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Need help with possible focus loss for subjects further away...


TPF Noob!
Mar 13, 2012
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Hi all,

I'm rather new to Digital SLR photography, and was wondering if anyone could help provide me with some tips and pointers with taking shots.

Just to start off, I'm shooting with a Nikon D5100 with a Tamron 18 - 270mm lens. I'm particularly interested in photographing architecture, whether it'd be any kind of buildings like old churches, stores, houses, etc. I'm going to provide 4 photos I've taken and just wonder if I could get some pointers on how they may be made better.

The first 3 photos were shot in the "Auto" mode on the dial with auto focus, flash disabled. The 4th one in "landscape" mode on the dial with auto focus.

- The first photo was shot at f/8, 1/250sec and ISO-110. Focal length 18mm (unzoomed).
- The second photo was shot at f/8, 1/250sec and ISO-200. Focal length 18mm (unzoomed).
- The third photo was shot at f/7.1, 1/200sec, ISO-200, Focal length 18mm (unzoomed).
- The fourth photo was shot at f/11, 1/125sec, ISO-125. Focal length 18mm (unzoomed)

- photo 1: DSC_0979 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
- photo 2: DSC_1012 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
- photo 3: DSC_1014 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
- photo 4: DSC_1041 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Just as an example, in the case of the first photo, while I have no real complaints about it, I notice, in particular when viewing it in Windows Photo Viewer and zooming in on the part beyond the blue door (such as the verandah and beyond), it tends to lose focus compared to the most immediate section of the house on the left.

I'm just wondering if there is any tips or tricks in which you can make as much of what is in the photo as sharply focused as possible (including things further away)?

The second photo is a similar scenario, although facing the other way of the drive way, the back section of the house beyond the verandah tends to lose focus.

The third photo, anything beyond the tree in the middle tends to lose the focus.

The fourth photo, same perspective as the first one anything around the verandah and beyond loses the focus. I shot it in landscape mode because it uses the f/11 aperture, which I notice alot of people use for outdoor shots. I find that it shows off the more natural shadowing better than the auto mode, although can tend to look a bit on the dark side if there is too much shadowing or it is too overcast.

I'm just wondering what kinds of tips/tricks people have to maintain as much sharp focus as possible for everything that is seen in the photo? Is it about the focus point you choose? aperture settings? Or in these types of cases you just need to go with the manual focus?

I've read a bit about hyperfocal point, depth of field - it tends to be said a narrower aperture will keep more of the background in focus compared to a larger/wider aperture...I'm just not 100% sure and wondering with the examples of above what I should be looking for.

Final bits of info:-

-AF Area Mode: Auto-Area AF
-Focus Mode: AF-A
-Metering: Spot Metering
-White Balance: Auto

Regards and thankyou in advance for any help. (Apologize for the long post - trying to provide as much info as possible!)
Only ONE specific focusing distance is maximally sharp; other distances which are "acceptably sharp" are considered to fall within the Depth of Field zone. Your photos demonstrate this principle wonderfully; as close as you were to the house in the first shot, the depth of field you managed was impressive. But YES, the focus does go a wee bit out in the distance, and yet, it's not "terrible". F/11 to f/13 or even f/16 will give more depth of field. Your eyes are not deceiving you--there *is* a slight loss of sharpness, but it's totally normal and expected with a d-slr at such distances as those in your sample pictures.
Derrel, thankyou for the reply.

I've thought about the whole depth of field thing, the way I see it, the lens/camera works much like the human eyes, you always pick focus on a particular thing, like right now I'm focused on my LCD monitor, and in doing such the cupboard on my left is in my field of view but not "in focus". To that point, I guess these photos show that off - most photos would!

Anyway, interesting to think about this :) This camera is a real step up for me, I was using a Panasonic DMC-TZ15 before this.

Also, when shooting the full HD movies of buildings, I use the AF-S focus mode, given that in this case, the house is a stationary subject. There is an AF-C shooting mode, i tried that, but found it incredibly annoying with all the clicking and whirring as the camera continuously puts the lens in focus. I guess the only other option is Manual?

Additionally what's your thoughts about the Auto (f/8 1/250) vs (f/11 1/125) shots? The way I see it, it's good to take both, the Auto one actually lets you "see more", particularly under verandahs where shadowing is prevalent, where as with the f/11 shots you typically see less, but see more of the natural shadowing - I guess it boils down to preferences.

Thanks once again!
Unlike our eyes, which give us a circular sharp field of focus, the camera point of focus you choose defines a plane pretty close to parallel to the image sensor in the camera (for most lenses). Everything in that plane above, below, left or right, is in focus.
When shooting photos of houses in bright outdoor light, some exposure variation ( also called "bracketing") can be pretty helpful. Especially in situations where the sun is strong, or there are lots of areas in shade or shadows, at times the "wrong" exposure can actually be the "preferred" exposure! THe AUTO shots could well be the camera's light meter evaluating the scene and favoring the shadowed areas a bit. Exposure is a pretty complicated thing, but Nikon has sophisticated light metering that tries to get the best image out of each scene.

As to focusing when shooting video...many people prefer video that is shot with autofocusing turned to OFF...there is not much more irritating than a slow pan shot where the AF System tries to re-focus as each new and different target appears center-screen...on an object as large as a building, from a distance far enough away to encompass a building, I think you might be able to acquire focus, and then switch to Manual focus for the actual filming. At least most times.
Hi guys, thanks for the feedback.

I've actually taken some more photos to compare.

The first 4 were all taken with the Nikon D5100 and 18-270 tamron, all unzoomed. The 5th one was taken with my Panasonic DMC-TZ15 unzoomed.

