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Sharper image shooting

Discussion in 'General Technical Discussion' started by Rich Gibson, Jul 21, 2005.

  1. eng45ine


    May 11, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    It sure looks tempting, Rich. Who ever put the ad together did a great job a peaking one's interest. I'm waiting to read if someone knows any more about it.
  2. ckdamascus


    May 14, 2005
    New Jersey
    This is based off of what I have learned through various reputable sources on the Internet. My own personal experience also mirrors a lot of what I read as well. I can answer the questions this article claims to answer, and I will do so for free. The major question points answered by this article are in bold, my answers are afterwards.


    How bad is handheld shooting anyway?

    "The bottom line is simple: if the camera is moving when you shoot, you'll never resolve what the lens is capable of. Other factors enter into the picture, too."

    Photographers worry about tripod dampening; Just imagine how bad human shake would be.

    Which shutter speed is fast enough to reliably match mirror lockup on a tripod?

    1/30 to 1-2 seconds is the Mirror Lock Up level. AVOID this range if you don't have mirror lock up.

    "And on many Nikon bodies, there's tangible "mirror slap" vibration that shows up with telephoto lenses when the shutter speed is in the 1/2 to 1/15 range (I usually suggest either avoiding the 1 second to 1/30 range with lenses over 100mm unless you have a solid platform and use either mirror lockup (F4 and F5) or anti-mirror vibration (D1 series and D100). "


    There probably is some formula given some focal length the "mirror lock up required" range probably kicks in. You can refer to Michael Webber's document to see his results.


    Do tripods vary in how quickly they dampen vibration?

    Yes. Cheap metal ones will not dampen it well. Expensive carbon fiber does. Wood is the best, but... it's ultra heavy and has a "horrible interface". Most people go with the Carbon Fiber.


    "Gitzos are much less prone to vibration than any other tripods I've worked with ..."


    ""Wood absorbs vibration and metal transmits/reflects it," is how the view camera perfectionists put it."

    Does the choice of tripod affect image sharpness and contrast? What about shooting in bursts?

    Of course it affects sharpness. Of course bursts will be less effective, remember why you did a mirror lock up in the first place. The vibrations from the multifire will shake the rest of the pictures.

    "If you use cable release on the F5 running 8 fps in a shutter speed range from 1/4s to 1/30s you will obtain one relatively sharp image - the first one of the sequence!"


    You could shoot a bit slower to retain some sharpness if you go with 3-5 consecutive shots as "much better results were obtained with an F100 at 5 fps due it's superior (or simply slower? mirror mechanism)"


    When does lens focal length become an issue on a tripod?

    When it means you have a head+cambody that is > ~1.0/1.5X the weight of the tripod legs. The longer the focal length, the more you have to worry about the potential shake since the image is magnified.

    As Thomas Hogan hints that "I usually suggest either avoiding the 1 second to 1/30 range with lenses over 100mm unless you have a solid platform and use either mirror lockup (F4 and F5) or anti-mirror vibration (D1 series and D100). "

    Thomas Hogan also points out the mysterious 1.0-1.5X weight "The old rule of thumb was that your tripod/head needed to be 1.5x (or more) the weight of what was on top of it. These days, new materials and designs let you get down to about 1x--assuming that have a disciplined technique--but beyond that you're just asking for problems, especially with long lenses or slow shutter speeds"


    How useful is Vibration Reduction handheld and on a tripod?

    I'm sure VR is great hand held. For most Nikon lens now, on a tripod, VR is BAD. VR makes it worse than without. Disable VR when you are using a NIKON lens on a tripod. (Canon doesn't have this issue in particular, hence my Nikon lens comment, but Canon has other drawbacks).

    Simply stated " VR must be turned off when the lens is tripod mounted" http://www.naturfotograf.com/VR80_400_review.html

    However, it appears to be a VR version issue. The 200-400mm VR lens does not exhibit this behavior and in the manual it clearly states that VR should be enabled on a tripod. Rumor has it that the 200-400mm VR has a next generation VR system which is why it bucks the trend.

    You can see the results of a 70-200mm VR lens with VR enabled on a tripod here

    How do various shooting modes affect sharpness and contrast?

    Shutter Mode... faster == sharper. :)  Aperature ... stop down to the best part of the lens == sharper. :)  I'm not sure what other specifics they are referring too.

    If you stop down TOO far, you will lose sharpness due to diffraction. This applies to all lens, but Thomas Hogan specifically states it here.


    Which shooting techniques yield the best image sharpness?

    Don't use a filter if you don't need to (yes those protection filters are making it worse, you decide if it's worth the tradeoff but for purists, you want it off). You are actually more at risk of flare and loss of contrast instead of loss of sharpness.


    Use a tripod on firm but "giving" ground like dirt vs concrete.

    Use as fast as a shutter speed as possible otherwise use Mirror Lock Up (or according to Michael Webber, just buy a MUCH better tripod legs + head)


    How does shutter speed influence critical sharpness on a tripod?

    Should be obvious by now. Faster is better or slower with Mirror Lock Up (MLU).

    Does the tripod collar affect image sharpness and contrast?

    Yes. If it flexes it's going to make it soft.


    Bjorn is particular picky about this and originally rated the 70-180mm Micro Nikkor (an excellent lens by the way) with low marks due to the poor Nikon supplied tripod collar.

    What are some considerations in choosing a tripod and ballhead?

    Choose a tripod without an extending head. Keep it as a three leg and make sure the ballhead is LOW. You want to keep the tripod LOW.

    Bjorn's tripod "is very short, thus keeping the centre of gravity as low as possible."


    Also, a center column makes your 'tripod' into a monopod on top of a tripod.


    There are a number of other subtle references elsewhere about this. It's practically a "rule of thumb" for tripod users.

