One Step To Sharper 5d Mark 3 Pictures   Leave a comment

Greetings. I decided to write this post after hitting a wall occasionally that i am sure many people have run into. So the situation was: sometimes my Canon 5d Mark 3 would often shoot “soft” photos and I wasn’t sure why. I stumbled upon this solution recently, and I hope it can help people out there improve their shots. However this blog post relates to people that shoot with the 24–105mm lens that comes in the box but it might assist people using other lenses as well. So, on to the article.

Soft pictures? Of what madness do you speak?

Soft, blurry, fuzzy. Whatever you call it, taking these kinds of images can be frustrating when one considers the hefty price tag of the camera. Because of this loads of people wonder why their pictures aren’t super crispy like other photos they spent hours ogling before on Flickr before ponying up three grand to buy their camera. An example is below. This is a street photography shot I took in New York that didn’t come out “crispy” the way I wanted it to. At first glance the image looks pretty good right? But when I zoom in you can see the “softness” to which I refer.



So you can see the blur around her hair and face and things just aren’t “sharp”. Now i’ve taken MANY superb images with the camera, but this was literally two days after I bought the camera and I was traipsing around NYC practicing shooting people to get used to the camera. But sometimes in the day, (and particularly at night) I would notice many of my photos were “slightly off”. After a while it started to drive me a little crazy. But today I found out the solution lies in a single word:

F-Stop. (or is that two words? :D)

I know many of the camera functions pretty well, so I tried thinking if it wasn’t the camera, but if I wasn’t using my lens properly. Sure enough after googling “24–105mm best settings” I saw a few people talk about the “sweet spot” of the lens, which i’d never heard of.

Either way after trolling through dozens of camera forums reading comments I saw that a few people said that shooting at f5.6 or f8 is what generally gave them significantly improved images. I hadn’t thought of this, and usually when I had my external 430EX II flash on I left the F stop on my lens at f4 since I assumed the camera would be doing all the work to make things “crispy”. But tonight, after taking a few pictures setting the f-stops to f5.6 or f8 changed everything. Take a look below:

The top image is shot at f4 and the one below is f8

*note all these images are straight from the camera with no post-processing they have just been resized for the web*



As you can see, at f4 the image is all kinds of blurry. The batteries are less in focus and everything has this fuzzy, “soft” look. But the second image is nice and crispy in terms of sharpness. These were shot at about 1/160th of a second, handheld by the way. More examples below.



For the top image the detail on the shell and the stones is much better, and the glass is less out of focus.

With more zoom.



For me seeing this, the difference is NIGHT & DAY in terms of what I want from my images. I’m happy to know it is just a setting on the lens that creates such a difference. Now i’m confident in getting consistently crispy images with these settings. So I took some shots of objects with obvious texture so you could get a sense of the sharpness. I feel good about this discovery, because previously I would sometimes fall into a “hit or miss” territory when taking pictures. So now the key to keep things mostly sharp (with my 24–105 lens) seems to be mainly related to f stops. All the images below were shot handheld at around f8 I just cropped them to show the detail that the higher f stop provides.















Moving Forward

Basically from now on when I’m shooting, especially with a flash at night, I will stay in the sweet spot:

f5.6, f8 or f11

Naturally you will have to figure out what settings work depending on your flash and how you have it set up. But after doing this experiment I expect my night photography to improve drastically even though it hasn’t been bad thus far. You see the Canon 5d Mark 3 is a BEASTLY camera so most of the time you’ll be able to take great photos. But when that moment comes you need a series of sharp, in focus pictures without any blur, you may need to know about the “sweet spot” and how that relates to how your final pictures will look. Naturally there are other things to consider like the AF-point, and other settings (which i’m familiar with for what they are). But I wrote this post because there possibly are many persons out there who like me didn’t make a direct connection between the lens fstops and image sharpness. Live and learn!


Posted February 15, 2015 by marcusbird in Uncategorized

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