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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

What am I doing wrong ? RX10IV sharpness (1 Viewer)

Perhaps the one I didn’t think enough about was the size of the bird in frame, in this instance there was no way to get any closer (without trespassing and more importantly disturbing the bird) so I guess sometimes that’s just the way it is. Perhaps in this case atmospheric conditions, a slightly twitchy grebe and good light a higher shutter speed would have given some better results.

It's distance. If you're not close enough, there is no bridge camera/superzoom on this planet that can turn water into wine. And, you may want to think about your background. Try taking some pictures with some green leaves or grass in the background and look at the results.
Possible cause #1 Heat distortion. Try take multiple shots/clicks so you will have higher keepers. @MikeInPA just mentioned it above. Not much processing can be done if image were caused by heat distortion.

Possible cause #2 Shiny reflective furr. Happens to me often esp when shooting blue-throated bee-eater. Try again when no direct light shine on the subject or in overcast condition or in shadow.

Possible cause #3 Shutter speed. The subject may appear not moving much but the water is. Again, same as above, take multiple shots to allow you to get higher keeper even at 1/500s. Maybe within 10 shots, 1 will get sharper when the exact "click" moment were in perfect condition. For me, if subject is far away and small, I will start shooting at at least 1/640s or 1/800s incase some strong breeze.

Possible cause #4 Too shallow DOF (low aperture). If in auto, my best practice is go with shutter priority but that will leave aperture and ISO in auto. From your shot, the aperture is at F4 which quite shallow. If you can, try shoot manual, leave ISO in auto. My best ideal aperture is F9 for all my general handheld shooting using full frame A7Riii + Sony FE 200600, 1/640s (may go down to 1/320s if subject not moving much). This you will need practice, trail and error see which best aperture is ideal for your shooting style.

Remember the longer reach you zoom out, the more steady hand is needed. I shoot AF-S (spot), I don't think shooting AF-C will be an issue if the auto focus able to keep up. In your case, not much object distraction around the subject.

Happy shooting.
In the Northern Hemisphere we’re heading towards Summer and that’s when heat distortion is most obvious when shooting at long focal lengths. It can happen in very low temperatures as well however as I found out recently. In February it was still below freezing around midday when we were looking for a reported Snowy Owl. We eventually found it on a house roof in farming country. The bird was probably 50 yards away and I set up my tripod and attached my camera and 500mm lens. The camera had been sitting on the front seat and was quite warm. I could not figure out where all the heat distortion was coming from. I took a few shots but was not at all happy with the quality, you could actually see the shimmer. Another birder pulled up behind us and we spoke with him for a while and when I took more shots the distortion was gone. I found out later that it was due to the lens hood.

Steve Perry experienced the exact same thing and did a video on it here. Lens Hood Heat Distortion

Another Steve Perry video on regular causes of heat distortion. Heat Distortion
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to OP...I'm using the camera since first day its launched and yes I'm not sure why sometime its very sharp while sometime it isn't. Until today its still a mystery to me. I tried resetting the camera, it will be fine for a few trips then it will become a bit blur again. I don't play with a lot of settings as I'm a bird watcher first followed by bird photographer. I always glass before taking some photos for reference hence I don't tinker this camera too much. If you happen to find the root clause, I'm happy to learn as well.
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