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Soft/Blurry Images (1 Viewer)

Andy Strachan

Active member
Scotland
Hey guys.
Another one of these threads.. I'm sure there must be loads :LOL:
I've seen other related threads on this topic, but to diagnose my own issue I think I need some help.
And so you know as well, I am fairly new to photography.

So, I've recently purchased a Sigma 150-600mm C for my Nikon D3300.
I've spent a lot of hours with this lens now, out and about, trying different settings all the time etc., but for the life of me I just cannot get sharp images. The issue is mainly at full zoom, but at any distance I've never been satisfied.
I always go handheld, and am aware that it's a heavy lens and motion blur could be an issue, but to try and combat the blur I have to go to ridiculous shutter speeds to only then get a half decent image of a still bird! I have a good steady hand in general and don't believe that I could possibly be that bad :LOL: I check out lots of Flickr feeds and compare camera settings etc., and seemingly everyone gets much sharper shots with much lower shutter speeds while using the same lens. And I know some of them might have been using a tripod, I'm sure, but most won't be. I've been taking images at 1/3000 plus for still shots just because I'm at a loss for how to improve them any other way. Any images taken under 1/1000 then just forget it.
I am aware also that the more zoom, the more likely to blur. But most images are going to be taken at full zoom.
Not one image has been as sharp as I'd like.

So to try and diagnose this I bought one of those cardboard focus calibration checks. If you could, I would like some opinions on the results.
I have 6 images - 3 at 1/400 150mm, 300mm, 600mm. And 3 at 1/1000 150mm, 300mm, 600mm.
I chose the distance and focal lengths randomly. Aperture is wide open for every shot. Camera was on a tripod with 5 second timer, about 4 metres away from target.
So I'm looking to see what you think of the sharpness and If you can see any issues with the focus. I think I can see a potential issue but not too sure.

Also I have attached some bird pictures that I have taken at various shutter speeds to try and show you what I'm talking about.
The pigeon is the sharpest one, but it was very close (2-3m) and lens zoomed out all the way (150mm). At same shutter speed, but zoomed in all the way at 600mm the Meadow Pipit is blurry. It was also quite close, not more than 3-4m. It doesn't look like motion blur to me. The lighting wasn't the best so there's that to consider I suppose, (ISO at 800) but it doesn't look ISO related to me, but I could be wrong.

What's happening is... I'm getting some sort of blur at lower shutter speeds, so I am ramping up shutter speed to get a clear image, but it results in a flat image where the bird doesn't stand out from the background.
It just seems IMPOSSIBLE to get a decent image at lower shutter speeds when adding some zoom.
Perhaps the crop factor with this camera is exacerbating the issue somehow?
Lens needs calibrated, maybe?
Camera needs more horse power?
I need to give up? :LOL:

Ok, finishing up, I do hope that someone has the time and energy to read all that AND some more to chip in some tips or advice! haha
Anything would be appreciated, technique or rig related, as I'm been pulling my hair out over this :LOL:

Cheers!
 

Attachments

  • S400 150mm.jpg
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  • S400 300mm.jpg
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  • S400 600mm.jpg
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  • S1000 150mm.jpg
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  • S1000 300mm.jpg
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  • S1000 600mm.jpg
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  • S2000 600mm.jpg
    S2000 600mm.jpg
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  • S3200 600mm.jpg
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  • S4000 460mm.jpg
    S4000 460mm.jpg
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  • S4000 480mm (1).jpg
    S4000 480mm (1).jpg
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  • S4000 480mm (2).jpg
    S4000 480mm (2).jpg
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  • S2000 150mm.jpg
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MikeInPA

Well-known member
Here's your Meadow Pipit with a bit of Denoise, Brightening and a bit of Sharpening. Really it's not bad. The images you see on Flickr/500PX/Whatever are often very heavily manipulated far beyond my capabilities.

I'll have a go at your Wheatear.

Andy Strachan Pipit 1.jpg
 

MikeInPA

Well-known member
Do a test to satisfy yourself that your camera and lens is OK, it's a confidence builder. Set your camera and lens horizontally on a rigid mount, ladder/tripod/table and the same for your target which should be centered at the same height as your camera. The distance should be your normal shooting distance and at your preferred Zoom. Turn off OS/VR, switch to manual focus and use Live View to focus on your target. Live View Zoom in to verify you live view focus. Use Timer release 5 seconds should be enough. Don't use the camera to check the result, use a computer. It should be perfectly focused. If not there's something wrong. If it's crispy sharp then you know it's technique and not equipment.
 

Andy Strachan

Active member
Scotland
Do a test to satisfy yourself that your camera and lens is OK, it's a confidence builder. Set your camera and lens horizontally on a rigid mount, ladder/tripod/table and the same for your target which should be centered at the same height as your camera. The distance should be your normal shooting distance and at your preferred Zoom. Turn off OS/VR, switch to manual focus and use Live View to focus on your target. Live View Zoom in to verify you live view focus. Use Timer release 5 seconds should be enough. Don't use the camera to check the result, use a computer. It should be perfectly focused. If not there's something wrong. If it's crispy sharp then you know it's technique and not equipment.
Hey Mike,
Thanks for putting the time in for those replies!
Those edits look good, I'll have to look into that a bit more. I only ever adjust settings for exposure, contrast, blacks, whites etc using lightroom. I don't think I did any editing to those pictures, although there might be a slight adjustment to colour or exposure.

As for the calibration test... in my original post with the calibration targets, I was using AF and looking through the viewfinder. How much of a difference that makes I'm not sure (?), but I'm not very happy with the sharpness of the images. They are a bit dark though. I can also see that on the 600mm images at the left number scale there is back focus, but on the right number scale there is front focus...(or vice versa) I think this must be because the camera is not bang on level with the target.
So... I'll do it again in better lighting, using the technique you suggested and see how it goes. And I'll also try it on a teddy or something, a bit more "real life" and see how it looks.
I'll post the results. Cheers.
 
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njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
I would do both AF and the live view focusing. These likely use different focusing mechanisms and there can be back or front focusing with the first even if the second is spot on.

However, if you truly get a feeling that your lens is back-focusing on one side and front focusing on the other side, then please look at this story. Scroll down to the area where he talks about using a grassy field to test a lens.
Niels
 

MikeInPA

Well-known member
Andy,

do the initial test manually focusing zoomed in on live view. This is what the sensor is seeing. If there's something amiss with the lens this will show it because by focusing manually you‘re eliminating anything to do with the AF system. If it looks good on the computer then you know there's not a lens element misaligned. From that you can test using the AF to determine if it's front or back focusing. The Sigma has the ability to plug into a USB dock where you can adjust the lens for the front or back focus across the zoom range. It could be back focussing at 150 and front focusing at 600 or any combination in between. It does take a fair bit of time to set it up but worth it in the long run. I did it when I had the Sigma 150-600 and it did make a difference. There's YouTube videos on how to do it.

For technique this guy has an excellent reputation for giving very sound practical advice. Backcountry Gallery
 
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