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Certain Airline Schemes That Can Fool Auto-focus  
User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Posted (2 years 1 month 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 7050 times:

I'm sure many of you will be thinking, "Yeah, I know one that does that....."

One that does it frequently to me is the Skyteam livery, but only on the smaller types such as the 737 and A320. Every time I photograph the KLM 739 or Air France 320 I'm left with several blurry/OOF images and just one or two sharp shots. Odd because other, predominantly silver liveries such as AA and Germanwings are fine.

I wonder what goes on with the camera/lens to make this happen?

Another, similar issue is with Lufthansa Cityline's ERJ-195s; but rather than being blurry/OOF they always come out looking particularly soft. Not sure if it's the way the livery is applied to that particular aircraft but it sure is weird!

Anyone else have similar issues with any airline liveries?

Karl

23 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlinejetmatt777 From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 2763 posts, RR: 33
Reply 1, posted (2 years 1 month 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 6999 times:

I always used to have trouble with AA's MD80's and 738's.

-Matt



No info
User currently offlinedarreno1 From United States of America, joined Jun 2010, 224 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (2 years 1 month 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 6928 times:

There are a couple that seem to be more problematic but it also depends on the distance and/or the angle they were taken at, at least in my case. US Air's blue and white livery is one that comes to mind. I really despise that livery.


Nikon D7000 / Nikkor 105mm AF f2.8 / Nikkor 35 f1.8G / Nikkor 50 f1.8D / Nikkor 85mm / Nikkor 300mm f4 AF
User currently offlinevikkyvik From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 9783 posts, RR: 26
Reply 3, posted (2 years 1 month 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 6922 times:
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Air Tahiti Nui's A340s. 95% of my shots of them are very soft and/or blurry. I even put that in one of my photo remarks, cause it took me many tries before I got a good one.

LH A340s also seems to come out softer than other airlines, though not unusably so.



"Two and a Half Men" was filmed in front of a live ostrich.
User currently offlinespencer From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2004, 1635 posts, RR: 17
Reply 4, posted (2 years 1 month 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 6881 times:

The only reason I could see anything "fooling" the AF would be the focus point not looking onto detail.
Spence



EOS1D4, 7D, 30D, 100-400/4.5-5.6 L IS USM, 70-200/2.8 L IS2 USM, 17-40 f4 L USM, 24-105 f4 L IS USM, 85 f1.8 USM
User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 5, posted (2 years 1 month 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 6605 times:

Quoting spencer (Reply 4):
The only reason I could see anything "fooling" the AF would be the focus point not looking onto detail

Precisely. This thread wasn't intended to ask why but to highlight which airline schemes have a habit of throwing off the AF.

Karl


User currently offlineckw From UK - England, joined Aug 2010, 730 posts, RR: 16
Reply 6, posted (2 years 1 month 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 6544 times:

Quoting spencer (Reply 4):
The only reason I could see anything "fooling" the AF would be the focus point not looking onto detail.

Yes this puzzles me. The scheme should make no difference at all. However, I can think of 2 possible (though unlikely) explanations

1 - AF works by edges or contrasts. An aircraft has a combination of mechanical edges (doors, engines etc.) and painted edges (logos and liveries). I suppose it is not impossible that certain schemes do not in themselves provide good edges, and furthermore camoflage the 'mechanical' edges.

2 - Infrared. DSLRs filter infrared light, but not completely (apparently effectiveness various with make and agel of camera).
Some of you older folk may recall a time when lenses had a mark on the focus ring to indicate infinity when using infrared light, which is a bit different to normal light. Is it possible that certain schemes are highly reflective of infrared, enough to throw off the AF?

Cheers,

Colin



Colin K. Work, Pixstel
User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 7, posted (2 years 1 month 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 6527 times:

Quoting ckw (Reply 6):
Is it possible that certain schemes are highly reflective of infrared, enough to throw off the AF

Very likely I'd say. Another guess of mine would be that highly-reflective schemes (e.g. predominantly silver) reflect so much sunlight if caught at certain angles that the AF effectively has nothing to focus on - the theory here being that AF can't lock on to what is really nothing more than a shape-shifting 'orb' (or a collection of 'orbs') on the fuselage that has no real depth or solidity.

