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New Contributor
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎04-15-2014

Serious sharpness issues... please help!

Hello everyone!


I would classify myself as a very serious hobby photographer, who is transitioning into the pro realm. I currently own a Canon 60D, and 24-105 f4L, and 70-200 f4L. 


I've been having a terrible issue with sharpness. Considering I'm shooting with somewhat prestigious "L" lenses, and what i thought was a decent body, I'm very unhappy. I can't get any of my photos to be sharp at 100% or more. It's just plain embarassing & disgusting! 


Any ideas as to why? I'll include a sample photo. It's not exposure or noise reduction either, althought those only make the problem worse. Should I toss the "L" lenses and get primes? I'm kinda a fanatic about sharpness. Also, I am shooting in RAW. Occasionally I will get a fairly decent shot, but most of the time they are just plain soft, especially over 50%. 


Thanks in advance for any info/thoughts!



Canon 60D, 24-105L, 70-200L, etc., etc....
Reputable Contributor
Posts: 849
Registered: ‎03-06-2013

Re: Serious sharpness issues... please help!

Did you use tripod? have you tried to test your lens using tripod? I have this 70-200 F4L (non IS) lens and it's stack sharp. I see you shot this image at 1/320 which maybe be a little "slow" for hand held this lens. This lens doesn't have IS, you may need faster shutter speed than 1/320 for hand held.
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Respected Contributor
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎02-28-2013

Re: Serious sharpness issues... please help!

[ Edited ]

I suspect there are a lot of things going on.  First thing of note is that your depth of field is fairly small, so a large portion of the photo isn’t sharp because it’s outside the field.  Also, lenses are always a bit softer when close to wide open.   f/4.5 on the 70-200 f/4 is pretty open, closing down to 8 or even 11 will definitely help sharpness.


That said, the in-focus section isn’t as sharp as it should be for that lens.   I haven't done any macro work with it, but it does portrature tack sharp.


Even at 1/320, shooting at 200mm on a crop sensor is  borderline.  You should always make a habit of trying to be rock solid when you push the shutter, but you should be thinking about it when shooting a long tele.   I assume your 70-200 is without IS?   For a situation like that I probably would have bumped up the ISO to 400, upped my aperture and shutter a stop.


I can’t tell if the left corner is a little OOF because it’s a corner or it’s the front of your DoF.  If it’s not the DoF I would question if you’re also pushing the limits of the minimum focus distance.  While the 70-200 are great lenses, they’re not going to match a good macro lens for a shot like this.    Maybe the new 70-200 2.8 II in certain situations.  But you might be surprised at just how sharp a macro lens is when dealing with close up subjects.  I know the 70-200s are sharp, but I’ve just never seen the same results for macro work as an actual macro lens.  I highly recommend either the 100mm or 100mm L. 

Valued Contributor
Posts: 425
Registered: ‎01-19-2014

Re: Serious sharpness issues... please help!

I'd be interested in seeing one of the OP's in-focus images.
Valued Contributor
Posts: 425
Registered: ‎01-19-2014

Re: Serious sharpness issues... please help!

Good stuff here on technique for shooting butterflies. One point, to keep camera sensor parallel to the butterfly's wings for even focusing seems especially pertinent. Your shoot is definetly at a angle (like a 3/4 front shot of a car). I think the autofocus must have been hunting like crazy trying to figure out where on the bug to focus. Smiley Happy

Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 3,854
Registered: ‎06-11-2013

Re: Serious sharpness issues... please help!

The response I give to everyone who wonders about camera and lens focus issues is this:  Don't use a photo from a regular shoot to evaluate focus performance... there are simply far too many factors that can cause a poor result even when the gear is perfect.


If you want to know if your focus is working correctly, then test your focus using valid test conditions.  


For example... if you allow the camera to auto-select the focus point, then it will always pick the AF point which was able to lock focus at the nearest distance from the camera -- and that may not be the point you had intended.  You can force the camera to a specific focus point and make sure that AF point is hovering in front of the position in frame that you want in sharp focus.


When using "One Shot" AF mode, the camera only activates focus until it achieves focus lock.  At that point the focus system shuts off.  This means (and this is particularly critical in close-up photography) that if you are hand-holding the camera and you move... just barely... then you can (and probably will) completely throw your intended subject out of focus.  This is because at close focusing distance the depth of field is very narrow (as you can see in your own photo).  If your body were to lean forward or backward... perhaps by just 1/2 an inch... that would be enough to soften the focus.


There are a number of techniques to improve the stability of the camera while hand-holding it.  This mostly relate to thinking about your body and camera in terms of your center of mass over your feet and bracing your body to support the camera to minimize the factors that cause camera movement.  But nothing beats putting the camera on a solid non-moving mount -- like a tripod.


If you want to evaluate focus performance of the camera, you can use a focus target (you can buy a commercial target or you can download a target and print it yourself... my favorite downloadable/free chart is this one: but I actually use a commercial chart for my own gear.)  When testing... the camera MUST be on a tripod (no exceptions... if the camera is hand-held then the test results are not valid.)  The chart must also be stationary (you can place it on a desk.  My commercial chart actually mounts to another tripod.)  Switch OFF the image stabilization when testing.  Force the camera to use one specific AF point (if you want to test them all, you can, but don't let it auto-pick the AF point).  Carefully align that focus point to the focus point on the test target.  Take LOTS of test photos... it's always possible to have an anomoly.  I manually run the lens out of focus between each test exposure to make sure that the camera has to run it back into focus.  I actually manually run it out in both directions and keep track... e.g. run the focus out to infinity and make it focus back in and do that at least a half-dozen times.  Then run the focus in to minimum distance so that it has to run the focus out to reach focus.  This will help me detect if there's some gear backlash/slop such that the camera reaches focus accurately when focusing in one direction... but slop prevents it from reaching focus when running focus in the opposite direction.  That would be an indication that the lens needs service.


In any case...using careful test conditions eliminates other factors from the equation... you don't have to worry that the subject moved... or you moved... or the camera wassn't steady... or the AF system picked a different focus point rather than your intended focus point, etc.


Tim Campbell
5D III, 5D IV, 60Da
Posts: 13,797
Registered: ‎12-07-2012

Re: Serious sharpness issues... please help!

Follow what Tim Campbell said but I suspect your lens is fine.

Plus I believe you have selected a few settings that are not helping you.  As noted DOF is going to be paper thin.  Use a single spot for focus.  You are at an angle which is also not ging to help. No lens will get the whole butterfly in focus with your settings.  At 200mm and f4.5 the lens is not at it's sharpest either.

It looks like you had plenty of light so ISO 400 should help get the shutter up and the aperture smaller.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!
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