Chasing Colours

Steve Fraser.Life.Adventure.Inspiration.Photography

Lens Testing - Finding the Sweet Spot

Every lens has a point where it is sharpest, and a few points where it is soft. I use some of the very best lenses currently made, yet I still test every lens as soon as I get it to find out its sweet spot.

Here is how I go about it:

1. You will need: a tripod, your camera, the lens you want to check and a brick wall.

2. Set up looking straight at the wall. I use the joins in the brick work to check the sharpness.

3. If the lens is a zoom (let's say a 24-70mm) I will start at 24mm. Make sure it is in focus.

4. If you have been using auto focus, turn it to manual so it cannot change during the test.

5. Shoot one image at each aperture - f2.8, f3.5 etc all the way to f22.

6. Change the focal length to say 35mm (it's up to you) and repeat the shots.  

7. Adjust to 50mm and repeat. Then finally to 70mm and do the same series of shots.

8. Upload the images to your computer. If you have a digital camera it will have recorded your settings in the file info. You will be able to see what the settings were for each shot. E.g.  35mm focal length at f9.

9. View the image at 100% and look at the edges of the image. This is where you will get the most noticable sharpness drop off. You will generally see that each lens has an f stop that is better than the others.  This can even vary at different focal lengths.

10. Record the sharpest settings and write them down on a card that you can keep in your camera bag. I know professional photographers who will put a very small sticker on each lens that might say f14. This is a great reminder when you use that lens to try and work around its sweet spot. It may not always be possible to use the sweet spot because you need more light or you are chasing a particular effect like getting motion in water. At least you will know the sweet spot and be able to use it to improve the sharpness of your images whenever possible.

I would estimate on some of my best lenses the difference can be as much as 10% sharper.


I hope this helps, get out there and have fun  - Steve

Chasing Colours

If I have learnt one thing it is to do what you are good at and do it with passion. My life as a professional photographer is my passion. I spend my days looking for light and chasing colours. I see landscapes transformed into spectacular scenes by the changing light of a sunset or an approaching storm.

This doesn't mean that I get to spend every day out in the wilderness photographing, but I get to look forward to those days when I can be immersed in nature. My energy is recharged and the cares of the world seem to get left behind. I know this is a privilege that not every one has. It was an easy decision to follow my passion. I love what I do and every day is exciting.I get to share the amazing beauty of creation and, hopefully along the way, inspire others to follow their passion. Life is not a dress rehearsal.

I get to travel all over the world but, it is not about the location as much as it is about following my passion. Even if you start out one weekend a month doing what you love, you never know where it might lead you. It may just take you on a wonderful journey you never felt was possible or deserved. I never imagined I would end up working on major book projects, traveling to places like Antarctica or having my images sell all over the world. Something that started out as just a dream can become a reality. I wonder what would happen if you allow yourself to dream just a little.

I spend my life chasing colours and I love it.