HDR v’s Luminosity Masks, Upgrading from DX to FX and getting Sharp Images

In Episode 5 of Ask Ben I ask 3 questions from one avid follower, Michael asked 3 great questions. First up, what’s better, HDR or Luminosity Masks, then, if he upgrades from a cropped sensor (DX) to a Full Frame (FX) what should he do about lenses and finally, struggling to get tack sharp images no matter what lens he uses.

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Michael is one of my followers who’s quite prevalent, he’s very active and he asks me a lot of questions. I’m going to reward him by answering a few more of his questions today, because he’s asked me a lot. And if you want to ask – you can ask more than one question, I don’t mind that.

So, Michael Mirecki, a big shout out to you, I do see you interacting a lot on my Facebook page and really appreciate it!

You’ve got three questions that I’m going to answer today for you Michael. The first question Michael asked me,

“As far as actual photography questions,” he said, “Luminosity mask versus a HDR?”

Well, that’s a great question. And if you’re into HDR, if you’ve seen my photography, you know that I do love using HDR. But HDR doesn’t work for everything. Luminosity masking is a lot more difficult to do, and if you’re not a Photoshop user, then maybe doing luminosity masks is gonna be a bit too difficult for you, so stick with HDR. There is a huge benefit in luminosity masking, and that is that you’re now inside of Photoshop, and you’re not using a third party software that is gonna do anything to your image. HDR does have it’s side effects – things like noise, discolouration, etc. So, if you can use luminosity masks inside of Photoshop, and just bring through the brighter areas of the image yourself, go for it. The downside is that it takes a lot, lot, longer – so, depends on what you want. I don’t have a preference either way. If you want quick and simple, go with HDR, if you want more complicated, and take a lot longer, go with luminosity masks.

The next question Michael asked me.

For someone who plans to upgrade to a full frame in the future, is it worth buying full frame lenses for that eventually, or should they save their money now and pay more later?

Good question Michael. My personal opinion is if you’re going to move to full frame, don’t buy any more DX lenses or lenses that are created for cropped sensors. The good thing about a full frame lens, if you use this on a crop sensor – sure you’re not going to get the full benefits of the entire lens, because it’s only going to be using the centre portion for your smaller sensor. But it’s still going to be great, it’s still going to give you a good effect, it’s still going to be a great lens and get the job done. And that way, when you do finally upgrade to full frame, your lenses are the most expensive part. Now the good thing with lenses is they never go out of date. My lenses will last my lifetime and I’ll probably be able to pass them down to somebody else after I’m done. So, the good thing with a full frame lens, or with any lens, is it’s going last forever if you look after them. Now, if you’ve got a cropped sensor camera and you plan just to stay with cropped sensor, just buy lenses made for that camera, because you are going to get a slightly better result. The lenses are manufactured with the crop sensor in mind. But if you are going to upgrade, that’s my advice, buy yourself full frame FX lenses, and save yourself the heartache down the track, because you can use them anyway. So hopefully that answered that question.

One more question from Michael Mirecki…

At a high F stop on a tripod, and remote release I am noticing that my photos are still not tack sharp. This is with any of my lenses, including 50 mil 1.8, and I’m shooting with a Nikon 3200. Any suggestions?

Well, sharp images is one of those things that is a challenge. And, without knowing what your tripod is like or how you focusing or any of those things, very difficult for me to answer this question. But I’m going to give you my tips for how you do get a sharp image. Number one, you’ve got a camera that has live view, so use it. Zoom in – right in on what it is you want to focus in, and manually focus and adjust that. I would check the diopter on your camera as well, which is quite often something that people can get wrong. On the side of your eyepiece, you’ll see a little dial with a plus, minus on it. Every camera – well, pretty much every camera has it. And what that does is it adjusts the focus of the eye piece. So if you’re finding that things are in focus when you take the shot, and then they’re out of focus when you put them in post-production – maybe something’s wrong with your eyepiece. I’m not sure, but you could certainly check that out.

You’ve got to make sure that your tripod is a good tripod. Now, you may have seen my Really Right Stuff one. It doesn’t move, you could hang off it, and it’s not going to break. So you want to make sure it’s nice and sturdy. The other thing that you could do, if you’re still having problems is a mirror lockup. Now, you’ve mentioned here that you use – I think he said a high F stop. Now, I’m not sure whether you meant a big number or a little number, so let’s cover both ends.

With any lens, if you’re shooting with your f/1.8 lens, and you’re shooting at f/1.8, you’re going to find not everything will be in focus. Because the depth of field’s not going to be there, and that is the same with any lens. So there’s also a sweet spot in every lens. So, for example my 14-24mm Nikon Lens. If I shoot it wide open at F/2.8, or stop it down to F/22, it loses sharpness at the edges of the frame. The 14-24mm loves to be shot between F/9 and F/13, that’s where the sweet spot of this lens is. And every lens is slightly different, so I would suggest trying some different apertures. If you’re shooting on a tripod, and you’re shooting with a remote shutter/remote release, and you’re still not getting sharp images, I would start to look at your lens and make sure that you’ve got the best aperture selected, and then beyond that, it’s really difficult.  I think if you’re zooming right in, and maybe you’re zooming past the 1 to 1 magnification, you might be seeing that it’s not entirely in focus. So, there’s some tips for you anyway. Hopefully that’s answered your questions.

You keep asking your questions, and I’ll keep trying to answer them.

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