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Old Aug 22, 2006, 8:50 PM   #1
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As await to purchase my K100d, I reading and trying to learn as much as possible about picture taking and picture quality. Everyone here posts really great pics and always have solid advice.

My question is this: What makes/causes a picture to be so called soft? Is this a good thing or bad thing or does it depends? Are there camera settings that help improve it?

Thanks in advance,

Greatgreyowl/Brad




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Old Aug 22, 2006, 9:48 PM   #2
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greatgreyowl wrote:
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My question is this: What makes/causes a picture to be so called soft? Is this a good thing or bad thing or does it depends? Are there camera settings that help improve it?

Greatgreyowl/Brad
What makes/causes a picture to be so called soft? Soft images can be due to focus error, camera shake or other mistakes however sometimes soft is more correctly lack of sharpening. Sharpening is related to acutancewhich describes how quickly image information transitions at an edge. Pentax has chosen to offer less in camera sharpening than some other companies for one simple reason, a "soft" image can be sharpened in software later, an over sharpened image usually cannot be fixed because it results in harsh contrast on textures and a haloing effect where light and dark areas meet. Here is a tutorial on USM (unsharp mask) the most common way to sharpen soft images. http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tu...ding-usm.shtml

Is this a good thing or bad thing or does it depends? If soft is the result of poorly focused, or motion blurred images it is a bad thing. Sharpening cannot restore poor focus or camera shake or subject movement. If the softness is just a lack of in camera sharpening it is a good thing. It means that instead of depending on a simple processor and algorithm, as would be found in a camera, you make full use of a far more powerful computer, more powerful software and your own judgment to make the picture look as you intended. Even a simple print kiosk usually has more advanced control over sharpness than a camera processor can. Many people who step up from a digicam to a DSLR are initially disappointed because the digicams are set up to produce pleasing prints with little or no post processing. This is because they aggressively sharpen the image for printing, this however results in images that are often over sharpened, but this would usually only be noticed in prints larger than the usual digicam user will ever make (these cameras essentially are optimized fora maximum8" X 10" print since most people own ink jet printers that use 8.5" paper).

Are there camera settings that help improve it? That all depends on what you call improving. If you step up the sharpness, saturationand contrast enoughin the camera menu you will get digicam style pictures that make good small prints. If you shoot RAW you must process your image anyway so you control sharpness at this step. If you shoot jpeg and want the best possible image you leave the sharpening set low and adjust in software later. See, no easy answer.

Anyone who is serious enough about photography to cough up the price of a DSLR will usually take to post processing as a way to make their images really "shine". I seldom shoot RAW because I find processing RAW files is more work than I care to do, especially without a calibrated monitor, but I do adjust all of my jpeg files a little and sharpen them before printing. I think the issue of soft images from Pentax DSLRs is another myth from the "pixel peepers" who spend all of their time looking at 100% blowups of images on computer screens instead of taking pictures to print, share and enjoy.

And I am sure you will enjoy the K100D, especially since thejpeg images are supposedly improved and the SR system reduces another source of soft images, camera shake.

Ira

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Old Aug 22, 2006, 9:58 PM   #3
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brad, if you want a soft image ck out the humming bird in my ''hummer'' thread. i knew i was going to get flack about it and i did,, it appears just a little bit out of focus or has just a little camera shake to it.. a sharp image has a VERY well detailed and defined edges.
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Old Aug 22, 2006, 10:13 PM   #4
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brad,
this is a sharp image. i applied just a little USM to it. when you start with a sharp imageand sharpen it just a little then the result is something you can cut your finger on.. there are ways to get sharper images . use of a tripod, smaller apertures, highershutter speeds are a few. either daniel or kjell accosted me about the humming bird pic and i appreciate it. but it was the best i had for quite a bit of time spent..



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Old Aug 23, 2006, 1:34 PM   #5
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There's some really good advice given here. A couple of things I thought I might add - when you get your camera, play with the settings (keeping track of what you change and how it affects the picture quality!). A certain amount of the sharp vs. soft depends on each individual person's tastes. I played with the settings on the DS when I first got it and discovered that for my tastes, the vividmode - called bright on the K100D - was a bit too saturated and oversharpened for my tastes. I don't print much so perhaps they would print out OK, but they were "over the top" for viewing on a monitor. So try out everything and decide what you like the best.

Normally I use a bit of USM when I post photos, especially if I have taken them in raw (that's what I did with the lizard and the mantis). I didn't do anything like that to the K100Dcar show photos, which I took in jpg and just resized, or cropped and resized. I find that resizing a file will often (but not always)introduce a bit of softness even when the original at 100% is tack sharp, so that is something to keep in mind. Iwas reading Popular Photography this morning at the gym and they had an article about using the smart sharpentool in CS2. I had looked at it and saw that it would un-do the gaussian blur tool so I ignored it. However, according to POP, there's an option to change that to correct lens softness, and that it does a much better job (and offers more control)than regular USM - think I'll give that a try soon.

Finally, sometimes what my brain interprets as "softness" really isn't something that isn't sharp - it could be more a matter of contrast. That's one of the reasons they tell you to adjust the sharpness LAST - often a change in levels or curves(which can change contrast and brightness) is all a photo needs to really pop out at you.
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Old Aug 23, 2006, 3:29 PM   #6
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If its a sharpening tool, why is it called a unsharp mask - not a rhetorical question.
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Old Aug 23, 2006, 3:46 PM   #7
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nlp239 wrote:
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If its a sharpening tool, why is it called a unsharp mask - not a rhetorical question.
http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tut...sharp-mask.htm

Ira
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Old Aug 23, 2006, 6:51 PM   #8
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Facinating reading - I never knew that! Thanks!
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Old Aug 23, 2006, 9:29 PM   #9
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Ira,

Thank you so much for explaining this to me. Your reply was immense help thank you.

Greatgreyowl/Brad
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Old Aug 23, 2006, 9:43 PM   #10
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Hi,

Thank you to everyone for thier replies to my question, I have learned so much from everyone. Being in this forum everyone is so great to teach and share thier experiences.

Thank you for your help.

Greatgreyowl/Brad
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