Soft images - Improvement needed!

Joined
Feb 22, 2013
Messages
58
Location
united states
Unexpectedly soft images- Please bear and read through - Thanks!

After roughly 2k's worth of shots and almost a month of ownership, I'm not getting the degree of focus or sharpness to be expected/hoped for especially when directly compared to what I've seen online. Yes, my budget does not allow for more expensive 1.4/1.8/2.8 optimal glass nor have I yet mastered professional technique, however things can be improved with your seasoned advice. My main all-purpose lens is the 24-120 f4 & use Lightroom 4.4 for processing. My goal is to pinpoint & to incorporate whatever combination of factors it will take within reason in order to yield significantly better output/results! Here's where we all can pitch in synergistically to get this accomplished.

I have multiple tripods and still need a corded or remote release control soon. For example: the Nikon MC36-A @ $160 is too pricy. What do you use? The device doesn't have to have every bell and whistle! My particular area of concern is the 800's performance when handheld. I handhold most of the time. Tripods take a large footprint.

1) Will tweaking the diopter help achieve, have any bearing on or aid this mission in any way? Did you leave it at the factory position?

2) AF-fine tune with each lens. Mandatory, optional or worthwhile? Is this difficult to do with a zoom lens? That's all I have. The manual recommends to leave it alone unless absolutely necessary. So, how do I know if it will help and if so how to properly utilize it for best results. Unfortunately, diagnostic testing (being a non-tech person in some respects) is not my forte.

3a) In camera sharpening. Just found out this existed! Applied only to JPEGS. Factory default seems to be 4. Sufficient as is? Boost a couple of notches?

3b) For RAW processing: How is Lightroom used to achieve a satisfactory degree of sharpness with noise/artifacts masked? What does clarity slider do compared to that the sharpness section? What is the proper technique to obtain the right level and not overdo it? A online tutorial may well be in order.

4) Do you use Mirror-up mode to get sharper shots? Does it really help?

Will this mode work with handheld shots? Are there any cons or any other advantages to using this over the factory default position?

5) Does the Auto Distortion control have any relevance or potential impact?

6) Under what conditions/circumstances should I use manual instead of auto-focusing? Maybe auto focus didn't work properly or as needed in some cases?

7) Disable in camera noise reduction? I never shoot at ISO's above 800. Does it really have any real significance at 100 or 200? Anything appreciably to be gained here?

8) For the average enthusiast: At what shutter speed triggers the threshold edge of shakiness?

Thanks in advance for any comments, pointers, tips or recommendations.
 
Joined
Mar 14, 2009
Messages
2,303
Location
Cambria, CA
You certainly have an excellent combination in the D800 and the 24-120/4. If you understand and implement correctly the state of the art features of the D800, your raw captures should be where you want them to be. There are a number of excellent D800 publications (Darrell Young's for one). I have had the D800 for almost a year now, and being somewhat of a novice am still in the process of absorbing all of its features.

Then it's a matter of how the sliders in LR4 are utilized as to a given capture. I would suggest that, as to sharpness, you take a look at this video which I have found to be excellent http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXtTeixz92A. The author, who will never be asked to substitute for Jay Leno, provides an easy to understand tutorial on sharpness. At the very least, it's an excellent starting point
 
Joined
Jan 2, 2009
Messages
6,956
Location
Alaska
Real Name
Dan
What were you shooting previously?

Third party release cords can be found for $20-30 and wireless for around $50.

The diopter doesn't affect focus unless you are focusing manually.

AF fine tune is just that, fine tuning. There are procedures out there for doing it manually or you can purchase software to help.

You asked a couple of things about sharpening. If you aren't doing it on RAW files then that is a problem. If you use Nikon ViewNX as a veiwer, it applies whatever in camera sharpening you have set. If the photos look different in ViewNX than after you've run them through Lightroom, then you are having post processing issues.

Mirror up helps get that last bit of optimization for sharper photos. Based on your questions your issues are more basic. Try it handheld and you will answer your own question.

Auto distortion corrects for lens distortion, not sharpness.

Unless your camera has a problem with the AF module, it is not likely that you can do better with manual focus except in rare circumstances.

If you shoot low ISO than dissabling NR removes one variable from the equation. I don't use it but I don't expect my images to pop out of the camera ready for prime time either.

Keeping shutter speed high is probably the single most important thing you can do for sharp images. How high? The higher the better in most cases. It depends on what you are shooting, whether it is static or in motion, how heavily you will crop the image, etc. IF you are shooting a static object, and IF you plan to use the full frame image, then conventional wisdom is ss should never be less than 1/focal length. So for you 120mm lens, 1/125s. Nikon claims VR buys you 4 stops. My hands shake bad enough it buys me one. So 1/60s for that lens.

