Please Help Me Tweak My 7D to Improve Image Quality

Started Mar 10, 2013 | Discussions
steve88 Contributing Member • Posts: 905
Please Help Me Tweak My 7D to Improve Image Quality
1

Hello:

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: http://stevenmitchell.zenfolio.com/

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 www.nyip.com 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 snap...so 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: http://www.learn.usa.canon.com/resources/articles/2011/af_microadjustment_article.shtml

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!





 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
Canon EOS 7D
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pancamo
pancamo Regular Member • Posts: 233
Re: Please Help Me Tweak My 7D to Improve Image Quality
1

I dont see anything wrong with your 2 shots...  its just boring...  nothing really going on here special...  mid day?    Focus looks perfect...  A little over exposed maybe, but its bright.  AV compensate a little...

your lenses...    for baseball, unless you are on the field, 200mm f2.8 is not enough... 300mm f2.8 is just enough from some sidelines, but 400mm f2.8 would be better (sometimes too much)...   100-400 or 200-400 would be nice for bball

Not sure what you are going to use your other 2 lens for... not really for sports...

> 8 FPS and single-shot

Why single-shot???      High Speed!      Most action happens much faster than we can see, so use those 8FPS!

Light!  Light is the most important factor in getting a shot... Midday baseball can be terrible...

get as close as you can, then 1/2 that distance!

OP steve88 Contributing Member • Posts: 905
Really? Wow...

pancamo wrote:

I dont see anything wrong with your 2 shots... its just boring... nothing really going on here special... mid day? Focus looks perfect... A little over exposed maybe, but its bright. AV compensate a little...

your lenses... for baseball, unless you are on the field, 200mm f2.8 is not enough... 300mm f2.8 is just enough from some sidelines, but 400mm f2.8 would be better (sometimes too much)... 100-400 or 200-400 would be nice for bball

Not sure what you are going to use your other 2 lens for... not really for sports...

> 8 FPS and single-shot

Why single-shot??? High Speed! Most action happens much faster than we can see, so use those 8FPS!

Light! Light is the most important factor in getting a shot... Midday baseball can be terrible...

get as close as you can, then 1/2 that distance!

Hmm, so maybe the issue is the light then.  Yes, mid-day light is horrible.  I wish all the games were at night or during cloudy days where the light is much more even and diffused.  I happen to think both of these shots (and all the other ones I got today) were lousy.  When you compare them to the photos in this gallery, I think I can see a major difference in terms of IQ and sharpness:

http://stevenmitchell.zenfolio.com/p425806073

I agree the 200mm isn't enough for baseball but for softball it's great (since the field is smaller).  The 85mm f/1.8 is actually a really good lens for volleyball and for softball if I'm standing right behind home plate shooting a runner coming in from third...or the infielders when they're in close protecting against a bunt, for example.

I shoot both 8 FPS and single shot in sports.  Believe it or not, I think my 7D is sharper when shooting single shot than continuous mode so that's why I use it a lot.  If you practice enough you can actually time things pretty well.  I agree 8 FPS is the way to go, however (assuming you're getting sharp images...which I don't think I am).

 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
Wei Kelun
Wei Kelun Contributing Member • Posts: 524
Re: Really? Wow...

Steve, I don't see a problem with sharpness in your gallery photos. They look pretty good. And you can see in number 8, for example, that when the lighting is good, the subject pops quite nicely. I think you're hunting for problems that don't exist. Good luck and keep having fun.

OP steve88 Contributing Member • Posts: 905
Hmm, okay...

Wei Kelun wrote:

Steve, I don't see a problem with sharpness in your gallery photos. They look pretty good. And you can see in number 8, for example, that when the lighting is good, the subject pops quite nicely. I think you're hunting for problems that don't exist. Good luck and keep having fun.

Thanks a lot for your feedback.  Perhaps I am expecting too much from this camera.  I still think they're kind of mushy.

Unfortunately, a lot of sports are played in the middle of the day when the light is really horrible so perhaps that has a lot do to with it, too.

Anyway, thanks again for your comments.

 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
pancamo
pancamo Regular Member • Posts: 233
Re: Please Help Me Tweak My 7D to Improve Image Quality

8 FPS and single-shot?
Single, center point auto-focus?

I still don't understand why you are using single-shot...   High Speed with Continuous Focus mode is what I use 100% of the time for actiion...   you are limiting yourself to 2-3 FPS with singles-shot and causing unnecessary movements with each release.

