Tag Archives: sharpness

Busting Nikon D800 Myths: Is Abject Fear Stifling Your Creativity?

Sweeping skies over Badlands National Park, South Dakota. Nikon D800e with 16-35mm Nikkor lens, 74s@ f/22, ISO 100.
Sweeping skies over Badlands National Park, South Dakota. Nikon D800e with 16-35mm Nikkor lens and Singh-Ray 10-stop solid ND filter; 74s@ f/22, ISO 100. According to the Internet, I should not have used these settings with this camera (Click for a larger view).

I have a Nikon D800e. It’s an amazing camera and I love using it. Maybe you have one, too. But if you handle the camera based on some of the sage advice offered up around the interwebs, you might be missing out. While the advice, from a pure technical standpoint, might be valid, it might also be causing you unnecessary stress. Let’s take a look at three common technical warnings for D800 users.

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D800 Sharpness: Diffraction

I previously discussed how camera shake and focus accuracy can affect maximum image sharpness with the Nikon D800 (or any DSLR, for that matter). Another contributing factor to image sharpness is lens performance, especially with respect to aperture. While the primary use of aperture is to control depth of field, most lenses just aren’t quite at their sharpest when used at their extremes.

Wide-open, most lenses will have sub-optimal performance. Contrast and sharpness will be reduced, and you might also see light fall-off (corner shading). As you stop the aperture down, both sharpness and depth of field increase, and light fall-off diminishes. How much you need to stop down to get razor-sharp images is related to the quality of your lens. Some of the telephoto prime lenses, like the Nikon 300mm f/4 lens, are very sharp wide-open, especially compared to a consumer-grade counterpart, like the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR Nikkor (a good lens, but not nearly as sharp wide-open). Higher quality lenses usually require less stopping down to get optimal sharpness.

However, beyond certain apertures, images will actually start to soften due to the effect of diffraction. Diffraction softening is a physical function related to the size of the pixels on your camera sensor. The smaller the pixels, the more noticeable diffraction effects can become. Continue reading D800 Sharpness: Diffraction

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