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Help with focus issues - Birds
I am practicing taking photos of birds. These were taken on a partly cloudy day, some snow on ground and the sun coming out in spots. I am using a Canon 20D with a Sigma 70-200 2.8 HSM, with 1.4x. I hand held and used AI Focus (been using AI Servo for sports), AV setting, no flash..

When I enlarge the pictures just a little, everything already starts to loose sharpness. Is it camera shake? My aperture too small and front focusing? The shot of the bird in the tree is totally out of focus...I think that's camera shake, but how do I know?.

When I use the Sigma in AI Servo for my childs soccer, it's very "noisy" and constantly trying to focus. I think that's normal but I wonder if there is just an issue with the lens not being Canon and working overtime..

I couldn't get the photo to embed so I put a link to the Picasa site. You can get more info and enlarge on the right side menu area..

Http://picasaweb.google.com/twingirlz/Birds02.

I don't have any fancy software, just Photo Shop Elements. But if anyone can give me some pointers as to what I am doing wrong, I'd appreciate it...

Comments (13)

If the birds are stationary I would use S-AF, center point only..

If not then use C-AF, "servo"..

They looked pretty well focused for the most part, one looked back focused on the chain. A few looked a little under exposed and lack contrast with the dull light..

Try upping the contrast and exposure in PSE, and use a little sharpening on them too..

I brought one into Picasa and added a little sharpening and contrast as much as I could with the limited editing available and it helped..

I think your shutterspeed was a little low (1/250 at 205mm on the one I looked at)..

So, up the SS, increase contrast and sharpen in post. Maybe shoot somethings on a tripod to see if the lens, camera and TC combo are focusing properly..

Gene..

Comment #1

Shooting birds isn't easy and there are somethings you are doing that are making it more difficult..

I'll use photo number 3 as an example..

1) you're using a teleconverter. While that's not bad in and of itself - keep in mind, that they do take a bit off the image quality..

2) you're shooting wide open - F4. Stop down a little - lenses are never at their best wide open. See my next point..

3) 1/2000 second. Normally that's great if you can get that.... but since the bird is stationary you'd be much better off shooting F8 at 1/500.

4) you're at 223mm and you're nowhere near filling up the frame. The more you fill up the frame, the more detail you will get..

Compare picture 3 to picture 5, where you did stop down and fill up the frame a little better, you can see the image quality difference..

Conversely - picture 6 the subject is just too far away, even at full zoom - you're wasting your time trying to get good shots of something that is so small in the frame. No subject will come out good at that size regardless of the lens, conditions, or settings used..

Twingirlz wrote:.

I am practicing taking photos of birds. These were taken on apartly cloudy day, some snow on ground and the sun coming out inspots. I am using a Canon 20D with a Sigma 70-200 2.8 HSM, with1.4x. I hand held and used AI Focus (been using AI Servo forsports), AV setting, no flash..

When I enlarge the pictures just a little, everything already startsto loose sharpness. Is it camera shake? My aperture too small andfront focusing? The shot of the bird in the tree is totally out offocus...I think that's camera shake, but how do I know?.

When I use the Sigma in AI Servo for my childs soccer, it's very"noisy" and constantly trying to focus. I think that's normal but Iwonder if there is just an issue with the lens not being Canon andworking overtime..

I couldn't get the photo to embed so I put a link to the Picasa site.You can get more info and enlarge on the right side menu area..

Http://picasaweb.google.com/twingirlz/Birds02.

I don't have any fancy software, just Photo Shop Elements. But ifanyone can give me some pointers as to what I am doing wrong, I'dappreciate it..

Some cool cats that can use your helphttp://www.wildlife-sanctuary.org.

Even if you can't donate, please help spread the word...

Comment #2

I found I get better results resizing using DPP then up loading to Picasa instead of letting Picasa resize them..

I also notice your depth of field is very shallow. Try stopping down your aperture. Most lenses are sharpest a couple of stops down from wide open.If you aren't already, use center point focus only...

Comment #3

Twingirlz wrote:.

I am practicing taking photos of birds. These were taken on apartly cloudy day, some snow on ground and the sun coming out inspots. I am using a Canon 20D with a Sigma 70-200 2.8 HSM, with1.4x. I hand held and used AI Focus (been using AI Servo forsports), AV setting, no flash..

When I enlarge the pictures just a little, everything already startsto loose sharpness. Is it camera shake? My aperture too small andfront focusing? The shot of the bird in the tree is totally out offocus...I think that's camera shake, but how do I know?.

When I use the Sigma in AI Servo for my childs soccer, it's very"noisy" and constantly trying to focus. I think that's normal but Iwonder if there is just an issue with the lens not being Canon andworking overtime..

