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Thread: Why are all of my photos soft?

  1. #1

    Why are all of my photos soft?

    I have two 4x5 cameras, a Speed Graphic and a Sinar. But try as I might, with a range of different lenses, I can't get any images that are truly sharp.

    This image illustrates the problem. On the left, a crop from a 4x5 negative (scanned on an Epson V600). On the right, a crop of the same scene from my Nikon D800 (focal length equivalent on my Nikon was twice that of the lens on the Sinar, so it's not 100% fair, but it does illustrate the problem clearly).

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	compare.jpg 
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ID:	202020

    This lens was a Schneider Kreuznach 135mm at f/16, but it doesn't seem to make any difference what lens I use. This particular negative was Fomapan 100, but Ilford HP5 is no better.

    I was expecting resolution to spare, but I actually have a lot less than I do on my Nikon. What's going on?

    The only constant is my film holders - these are plastic Riteway models. But could the registration be so far off that nothing is sharp, anywhere in the image?

    Any help would be appreciated, because I'm at a bit of a loss!

  2. #2

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    Re: Why are all of my photos soft?

    Have you examined the images on the ground glass - before shooting - to determine if the fault is with the lens ? You don't need to shoot any film if you hang a newspaper on the wall at a reasonable distance upside down and see whether you can read the type on the ground glass, etc. Or point the camera at a brick wall, etc.

    Are you focusing the lens at actual taking aperture as opposed to wide open ? Some lenses exhibit focus shift: if you focus wide open then stop-down, you may be in for a surprise.

    Have you examined the negatives with a loupe ? (Eliminate the scanner if possible as it can introduce several variables.)

    Are you showing us a raw or sharpened scan ?

    Are you focusing the view camera with a loupe ?

    Is your camera fastened tightly, such that focus drift is not possible after focusing ?

    Are both cameras mounted on heavy tripods ?

    Testing with lenses of different magnification (a slightly wide lens versus long) introduces a big variable and should be avoided.

    Are you comparing the center of the image circle or some outer extreme ?

    etc etc.

  3. #3
    C. D. Keth's Avatar
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    Re: Why are all of my photos soft?

    How is the groundglass configured on your camera? Is there a fresnel lens? Is the textured side of the groundglass definitely situated forward toward the lens?
    -Chris

  4. #4

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    Re: Why are all of my photos soft?

    Quote Originally Posted by BertieWooster View Post
    I have two 4x5 cameras, a Speed Graphic and a Sinar. But try as I might, with a range of different lenses, I can't get any images that are truly sharp.

    This image illustrates the problem. On the left, a crop from a 4x5 negative (scanned on an Epson V600). On the right, a crop of the same scene from my Nikon D800 (focal length equivalent on my Nikon was twice that of the lens on the Sinar, so it's not 100% fair, but it does illustrate the problem clearly).

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	compare.jpg 
Views:	146 
Size:	56.8 KB 
ID:	202020

    This lens was a Schneider Kreuznach 135mm at f/16, but it doesn't seem to make any difference what lens I use. This particular negative was Fomapan 100, but Ilford HP5 is no better.

    I was expecting resolution to spare, but I actually have a lot less than I do on my Nikon. What's going on?

    The only constant is my film holders - these are plastic Riteway models. But could the registration be so far off that nothing is sharp, anywhere in the image?

    Any help would be appreciated, because I'm at a bit of a loss!
    First, have you examined the negative with a high-power loupe? If not, then the issue may be the scanning. Check this carefully before you do anything else. If you have access to an enlarger with a good grain magnifier (e.g., Peak/Omega), check with the grain magnifier at a high enlargement.

    If this occurs on both cameras, the chances of it being a misalignment of the ground glass is slight, but check anyway. The quick test is to focus on a jagged horizon line (trees, etc.), expose and check. If this is soft, then the ruler test is in order. Place the ruler at an oblique angle to the camera, focus midway on the ruler (remember the mark) and expose. Develop and check. If the focus is at another point than where you focuses, there is a misalignment.

    Riteway holders should be just fine if they are not damaged. I suspect a different issue. However, do check to make sure that you are loading them correctly and that they haven't been modified for any reason. Insert them in the cameras and make sure they are seating correctly.

    Do check with different lenses. Check how your lenses are mounted on the lensboard/camera. Is there any misalignment there? Are the elements screwed into the shutter all the way? A too-thick board will cause overall softness because it keeps the rear cell from seating correctly.

    If the problem is really not camera or lens specific, then keep looking elsewhere.

    Best,

    Doremus

  5. #5

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    Re: Why are all of my photos soft?

    Are you focusing with a good loupe focused on the grain of your ground glass or some other way?

  6. #6
    jp's Avatar
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    Re: Why are all of my photos soft?

    Epson V600 is not meant for scanning LF film; how are you scanning it despite that?

  7. #7

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    Re: Why are all of my photos soft?

    So as not to overlook the obvious, in addition to the above posts. Is the camera mounted on a steady (large wood or metal) tripod and are you using a cable release? Might also try at F/22 instead of F/16. Was the shutter speed high enough so that there was no vibration due to wind, etc.? Do you have a different lens you can try? Have you used this lens successfully in the past? Luis
    Last edited by Luis-F-S; 26-Mar-2020 at 17:17.

  8. #8

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    Re: Why are all of my photos soft?

    I'm pretty sure that at least some of the softness comes down to the scanned image as presented. It isn't picking up any sense of the grain. You may be able to do a bit better with the scanner, by changing the height of the film to improve focus, for example. It looks like it hasn't been sharpened, which is something you always need to do with scans from a flatbed. Also, the contrast is very low compared to the D800 shot, which lowers perceived sharpness. This just comes down to scan settings. Finally, the V600 just isn't that good, and even at its best is not capable of pulling all the information from film.

    Aside from this, an equivalent focal length of twice that used with the LF is a major advantage for the Nikon.

    Even if everything was perfect, I would only expect a mild improvement in resolution over a 36mp DSLR in most real-world situations.

    I suspect your negs may well be pretty sharp and it's mainly your testing process which has led to a somewhat skewed result. As others have suggested, it's best to examine the film directly to get a sense of how sharp the image is on the film.

  9. #9
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Re: Why are all of my photos soft?

    I'd just use the Nikon. Is there something about it you don't like?

  10. #10

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    Re: Why are all of my photos soft?

    One older Epson scanner we had developed problems focusing, so that might be an issue...

    Steve K

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