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Soft Canon 15-85mm lens

cheddar-caveman 14 1.1k England
26 Oct 2012 8:12AM
Almost a month since I bought this lens and I just can't get it to give sharp images in any area of the zoom range. I've tried manual focus/tripod and up to +/- 6 stops on the auto focus micro adjustment but in both directions it gets worse (the 0 position is the best) but still not sharp. Having had a 24-105mm am I expecting too much from it? I have been offered a replacement.

Any suggestions folks? Just looked at this as a preview and it doesn't look too bad???


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GlennH 13 1.9k 1 France
26 Oct 2012 8:45AM
Difficult to tell from a web-sized photo, but there's no good reason to believe that the 15-85mm is a poor performer - it'd fly in the face of most opinion that I've seen. Maybe you do have a duff copy?
SlowSong Plus
9 7.4k 30 England
26 Oct 2012 8:51AM
You haven't told us what settings you were using. The cupboards on the right look sharp enough but the b/g is a little soft.
I've just bought this lens and it looks fine to me, but I've not used it to its full effect yet. But I mainly use at the near widest aperture.
timbo 15 596 United Kingdom
26 Oct 2012 9:19AM
I had a problem with soft lenses on my nikon a while ago, sold the lenses then realised i had high iso/ long exposure noise reduction set which i think was causing the problem. Switched it off and not had it again but then i don't have the lenses either so may never know if that really was the problem.
GlennH 13 1.9k 1 France
26 Oct 2012 9:26AM
If you have Live View you might try zooming in on that whilst manually focusing (tripod mounted), which will help eliminate the potential for focusing error and give you a decent depiction of lens sharpness.
cheddar-caveman 14 1.1k England
26 Oct 2012 1:00PM
I have just done some more tests, tripod mounted with a "flat" target, a printed brochure, and both in manual and auto focus it seems pretty darn good! When I use a composit target, flower, pine cone the AF finds it hard to settle - still good manually but obviously not very good DOF being so close in. I did some group photography last week, full aperture with flash, a group Guides at a meet and the picture looked great in the local paper but wouldn't stand any zooming! Guess It's as good as it'll getSad
tpfkapm Plus
7 262 United Kingdom
26 Oct 2012 1:44PM
the acceptance of what is good sharpness seems to vary according to what other lenses you have. The more tack sharp ones you have the more disappointed you are with lesser ( though often still good) lenses ( usually, though not always zooms)
Cropping to 100% means that you accentuate the softness by pixel peeping, Is this what you mean by zooming, or do you mean that the image is soft at 85mm?
bainsybike 8 328 United Kingdom
26 Oct 2012 2:10PM
My copy is one of the sharpest lenses I have, at least in the centre. It's also one of the most reliable in terms of autofocus - nails it nearly every time. I nearly always use the centre AF point (only) on my 50D. If you use multiple focus points, you might get the sort of problem you describe - the camera will lock on to what it thinks is the subject, but it may not be what you think. I believe you said you have a 7D, which I'm not familiar with but I understand has a more complex autofocus system - could your problem be to do with the setup of that?
cheddar-caveman 14 1.1k England
26 Oct 2012 3:28PM
That's a fair statement tp. My other lenses are L series prime so maybe I'm being too fussy! And yes, bains... I always use spot focus, usually AIAuto as I'm tracking birds and the likes.
I have the offer to exchange, send it back whence it came and wait for a new one, but not convinced that's necessary, yet!
GlennH 13 1.9k 1 France
26 Oct 2012 4:01PM
No optical shortcomings can be deduced by it not being 'L' series - by Canon's definition no EF-S lens can meet that criteria through lack of compatibility across the entire range of bodies.

I'm struggling to see how it can perform okay with your flat target but seemingly fail in the group photo, where plane of focus and DOF presumably weren't overly critical. Could it be a problem with image stabilisation?
timbo 15 596 United Kingdom
26 Oct 2012 10:35PM
You say you shot the group full aperture, by that i assume you mean wide open. In that case you would only have the point of focus sharp and the rest would be, technically, out of focus and therefore soft. In a group photo, which i guess would have been shot standard to wide focal length, it would look 'ok' to the eye but wouldn't stand up to much enlarging or close scrutiny.
cheddar-caveman 14 1.1k England
27 Oct 2012 7:45AM
Yes timbo, this is the case. For publishing (paper) one doesn't need that good a quality and the pictures are "OK" but as soon as one looks a bit closer they are not sharp. I guess, as I got this lens to give me that wider angle for close-up group work, it does it's job. The long end, although the macro is nice, is not going to be its main function!
GlennH 13 1.9k 1 France
27 Oct 2012 11:27AM
Wouldn't a group photo have been better shot at a mid-aperture though? I think that's what Timbo is getting at, whereas shooting wide-open you risk leaving tiers of people out of focus. Something like f8 or f11 perhaps? We're discussing lens quality when it appears that shooting parameters may be the issue.
bainsybike 8 328 United Kingdom
28 Oct 2012 2:30PM
I can't suggest any solutions, I'm afraid, but here are a few thoughts:

The 15-85 is a relatively slow lens, so I would have thought that there should be enough depth of field to cover the average group photo even wide open.

Quote:When I use a composit target, flower, pine cone the AF finds it hard to settle

I haven't noticed this with my copy, using One Shot AF.

Another thought - the 15-85 should hold its own compared to L lenses in the frame centre, but not perhaps at the edges. This would be apparent with your "flat" target as well as your group photo.

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