With 36 MP in the box, the technique now plays even bigger role in getting the best out of lens / camera.
I have couple of questions hoping to get real world/ experiential advice and any info online that helps
1. What’s focusing techniques are getting you best results.
a.I follow the obvious - use Live View, sturdy tripod (RRS 24L), sometimes weighting it down further, CUBE head, 3 sec Exposure Delay OR Mirror LU and remote trigger. I am still not getting the sharpness and great focus. I use 14-24, 24-70, 70-200 VRII, and 16-35.
b.I have fine-tuned the lenses but normally use Live View. Any best practices here, that work better. Personally I find it very challenging to get good focus in LV how Nikon has implemented and need trial and error. Do you zoom in fully or just few stops. (My D700 and D3x shots seem better in focus)
2. Lenses: I used lens align and am confident they are now tuned nicely. While I use LV more for critical focus, how do I ensure my lenses are tack sharp in the first place (irrespective of camera body)?
#1. "RE: D800E: Critical Focusing - Need advice" In response to Reply # 0
>What focusing techniques are getting you best results...<
I never use the timer delay. Three seconds is probably fine for the short focal length lenses, but may not be with the 70-200mm. I don't like leaving things to chance, so I delay tripping the shutter for more than three seconds with all lenses.
I setup the tripod lower in height as long as it does not compromise the composition. If there is any breath of wind I also will shield the camera with my body.
I use Live View Contrast Detect autofocus initially, normally at the lens' widest aperture, but then proceed to verify that focus was acquired accurately by manually turning the focus ring marginally one way then the other. This provides me with a good feel for what peak focus looks like. Remembering that, I re-focus using Live View. Finally, I stop down to the aperture I intend to shoot at.
I am not so keen on viewing at maximum magnification. Therefore, I judge Live View focus at one step less than maximum. I use a loupe in order to cut out extraneous light, and magnify the LCD on the camera body.
There is a workaround for the soft Live View image when viewed at maximum magnification: set Sharpening in the Picture Control you are using to a high, or even maximum, value. The value will of course be tagged to the NEF, but you can always adjust it later in post.
What aperture are you commonly using? Any aperture smaller than approximately f/8 will visibly soften the image as a result of diffraction. Use of the tilt function of a tilt/shift lens will help to avoid this issue for scenes that lend themselves to the use of this type of lens.
Which head, in particular?
>My D700 and D3x shots seem better in focus<
The same image viewed at 100% is magnified to a greater extent with a D800 than a D3x, and to an even greater extent than a D700. Therefore, it is not surprising that the performance may appear reduced.
#5. "RE: D800E: Critical Focusing - Need advice" In response to Reply # 2
>How are you achieving a delay more than three seconds between when the mirror is raised and shutter clicked.<
I use the Nikon MC-36 remote release (though I currently am considering purchasing a cordless remote). 1st click raises the mirror, 2nd click, several seconds later, trips the shutter.
If I was testing a lens (compared to capturing a landscape image) I would not use the remote because it is physically connected to the body and is, therefore, a potential source of camera shake, albeit an extraordinarily small one. In this situation I would press the shutter button on the body to raise the mirror, then let the camera trip the shutter itself after a 30 second delay. That, or use my PocketWizard transceivers, again for hands-free testing.
Some other points:
In order to reduce ocillation with lenses that have their own foot (i.e. tele's), I always position the foot in the Arca Swiss clamp so that the centre of gravity of the lens/body is directly over the centre of the tripod. Hence, if the head was pitched forward, the lens foot would be clamped closer to its front (camera positioned closer to the photographer). The reverse is also true.
The Nikon 14-24mm exhibits focus shift, which is to say that the plane of focus apparently moves farther from the photographer as one stops down. Since focus normally should be acquired wide open in order to minimise depth of field (DOF) and hence better judge that the plane of focus lies where intended, this behaviour can be problematic, even if increased DOF resulting from the aperture used to capture the image is, in principle, sufficient to envelop the feature originally focused on.
The issue is most likely to be of concern when the plane of focus is positioned on a feature in the composition close to the camera. This, of course, is not necessarily unusual for landscape images shot with a wide/extreme wideangle lens. The workaround is to focus one or more stops down from wide open - focus shift reduces as a lens that exhibits focus shift is stopped down. The downside to the workaround is twofold:
1. Autofocus will be acquired less dependably because the image analysed by the camera will be darker than when analysed wide open 2. DOF will be greater at an aperture smaller than wide open, which makes it more difficult for you to determine if the plane of focus lies where intended
#3. "RE: D800E: Critical Focusing - Need advice" In response to Reply # 0 Fri 19-Oct-12 02:07 AM by GiantTristan
I believe poster #1 covered most points re. technique. You probably realize that sharpness below f/5.6 already starts to decrease. In my experience, the 14-24/2.8 is the sharpest among your zoom lenses. Only high level Nikon or Zeiss primes might be sharper. I presume you use LiveView in MF mode; I find the Nikon AF lenses kind of difficult to focus manually.