Such theories however don't explain why one predominantly white livery turns out okay when another does not. LH for example can be so temperamental, with many people reporting softness with the livery; but AF seems to photograph nicely. The schemes aren't too different, unless it's to do with opposing contrasts (i.e. the pure white of LH with bold, dark text).

Then again, it may just be down to the fact that AF aircraft are rarely pure white........  

Karl


User currently offlineckw From UK - England, joined Aug 2010, 730 posts, RR: 16
Reply 8, posted (2 years 1 month 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 6503 times:

Quoting JakTrax (Reply 7):
Such theories however don't explain why one predominantly white livery turns out okay when another does not

Actually that's what made me consider the infrared theory - while to the naked eye white paint looks like white paint, a wide variety of non-visible finishes may also be involved - either as part of the paint, or an additional coating - to avoid dirt, reduce yellowing etc. These different coatings may respond to IR light differently. I guess a test would be to photograph various white schemes with infrared film (or an IR enabled DSLR) and see how the schemes look in infrared.

Cheers,

Colin



Colin K. Work, Pixstel
User currently offlinevir380 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2002, 621 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (2 years 1 month 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 6408 times:

The one that sticks out for me is the One World AA 757 !

Very tough to focus on .... have to rattle of a few just in case !
Cant think of any others to be honest , maybe also that the only times ive had the opportunity to shoot it the weather/light hasn't been perfect

regards

[Edited 2012-06-26 00:37:09]

User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 10, posted (2 years 1 month 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 6357 times:

Quoting vir380 (Reply 9):
The one that sticks out for me is the One World AA 757 !

Now oddly I don't have trouble with that one; but then again I've only ever shot it in the sun. I can imagine it being a bugger in not-so-good light!

Karl


User currently offlinekl692 From Canada, joined Feb 2006, 676 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (2 years 1 month 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 6257 times:

For me I will have to say LOT 767, it's pain in the butt and when you get it right, the whites colours looks very harsh.

Ernest



A310, A330,A346,B73H, B747,B772,B77W,CRJ
User currently offlinejohnkrist From Sweden, joined Jan 2005, 1399 posts, RR: 6
Reply 12, posted (2 years 1 month 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 6242 times:
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HEAD SUPPORT

I always had trouble with Sterlings bright red livery, always came out so soft they could not be fixed in Ps. But that problem kind of went away when Sterling went bust  
Only got one of them in the DB



5D Mark III, 7D, 17-40 F4 L, 70-200 F2.8 L IS, EF 1.4x II, EF 2x III, Metz 58-AF1
User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 13, posted (2 years 1 month 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 6230 times:

Funny you should say that John as I shot that once at EMA and every single one was really soft, despite having captured them at 1/640th shutter!

Karl


User currently offlineryanstan95 From United States of America, joined Jun 2012, 2 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (2 years 1 month 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 6178 times:

I used to have problems with the AA liveries, but a polarizing filter is your best friend! Took that moment of when the camera was unsure of what to do and blew it completly out of the water. Then, you not only get the benefits of the filter, but you can see right into the cockpits!

User currently offlinechris78cpr From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2004, 2819 posts, RR: 51
Reply 15, posted (2 years 4 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 5991 times:

The only time i have photos come out OOF or not as sharp as i'd like is down to user error and not the camera, most of the current crop of cameras shouldn't and really don't lose focus easily. If they do then it's probably something the operator isn't doing quite right!

Chris



5D2/7D/1D2(soon to be a 1Dx) 17-40L/24-105L/70-200F2.8L/100-400L/24F1.4LII/50F1.2L/85F1.2LII
User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 16, posted (2 years 4 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 5909 times:

Quoting chris78cpr (Reply 15):
The only time i have photos come out OOF or not as sharp as i'd like is down to user error and not the camera, most of the current crop of cameras shouldn't and really don't lose focus easily. If they do then it's
probably something the operator isn't doing quite right!

I don't agree. It's highly unlikely for example that I happen to lose the plot every time the KLM Skyteam comes at me. User error would be much more random and not feature the exact same aircraft time after time. As Colin points out above, there are tricks of light that could quite easily knock a camera's AF out slightly, or otherwise cause it to lock on to something that's not really there.