Also with Single, center point auto-focus, you can miss your target... I use 5pt center most of the time.

but your shots look fine...  just need better light/angle/subject...

OP steve88 Contributing Member • Posts: 905
Re: Please Help Me Tweak My 7D to Improve Image Quality

pancamo wrote:

8 FPS and single-shot?
Single, center point auto-focus?

I still don't understand why you are using single-shot... High Speed with Continuous Focus mode is what I use 100% of the time for actiion... you are limiting yourself to 2-3 FPS with singles-shot and causing unnecessary movements with each release.

Also with Single, center point auto-focus, you can miss your target... I use 5pt center most of the time.

but your shots look fine... just need better light/angle/subject...

To be honest, my shots seem to be sharper if I shoot AI Servo and single shot with a single center auto-focus point. I've shot using the various focus groups but I end up with a sharp photo of the grass behind the players most of the time rather than the players themselves. I know...it makes no sense. If I shoot 8 FPS and 3-4 shots per burst, the IQ and sharpness is not as good as when I shoot single shot (and that's on a monopod at 1/3200 - 1/5000).

I've been shooting this way for more than a year and have become pretty accurate at it. Pretty sad that I have a camera with 19 cross-type focus points and I only use the single center one isn't it?

This is why I'm beginning to think there's something wrong with the camera and it's not just me. I have, on dozens of occasions at various sporting events, shot 3-4 bursts in AI Servo mode, high-speed continuous (8 FPS) and I swear to you the images look worse than when I shoot single-shot, AI Servo, 8 FPS.

I'm glad you think my photos look okay...to me, I think they are WAY too soft but perhaps I'm expecting too much from the camera and lens I'm using.

 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
Richard Veteran Member • Posts: 4,858
Yes, both images are a little soft.

steve88 wrote:

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.

Both images are soft. My guess that the first has been cropped more than the second. I found when I had a 6mp camera, it was quit sharp always, when I went to 10 I noticed that at 100 percent pixel peeping a larger percentage were soft, the when i went to the 7d, when I viewed at 100 percent an even larger percent were soft. It is like magnification, the more magnification the more easily you see the flaws.

If you read what the landscape people say is that you must use a tripod, I would also then do a mirror lockup. Those would be the sharpest images, no mirror vibration.

I have to sharpen a large portion of my sports hand held images by a lot. On those that were perfect none.

Look at your second photo, it is not a focus issue because when you look on the ground, none of the gravel is sharp in front or behind the player. IMHO this is a slight amount of motion blur.

In the second image same blur but the image is cropped down much more so the motion blur is exacerbated. This is my opinion from experience. Thing is, this is usually not problem in web images, or printsjust sharpen it up.

I would try some experiments and take notes. At the game, use a tripod instead of handheld.

Try to engage or disengage the IS if you have it to see which is better

Practice better handholding techniques.

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.

I don't like raw sharpening. I would try not using it.

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.

I will sharpen when the image is jpg, then resample to size and sharpen again.

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).

Changing the AF tracking sensitivity will not help you because you can see there is nothing in the first image. The second image is debatable whether AF is correct or not.

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!





linzybel Contributing Member • Posts: 555
Re: Yes, both images are a little soft.

Overhead light -- note the tiny shadows.  Skin tones will be cool, eyes will be hidden, and necks will be shaded.

Busy backgrounds -- you need longer lenses to blur the background or you need change your angle of view so that the backgrounds are farther away relative to the subject.   If you're in the first-base bleachers, the best shots will be of plays at first base, provided you can keep the shortstop and second basemen out of the background.

Slight softness -- are you using a tripod?  Are you focusing manually? Perhaps for static situations, as with the batter in the batters box, manual might be better.  Preset the focus and fire when ready.

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Canon EOS 60D
Zeee Forum Pro • Posts: 17,025
Re: Please Help Me Tweak My 7D to Improve Image Quality
1

Sharpening is a a bit of an art form in a way. Of course it all starts with the gear and settings. Sharpening has aways fascinated me and there were some very interesting threads oh about 2007 here of various methods. Also an important factor resizing followed by sharpening for media type. Adobe's resizing algorithms were terrible but in the last several years improved immensely.

