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Long zoom - improving sharpness?


8 Nov 2006 2:49PM
Hi folks,
I have now bought a long zoom lense and am out and about learning how to use it!!!
I'm also learning just how tricky it is to get a really sharp picture at full zoom.
I've done some testing to check that the lens is ok and it can resolve pretty well.
My questions are:

1. When photographing animals, do you use shutter release chords rather than pressing the button on the camera - does that make a significant difference?

2. I am using centre point focus rather than the grouped points focus to photograph birds - seems logical - but what do you do?

3. Any other 'tricks of the trade' out there?

I'm using a Canon 30D with a Canon EF 100-400.

Any thoughts or suggestions would be welcome.
Thanks,
Jonny.

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ala_fred e2
11 62 United Kingdom
8 Nov 2006 4:24PM
Hi Jonny I have the same set up and get the same problems I try to keep ISO at 400 and exposure as high as possible at least one or two stops above the reciprocal of the focus length

Alastair
8 Nov 2006 4:36PM
some examples of that lens are regarded as in-capable of producing sharp images and some are ?
whipspeed e2
10 4.1k 22 United Kingdom
8 Nov 2006 5:46PM
Have to say I've had no problems with mine, use it all the time for cycling shots & rugby. Always use shutter button, all different focus points & shot right down to 1/125 at the 400mm end.
justin c e2
11 4.6k 36 England
8 Nov 2006 6:22PM

Quote:1. When photographing animals, do you use shutter release chords rather than pressing the button on the camera - does that make a significant difference?


Yes and no. If it's a stationary subject,i.e. a bird or mammal that may keep still for periods,such as a kingfisher,heron,deer,etc. then a cable release would be a good choice.
If your subject is constantly on the move,a blue tit,or an active mammal,for instance,then using the camera's shutter button will often work best,not necessarily in damping vibrations,but physically holding the camera instead of a cable release means you'll have a much better chance of following any movement and reacting accordingly.
The split second from removing your hand from the camera's grip to hold and press the remote release will result in missed shots if your subject is constantly on the move.



Quote:
2. I am using centre point focus rather than the grouped points focus to photograph birds - seems logical - but what do you do?



It's worth being aware that because depth of field is incredibly limited at the 400mm end,re-composing after using the center focus point can often result in a slightly out of focus subject,depending on how far you move the focus point off the subject,and how close your subject is.With depth of field and critical focusing being even more critical the larger the subject is in the frame.
For the above reason I prefer to use whichever focus point is closest to the part of the subject I want the lens to focus on,almost always the eye.Thus minimizing moving the lens after focus has been achieved.



Quote:
3. Any other 'tricks of the trade' out there?



Use a solid tripod whenever possible and be prepared to practise and perfect your long lens technique in order to get the best out of that particular lens.
If you have the zoom/manual focus ring tension slackened be very careful how you support the lens.There is quite a bit of free play between the inner and outer lens barrels and it is extremely easy to unknowingly push the inner barrel up a few millimeters,causing your subject to go out of focus.
Keep the zoom rings tension as tight as is practical in use,and preferably fully locked.


If you've carried out meticulous testing on a solid tripod,using a cable release,mirror lock-up and very careful focusing then you should achieve tack sharp results.This will give you an idea of what the lens can achieve when shooting conditions are ideal.

Having determined your lens is capable of acceptable results,any subsequent 'soft' images in everyday shooting conditions are likely to be a result of user error.


Incidently,for what it's worth,I've owned this lens for aprox 6 or 7 years and find it is capable of extremly sharp results at all focal lengths and all apertures.


An excellent article on long lens technique can be found HERE
geoffash26
10 2.5k United Kingdom
8 Nov 2006 6:33PM
With that lens with IS on with a good stance you should get sharp images at 1/200sec with a rest or monopod down to maybe 1/100sec
If your shots are not sharp at 1/400sec and faster you need to look at the way you are supporting/holding the camera

This is an example of sharpness and with a 1.4x connected (please dont click)

HTH

Geoff
8 Nov 2006 8:22PM
MAN - that's SHARP !!!!!!! - great capture.
8 Nov 2006 9:22PM
Alastair, thanks, I had not considered upping the ISO or the formula you have suggested, I'll give it a go.

Mark, thanks - I was aware of this issue when I bought the lens and hence my initial first testing of it, I,m pretty sure that my issues are 'user error'.

Whipspeed, your cmment on the speed may be my issue - I had 1/30 because the light was fading.

Justin, thanks for your time in replying, some important points there for me to digest. I only heard of 'mirror up' today, so something new there! Also, your comment about moving the focus point is interesting.

Geoff, yes - I think I have been going 'too slow'! Your picture is awesome! Please let me click it...

I appreciate all the comments, thanks guys.
Cheers,
Jonny
MikeRC e2
9 3.5k United Kingdom
9 Nov 2006 10:51PM
Interesting thread...Mike
francisg e2
10 703 1 United Kingdom
13 Nov 2006 11:59AM
A big improvement I found when using a Telephoto lens and that is to mount the camera on a tripod. Taking the shots hand Held only exagerates your normal body movements and this is interpreted as loss of sharpnes.

Cheers

Frank
paulcr e2
10 1.5k 9 Ireland
13 Nov 2006 12:33PM
I use a 170-500 on my 300D. I generally use the cable release because I find the slightest touch on the camera will result in shake. Last time out photographing squirrels I found that as I shot continuously, there was a build up of shake in the lens. 1st shot was fine, 4th shot shaken even using a shutter release and tri-pod. Very annoying...


Quote:If you've carried out meticulous testing on a solid tripod,using a cable release,mirror lock-up

Whats mirror lock up?

Paul
p3asa e2
9 676 Scotland
13 Nov 2006 1:03PM
Locks the mirror up before the camera actually opens the shutter to take the picture as the movement of the mirror going up even on a tripod is enough to cause camera shake.

Mirror Lock up

Steven.
francisg e2
10 703 1 United Kingdom
13 Nov 2006 1:24PM
What is the advantage of locking the mirror up?
justin c e2
11 4.6k 36 England
13 Nov 2006 1:32PM
It will allow any vibrations that may result,time to subside.
paulcr e2
10 1.5k 9 Ireland
13 Nov 2006 2:41PM
Cheers Steven, and how is it acomplished?
Paul

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