What were you shooting before the D800?
 
Joined
May 26, 2011
Messages
484
Location
Louisville, KY
Youtube has some great videos on achieving optimal sharpness with Lightroom 4. But the photo has to be taken properly first.

Yungnuo RF-603 can be used as a wireless shutter release. I use it for hummingbird photography and works great as a shutter release. I don't recommend it on the D800 for a remote flash because it won't sync on my D800 faster than 1/200th. $31.99

http://www.amazon.com/Yongnuo-Wirel...d=1368481266&sr=8-2&keywords=yongnuo+603+d800
 
Joined
Feb 22, 2013
Messages
58
Location
united states
I was shooting with mainly a D-90 and some with D-5100 so this is a huge jump in complexity. It's a new "animal" in many respects and sensitive!

Shoot in RAW and fine jpeg. I'm currently using an SanDisk Ultra 30 Mbps Class 10 SDXC card. Am I better off using a hi speed Lexar CF card instead?

Is there any correlation in regards to picture quality/sharpness if I use a higher speed memory card or if I use Compact flash over SDHC ? I know someone who claimed that so I had to ask.

Actually, to date I have almost no experience with Nikon software although its been downloaded.

My hands shake more than they should hence this post. Always use VR unless the unit is on a tripod.

I edit both RAW and fine JPEG images. Just getting started in applying sharpness solely due to my results thus far. I'm trying to determine if adding this in post is common practice. I never did with any of the other Nikon bodies I have.
 
Joined
Feb 22, 2013
Messages
58
Location
united states
Thanks for the suggestion.

I'll read through the reviews soon and give it every consideration.

The price is right!
 
Joined
May 26, 2011
Messages
484
Location
Louisville, KY
Type of memory card has no effect at all on the quality or sharpness of your images. It just writes that image from the buffer to the card slower. You would not be able to sustain your maximum burst rate as long as with a faster card.

Like others have said shutter speed is huge. If your hands shake or you have issues with controlling the camera your better off with a faster shutter speed.
 
Joined
Dec 7, 2007
Messages
343
Location
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
I think the next logical step of this thread is for you to show us some images you're unhappy with.
Even with VR I try to stick to the 1/Focal Length rule just to be sure. VR is there for when I can't achieve that and it give me some latitude in Less than perfect conditions.

Things that CanNOT effect sharpness:
Card speed or card type.
As you're using lightroom and shooting RAW most of the in camera picture settings (these only effect your JPG's and the preview image embedded in the RAW NOT the raw itself)


Things that can effect perceived sharpness:
Shutter Speed (The big one to take notice of!)
Aperture-'Depth of field' (Again technically not sharpness! The shallow depth of field you may get can lead you to believe you're image is not sharp, it may be but only for an inch of depth)
High ISO (technically not sharpness but you lose edge definition due to noise)
Tripod
Mirror Up mode
Exposure Delay
Punching the shutter release (Heavy fingers)
Release mode (set this to focus not release)
AF Mode for static subjects use AF-S single point

I highly recommend Thom Hogans D800 book if you want a great technical guide to the D800
 
Joined
Feb 22, 2013
Messages
58
Location
united states
I admit to "heavy fingers" syndrome. I tend to pound on the keys when typing. Probably originates from my piano playing days earlier in life!

Been experimenting between AF-S single point and auto area.

What are the pros and cons of each? I switched to auto area because I was getting too many parts of the frame OOF aside from the focal point area.

What value should I use for a exposure delay?
 
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
3,972
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Chicago
Exposure delay is for adjusting the time between mirror up and open shutter.

No good for sports, landscape where nothing moves , .4 sec.

Use single point, preferably center. Area will guess where the focus point should be, generally wrong. In theory it is good for following a moving subject.
 
Joined
Nov 28, 2012
Messages
257
Location
California
A cheaper alternative to the MC-36A is the MC-30A. You'll limit yourself to just a shutter release if you opt for the 30A. You can do more things with the 36A; hence, the difference in price.

I shoot handheld and on a tripod with a D800e, and I am able to get incredibly sharp shots with the two lenses I have. Neither have VR. But I used to competitively target shoot with a high powered rifle, so breathing and that technique might give me an advantage.

As others have asked, please post some pics: handheld and mounted on a tripod for comparison.

Mirror up is useful for what it's designed to do. You wouldn't need mirror up if you are shooting handheld, in my limited experience.
 
