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Old Aug 19, 2003, 3:17 AM   #1
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Default Soft vs Sharp images

I've been reading a lot about the sharp/soft issue w/ the canon a70 and other canon cameras, and some of the more experienced photographers say that it is better to have a soft image b/c those can be enhanced in the digital dark room, and produce pics w/ more details, how?

Anyway, I don't think I know the difference between a soft or shapr image. Do any of you have a picture of a digitally enhanced sharp picture vs. a soft pic and camera processed sharp pic?
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Old Aug 19, 2003, 6:19 AM   #2
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It can be misleading to just look at two pictures on your monitor at normal size and say that's soft and the other is hard. The perception of sharpness is an illusion produced (in crude terms) by software enhancing the edges in your pic. Put even simpler, if you take a picture on a sheet of paper and draw round the outline edges with a very black pen, and hold the pic at arms length - you will think the picture is sharper.

The problem is, the thickness and contrast of this artificially added edge enhancement will vary according to the size and res. (number of dots) in the image. So the amount of sharpening (or unsharpening) you add to an image will depend on whether it's going to be printed 10X8, 6X4, put on a PC screen at high res. or posted on a web page at low res. I could send you a pic that looked really sharp on a monitor, but on a large print, the enhanced edges could look like a 'cardboard cutout'.

So now you can see the problem of adding the sharpening in the camera. The manufacturer makes a guess that for a particular camera resolution setting, a print of say 6X4 will be produced. Unfortunately, you have all your shots permanently optimised and can't take it away for say larger prints. Once on the file you're stuck with it. The other problem is what might look OK on a low detail scene, can look artificially wrong on a very detailed scene.

So the advice is, unless you just want point & shoot happy snappies back from the lab, shoot soft (No in-cam sharpening) and set sharpening yourself for the intended use of your pics. However, as a realist this can be a pain, particularly as applying the same settings in batch mode editing defeats the point, since some scenes are more detailed than others. So mix and match if that suits you. For quick family shots small prints the in-cam sharpening may work for you, otherwise shoot soft and do more work in editing.

Incidentally, the reason that no in cam sharpening is a soft pic, is due to the lens losses and a special optical filter used in the camera to prevent the scene detail from causing other problems in the camera processing. Seems strange doesn't it that you take something away to start with, then put it back!

Try experimenting with magnified edges of a pic and apply the sharpening and unsharp mask settings in your editor. But remember what I said about testing for the result on the final output. VOX
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Old Aug 19, 2003, 11:22 PM   #3
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Just remember, you can always add more sharpening later, but if you unsharpen you don't get the detail back. That is why many like a naturally soft image.
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Old Aug 20, 2003, 1:38 AM   #4
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Default Re: Soft vs Sharp images

Originally Posted by Honey
Do any of you have a picture of a digitally enhanced sharp picture vs. a soft pic and camera processed sharp pic?
I *could* post examples for you, but these would be my camera, not yours. The beauty of digicams is that you can do your own experiments, and it costs you nothing but the time. You can make your own test shots, quickly and easily. Ideally use a tripod, but otherwise a bean bag, or stand the camera on a table or a chair, and use the delayed action shutter release, so you don't shake it when you push the button.

Take exactly the same shots with and without sharpening, download them to the PC, and inspect the results, and print them as well, if you can be bothered. You can also experiment with aperture, zoom level, sensitivity (ISO film speed equivalent), saturation,etc., if your camera has adjustments for these.

Either keep good notes of what you did on each shot, or get 'exifer' from www.friedemann.info, which will read from the image file what settings your camera used for the shot.

You'll probably find that for the shots you just want to look at as snapshots, you'll prefer the results with sharpening. For those pictures you want to enlarge and hang on the wall (your best work), it will be better to have sharpening switched off when you take the shot, do the twiddling, and apply a little sharpening as the last thing before you print.

I'm afraid there is no right answer to this dilemma. However, if you choose to have sharpening switched off as a matter of routine (as I do), "irfanview" image viewer and batch image processor from www.irfanview.com will allow you to apply any degree of sharpening to whole batches of images at once later on, with very little work.

If you do all this, you'll be an expert in no time at all. Not many people seem to realise that the immediacy of a digicam in your own house or back yard means you can DO THE EXPERIMENTS youself very easily, in a way you couldn't with film cameras.

Have fun!
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Old Aug 20, 2003, 6:09 AM   #5
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By using soft (most natural) sharpening levels in your camera you can usually get lower noise levels as you do with heavier sharpening settings. It's much more easier to control the noise levels as you do the sharpening afterwards with PS or with some other program.
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