Additionally, poor quality lenses with sluggish AF can have a habit of 'hunting' excessively. With such lenses it doesn't matter how good the camera its mounted on is!

I maintain that certain schemes inherantly don't come out as sharp of in-focus as they should.

Karl


User currently offlineckw From UK - England, joined Aug 2010, 730 posts, RR: 16
Reply 17, posted (2 years 3 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 5879 times:

Quoting JakTrax (Reply 16):
As Colin points out above, there are tricks of light that could quite easily knock a camera's AF out slightly

Hmm - I don't think that's quite what I said - I suggested 2 theoretically possible, though unlikely, scenarios.

Bottom line is that 9 times out of 10, for any focusing or exposure issue, the answer is 'user error'.

However, the 'difficult scheme' issue has come up again and again from a variety of people which suggests there may be something to it.

Yet there seems to be no pattern to the schemes which are difficult unless the factor is a hidden one (type of paint or top coat used) - indeed perhaps even the cleanliness of the aircraft could be a factor.

For now I don't think a definitive answer is possible - a more systematic approach is required. Perhaps if 2 or 3 photogs were to spend the day together shooting a variety of schemes in identical conditions it might be possible to determine statistically which schemes (if any) caused AF problems - from that it may be possible to think of causes.

But consider this - if there were a scheme or coating which disrupted AF wouldn't this would have been identified and applied to military aircraft? I haven't seen any military schemes mentioned as problematic. So perhaps local (ie. atmospheric) conditions are also an important factor. Eg. a certain colour scheme combined with high humidity or high temperature.

As for myself - in various kinds of shooting I don't think I have identified any subject/surface/color which by itself tends to cause poor focus - I think I have always been able to attribute it to something else (light, contrast, my mistake, or - of course - equipement!). But I have had issues with image quality based on certain colours - red/orange always seem to lack detail compared to other colors ... something I've always attributed to the bayer filter used by most DSLRS (though it may be an issue in RAW processing).

Cheers,

Colin



Colin K. Work, Pixstel
User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 18, posted (2 years 3 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 5841 times:

It just seems odd to me that every time I photograph the KL Skyteam 739 most of the shots come out soft or even blurry. Also, every time I photograph an LH ERJ the results tend to look soft. I can't believe that user error would consistently happen ONLY when photographing these two; it would be far more random. I'm not 100% sure what it is but with the KL Skyteam I really do think it's a trick of light somehow throwing the AF off.

I'd also agree that predominantly red/orange/yellow liveries also make detail look softer. Would this be attributed to user error too? I can assure you that, after photographing aircraft with an SLR for 23 years, it's not user error! Cameras and lenses are only machines and like all machines CAN get it wrong.

Karl


User currently offlineckw From UK - England, joined Aug 2010, 730 posts, RR: 16
Reply 19, posted (2 years 3 weeks 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 5835 times:

I do believe that the nature of the Bayer filter (which essentially 'mixes' light of different colors) will have an effect on what information the sensor records - there are twice as many green sensitive photosites as there are blue or red.

Hence I think with some colors it is possible that less detail is being recorded than with others. I experimented with this by photographing a traffic light shining green, then red. No question in my mind that the lit green light contained more detail than the lit red. Of course this may be due to the RAW conversion software.

So, is it possible that what people are describing as soft focus is actually lack of detail?

Cheers,

Colin



Colin K. Work, Pixstel
User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 20, posted (2 years 3 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 5828 times:

Quoting ckw (Reply 19):
So, is it possible that what people are describing as soft focus is actually lack of detail?

I think you've hit the nail on the head there Colin. Certainly in the case of the LH ERJs I reckon it's more a lack of detail than actual softness, but being an all-white aircraft I've no idea why. Perhaps it's the bold, blue font responsible rather than the fuselage colour?

It could be something to do with tones and contrast. I always find with DHL that the red registrations over the yellow finish always look soft (not blurry). The contrast between red and yellow isn't as great as that between tonal colours (black and white). This is also the case for a lot of other liveries.

While I agree that many OOF/soft images are down to technique or optimistic camera settings there are definitely some schemes that just don't photograph well. Interestingly I never had such 'nemesis' schemes when I shot film/slide, so that pretty much rules out user error. Having said that we could never scrutinise 35mm format images to the extent we do with digital so perhaps that point is null.

