Not being at all ready to accept camera failure as my focusing problem, I redid the pictures of yesterday since my friendly red squirrel was back. A lot of photos later, I knew my eyes aren’t sharp enough closeup on the LCD screen to be sure when shooting tight, that I’m in exactly in focus. I’m shooting with a 300mm lens across a 12-foot deck — which is a bit close for very tight shots unless you can clearly see the focus in the screen. Which I can’t. So what to do?
Back up or zoom down a bit. I zoomed down the lens to increase the depth of field, and voila!
Every picture came out sharp — and ALL of these pictures are unprocessed except for a bit of cropping and reducing their size they will fit my blog.
You might think autofocus would fix the fuzzy bits, but lenses are not electronic. They are optical. Ground from glass to specifications about which I know absolutely nothing, but those of you who are engineers — or opticians — would know. Although there are some electronic features attached to many lenses such as autofocus and electronic meter readings, but ultimately, it’s an expensive piece of glass. Difficult to repair and once broken, it’s gone. For many of us, the camera is the lesser investment. Cameras are relatively cheap compared to their lenses.
Optics have limits and a lens can only do what the science attached to it allows — and, as I said, I know nothing about that sciece. Like a cell phone, I can use it, but exactly how it really works? Sorry, I missed that part of my education.
I do know what depth of field means, however. A lot of young photographers don’t even know what it is because they bought a camera, always use it on automatic. As long as the picture comes out okay — why learn more? I can understand how they feel. There are things about which I have little interest, optical engineering being one of them. But I also think anyone who is serious about photography needs to know at a minimum, what an f-stop and ASA (which used to be”film speed”) does and how it translates to CD cards and other electronic recording media. Also, everyone should know what shutter speed does and how these things work together to produce a photograph that will make you say “ooh, aah.” If you are using a “non-DSLR camera” like my Olympus cameras you need to know how the lenses on my camera translate (more or less) to what you can see in your bigger lenses.
I have three long zoom lenses. One is 12mm to 200mm which gives you a viewing that approximates 24mm to 400mm in a DSLR. I have two longer lenses: a Panasonic 100mm to 300mm zoom (approximates 200mm to 600mm per DSLR) and an Olympus 75mm to 300mm zoom (approximating 150mm to 600mm per DSLR). They really are not the same as a real 150 to 500 lens on a DSLR. They give you a similar “close up view,” but the lens is still whatever it says it is. This is confusing for me. I accept it as true even though all those number flutter past my brain without denting it. Nonetheless, I know the optical thing is true (and my eyes are fooling me) is the pictures comes out differently on each lens. And that includes when you are shooting at the same distance. Your lenses are in charge.
You frame it to get the best of the visual. Next, if you process it, you probably twiddle with the image. It’s okay. Really. Even the revered Ansel Adams twiddled with his photographs. He just did it in a dark room rather than on a computer. I used to know how to do that too, but it was so many years ago, I’ve forgotten it all.
Despite what I’ve forgotten, I recognize I get different results using my 12mm to 200mm lens then when I use either of the longer lenses. The way the lens focuses is different. One of these days, I’ll have the patience to set all the different lenses up and try to take the same shot using each, but not until we are out of what seems to be permanent quarantine and I have something to shoot that isn’t a bird feeder. Maybe a bridge or a dam and I’ll use my newly refurbished tripod. I got a new (much better) ball head and what a difference. Next, all I have to do is go somewhere and take pictures.
Tripod or not, If you shoot too tightly, your photos will be blurry. No amount of autofocus will help. Fixing the problem is easy. Back up or shorten up the zoom to get a longer depth of field, or as the Japanese so elegantly put it, “bokeh.” I’m sure glad it’s just my eyes which need new glasses. Glasses are a lot cheaper than pretty much any lens. Oh, and by the way, all these pictures are straight off the CD card without any processing except cropping and size reduction for publication.