I use two approaches to sharpening - a handful of shots for my hobby side and mass editing. For mass editing I use LR. It has cut my processing time in half. It took 3 years and several fee trials to convince me to finally get it and it was all do to one thing - sharpening. After all the years of research of different methods, testing and so on I could not handle only 3 options for sharpening on the export page. Kinda like the difference between a low oil pressure light or gauge in an car. One goes on when it has dropped and the other monitors so I know what is going on. Too many years of applying my own methods. After learning more about who developed output sharpening and tests I am fine with what it does for my needs.

Hobby shots. In the last year I slowly have basically transitioned from DPP to CS6. Reason being I used DPP for mass edits but now that I'm using LR no real need. Adobe is so much better with all the recovery options and NR. I noticed you have LR and DPP but I will be talking about CS6. Maybe you have it and I missed it. If not you might consider elements which is a killer combo when used with LR. You can export from LR to CS6/Elements to have more sharpening options than LR can provide. DPP is OK but it just does capture sharpening which I will explain later. If  you are pushing to 7 or whatever you do you are going too far. When I used DPP I set it at 3 in camera and never looked at it again until after converting the RAW image.

Before I go on here are two very videos. Resizing and sharpening go hand in hand.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44mV3NsLmXw&feature=relmfu

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmLDw124uUA&feature=player_embedded#!

Next. There are 3 levels of sharpening - capture, creative and output.

Capture compensates for your cameras AA filter which reduces moire patterns but makes the image less sharp. When you open a RAW or DPP or LR/CS6 here is were you sharpen before conversion.

Creative. Here is where you can do selective sharpening. Eyes etc with brushes and all the various tools provided.

Output sharpening is the final sharpening applied to the whole image for the media type. Here is where it gets interesting. There are many methods, approaches, 3rd party plugins, etc. Using LR you are limited to Low, Standard and High. All adequate but no fun. Also LR does not allow you to use actions, etc. DPP gives you nothing.

http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/image-sharpening.htm

First off you may want to look up all types of free methods out there. The best are edge sharpening methods. Look up LAB sharpening. Simple and very effective.

This is by far the best method I have ever used and my preferred method for my hobby shots. It would take too long to use this for 500 images thus LR does that job.

http://www.earthboundlight.com/phototips/photoshop-really-smart-sharpening.html?search=edge+mask&bool=and

What I like about it is it is an edge sharpening method which you over sharpen because at the end you can feather back. I use smart sharpening via Photo Shop as my primary sharpening method and the default is 300. I have found no two images are the same. Sometimes I can leave it at 300 and sometimes I need to feather it back 80%.

Here is a tutorial I created. In the tutorial is and action which includes a resizing step you can download for free.

http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=1099897&highlight=really+smart+sharpening

I ran your image through but not sure if you see a difference. Not sure about Photobucket these days.

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Bangers and Mash
Bangers and Mash Senior Member • Posts: 2,760
Big difference

A definite difference. I will go over what you have posted with a fine tooth comb. Thanks for providing this info.

Cheers

Wayne

-- hide signature --

"The best camera of tomorrow can't shoot a picture today".

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Zeee Forum Pro • Posts: 17,025
Re: Big difference

Bangers and Mash wrote:

A definite difference. I will go over what you have posted with a fine tooth comb. Thanks for providing this info.

Cheers

Wayne

I feathered it back but did push pretty hard and there are some artifacts showing. I just wanted to illustrate. On a normal day that image would be tamer.

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TTMartin
TTMartin Veteran Member • Posts: 7,304
Re: Please Help Me Tweak My 7D to Improve Image Quality

steve88 wrote:

Hello:

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: http://stevenmitchell.zenfolio.com/

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 www.nyip.com 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 snap...so 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: http://www.learn.usa.canon.com/resources/articles/2011/af_microadjustment_article.shtml

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.

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dprsok Senior Member • Posts: 1,422
Re: Please Help Me Tweak My 7D to Improve Image Quality

The soccer photo in your gallery is fantastic.  It has plenty of pop.

If I'm not mistaken, the plane of focus on the first photo posted here is a little behind the batter.

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Bangers and Mash
Bangers and Mash Senior Member • Posts: 2,760
Question

Zee Char wrote:

Bangers and Mash wrote:

A definite difference. I will go over what you have posted with a fine tooth comb. Thanks for providing this info.

Cheers

Wayne

I feathered it back but did push pretty hard and there are some artifacts showing. I just wanted to illustrate. On a normal day that image would be tamer.

I went through the tutorial you did. I noticed that you used Photoshop. I have LR4 and Elements 10. I was wondering if Elements 10 works the same as Photoshop in what you did?

