Please Help Me Tweak My 7D to Improve Image Quality

Started Mar 10, 2013 | Discussions thread
OP steve88 Contributing Member • Posts: 905
Re: Please Help Me Tweak My 7D to Improve Image Quality

TTMartin wrote:

steve88 wrote:


I've been shooting for a little over two years with a 7D and the following lenses:

Canon 200 f/2.8L
Canon 85 f/1.8
Canon 28 f/1.8
I shoot mostly sports but I do a few other genres as well. I consider myself a serious amateur...not great, but competent. My website is here:

I don't want to do this for a living but I do want to become a better photographer.

Ever since I got my 7D two years ago I've never really been happy with the image quality. I don't really have a problem with it focusing properly; my problem is just that the images (at least 75% of the time or more) are overly soft in my opinion. They just don't pop at all and seem very flat. In order to get useable images I usually have to sharpen them to the max in DPP and even a little more sometimes in LR3.

When I first noticed this I thought it was me that was the problem. The 7D has a very steep learning curve and it was my first DSLR. Knowing this I decided to take an online course with and I've also read the following books:

Understanding Exposure and Learning to See Creatively (both by Bryan Peterson)
Digital Sports Photography (G. Newman Lowrance)
Creative Nature and Outdoor Photography (Brenda Tharp)
150 Projects to Strengthen Your Photography Skills (John Easterby)
David Busch's Guide to the 7D
And, yes, the Canon owner's manual for the 7D

So, again, I am by no means an expert but I'm also not a total newbie either.

Anyway, I tried to shoot a softball game today and every single image was just horrible (to me anyway). Very soft, very flat, no I've decided to finally turn here for help. I know that the 7D can produce some stunning images...I really do.

I've used the following method twice to MFA my lenses and none of them required any adjustments:

I know this is probably not the most sophisticated or accurate way to MFA a lens so perhaps is that my problem? I know there are tons of charts, rulers, and other things people use to MFA a lens so maybe I should try one of those methods?

Anyway, I shoot in Manual mode 100% of the time (and RAW) and while shooting softball today I was using a monopod for some shots and some were handheld with the following settings:

f/2.8 to f/4
1/3200 to 1/5000 S/S
100-400 ISO
AI Servo
8 FPS and single-shot
Single, center point auto-focus
Auto White Balance
Evaluative Metering

Here are two samples. The first shot is on a monopod and the second is handheld and in DPP I've sharpened both to 4 on the RAW tab and 280 on the RGB tab. You would think that would be sufficient but it's not even close to being sharp enough. Many times I have to go to 10 on the RAW tab and 500 on the RGB tab and then do ADDITIONAL sharpening in LR3. Needless to say, that can lead to quite a mess in terms of how it finally looks.

There must be something I am doing wrong (or not doing at all) so I would really appreciate any help you can provide. I have left all of the settings in their default values on my 7D. I've read a ton of threads on 7d softness and IQ and it doesn't seem like there's a universal fix. Yes, in most cases it's the fault of the photographer but in other cases people seem to solve the problem through the MFA process while others tweak the camera and that clears everything up (changing AI Servo tracking sensitivity as an example).

Maybe I'm asking too much for the camera to produce sharp images out of the box. But having spent as much as I did on it two years ago and using pretty decent glass, I really think I should be getting better results than this. Every single one of the images I took today (145 in total) look like the ones below in terms of their IQ and sharpness. I don't think I've ever had a day where they all looked this bad. Usually I can get at least 15%-20% that are fairly good.

Anyway, thanks in advance for any help or suggestions. Again, I know the 7D can produce some fabulous images. Hopefully, mine just needs some tweaking to get there. Unfortunately, it's out of warranty. When I had it during its first year, I thought the issue was with me so I never sent it in to Canon to get checked out. Thanks again for any help!

In my opinion your shutter speeds are too high, and your apertures are too wide. Bring your shutter speeds down to around 1/800 - 1/1000, and your apertures to around f/5.6 - f/8.

Also, use focus point expansion, or 9 point zone AF. Unless theses are crops, in your first photo, center auto focus point would have been focusing on the backstop. In the second photo your depth of field would have been about 6 inches in front of the point of focus, and 6 inches behind (assuming a subject distance of 30 feet), if AF had focused on the hand, the face and body will be out of focus.

You also might want to choose the upper focus point(s) for portrait mode (7D will switch to it automatically when you turn the camera), as most likely you'll be focusing on a single individual like in this photo, and you'll want their face in focus, not their hand.

Also, in my opinion for outdoor sports, AV or TV would probably be better than full manual.

Thanks TT.  In order to freeze the ball, you usually need to shoot around 1/3200 or faster.  If it were just the players I was trying to freeze, I agree, I probably would've shot around 1/800 or 1/1000.  But shooting at f/5.6 to f/8 would create a very busy background don't you think?  The reason I usually shoot at f/2.8 is to isolate the action and the players.  Yesterday, I shot at f/4 thinking it might help make the images sharper but that didn't work so well.  That's more an issue with light, however, not the fault of the camera.  Mid-day light is just horrible for photography, as I'm sure you know.

In the first shot, I'm actually using manual single focus point and I've chosen the far right point and centered it over the batter's body.  In the second shot, I'm using the center point and it's aimed just above her belt line.  I seem to have better luck with manual single points than any of the zones.  When I use a zone, it tends to focus on an area behind the play (like the grass or wall) rather than an actual player.

 steve88's gear list:steve88's gear list
Canon EOS 7D Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM
Post (hide subjects) Posted by
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum PPrevious NNext WNext unread UUpvote SSubscribe RReply QQuote BBookmark MMy threads
Color scheme? Blue / Yellow