Joined
May 11, 2006
Messages
1,002
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CHARLOTTE
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Randy
I have multiple tripods and still need a corded or remote release control soon. For example: the Nikon MC36-A @ $160 is too pricy. What do you use? The device doesn't have to have every bell and whistle! My particular area of concern is the 800's performance when handheld. I handhold most of the time. Tripods take a large footprint.

I never use a remote even for long exposures

1) Will tweaking the diopter help achieve, have any bearing on or aid this mission in any way? Did you leave it at the factory position? NO it will only help you see theu the VF better

2) AF-fine tune with each lens. Mandatory, optional or worthwhile? Is this difficult to do with a zoom lens? That's all I have. The manual recommends to leave it alone unless absolutely necessary. So, how do I know if it will help and if so how to properly utilize it for best results. Unfortunately, diagnostic testing (being a non-tech person in some respects) is not my forte.

Never ever do it

3a) In camera sharpening. Just found out this existed! Applied only to JPEGS. Factory default seems to be 4. Sufficient as is? Boost a couple of notches?

shoot RAW and turn all that junk off including ADL

3b) For RAW processing: How is Lightroom used to achieve a satisfactory degree of sharpness with noise/artifacts masked? What does clarity slider do compared to that the sharpness section? What is the proper technique to obtain the right level and not overdo it? A online tutorial may well be in order.

google for a LR4 tutorial


4) Do you use Mirror-up mode to get sharper shots? Does it really help?

Will this mode work with handheld shots? Are there any cons or any other advantages to using this over the factory default position?

I don't ever

5) Does the Auto Distortion control have any relevance or potential impact? what ?

6) Under what conditions/circumstances should I use manual instead of auto-focusing? Maybe auto focus didn't work properly or as needed in some cases?

just use AF until you get more experience

7) Disable in camera noise reduction? I never shoot at ISO's above 800. Does it really have any real significance at 100 or 200? Anything appreciably to be gained here?

ignore it then

8) For the average enthusiast: At what shutter speed triggers the threshold edge of shakiness?

it's not what SS it's what focal length. My general rule is SS= 1/flX2
so 300mm = 1/600
 
Joined
May 11, 2006
Messages
1,002
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Randy
I was shooting with mainly a D-90 and some with D-5100 so this is a huge jump in complexity. It's a new "animal" in many respects and sensitive!

Shoot in RAW and fine jpeg. I'm currently using an SanDisk Ultra 30 Mbps Class 10 SDXC card. Am I better off using a hi speed Lexar CF card instead?

Is there any correlation in regards to picture quality/sharpness if I use a higher speed memory card or if I use Compact flash over SDHC ? I know someone who claimed that so I had to ask.

Actually, to date I have almost no experience with Nikon software although its been downloaded.

My hands shake more than they should hence this post. Always use VR unless the unit is on a tripod.

I edit both RAW and fine JPEG images. Just getting started in applying sharpness solely due to my results thus far. I'm trying to determine if adding this in post is common practice. I never did with any of the other Nikon bodies I have.

NO
 
Joined
May 11, 2006
Messages
1,002
Location
CHARLOTTE
Real Name
Randy
I admit to "heavy fingers" syndrome. I tend to pound on the keys when typing. Probably originates from my piano playing days earlier in life!

Been experimenting between AF-S single point and auto area.

What are the pros and cons of each? I switched to auto area because I was getting too many parts of the frame OOF aside from the focal point area.

What value should I use for a exposure delay?

try AFC D9 and see how that works
read the manual on how to setup and what it does
 
Joined
May 11, 2006
Messages
1,002
Location
CHARLOTTE
Real Name
Randy
I was shooting with mainly a D-90 and some with D-5100 so this is a huge jump in complexity. It's a new "animal" in many respects and sensitive!

Shoot in RAW and fine jpeg. I'm currently using an SanDisk Ultra 30 Mbps Class 10 SDXC card. Am I better off using a hi speed Lexar CF card instead?

Is there any correlation in regards to picture quality/sharpness if I use a higher speed memory card or if I use Compact flash over SDHC ? I know someone who claimed that so I had to ask.

Actually, to date I have almost no experience with Nikon software although its been downloaded.

My hands shake more than they should hence this post. Always use VR unless the unit is on a tripod.

I edit both RAW and fine JPEG images. Just getting started in applying sharpness solely due to my results thus far. I'm trying to determine if adding this in post is common practice. I never did with any of the other Nikon bodies I have.

yes add shaprening in PP to taste
I don't use VR above ss=1/30
 
Joined
Jul 14, 2008
Messages
3,108
Location
UK
I bought this recently for £18 - roughly one seventh of the price of an Mc-36 and does everything perfectly.

