40D kit lens...why aren't my pictures sharp??


TPF Noob!
Dec 26, 2006
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Bay Area, California
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So I've had my 40d with the 17-85 kit lens for a month now, and I was just looking through my old pictures with my Canon S3 (point and shoot) and noticed how un-sharp my 40D pictures are. I'm guessing it's the lens, but is this lens just not that good?? I know its only a kit lens, but I would have expected better out of a $400 lens.
I was thinking also maybe it's just that it's focusing in the wrong area when I'm using an apeture of f/4.0...but then again, I thought that I should be able to get the focus dead on with this lens...please help!!


I'm not sure if you can tell from this size of this photo, but the tree just doesn't look sharp to me...(Was autofocused)
400 for the kit lens.... I think you got screwed...

Kit lenses are usually the lowest of the brands lens line....

Not a bonafide canon user though so ill leave it at that.
That's just how much the kit lenses cost. It's around $400 more if you buy the 17-85mm lens with the body..It's got IS and stuff..the other kit lens is cheaper.
Every lens has it's sweet spot. I am not familiar with the 17-85, but my guess would be that the sweet spot as far as sharpness would probably be around f/8. I see you shot this at f/5.6. It also appears to be a little hazy. It looks a little soft but it is not that bad, have you made any changes to the camera's settings as far as sharpness? I have a 30D and you can go in the menu and go up on the sharpness. I applied usm to your image and it brought the detail out.

USM is short for "UnSharp Mask" in Photoshop.

Since it looks like there was plenty of light available, I probably would have shot that at f/8 to f/11. And yeah, you can turn up the in camera sharpness too, but I prefer to leave it set down and sharpen later as needed. You can always sharpen photos, but it's far more difficult to go the other way. Programs like DxO (which I love) have calibrated modules for your specific camera body and lens combo at each focal length and aperture and apply the needed amount of sharpening automatically and can do it in batch.
USM is short for "UnSharp Mask" in Photoshop.
Not to be confused with the Ultra Sonic Motors in your lens.

Try some manual focusing, I have the same exact setup and it is quite capable of sharp images.

Yeah, I know I can always sharpen it later, but I'm kinda wondering how my $400 point-and-shoot created higher quality photos than my $1,700 DSLR.
This isn't the 'kit lens' most people are familiar to being the 18-55. The 17-85mm is a much better lens. I think your question was answered regarding a sweet spot.

Can you post a 100% crop and the EXIF data?
i'm sure you probably already know this, but all DSLRs have some protective filters over the sensor, so sharpening is usually just part of your workflow. I've noticed that the images from my a700 seem softer than the images from my a100 , wich could be from the fact that the a100 uses a CCD sensor, and the a700 uses CMOS, or it could have to do with built in noise reduction. Is your noise reduction shut off? maybe you got a bad lens, i dont know if we really have enough info to tell you an exact reason why youre images arent sharp
One other note is that shooting towards the sun can mess with the cameras ability to autofocus and might add some extra 'haze'
or lens flare itself could cause that, and it looks like the sun is in just the right spot to cause that. try shooting the same thing with the sun in a different part of the sky if you can and see if you get the same results
IMO This is a difficult shot for the auto focus system. There is a second CMOS sensor in the camera with a circuit that detects areas of high contrast and attempts to increase the contrast through the auto focus motors thereby deriving the focus for that exposure.

In this case the bright area on the left probably weighted the focusing system enough to throw it off a bit. I'm would suggest you try some combinations of manual and auto focus with various subjects to get a feel for when each method works the best.

EDIT: Guess Shorty and I were replying at the same time with the same thought.

BTW the highly praised book, Understanding Exposure (revised edition) explains fixed-Lens DOF vs (d)slr DOF and why your P&S is sharper. See page 46.

DOF on an image that wide wouldnt cause it to be unsharp though, would it? IF anything i'd think it could be out of focus, but i'm pretty sure the camera is going to be focused at infinity anyway on this one

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