I'm a photographer for a catalog company, I need to make sure my images are sharp and in focus. I've noticed that sometimes my shots are blurry on the edges of the product. I'm not sure if this is a "user error" or if it has something to do with my lens? Has anyone else had this problem? Or could someone tell me what I might be doing wrong? I'm using a D2X, here's my camera data: Exposure: 1/60 at F/13 Exposure Mode: Manual ISO speed: 100 Focal Length: 44mm Lens: 18.0-70.0 mm f/3.5-4.5
DoF should not be a problem - how far from subject are you and how big is the subject? Slow exposure for that focal length - are you using a good tripod and how do you activate the shutter? Lens - it is supposed to have good performance except for some vignetting - could it be that? http://www.bythom.com/1870lens.htm
Try taping a newspaper to a wall, then set up the camera perfectly parallel to the wall, at the normal distance you work. Do some test shots at different apertures, using a wired or IR release so you're not touching the camera, if possible. Zoom lenses can be a bit soft in the corners, although usually that clears up (if not totally matching center sharpness) at the aperture you listed. This will let you know if there is a problem with the lens. Note that it's normal for zooms to have some field curvature, so that could also be part of the problem.
My own choice for product photography wouldn't be a zoom. It'd be a 60mm Micro or the 85mm PC Micro. Ideally, I'd recommend both, to handle setups where the 85mm might be too long on a DX sensor body. The 85mm PC Micro has a tilting focal plane that can be a great help for extending the effective depth of field. Both these lenses have flat focal planes and very good edge sharpness. They're the best optics Nikon has, for this specific application. In a product studio there is no need for a zoom. Just move the tripod back and forth.
I'm guessing it's blur from the slow shutter speed (as you said 'sometimes'.) I would try boosting ISO and increasing shutter speed to see if that eliminates the problem. If it does then you might want to consider adding a tripod or flash to the mix to retain DOF and ISO100 quality.
And I can echo Foldedpath's recommendation for the 60mm Micro. It's a wonderful lens. Doesn't the 85PCM have problems on the D2 body though?
>Doesn't the 85PCM have >problems on the D2 body though?
No, I think people are getting that impression from a reviewer who was kvetching that the movements weren't as much as they could have been for a DX sensor body, to take advantage of the full image circle size. It doesn't mean the lens won't work on those bodies.
Disclaimer: I don't own this 85mm PC lens myself, I only lust after it. I do own the 60mm Micro, and that is a wonderful lens for product photography if you don't need the tilt function. On a DSLR body like the D2X, the 60mm is a more comfortable working distance, but there are times when I'd kill for some tilt, on a tabletop setup.
Most of what we shoot would be knives, cutlery, swords, etc... Product sizes vary from roughly 4" to 72". We basically lay the product down in a "whitebox", with two strobes, and shoot almost perpendicular to the product.
We don't shoot with a tripod and I don't think this is a problem since most of the image will be in focus and only a portion of it will not. I also don't think the shutter speed is too slow, the softness occurs on images that have been shot with a shutter speed of up to 160.
We will also try adjusting the focal length to 55mm-65mm and see if there is a difference.
I have posted some images over at my personal site. The images are large jpegs so show the detail and I've highlighted the areas that are soft focused.
Again, I really appreciate everyone taking the time to assis us in defining the problem. I personally had thought it to be the lens but I don't have another to test with. Does anyone have one we can borrow?
>Looks like a lens problem or lens mount problem to me. There >is a fairly rapid local fall off of sharpness not indicative >of a focus issue. > >Trying a controlled lens test with the camera on a stand >perfectly perpendicular to a target should clarify this. > >You really ought to be doing this sort of product >photography with a camera stand to make sure you are square >to the subject. >
Thanks, it could be a lens issue. It was repaired just about a year ago when it literally came apart in the photographers hands.
One of the issues with shooting directly squared up to the subject is that it flattens them out and on highly reflective surfaces it will pick up the photographer. We shoot relative to the angle of the light to get the most even light scattering/distribution on the blades.
Yep, I would agree Let us see some sample images, preferably crops of sections where you have problems. I have a D2x and most of the time the edges have chromatic abberations. And such problems are usually accentuated if you are shooting against a white background.
>In lieu of the previous message, if you visit Thom Hogan's >review of D2x, you will find out that the diffraction limit >is only f/11 and that might be the reason for blurry edges.
Diffraction is a good thing to be aware of, but I don't think this is the problem. Diffraction would make the entire image slightly soft compared to wider apertures, and not just the edges, with a sharp central field. I'm betting on a zoom lens that isn't really designed for this job.
Your profile is missing - it helps to know your level of expertise when we are replying. One possibility if your subject is at 45 degrees to the sensor is the zone of sharpness (depth of field) is not wide enough to reach the corners. This is a common depth of field limitation if you are close to the subject. Another possibility is you have a defective or damaged lens which prevents it being sharp in the corners. This is most likely if you are close to the subject. If you send me an example ideally no bigger than 100 KB file size to one of those who has replied they might post it for you with comments. Sorry - on this occasion if you post it too me it will be Friday or Saturday before I can look at it.
Photography is a bit like archery. A technically better camera, lens or arrow may not hit the target as often as it could if the photographer or archer does not practice enough.
Thanks Len, I have updated my profile per your suggestion. I would say that I'm an intermediate amateur if you will. I have posted links to some test images for everyone to see. However, I didn't realize that when i replied to a message it would put it just below the message replied to instead of in sequential order. So I will repost the image links in case anyone missed them.
It doesn't look like blown focus, and it's only on one side of the frame. Is it consistently soft on the right side only? That suggests a mis-aligned element in the lens, or some other optical flaw. You might want to send it to Nikon and have it checked... although again, this really isn't an ideal lens for the application.
Thanks for checking the test images. I just brought in another lens just to test the clarity of the image. It's an older 50mm 1.8. If I don't see the focus problem then I'll know for sure it's the lens. I'll post the results.
So the general consensus is that this lens is less than ideal for our shooting needs. Foldedpath has suggested the 60mm micro. I will certainly look into this and appreciate the suggestions. Thanks.
We just took a test shot, one with the questionale lens and one with a 50mm. The 50mm was in focus across the entire frame whereas the 18-70mm had the focal problem. So we will be sending it in for repair. Thaks to everyone for helping us out. For the longest time I thought it was an ID10T error.
well we have a friend who is a professional catalog photographer for clothes, he said never use a 18-70mm dx on a d2x because the autofocus machine are way too good for the stock 18-70, he recommends to use a 17-55mm dx on d2x because it lines up everything up perfectly at all distances from 17 to 55. we are getting a 17-55 pretty soon then all the pictures should come out good.
If "catalog photographer for clothes" means fashion-related work with models, then the 17-55 would be a great choice. Especially for location work.
I wouldn't recommend it for generic "product photography" (i.e. tabletop work) in the studio, because it has a curved field of focus, and a nasty tendency to flare with backlighting. A good prime lens would be better for that sort of thing, and a zoom isn't needed when you can just move the tripod back and forth. If you do get a 17-55, make sure to use the hood, and check carefully for flare with any strong backlighting.