Photo 1 was taken in Auto mode + Auto Focus (f/4.5, 1/80sec, ISO-400) : DSC_1065 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Photo 2 was taken in Auto mode + Manual Focus (f/4.5, 1/80sec, ISO-400): DSC_1066 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Photo 3 was taken in Landscape mode + Auto Focus (f8, 1/20sec, ISO-400): DSC_1067 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Photo 4 was taken in Landscape mode + Manual Focus (f8, 1/20sec, ISO-400): DSC_1068 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Photo 5 in Auto Focus with the "camera" icon (f/3.3, 1/30sec, ISO-200): P1030934 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

All 5 photos taken from same position, crouched.

From what I found it seems that Landscape mode allows the photo to retain a better overall sharpness, especially when you zoom in on the shots in Windows Photo Viewer. In this case, the colors appear more vibrant and not as smudgy in places (the brickwork and grass for instance appears more vibrant). The back fence that you see is quite far in this photo so its apperance/sharpness is probably satisfactory..

I also tried the manual focus to compare to the auto focus versions and found with manual focus, in particular the landscape mode its probably a fraction sharper overall....but overall probably nothing to fuss about.

I also threw in the 5th photo with my Panasonic. I found it interesting that it seems the sharpness of the shot with the panasonic is comparable with the Auto + Auto Focus shot with the Nikon - which to me I would think is disappointing, although admittingly, the Landscape mode photo is better than the Panasonic shot in every aspect.

I guess i'm in a couple of minds over this...does this mean when I take shots where subjects are further away and potentially branches/trees and other objects intervene, it's a safer bet to do Auto + Auto Focus AND a Landscape shot as well...just in case the Auto shot disappoints me? On top of that, perhaps also take a Manual focused shot as well...

To that point I almost feel that perhaps I shouldn't trust the Auto Focus system with these types of shots. I find it holds up very well with interior shots and outdoor shots where objects are closer to you - as the 4 photos in my first post show that when a part of the house is close to me, the shots are great, but when you attempt to "get more" into the shot and things are further away, there could be some issues/loss of focus..
Landscape mode likely applies different values for the in-camera JPEG image editing functions that set the saturation, sharpening, and contrast.

All of the in-the-camera JPEG editing is applied to each photo globally. Many prefer capturing image files in the camera's Raw format so they have much more local control over the final image, or so they can produce a range of different 'looks'.

Your camera does phase detection auto focus. - Understanding Camera Autofocus

Autofocus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
KmH, thanks for the reply.

I've had a look at auto focus stuff, read up more on on aperture settings, shutter speeds, etc. I did some more test shots, the thing is, I don't know...I'm still not satisfied with what I'm getting. I've included the following 4 photographs.

The first 2 are from my Nikon, the third from my Panasonic and the 4th from a Fuji FinePix F470.

1. DSC_1084. Nikon. Auto mode + Auto focus. f/7.1, 1/200 DSC_1084 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

2. DSC_1085. Nikon. Landscape mode + Auto focus. f/10, 1/80 DSC_1085 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

3. P1030942. Panasonic. "Camera icon" mode + auto focus. f/3.3, 1/125. P1030942 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

4. DSCF0408. Fujifilm. f/7, 1/200. DSCF0408 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

The first 3 are taken from the same perspective. My thoughts are:-

1. DSC_1084. I have no complains about this photo in terms of colors and general apperance, apart from the fact that I feel it's just not "sharp" enough, especially compared to my Panasonic.
2. DSC_1085. Good sharpness, much like the panasonic, although obviously too shady, despite showing off natural shadows nicely.
3. P1030942. The photo is stark compared to the Nikon shots, but the sharpness is good, better than my Nikon in Auto mode, which at this point just astounds me.
4. DSCF0408. The overall sharpness in this photo I feel is very very good, I can't say I feel confident I could get this in my Nikon, when surely it should be possible....everything remains, sharp, even the writing on the hut in the middle of the photo is easily readable.

Tomorrow I'm going try some manual focused shots and see how that goes. The way I see it, my issue is one of two things (or both). Depth of Field - some kind of setting perhaps, and/or focus. At this point I just don't understand how the Panasonic or this little Fujifilm is getting sharper shots than my Nikon, despite using similar or bigger apertures....

I found this bit of reading material (a page from Nikon D5100 for Dummies)

Nikon D5100 For Dummies - Julie Adair King - Google Books

Much like elsewhere, they say the smaller the aperture, the more sharpness in the photo (front and back) - as is evident in their photo example (and ones I've seen elsewhere).

Just at a loss at the moment.

Thanks as always for any help.
I suspect you would get more and more useful input if you would post actual 100% clips from the areas you are pointing at.
Looking at a jpeg reduced to 25% of the real thing means that some of the information is lost in the reduction.

Not to mention that all of the images would be visible at one time rather than forcing the viewer to click back and forth to your hosting site.
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With manual focus, I turn the lens until the subject becomes slightly blurred, then slowly turn back to get the focus.
The manual focus technique I was taught was to start with focus in front of your intended focus point. Focus just past the sharp focus point to a point behind your intended focus point, then reverse until you have sharp focus.

By going past sharp focus, you get to see what sharp focus looks like.
Hi all,

thanks for the feedback.

Just curious, what would be the preferred image host around here so you can see the 100% full images? I'll use that with the following posts when uploading the photos.

Thanks heaps.
Hi all,

thanks for the feedback.

Just curious, what would be the preferred image host around here so you can see the 100% full images? I'll use that with the following posts when uploading the photos.

Thanks heaps.

Don't post the entire picture.
That would mean anyone trying to help you has to scroll around trying to see what you are seeing.
Cut out a piece 800w x 800h pixels from each image that shows what you want us to look at and host it at imageshack or photobucket and link to it here.
That way we can see what you are seeing side by side with as little effort as possible on our part.

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