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Digital images not as sharp as film

Jay44 12 1.4k Wales
24 Jan 2006 1:44AM
I was told this weekend, that digital cameras will never take a 100% sharp image... it is the nature of the beast apparently.

I was pretty gobsmacked by this statement.

"You sharpen them up on your pc," my friend told me.


It's terrifying thought that no matter how precise I am with focusing, and with the use of a tripod - my 20D images will not be sharp!

Was he pulling my leg?


PS.. and I still don't know which new lens to buy, am going to have to do another lens post Sad

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Tandberg 15 1.2k 2 England
24 Jan 2006 1:56AM
iwould say your legs being pulled, its about the lens too.what lens are you looking at buying.
digicammad 14 22.0k 39 United Kingdom
24 Jan 2006 1:58AM
There is an element of truth in there. Digital cameras have an anti-aliasing filter in front of the sensor and this results in a slight softness. If you shoot in jpeg the camera's internal algorithms sort it out, shoot in RAW and you need to add a touch of sharpening yourself.

As you will see if you look at the shots on here, it isn't a problem.

skeletor 14 1.7k England
24 Jan 2006 2:12AM
No, your friend wasn't pulling your leg. This "Digital softness" is fairly well documented. If you really don't want to sharpen on your PC, you can turn on/increase sharpness in camera. If you look in your user manual it should tell you how to do it.

Snapper Plus
13 4.3k 3 United States Outlying Islands
24 Jan 2006 2:13AM
Hi Jay

Might be worth reading this article on sharpening, but it is just a feature of digital I'm afraid. It also applies to scans of film and prints, so no getting away from it!
digicammad 14 22.0k 39 United Kingdom
24 Jan 2006 2:21AM

Quote:It also applies to scans of film and prints

Not quite. Scanners don't have anti-aliasing filters. Avoiding aliasing on scans is down to scanning at a high resolution and then carefully resizing in software.

From the nature of aliasing I'm curious to know whether it also happens when printing film?

strawman 14 22.1k 16 United Kingdom
24 Jan 2006 2:37AM
Jay, as we discussed before, with digital you are taking on some of the work of the print worker used to do in the dark room. If you shoot JPEG, in your camera you should find some things called parameters, and here you can adjust the settings for Sharpness and contrast (anyway that is what the 300D calles them and it turns up on the 10D so it could be a Canon thing).

By default dSLRs tend not to apply the full sharpening because if you are intending to re-size the image it is often best to set the sharpening on the final image size. If you over sharpen the image is effectivley damaged, but if it is under sharp then you can boost it.

If you shoot RAW then you have more control over the processing, but that means you have to.

For sharpening in photoshop, try starting with an unsharp mask of 100%, radious 1 threshold 0.

Oh and you can oversharpen in digital too. Smile
Craftysnapper 12 272
24 Jan 2006 7:23AM
Quite true..film is a continuous tone medium and needs no sharpening if printing traditionally.
With digital the image consists of pixels which are square, now no matter how many squares there are you cannot make a smooth line from them, they will always be stepped hence the anti-aliasing filters to smooth it out which results in softness..it's just part of digital ...don't sweat it Smile
elowes 14 2.8k United Kingdom
24 Jan 2006 7:35AM
The idea of pin sharp images has blossomed with the digital era. It was not the intense issue it is when film was king. These days it seems, judging by many comments, that a pin sharp image comes before content.

If you don't want to sharpen then shoot jpegs and take your card to Jessops to have prints made direct from the digital image. Bit of a waste though to buy a 20D and not make the most of it by using Raw.

You still need to get spot on exposure, focus and avoid shake but when you have worked on your image and finally added a touch of sharpening you will see, I hope, the value of Raw v jpeg.


You also need better lenses than you would have done with film as, according to some reviewers, digital show up any short comings in the lens.
strawman 14 22.1k 16 United Kingdom
24 Jan 2006 7:38AM
err wrong Crafty. Both are sampled systems, with film it is called grain. And I do not believe that the anti-aliasing is there for the reason you state. I would have thought it was more to do with avoiding nyquist effect. The Bayer sensors often produce extra colours in error.
fishiee 14 478 3 United Kingdom
24 Jan 2006 7:39AM
In some respect the opposite is true. If a lans has soft edges and your'e not using a full frame sensor digital camera (of which there are only 2) you're not using the duff parts of the lens and so the digital camera gets better images with the lens.
keithh Plus
14 25.4k 33 Wallis And Futuna
24 Jan 2006 7:39AM
Always say that when I give camera club etc talks I can tell the the film users from the out and out digital users by the way they look at prints.

The old school film users stand back and either admire (or trash) an image.

The digital users get right up close and pick every last dot from it piece by piece as though they were zooming in on their computer screens.

as for fishie's statement.....buy some decent lenses.
Carabosse 15 41.1k 270 England
24 Jan 2006 7:45AM
Or a decent crop cam + a sturdy tripod! Grin
Mitzi 12 1.0k
24 Jan 2006 7:45AM
It is an interesting debate but it almost asks the question 'What is photography'? Literally writing with light! Is it different from painters who paint with paint? We have Picasso and Hogarth not to mention Rembrandt and Van Eyck! All very different. Are photographers trying to picture the real world? Maybe Cartier Bresson was but sometimes I think that many modern photographers are more into equipment than pictures.
elowes 14 2.8k United Kingdom
24 Jan 2006 7:49AM

Just what I mean and I find myself doing it. I was using my 17-40L for inappropriate subjects just because it was sharper than my old Sigma (now have a newer and better Sigma) even though I was ending up cropping an awful lot.

I am trying to wean myself off but I have given up the demon alcohol and I am on a diet and it is all just too much. Still, with all the money I will save on not drinking and eating I can safe up and buy another pin sharp Canon L lens, probably 24-105 but just maybe the 24-70 2.8 if I can wait till I've saved that much!!

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