Sharpness puzzle ...

pdh

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I am using an E-P2 with MMF-1 and the 4/3 ZD 70-300mm zoom for casual wildlife photography. I don't expect absolutely fantastic results, but I was hoping for some excellent ones.

Here are two shots taken with this combo.

The first is at 1/640th f/5.6 ISO100, 300mm and it's about as good as I was hoping for ... cropped to just the bird (a Whitethroat) and sharpened a tad, it looks really good to me.

The second is at 1/1000th, f/6.3, ISO320, 263mm and is terrible. These are slightly rare birds in the UK (Choughs) and so I took quite a lot of shots of them ... every single one is as poor as this example.

Only AF was used -- the camera was in S-AF+MF mode, but I didn't use MF for either shot. I'm using Fine/Large for the in-camera jpegs.

Can the difference in ISO really account for the variation in quality? I've seen people posting images using ISO 6400 that look better than the second one.

I've resized these for upload to the forum, but no PP has been done otherwise. RAW files are available too should anyone care to make a close examination.

Don't hold back now ... if it's about me being a poor photographer or I haven't read the manual properly or whatever, let me know; I've invested a LOT of cash in this setup (I bought just before all the E-P price drops ...) and at the moment I'm not happy with the results!

thanks in advance for any help
 

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Djarum

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The second one looks reasonably sharp to me, but I wonder if the camera picked the plant in front for focusing.

I've had this issue with the 40-150 where it doesn't seem to pick the right distance to focus on, even with center focus. I always find myself tweaking the focus in MF assist mode.
 

pdh

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those you are looking at are the original jpgs.
here are crops which may illustrate better what is wrong: the lack of feather detail in particular is striking.
 

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photoSmart42

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those you are looking at are the original jpgs.
here are crops which may illustrate better what is wrong: the lack of feather detail in particular is striking.
I can't tell the issue either. Is it possible that the feather structure on the black birds is naturally smoother and less 'feathery' than on the other bird? In areas where you can see the feathers there seems to be a fair amount of detail. It's also possible, as Dj mentioned, that the AF focused on something other than the birds. When in doubt, use MF. For AF you're relying on someone else's idea of what focus should be.
 

Bokeh Diem

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Looks to me like you have focused behind the birds in image 2.

I do notice that your DOF is shallow, and with a zoom tele problems can occur wide open when accuracy is questionable, especially in low light and low contrast situations. Hunting focus is endemic on Auto... go manual, stop down a bit, and take several shots tweaking the focus in and around your subject to see if that improves things. You say you took many shots of these black birds and all are 'terrible'. I bet that each one uses the same technique, in the same light.

I also find that with birds (their feathers are always on the go even when the beast is at rest) you need a very fast shutter or accept the inevitable.

Have you shot many photos with this setup, in a variety of other conditions, to truly test it? I am always turfing material that doesn't cut it. Maybe 20% gets to the point where I would show it to someone if pressed. Maybe 2-5% is actually worth showing.... I am not a professional and I don't sweat it.

I actually like the second image, within its technical limitations. It has character.

Bokeh

This was shot on the 45-200, at around 250th of a second.... the Cardinal was enjoying my lawn sprinkler. A failed shot? It certainly is not what I expected, or wanted... but I get some sort of sadistic pleasure from it nonetheless, when viewed as a postage stamp
 

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Djarum

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Looks to me like you have focused behind the birds in image 2. I do notice that your DOF is shallow, and with a tele this can present problems when accuracy is questionable.

Bokeh.
The more I study the image, I think you are correct. Looking at the top left where the rocky area is, that area looks extremly sharp, which is slightly behind the birds.

It really kills me that the AF "size" can't be adjust in the E-P1
 

Pelao

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The more I study the image, I think you are correct. Looking at the top left where the rocky area is, that area looks extremly sharp, which is slightly behind the birds.

It really kills me that the AF "size" can't be adjust in the E-P1
Ya, I agree: those rocks are plenty sharp.
 

Djarum

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Bokeh,

We have a single cardinal behind our apartment. We have pigeons, robbins, other small birds that generally stay put and I can capture. But not that darned cardinal. I take a picture and its gone. Maybe the shutter noise scares it off.
 

Bokeh Diem

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Get some white noise happening.... like a sprinkler.

I can shoot this particular bird from five feet away, with the camera propped and LCD open and twisted toward me, hand on the trigger button, set at burst. I am positioned in shade under a canopy, and he is in bright light. I don't move.

He really likes crushed cashews and throws caution to the wind when he hears me cracking them up on the deck baluster.

Bokeh D
 

pdh

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hmm ok thanks to all ... i did suspect that this was about accuracy of focus, and i should have been more careful at the time ... 1/1000 ought to be good enough for birds at rest really (1/640 was good enough for the whitehroat, although I agree 1/1250++ is best) ... what really puzzles me now is the number of responders saying they can't see what I'm bothered about! ... so I'm going to wait 'til I get back home and look at them again on my usual laptop before giving this any more attention ... although i could go back tomorrow and try to find them again (but these were unusually good views and I was lucky to see them so close -- perhaps less than 15m) ...
 

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