I couldn't get the photo to embed so I put a link to the Picasa site.You can get more info and enlarge on the right side menu area..

Http://picasaweb.google.com/twingirlz/Birds02.

I don't have any fancy software, just Photo Shop Elements. But ifanyone can give me some pointers as to what I am doing wrong, I'dappreciate it..

The bird in the tree is out of focus. Look closely at the tips of the branches. It looks like it focused on the branch in front of the one your bird is on. As others have said, stop down so you get some DOF. This will improve sharpness as well..

And, EXIF data is essential for us to do more than guess where you went wrong...

Comment #4

Greg Nut wrote:.

And, EXIF data is essential for us to do more than guess where youwent wrong..

Click on "more info" - it's all there..

Some cool cats that can use your helphttp://www.wildlife-sanctuary.org.

Even if you can't donate, please help spread the word...

Comment #5

If you've been around here in dpreview for a while, you'll know there is a continual dialogue on zooms versus primes. Zooms are generally softer at their longest focal length, which is frustrating as that is where the majority shoot their images at, so realize that you are using the "soft" end of the zoom..

Then adding a teleconverter even to a sharp lens, will soften it a tad. Now add a TC which softens, to a lens used at the long end which softens, well you get the picture... lol!.... and in fact you did. TC's are best when used with primes..

If money is an issue with you as it is with most folks, like me, then go dumpster diving to find stuff to sell to raise cash, get a temporary part time job, or another one, and purchase the Canon 400 f5.6 L lens. It costs around $1100 plus tax and shipping if bought on the net. Here is a review of it, comparing it to the Canon 100 - 400 lens, want to guess which one comes out on top?.

Http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/lenses/forgotten-400.shtml.

I forgot to add, that cropping softens a picture as well. Now you know why many of us are waiting for a cheaper, much cheaper full frame camera with lots of megapixels - so the crops will hold together better..

Cheers!!!!..

Comment #6

As mentioned, try not to shoot with a wide open aperture, you loose some IQ and the DoF is very shallow. You have the ability to do this as the shutter speeds you are getting are generally higher than needed to stop the motion. You can also increase the ISO for faster SS if needed..

I post processed 2 of your images in Photoshop CS2. They improve with some level adjustment and sharpening..

You can try using some fill flash, this will bring out the dark areas of the birds. The fill flash mode is Av, set the flash compensation to -1 to -2, ISO to 200-400 on bright days, aperture to f5.6-f8 and try it. A SS of 1/250 or higher should be enough, 1/500 is better..

Here's a Griffon Vulture from a few years ago.

10D, 70-200 f/2.8, 200mm, f/5, 1/125 ISO200, with fill flash. I shot this in AI Servo and tracked the beginning of the flight. Post processed with Photoshop 7..

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

A larger version is herehttp://www.pbase.com/dougj/image/21779141/original.

Best regards,Doughttp://pbase.com/dougj.

Http://thescambaiter.comFighting scammers WW for fun & justice..

Comment #7

IMac, therefore iAm wrote:.

Shooting birds isn't easy and there are somethings you are doing thatare making it more difficult..

I'll use photo number 3 as an example..

1) you're using a teleconverter. While that's not bad in and ofitself - keep in mind, that they do take a bit off the image quality..

I didn't realize this about the tele converter, but I sort of figured that must be the case after I used it a few times..

4) you're at 223mm and you're nowhere near filling up the frame. Themore you fill up the frame, the more detail you will get..

Compare picture 3 to picture 5, where you did stop down and fill upthe frame a little better, you can see the image quality difference..

I was taking these pics at various f-stops to see if it really did affect the clarity/quality, but I couldn't really see a difference until you pointed out this example..

Conversely - picture 6 the subject is just too far away, even at fullzoom - you're wasting your time trying to get good shots of somethingthat is so small in the frame. No subject will come out good at thatsize regardless of the lens, conditions, or settings used..

You're right, it was just wishful thinking on my part. I also think this Sigma lens especially with the converter is really soft wide open. I bought both of them used a few years ago and now want to get a longer Canon zoom, but want to have a better handle on all of it before I make the purchase..

Thanks for you input...

Comment #8

Greg Nut wrote:.

The bird in the tree is out of focus. Look closely at the tips ofthe branches. It looks like it focused on the branch in front of theone your bird is on. As others have said, stop down so you get someDOF. This will improve sharpness as well..

And, EXIF data is essential for us to do more than guess where youwent wrong..

Thanks Greg, I have a better understanding now about needing to stop down to bring it into focus. On Picasa you can click on "More Info" to get the exif data...

Comment #9

NickC20D wrote:.

