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  1. #1
    Registered User spectrrr's Avatar
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    soft image problems - help!

    I'm about at my wits end here - i must be doing something rather simple and blatantly wrong. I cant seem to get ANY pictures outdoors to come out very sharply. bright sunlight seems to only worsen things. sometimes it seems like its just a problem with the camera focusing right, other times it seems like a different problem altogether. either way, 95% of all my images outside are someing out this way... and an alarming number of indoor ones as well. does anyone have ANY ideas as to the cause of this??? (and yes, I just cleaned my sensor a couple days ago)


    70-200 f/4 L with hood attached
    200mm focal length, 1/1600 f/4 ISO 200

    50% crop



    100% crop

    click on the picture above for a full-res, unedited version
    -Francis
    Samsung i770 Saga | Verizon Wireless | U.S.A.
    Abandoning in favor of a Droid....

  2. #2
    Photographer Orgnoi1's Avatar
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    I guess the first question I would ask... is what focus array/point are you using on your camera? are you on the center point only? the reason I ask is that the ground behind her legs and her right leg sock area are on much better focus... obviously at 1/1600 shutter all should be clear... but I would make sure that you are using the center focus point and Ai-Servo
    TRJ Photography
    National Press Photographers Assn. Member (NPPA)
    Canon User:1DMII/20D/10D(IR)/1nRS/Pro-1/Some L Glass

  3. #3
    Registered User spectrrr's Avatar
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    dont remember which i was using in this particular picture, results are generally the same with either. Same goes for AI-Servo... sometimes i use it, other times i dont, same results. AI-Servo actually seems to be worse at times, because any sudden movement of the subject (like the batter starting to swing) causes the servo to hunt and peck for a brief instant (which of course si the instant your trying to take a shot). So for Tennis and Softball I usually have to use single shot, though i still use servo if i'm shooting soccer or any toher constantly moving sport. it's almost as if there's a massive load of dirt blocking the AF sensor's view - any way to clean that manually?

    And i do get sharp photos every once in while of sports... and fairly often of other things... but its a very rare occasion that I get a sharp face. I suspect its the AF... but havnt figured out how to prove it. not a problem with the lens, have the same issue with the 17-40. Group shots always require a healthy dose of sharpening to be useable now. Been a nuisance durring the year, but with summer wedding around the corner, I have got to figure out whats going on.
    Last edited by spectrrr; 04-10-2006 at 07:56 AM.
    -Francis
    Samsung i770 Saga | Verizon Wireless | U.S.A.
    Abandoning in favor of a Droid....

  4. #4
    Editor and Site Administrator Convergent's Avatar
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    Wow... you timing is phenomenal. I will try to help you with your sharpness problem if you help me with timing!

    First off, I would rule out motion blur as being the problem, because you have completely frozen the tip of the bat and the compression of the ball on the bat. The shutter speed took care of that.

    Next would be camera shake. I think there may be some camera shake going on here, just from the look of the chainlink fence looking like it has a little bit of a double image... but I could be wrong. Are you using a monopod? How are you stabalizing the lens.

    The bigger problem looks like you are either not on the subject, or an equipment problem. It looks like the area most in focus is just behind the batter... looking at the grass. So the lens could be front focussing, or you could have missed the subject.

    Now lets talk about technique. If you are shooting a batter, you should be able to completely pre-focus. They aren't going to be in the same spot every time they swing. So, I generally don't even focus at all when shooting a batter. I prefocus while they are taking practice swings, then don't touch focus when they actually swing the bat. This is doable because I use the "*" button for focus start, not the shutter release. Then you can leave the camera in AI-Servo all the time and it works like a manual focus start button. The huge advantage is you will never have the camera hunt by accident when you hit the shutter. While waiting for a pitch, you would need to half press the shutter release the whole time. If your finger slips up a little and loses the half press, then when you fully press the lens will hunt. It has to hunt to tell if it is in focus or not. This is why many sports shooters use the "*" button on the back of the camera for focus.
    Mike - Been Converged?

  5. #5
    Registered User spectrrr's Avatar
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    camera shake could definately have played a small factor in that particular image, it wasnt shot with any kind of stabalization. The 70-200 f/4 is light enough that I usually can keep a pretty steady hold on it. Sofball is always fun because we have a 7' fence running around the entire field... forcing me to balance on a pair of milk crates to avoid shooting through the fence.
    I have eliminated camera shake as the problem however because I get the exact same results in baseball when i often have the camera wedged into a crook in the fence that makes a very effective tripod.