Whatever it is, it's there. Unless of course anyone is seriously suggesting that I just happen to get my settings wrong only when the KL Skyteam 739 passes my lens?

Karl

[Edited 2012-07-02 10:12:01]

User currently offlinechris78cpr From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2004, 2819 posts, RR: 51
Reply 21, posted (2 years 3 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 5791 times:

Quoting JakTrax (Reply 20):
I think you've hit the nail on the head there Colin. Certainly in the case of the LH ERJs I reckon it's more a lack of detail than actual softness, but being an all-white aircraft I've no idea why. Perhaps it's the bold, blue font responsible rather than the fuselage colour?

It could be something to do with tones and contrast. I always find with DHL that the red registrations over the yellow finish always look soft (not blurry). The contrast between red and yellow isn't as great as that between tonal colours (black and white). This is also the case for a lot of other liveries.

While I agree that many OOF/soft images are down to technique or optimistic camera settings there are definitely some schemes that just don't photograph well. Interestingly I never had such 'nemesis' schemes when I shot film/slide, so that pretty much rules out user error. Having said that we could never scrutinise 35mm format images to the extent we do with digital so perhaps that point is null.

Whatever it is, it's there. Unless of course anyone is seriously suggesting that I just happen to get my settings wrong only when the KL Skyteam 739 passes my lens?

Without meaning to sound rude, could it be your overly high expectations that are causing you think that certain photos are soft?

I mean we have all had it when you get back from a session, look at a shot that you were excited about and it's not quite perfect and it's down to user error. I have then gone to shoot it again when the starts align and will have high expectations of the shot that will result. Maybe it's that, that is causing you to be hyper critical of these photos?

Are the resulting photos of KLM skyteam 739's or LH ERJ's not good enough to get in the database?

Chris



5D2/7D/1D2(soon to be a 1Dx) 17-40L/24-105L/70-200F2.8L/100-400L/24F1.4LII/50F1.2L/85F1.2LII
User currently offlinechris78cpr From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2004, 2819 posts, RR: 51
Reply 22, posted (2 years 3 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 5789 times:


View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Karl Nixon
View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Karl Nixon



These both look just as sharp as your other uploads?

Chris



5D2/7D/1D2(soon to be a 1Dx) 17-40L/24-105L/70-200F2.8L/100-400L/24F1.4LII/50F1.2L/85F1.2LII
User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 23, posted (2 years 3 weeks 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 5778 times:

Quoting chris78cpr (Reply 21):
I mean we have all had it when you get back from a session, look at a shot that you were excited about and it's not quite perfect and it's down to user error. I have then gone to shoot it again when the starts align and will have high expectations of the shot that will result. Maybe it's that, that is causing you to be hyper critical of these photos

Like everyone else I get back from a session occasionally and find that an image that looked perfect on the review screen isn't actually as sharp as I thought it was - but as you say, that's usually due to an error on my part; an error which I usually recognise in hindsight. Luckily it doesn't happen often but a misjudgement I sometimes make comes as a result of trying to maintain ISO200 and at least f/6.3 in low light when really I shouldn't be afraid to bump it up to ISO250 or even open the aperture to f/5.6.

In the sequence of shots including the KL image you've linked above there were 8 images. That was the only one that came close to sharp and although it wasn't far out it took more sharpening than every other image that day. All shot at f/9, at between 1/640th and 1/800th, at my typical settings for such light. The LH ERJs are a slightly different story because they actually look sharp except for the titles, which always look really soft. It's just a case of applying extra sharpening to any text on the fuselage.

I like to scrutinise my images and I often have high expectations - but 99% of the time I get them home and they are equally as impressive as they looked on the camera screen.

So to conclude, I recognise user error as a factor if it's responsible for an image not being up-to-par. But with KL Skyteam I can never find anything wrong with the settings or the technique used to capture the image. I guess we'll probably never know why certain liveries can prove awkward but until you've experienced it yourself it's perhaps hard to grasp. I'm literally out every sunny day at an airport so I most likely notice it a lot more than those who are only casual.

Cheers,

Karl


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