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How do I get sharper, in-focus pictures? Want to learn!

ericbowles

Atlanta, US
10631 posts

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"RE: How do I get sharper, in-focus pictures? Want to learn!"

ericbowles Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level skills in various areas, especially Landscape and Wildlife Photoghraphy Writer Ribbon awarded for for his article contributions to the community Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Nikonian since 25th Nov 2005
Tue 14-May-13 11:47 AM

Bruce

It would help some to complete your profile so we can see what equipment you are using. While not normally an issue, the D800 resolves to the degree that some lenses may not provide enough resolution.

I recently tested an old lens and found it completely soft - even stopped down. My Nikon 24-70 is one of the best zooms available, but it still has some softness when viewed at 100% and compared to high quality prime lenses.

As far as your questions, there are some good answers so far and you asked a lot of questions. I'll add my two cents.

AF Fine Tune is generally not necessary. It is most relevant for longer prime lenses or primes with a shallow DOF. It is less relevant for zoom lenses since you have to pick a single focal length for the adjustment and that may make AF worse at other focal lengths.

If you are using the Adobe products, most in camera settings are ignored. They will be honored for the image in the LCD and the related histogram. Vibrant increases sharpening, saturation and contrast in the camera - which normally looks good but can make an image appear to have clipped highlights. I normally use Standard.

There are two types of noise reduction in the camera. High ISO noise reduction is better turned off since you can probably manage noise better in post processing. Long Exposure Noise reduction should generally be left on, since it involves taking another image with the shutter closed and subtracting the noise. It can't be replicated in post processing. The exception is when you are using an extremely long exposure and can't afford the added time for a second long exposure with the shutter closed.

There is relatively little distortion on most current lenses. You can leave the Auto Distortion turned on, but Lightroom has a similar function that can be used instead.

Manual focus is typically for either precise focus or situations where AF is very difficult. Macro often involves precise focus. Sometimes there are twigs in front of your subject and AF struggles. You might also use Manual focus to pre-focus on a spot while waiting for action.

The typical shutter speed required is 1/focal length. On the other hand, a faster shutter speed up to often increases sharpness. VR typically provides 3 stops of benefit, but it won't freeze subject motion.

AF sensors are not accurate 100% of the time. Conditions can make AF unreliable. Your focus target affects AF - the camera does better with a clear, contrasty subject in good light. The center AF sensor is the most reliable and most accurate.

You should be able to get sharp images without a cable release or tripod. Plenty of photographers use the D800 handheld in the right situations. With long lenses, low light, or high magnification a tripod makes a difference. If the subject and conditions permit, mirror up and a cable release can help.

To post images, resize them to 1000 pixels on the longest side, then save them as a JPEG at whatever quality is required to keep the file under the size limits. Medium to lower quality settings are normally just fine. To share critical sharpness, screen prints saved as a JPEG or 100% crops are useful. Programs like Nikon View NX2 (free) allow you to view the focus sensor used for an image.

Eric Bowles
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