    Light appears to be the major decing factor that i have been able to identify. More specifically, contrast. i got some decently sharp images of the outfielders that same game when i was shooting from the other side of the field and had the sun directly behind me. Where everything seems to go haywire is if the face is half shadow or full shadow, then it cant seem to focus properly, even if i zoom in and have the face take up a considerable portion of the frame.

    To be honest, when i first got the camera i was excited about the "*" button feature, and then i never got around to playing around with it. I'll definately take your advice and play around with it a bit, could fix some shots i've missed in the past from missing the shot (or at least save me from standing rock still with my finger perched halfway on the shutter button waiting for them to swing)

    As for the timing... well, like any photographer I showed off my best image and left out the other 20 that didnt quite make the grade =) ... i'm not bad at timing things, but I'm nowhere near that good either
    -Francis
    Samsung i770 Saga | Verizon Wireless | U.S.A.
    Abandoning in favor of a Droid....

  6. #6
    Editor and Site Administrator Convergent's Avatar
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    Your comment regarding contrast made me think of something else that might cause a problem. Often, the area you might focus on a uniform can lack enough contrast to focus. I will often shift my focus point up (shooting vertical most of the time) to hit the chin or face of the player. This is especially noticable as a problem when the jerseys are black with dark letters. So, your comment about the darkness from lighting might be creating the same effect. The batter is effectively standing still when they swing, so there really shouldn't ever be a focus problem on a batter (vs. a fielder or something).

    One other thing that I found success on with the 1DM2... don't recall if the 20D has the same setting, but I think it does. There is a setting for how long to wait before switching to an intervening subject that is obstructing the subject you are tracking. Conventional wisdom would tell you to make that long (or slow) to avoid losing the player running. However, after a discussion on another forum, the theory was floated that if you are tracking a player running towards you that the camera could lose the subject and then think that the subject itself is an intervening obstruction. So, the thought was to set this to the fastest setting so that it quickly abandoned whatever it thought was the subject and jumped on the thing that it was on at the moment. I've gotten better results with sports having this on the fastest setting.
    Mike - Been Converged?

  7. #7
    Registered User spectrrr's Avatar
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    Hmm well, a bit of a good news / bad news update

    1) Mike, your comments on technique were right on. I switched to using the * button for focus and noticed a marked improvement in my keeper ratio, including in-focus shots. Took me a bit to get used to it... still have moments when I miss the old way, but I’m trying to adapt it for everyday use. Of course early yesterday morning when I was half dead from studying for a major exam and got the call to come into the office because Senator DeWine was meeting with the university president, I utterly forgot that I had made the switch over on the button and thought my equipment had failed - Shot half that morning in MF until I realized my mistake =)

    Also started shooting in M instead of Ap a lot more than I had in the past. I had only shot M before when it was indoors and very low light. Had great success shooting M today at track… but then again it was a bit overcast and PERFECT lighting (not too harsh). I’ll post some images from that when I get a chance.


    2) But yes, I said there would be some bad news… and indeed there is. The blurry image problem is almost definitely a focus issue… and its getting steadily worse. Remapping * as the dedicated focus button freed me up to MF a lot more… and whadda ya know… mostly sharp images. Problem exists to a somewhat degree in the 17-40 (although its hard to tell sometimes because the WA has a much deeper field of focus) and is getting very bad with the 70-200. It seems to only involve faraway subjects. Focuses fairly sharp for macro work (from what I can tell so far). Building on that problem, AF speed is steadily getting slower and slower. A bit later in the day when the light was down to 1/640 f/4 ISO 800, AI-servo was nearly useless – constant hunt focusing… sometimes it would run itself out to an extreme end and get stuck there, only way to get it back in focus was manually. Nearly universally it would fail to track a moving subject though.

    Starting to get a little frustrated. Got a number of great shots today… keeper ratio was quite high. But I also missed a number of very good shots because the camera simply wouldn’t focus. It got to the point where if I had even a few seconds to setup my shot, I almost always used MF.... AF only got used when there was no other option... and we all know how fun it is to MF on a 20d viewfinder.
    Last edited by spectrrr; 04-21-2006 at 10:43 PM.
    -Francis
    Samsung i770 Saga | Verizon Wireless | U.S.A.
    Abandoning in favor of a Droid....

  8. #8
    Registered User spectrrr's Avatar
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    Seriously considering dumping it on ebay and trying to fund the upgrade to a 1d mrkII ... got 45,000 actuations on it... only good for 50-100
    -Francis
    Samsung i770 Saga | Verizon Wireless | U.S.A.
    Abandoning in favor of a Droid....

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