    Recall that Thomas Hogan is extremely careful about avoiding "top heavy" tripod setups. Bjorn mentions this as well as a potential danger. They also believe in keeping the tripod fairly low (this is a nice advantage of the RRS Ballhead too). And it only makes sense that you want your camera to be supported by all three sides, not just directly from the bottom (ala center column equipped tripods).

    Why does blur seem more prominent on high resolution cameras?

    In my opinion, this is subjective. Supposedly from "magnification" (I don't buy that). I think it's mostly because people can zoom in more easily and see the defects more easily.

    What general conclusions can be drawn from all these tests?

    People who claim they want the sharpest, contrasty images yet they skimp on the filter, tripod legs, tripod head, cable release or remote firing are somewhat being hypocritical by not following through with ALL the techniques and equipment required to have the 'sharpest' image.

    This isn't to say you HAVE to buy all of this. Shoot well hand held with a fast shutter and I'm sure you'll have images that are only tiny fractions away from the 'best possible' image on a tripod. Just remember you are making a compromise by skimping since "if the camera is moving when you shoot, you'll never resolve what the lens is capable of."


    New Question from Nikon Cafe
    Is sharpness important?

    That's completely up to you. However, it is arguable that with a sharper image you can easily soften it afterwards. The other way is possible but with drawbacks. Note in my conclusions, "this isn't to say you HAVE to buy all of this". I've taken great hand held shots before. This is definitely crossing into the realm of diminishing returns. Good handholding techniques is very handy as well


    Finally, I encourage any readers to follow up on the links to gain better insight on any particular issue that may be confusing. Of course there are other potential factors so there might be exceptions to the rule. I hope this is considerably more helpful and credible than my original post.

    You can probably gain very useful solid charts and more picture examples (Bjorn has some nice ones regarding the 300mm AF-S's weak tripod collar) by purchasing the Digital LLoyd document.

    I suggest seeing if you can improvise your techniques with these answers first to see if you can start seeing some tangible differences yourself. The most common way is to start using remote release via cable or remote on your DSLR and you should see a pretty big difference (at least I did).
  3. Chris101


    Feb 2, 2005
    You ask a lot of questions Carroll. I've got one:

    Is sharpness the most important thing in an image?
  4. eng45ine


    May 11, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Great post, Carroll...very well stated.
  5. Chris, this is a SUPERB question, and often it is not. How many people want a "critically sharp" portrait for example? Ever wrinkle and flaw shows up very well.

    Then again, sharpness, as most things photographic, is subjective as well beyond a certain base level isn't it?
  6. ckdamascus


    May 14, 2005
    New Jersey
    Nope. I never said it was either nor intended to imply so. However, I merely wanted to answer the topic which was 'sharper image shooting'.
  7. general


    Apr 30, 2005
    One Exception

    I would disagree about using VR on a tripod for the Nikkor 200-400 VR. It works for me.
  8. ckdamascus


    May 14, 2005
    New Jersey
    Re: One Exception

    Incidentally the 200-400mm VR is a second generation VR which works great on a tripod, unlike the others. That's why I wrote "most", not all. That is also why I wrote "now" instead of indefinitely as I am sure Nikon's later VR models will also work on a tripod without any blur.
  9. I agree that a picture doesn't have to be sharp, but as for me I would like to come to the point in my photography where I can knowingly decide what effect I want, sharp or not, how much bokee, exposure etc.

    I have along ways to go, but it is nice to have lofty goals.
  10. Ken-L

    Ken-L Guest

    It seems to me that it is a lot easier to make a SHARP photo look less sharp or softer, so it makes sense to start out with as sharp a photo as possible and work from there...
  11. I tend to avoid Digital Lloyd, or anyone who sells information
    on the web. Remember this is the same Lloyd Chambers that
    was selling a review of the D2x for $35. I think these articles
    are just written to be sold to the unsuspecting. This article sells
    for $23. I personally would not waste my $.

    You would be far better off using common sense when shooting
    Or get a reputable book on photography. IMHO

  12. As most of you can deduce from my pics, I'm a big fan of sharpness. Isn't that why we buy such good glass - to get non-soft pics. I'd much prefer to do editing to make a pic softer but want sharp to start out with. I want to see all the detail that Mother Nature provides, unless of course it's a self portrait!

    With all the stuff that's out there on the net for free in various forums and site, etc., I'm wondering just how many folks are actually paying over $20 for an html doc with pic examples. Heck, I'll send you some of my rejected soft pics for only $5!!! *LOL*
  13. That seems kinda expensive Sandi!! Heck I will give anyone who
    asks my OOF rejects gratis.
  14. OK OK since Robin is getting in on the act, I'll give you two for $5 - and I'll even sign the rejects too!! *LOL*
  15. MontyDog


    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
  16. MontyDog


    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
  17. ckdamascus


    May 14, 2005
    New Jersey
    I can provide evidence if you wish, but I didn't realize I was going to be under fire or scrutiny for validating every claim. I'll post up "backup" references for everyone's pleasure in a few days.

    If you were trying to validate your purchase of the written material, that's fine. It would have been a lot easier if you just said that upfront instead of implying my entire summary was some big joke and then follow up by some apology and validation that I was mostly correct as a quick summary. I can't put every exception to the rule in there as I was already under fire when some people didn't read every bit of what I said.

    It's hard enough to write it out in a short time while trying to avoid nitpickers from tearing apart your statements. I was going to contend any disagreements with evidence, but I think I am better off putting down all my sources ahead of time on this casual forum.

    To allay everyone else's doubts, I will refer all my sources for my answers in a few days. If you still are not convinced by then or do not wish to wait, feel free to purchase the article as it seems at least one member has benefited greatly from it.
  18. MontyDog


    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
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