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Zeee Forum Pro • Posts: 17,025
Re: Please Help Me Tweak My 7D to Improve Image Quality

TTMartin wrote:

steve88 wrote:

Hello:

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: http://stevenmitchell.zenfolio.com/

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 www.nyip.com 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 snap...so 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: http://www.learn.usa.canon.com/resources/articles/2011/af_microadjustment_article.shtml

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.

Curios as to why a faster shutter speed would effect sharpness? Also why as high as F8? Most lenses are sharpest one stop closed down from wide open. One stop higher and you are starting to head into diffraction territory. Besides the bokeh isolates the subject and gives the image a more personal look. If DPR was not locking up on my image downloads I would post a BIF at 1/5000 wide open. This started happening about 1/2 hour ago. I'll try later.

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Bangers and Mash
Bangers and Mash Senior Member • Posts: 2,760
Re: Please Help Me Tweak My 7D to Improve Image Quality

I have been racking my brain trying to figure out what was wrong and couldn't see it until I read your post. Of course . . . the lenses is open too much. During a photography course that I took, it was pointed out that one should strive to use an f/stop somewhere in the middle of the range of the lens. I believe they referred to it as a "sweet spot". A rule of thumb perhaps, as each lens would most likely be different.

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"The best camera of tomorrow can't shoot a picture today".

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Zeee Forum Pro • Posts: 17,025
Re: Question

Bangers and Mash wrote:

Zee Char wrote:

Bangers and Mash wrote:

A definite difference. I will go over what you have posted with a fine tooth comb. Thanks for providing this info.

Cheers

Wayne

I feathered it back but did push pretty hard and there are some artifacts showing. I just wanted to illustrate. On a normal day that image would be tamer.

I went through the tutorial you did. I noticed that you used Photoshop. I have LR4 and Elements 10. I was wondering if Elements 10 works the same as Photoshop in what you did?

I read on another forum (not this site) it would work. If you are in LR you can right click on the image and choose "Edit In" and elements should be there. Adobe products on you computer are recognized. I can't back that as I have never tried it because I don't have it. When done in LR  just click save and it will export back into Elements as a second TIFF file. TIFF is the default but you can change it if you want to.

Images downloads are locking up right now. When I can download I'll show you one more thing.

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Zeee Forum Pro • Posts: 17,025
Re: Please Help Me Tweak My 7D to Improve Image Quality

Bangers and Mash wrote:

I have been racking my brain trying to figure out what was wrong and couldn't see it until I read your post. Of course . . . the lenses is open too much. During a photography course that I took, it was pointed out that one should strive to use an f/stop somewhere in the middle of the range of the lens. I believe they referred to it as a "sweet spot". A rule of thumb perhaps, as each lens would most likely be different.

Not really. You need to look at the MTF (resolution) charts to find your lenses sweet spot.

Here the OP's 200 shows 5.6. Rare as most are one stop past wide open

http://www.photozone.de/canon_eos_ff/580-canon_200_28_ff?start=1

Here is my 70-200. Different at 3 focal lengths but always never more than one stop from wide open.

http://www.photozone.de/canon_eos_ff/431-canon_70200_4is_5d?start=1

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OP steve88 Contributing Member • Posts: 905
Re: Yes, both images are a little soft.

linzybel wrote:

Overhead light -- note the tiny shadows. Skin tones will be cool, eyes will be hidden, and necks will be shaded.

Busy backgrounds -- you need longer lenses to blur the background or you need change your angle of view so that the backgrounds are farther away relative to the subject. If you're in the first-base bleachers, the best shots will be of plays at first base, provided you can keep the shortstop and second basemen out of the background.

Slight softness -- are you using a tripod? Are you focusing manually? Perhaps for static situations, as with the batter in the batters box, manual might be better. Preset the focus and fire when ready.

Yes, this could have a lot to do with it.  This game was at 12:30 which is the absolute worst time in terms of light.  And, as you can see, it was very sunny.  Normally, I shoot sports at f/2.8 but today I played around with the aperture and shot at f/4 thinking it would make the images sharper...obviously, that didn't work.  I spend a lot of time standing next to the first base dugout on a small hill about 6 feet higher than the playing surface.

The majority of the time I shoot with a monopod but on the shot where the player is running to first that was handheld but at a shutter speed I thought would be fast enough to negate any issues with motion blur.  I don't focus manually but that's something I'm willing to try.

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