF data in your images, the 6D was using AI Focus mode and the camera chose AI Servo.  


There are really two modes and the AI Focus is an auto-select mode.  One Shot is intended for stationary subjects (like this).  The camera will lock focus, but once it locks focus it switches off the focus system (it no longer attempts to re-tweak the focus).  AI Servo is intended for moving subjects (distance is changing).  It continuously re-focuses.


AI Focus is supposed to be an auto-select mode... it analyzes the subject distance for a moment to see if the subject is moving.  If it notices a change in focus distance, it switches to AI Servo.  If it does not detect movement, it uses One Shot focus.  The problem is (a) it can be fooled (as it was here... possibly the person holding the camera was not steady) and (b) there's a delay while the computer evalutes the focus scenario.  


It's best to put the camera into the mode you know it needs (One Shot for stationary subjects... AI Servo for moving subjects.)


Your friend's 5D III used One Shot AF (as it should have.)


2)  The 6D was using the full set of 11 AF points (AF Area Selection was set to "Auto Selection").  It locked focus on your right shoulder (the nearer shoulder).   That's what the AF system is supposed to do... it finds the AF point which can lock focus at the nearest focusing distance and uses that point.


The 5D III used expanded AF and was set to use the center point.  It locked focus on the face (actually the jaw) of the lady in the image... that's going to be closer to the faces of both people.


3)  The 6D used a slower shutter speed of about half that of the 5D III, but it should be fast enough to grab a sharp image (especially considering the lens has image stabilization).  


4)  It looks like you may have shot this using JPEG/medium resolution.  The number of pixels in the image is less than your camera is capable of using.  The 5D III image is full-size.  Did you down-size your image or are you not using the "L" size when shooting JPEG images?  Lower resulution means you'll need to enlarge more, which will tend to exaggerate any softness in the image.  (I only ever shoot full-size and almost exclusively in RAW.  Hard drives are cheap... I'm not worried about the space that the larger files occupy.)



Tim Campbell
5D III, 5D IV, 60Da

TCampbell, these are all great points. Thanks!


Focus mode is something I had not considered. I have set it to one shot now and will test how that goes.


AF points is one I forget about a lot. I tend to keep it in auto-focus mode when I'm in a situation where I might ask strangers to take a photo of me since it's difficult enough to get someone to take a decent shot without having to try and teach them to center focus and recompose! I will try and make a conscious effort to keep it in center focus mode unless otherwise necessary.


I also moved up to Large Fine jpeg setting, and kept RAW at medium. (Even though I rarely do anything with my RAW images because I don't really know how to manipulate them well, I continue to take them just in case I ever need them and/or get around to learning how to use lightroom properly.) I have been keeping the resolution at medium fine and medium RAW as a space saving method on the SD cards, not on my computer HD. Even though I have over 100GB of SD cards, I have been in more than a few situations where I've been out in the wilderness for several days (obviously without a computer to download to) and I have filled up all of my cards. So going down to medium fine JPG and medium RAW lets me get a few hundred more shots on each SD card. And considering that I never blow up beyond 20x30 I figured the medium fine jpeg had enough pixels already, but I guess it's true that more pixels are better if you can get them!


Tomorrow I'm going on a 2 week road trip to Utah so I'm sure I will take at least several hundred or a couple thousand shots and I will see how these new settings do.


Even though I've been doing photography for over 30 years, the 6d is my first DSLR. I went from SLR film to digital point and shoots for a few years and just got the 6d 2 years ago so a LOT of things are different now with digitall vs the film that I came up on. Composition and depth of field and capturing the moment is generally what I'm concerned with and I'm sure it's obvious that the finer points and the technicals of the camera are not something that I've studied too much.


I appreciate the time you all have taken to give me some ideas for improvement!  

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