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Youth Soccer - need help with lack of sharpness

  
 
MattD
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Youth Soccer - need help with lack of sharpness


I'm having trouble getting sharp images and I'm wondering if I'm doing something wrong. It seems like nothing is in sharp focus. If it were missing, I feel like the grass in front of or behind the player would be sharp and I'd have to work on my focusing technique or calibrate the lens + TC to the body. Certainly the 1/1250 shutter should completely freeze the action and eliminate camera shake, so I don't think it's either of those.

My setup: Canon 6D2, Canon EF 70-200/2.8 (original), Canon 1.4x TC (original)
I'm using back button focus, looking through the viewfinder (not live view), AI Servo mode and either a single focus point or a group of 9.

taken last year: 1/500, f/4, ISO 200 @ 280 mm
taken on a different date last year: 1/1250, f/4, ISO 400 @ 280 mm
taken this year: 1/1000, f/4, ISO 400 @ 273 mm

I'm not sure what else to try to diagnose the issue and correct it—whether it's with my technique or with the gear. Please help!



May 23, 2022 at 09:27 PM
bflood
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Youth Soccer - need help with lack of sharpness


If I was a betting man (I'm not), my best estimate is it's a focus accuracy issue. In the first image, looking at the grass, the focus plane appears to me to be just beyond the ball and just in front of the child on the right. In the second image, it looks like optimum focus is between the two girls. In the third, I estimate the best focus to be just beyond the two girls.

If I'm right, then this can be either a hardware issue or an operator issue. I suggest a focus test with the camera mounted on a tripod to remove camera shake from the test, and a shutter speed quite high, 1/2000 or faster to take shutter speed out of the test (use high ISO as needed - your aren't testing the noise level in your images, so don't worry about noise level). Careful aim will be essential, as well as knowing exactly where the aim was when the shot was captured. You should use a complex subject with lots of detailed objects to allow you to evaluate the accuracy of focus. Take several shots without moving the camera or changing camera settings, except defocus the lens after each shot and force the autofocus system to refocus each shot. Examination of the images should tell you if the spot you aimed at is the best focus in the resulting image. Looking at the several shots should show you how consistent the autofocus is.

If the test shows the focus accuracy is off, then the camera and/or lens needs attention. I don't know if your model camera allows for focus tuning, but if it does, that would be your next step.

If the accuracy in the test is satisfactory, then getting your aim better will be the solution. If this is the case, you should try the various focus modes your camera offers (team practices are good for this), and based on your results, then practice, practice, practice. Shooting subjects that are in motion is skill that is separate from shooting stationary subjects. There are tutorials online that can help (Google can be your friend).



May 23, 2022 at 10:26 PM
schlotz
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Youth Soccer - need help with lack of sharpness


^^^ Very good, sound advice Remove the human variables to determine first if the equipment is capable. To that process I would add that if the test accuracy is not good, remove the TC and try again. If by chance after doing the test you determine the focus to be accurate I would suggest stop using back button focus. Reason: if the thumb is not squarely centered on the button when pushed it might not engage the AF. Returning AF control to the half press on the shutter eliminates this possibility. It guarantees AF will be functioning when the shutter is activated. At this point it's down to your technique. There is no silver bullet or quick solution. It takes practice and a lot of it.

BTW: look for an app that will show you where the focal point was when each photo was taken. This will quickly reveal if you had the focal point on your intended target, or not.....



May 24, 2022 at 07:44 AM
Brev00
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Youth Soccer - need help with lack of sharpness


Are these images crops or the original frame? It looks to me, given you are using a tc and the kids are still rather small in the frame, that you are focal length limited--especially if they are crops. You are shooting a good distance across the field. I would like to see the performance of your combo without the tc with players much closer to you--so they naturally fill a good part of the frame without cropping. This would supply a baseline of real world performance. Quality will decline with distance so always best to get as close as possible. It is also easier to acquire focus on closer subjects--a part of the player will be under the focal point rather than part player/part background. A tc may help but, if you have not tested the lens with and without tc and compared, it is possible it could hurt iq more than help. Pro shooters will often have two cameras. One with a 70-200 and the other with a long prime like a 500 f4. The 70-200 for action close and the longer lens to get tight action shots at a good distance. You are trying to have it both ways with the 70-200. Of course, we are not pros and you can't be expected to have such expensive gear. So, my suggestion would be to shoot without the tc as close to the action as possible. Let the far action go. These are small kids so you should have access to any place on the sideline that gets you close to the action. Wait for the action to come your way. Fill the frame as best you can. You can add the tc for the second half but still try to get very close. The results will give you a better idea about the quality of the combo and also your technique. If all looks good, you can try to add some distance. Even if the images look good, I would consider getting a longer lens like a 100-400 type lens at some point down the line. Used, they can be pretty inexpensive. Best to get as many pixels on your target as possible.


Jun 07, 2022 at 05:35 PM
 


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MattD
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Youth Soccer - need help with lack of sharpness


Here's an update. Thanks for the variety of responses! I posted the focus point data for the three images. It seems like each of them had one or more points that locked onto the subject.

bflood wrote:
my best estimate is it's a focus accuracy issue

I agree. As you and the others have pointed out, there are multiple reasons why that might be.

bflood wrote:
I suggest a focus test with the camera mounted on a tripod

I just bought one of those folding pop-up focus test cards with a sloping ruler. I went for a cheap one as I have a hardwood floor that will make it really easy to keep it square to the lens. I will make time to do it this week as the next game is on Saturday and I'd love to have resolved it by then!

bflood wrote:
I don't know if your model camera allows for focus tuning, but if it does, that would be your next step.

Yep, the 6D2 offers that capability.

---------------------------------------------

Brev00 wrote:
Are these images crops or the original frame?

The two from last year are cropped with about 2/3 of the pixel count. The newest one (player #35) is barely cropped with about 90% of the pixel count.

Brev00 wrote:
Wait for the action to come your way. Fill the frame as best you can. You can add the tc for the second half but still try to get very close.

This is a good idea for a real-world test after I've done the focus test at home!

Brev00 wrote:
I would consider getting a longer lens like a 100-400 type lens at some point down the line.

I had the Canon 100–400 in the past and I wasn't happy with it. It was the older push/pull model, and I sold it in favor of the Sigma 150–600 (Contemporary model). I also have the dock for that lens, so I can tweak the settings to be as good as possible for sports. That will definitely give me the reach and the f/6.3 should be tolerable for daytime action so long as the autofocus can keep up. I've used it for wildlife and have gotten good results with it.



Jun 07, 2022 at 09:34 PM
JRobertson
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Youth Soccer - need help with lack of sharpness


Use of a TC will always soften the image on a DSLR. You should AF adjust it for the tc+lens combo, as well as the lens only combo. That would certainly help, but there's really no getting away from a TC softening an image on an DSLR.


Jun 08, 2022 at 09:27 AM
skiboy
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Youth Soccer - need help with lack of sharpness


I used to use canon years ago. I tried the 70-200 with the TC but the hit on quality made it a no go. 200 is quite short for soccer and I was using a crop sensor. If you can't fill the frame you won't get the sharpness or Bokeh that you're looking for. The TCs work a bit better with primes.


Jun 17, 2022 at 07:55 AM
MattD
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Youth Soccer - need help with lack of sharpness


I just finished the lens calibration process last night. I did all my lenses, because why not? Anyway, it seems like the last two posters are correct—it's the softness due to the TC. I tweaked the AF settings the best I could, but it's still soft. I agree that 200 mm is short for soccer. I'll try my Sigma 150–600 next time out and see if I'm happy with the results.


Jun 17, 2022 at 08:13 AM







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