I found I get better results resizing using DPP then up loading toPicasa instead of letting Picasa resize them..

I don't use Picasa much except for the situation I needed it for here, and you're right, the results from the originals are no where close to what is uploaded there..

If you aren't already, use center point focus only..

I did use center focus, thanks for that tip...

Comment #10

Rsn48 wrote:.

Then adding a teleconverter even to a sharp lens, will soften it atad. Now add a TC which softens, to a lens used at the long endwhich softens, well you get the picture... lol!.... and in fact youdid. TC's are best when used with primes..

I did not know that the TC's are best on primes. Makes sense. This was my first lens after I got the camera a few years ago and I bought it used with the TC..

Temporary part time job, or another one, and purchase the Canon 400f5.6 L lens. It costs around $1100 plus tax and shipping if boughton the net. Here is a review of it, comparing it to the Canon 100 -400 lens, want to guess which one comes out on top?.

Http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/lenses/forgotten-400.shtml.

What worries me about a prime lens at 400 is that I mainly use the telephoto for my daughters soccer. And having never used a prime zoom lens, it seems I'd be limited to the types of shots I could get at that length. I don't want to change lenses at the field if I don't have to. It's very windy here in KS and I worry about the dirt getting in the camera body. I need a longer lens though, because 200 barely cuts it and next year she is on a full size field, so I've got to get something longer at that point..

I've been looking at some online place to rent lenses, but being such a newbie, through the mail seems scary. Wish we had local shops..

You're right though, if I was rich, I'd get the 400 in a heart beat and work on my birds, but I'd enjoy the pics of my girls more!.

Thanks for all you info, it's been very helpful..

Sandy..

Comment #11

The classic air show lens is the Canon 100 - 400 lens, this puppy will do what you need of it. The problems of air show photography with a rapidly moving subject is close to what you are trying to do..

You might need to do some more dumpster diving for it...

Comment #12

You're certainly learning a lot fast. Regarding the 400mm prime, don't be intimidated by it's fixed focal length. Most zoom lenses are used at either extreme of the focal range. I used to use the Simga 50-500, which is the most versatile super zoom there is. But after a few years I realized that the convenience of the zoom range was no match for the image quality I was missing at 500mm. Don't get me wrong - it's a great lens, if you're right on top of your subject, but the farther the subject the worse it got.

The 300 F4L IS takes the 1.4 very well and for the same subject at the same distance the 300F4L IS with 1.4 (420mm total) - outresolves the Sigma at 500mm by quite a margin!.

These two pictures were taken from the same seat, with the same camera with the cars at the exact same point on the track. The first pic was taken with the Sigma at 500mm. The second with the 300F4L IS with 1.4 converter.The Sigma shot had about 1/2 stop more light (which should play in it's favor).

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

As for shooting your daughter's soccer, more often than not 400 will be just right, or even too short. Conversely, the 100-400 will be hampered by image quality. Granted, it's still a great lens, but no match for the 400 F5.6. If you're limited with a single 400mm focal lenght, you just use that for your advantage. If your daughter is close to you, use it to get a head shot..

Twingirlz wrote:.

Rsn48 wrote:.

Then adding a teleconverter even to a sharp lens, will soften it atad. Now add a TC which softens, to a lens used at the long endwhich softens, well you get the picture... lol!.... and in fact youdid. TC's are best when used with primes..

I did not know that the TC's are best on primes. Makes sense. Thiswas my first lens after I got the camera a few years ago and I boughtit used with the TC..

Temporary part time job, or another one, and purchase the Canon 400f5.6 L lens. It costs around $1100 plus tax and shipping if boughton the net. Here is a review of it, comparing it to the Canon 100 -400 lens, want to guess which one comes out on top?.

Http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/lenses/forgotten-400.shtml.

What worries me about a prime lens at 400 is that I mainly use thetelephoto for my daughters soccer. And having never used a primezoom lens, it seems I'd be limited to the types of shots I could getat that length. I don't want to change lenses at the field if Idon't have to. It's very windy here in KS and I worry about the dirtgetting in the camera body. I need a longer lens though, because 200barely cuts it and next year she is on a full size field, so I've gotto get something longer at that point..

I've been looking at some online place to rent lenses, but being sucha newbie, through the mail seems scary. Wish we had local shops..

You're right though, if I was rich, I'd get the 400 in a heart beatand work on my birds, but I'd enjoy the pics of my girls more!.

Thanks for all you info, it's been very helpful..

Sandy.

Some cool cats that can use your helphttp://www.wildlife-sanctuary.org.

Even if you can't donate, please help spread the word...

Comment #13

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This question was taken from a support group/message board and re-posted here so others can learn from it.

 

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