When looking for the Link I now see that the price has dropped to £5.99!!!!

HERE

DG
 
Joined
Mar 15, 2009
Messages
7,507
Location
Los Angeles, CA
I have multiple tripods and still need a corded or remote release control soon. For example: the Nikon MC36-A @ $160 is too pricy. What do you use?

I use the self-timer for most of my tripod shots.
If you're mostly shooting handheld, you'll need to practice a lot. When I moved from the D700 to D600, I was not very happy with the sharpness on the first 200 or so shots. Maybe it has something to do with the added resolution, but all I know is that it takes some time to get used to a new body.

If you're shooting landscapes and static scenes, a sturdy tripod and ballhead will help a LOT.

1) Will tweaking the diopter help achieve, have any bearing on or aid this mission in any way? Did you leave it at the factory position?

No, it only helps tweak the VF but it has nothing to do with the final output. You'll have to fine tune yours to suit your eyesight.

2) AF-fine tune with each lens. Mandatory, optional or worthwhile? Is this difficult to do with a zoom lens? That's all I have. The manual recommends to leave it alone unless absolutely necessary. So, how do I know if it will help and if so how to properly utilize it for best results. Unfortunately, diagnostic testing (being a non-tech person in some respects) is not my forte.

Mandatory for me. It made a day and night difference on ALL my lenses. You will have to do the AFFT procedure correctly, though. This is a whole different topic in itself.

3a) In camera sharpening. Just found out this existed! Applied only to JPEGS. Factory default seems to be 4. Sufficient as is? Boost a couple of notches?

I don't always shoot JPG, but when I do... I turn sharpening off.

3b) For RAW processing: How is Lightroom used to achieve a satisfactory degree of sharpness with noise/artifacts masked? What does clarity slider do compared to that the sharpness section? What is the proper technique to obtain the right level and not overdo it? A online tutorial may well be in order.

My basic sharpening procedure is -> LR -> sharpen to about 60%, -> minor sharpening via Mogrify plugin on export.

On tricky scenarios, I run sharpening a bit differently. I export to PS, run my custom action (applies layer mask to prevent halo, USM, downsample using bicubic sharper, adjust tonal gradients, and then save as JPG. I don't use LR for the detail shots where I want ultimate control. Here's an example:

8649218377_99ebeb5d9f_c.jpg
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


If you do a global sharpening in LR, even the background will show noise. Further, "clarity" is something I never use because it affects bokeh. The trick is to create adjustment layers and masks to focus the sharpening on your subject without creating halos. This is just a basic explanation.. it's a whole entire topic in itself. Also, there's a fine balance between 'overdone' and 'just right'. Knowing when to stop is the key.

4) Do you use Mirror-up mode to get sharper shots? Does it really help?

only when I'm on a tripod
Mup + self timer + sturdy tripod + f/8 = BITING SHARP.

5) Does the Auto Distortion control have any relevance or potential impact?

I don't know, I never use it.

6) Under what conditions/circumstances should I use manual instead of auto-focusing? Maybe auto focus didn't work properly or as needed in some cases?

When you need to nail critical focus of if you're shooting a tricky scene (like a bird behind some twigs, etc). I MF for landscapes about 98% of the time because of hyperfocal distance.

7) Disable in camera noise reduction? I never shoot at ISO's above 800. Does it really have any real significance at 100 or 200? Anything appreciably to be gained here?

Mine's set to off.
There's also an option for "Long exposure NR". For D600/D800, I also set this to off. These cameras don't need it IMO. On older cams like the D700, in my opinion, yes. But not on the D600/D800.. these new bodies are so good that everything is easily manipulated in post. No banding too!

8) For the average enthusiast: At what shutter speed triggers the threshold edge of shakiness?

IMO, 1.5x the focal length on these high MP bodies. That means at least 1/500 for a 200mm lens.
 
Joined
Dec 9, 2007
Messages
224
Location
UK
Just something else to consider when you are talking about perceived sharpness when using a D800(E) ; I, and many others, had some problems getting sharp images shooting with wide aperture primes in incandescent light eg. portraits indoors. Basically, the autofocus wasn't being accurate enough. Thankfully, the latest firmware did help somewhat. So, sometimes lack of sharpness isn't down to lack of technique, but an actual flaw in the hardware ( or, at least that's what I like to tell myself ! )
 
Joined
Jun 15, 2008
Messages
4,069
Location
Bellingham, WA
Look on eBay. I got a Nikon MC-30 for $7.50.

You can also get wireless ones as well.

Carole
 

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