Category Archives: Rants

Me, having a bit of a rant about stuff.

Shooting Myself In The Foot

Example picture - red box crop shown in detail below
Example picture - red box crop shown in detail below

I have to confess that, ever since buying my EOS 7D, I’ve not always been entirely happy with the sharpness of JPG images I’ve had out of it.

The trouble is, it wasn’t consistent. Sometimes shots were fine, others were either just not sharp at all, or there would be a much smaller depth of field than I would have expected from any given lens/aperture combination. It was particularly bad in backlit and low light situations, with wide angle lenses. The
17-85mm f/4.5-5.6 IS USM was bad, and so was my L-series 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM – which was disappointing, as it is supposed to be professional quality glass. I even thought about selling it at one point and going for the 24-70 f/2.8 L USM instead (a luxury I can’t afford right now).

Most of the time the results from my 60mm f/2.8 EF-S USM macro or 100-400mm f/4 L IS USM were fine – but a limited DoF is not unexpected from these lenses – particularly for the macro at wide apertures and the zoom at the 400mm end – shallow DoF is a feature the wider aperture/more telephoto you get anyway.

I borrowed a friend’s identical 24-105mm and had a go with that – the results were inconclusive – no better, no worse. I was scratching my head as to the cause and was convinced that my older 30D didn’t produce such “mediocre” shots from JPGs.

Then last week, the 7D went kaput and I had to go back to using the 30D again for a couple of days. No, I wasn’t imagining things – it did seem sharper than the 7D with the same lenses! When the newer model came back, I gave it a run out again yesterday and still the same results – especially in low light, there just wasn’t the sharpness in JPG format.

So I did some digging… and then got a hunch. I was unable to test it thoroughly until today, when we had some decent sunshine. And much to my chagrin, I discovered I’d been shooting with the “default” sharpening set to 0. Yes, a big, fat zero. It should have been set at 3 (and on a possible scale of 0-7, that’s quite a big difference).

100% crop - in-camera sharpening set to 0
100% crop - in-camera sharpening set to 0
100% crop - in-camera sharpening set to 3
100% crop - in-camera sharpening set to 3
100% crop - in-camera sharpening set to 7
100% crop - in-camera sharpening set to 7

How had it been changed? I’ve no idea! I had to go digging around in the manual to even find how the setting was altered (scene modes), and then dig some more on the internet to find what the default should have been. Sure enough, the truth hit me in the face. So, I’ve been taking images for the last 8 months which could and should have been lovely and sharp, but instead – at best – were OK, at worst – were unsable.

Part of me is kicking myself for not finding out sooner, and the other half is hugely relieved to have finally found the cause. Boy, am I stupid. But at least I’m honest enough to own up to it… 😳

Out Of Action

Not sure when I’ll be out and about to take photos again – I’ve had an accident which has bashed up my left knee and broken my left elbow – so holding a heavy SLR is out of the question at the moment!

I’ll just have to stay at home and watch a bit of rugby – there’s plenty on the telly at the moment…

I’ve even watched the reruns of the two Rugby World Cup games I saw in France. Here’s a shot from the England vs USA game in Lens.

Man Versus Machine

I hope I didn’t come across as arrogant in yesterday’s post about how much difference a good piece of equipment can make. That wasn’t my intention. But further reflection set me thinking that, in these days where consumers expect instant gratification from their purchases, I think it’s sad that some people spend an awful lot of money on the best camera and are then disappointed with the pictures they take with it.

People seem far less willing to learn the art and craft of photography in order to get the best results. Of course I’m generalising here, but there has been a gradual decline in membership of photographic clubs throughout the country, even with the huge rise in the number of people buying cameras. I’m a B Panel Judge for the East Anglian Federation, part of the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain. I visit clubs around north London and south east Essex to judge competitions regularly, and their committees are constantly striving to attract new members. Somehow only a trickle seem to be coming through the doors.

A few clubs (and the number is decreasing) have actively shunned the Digital Revolution; it won’t be long before they go under. Some have allowed digital but to be judged in a separate category (and I think, why segregate? It’s the end result that counts and matters to me as a judge, not the technology used to produce it).

Some argue that digital is “easier” than traditional “wet” processes. Usually those who haven’t tried it, I find. And as a judge, I’ve seen just as many badly-done digital prints (if not more) than traditional. In fact, I’d argue that it’s actually easier to make a bad digital print than a bad darkroom one – far less effort is required. Plus, you don’t end up smelling of chemicals or emerging from the darkroom like a confused mole! As ever, the skill is in the execution of what you’re doing, not how.

The vast majority of the clubs I visit have embraced digital photography wholeheartedly (without prejudice to those still using film). So much so that at a few, I don’t see any darkroom prints any more. I can tell, if I look hard enough (and it would require an even lenghtier post for me to explain how). I’ve seen some really stunning inkjet prints, not just from a technical perspective, but from an artistic one. Again, it’s all about who’s behind the camera more than the name badge on the front.

Our equipment can and should be used to facilitate the expression of our artistic talents, and not as a points-scoring exercise to see who’s got the best kit. (Again, I usually find those misguided enough to indulge in this kind of behaviour are invariably those who can’t take a decent picture for toffee).