Thanks for the responses guys!
As requested, my usual editing pattern is as follows:
Rotate as needed, crop as needed, re-size to 1024x768 @ 72px, apply sharpening (USM
50%/0.5/0), adjust curves (usually a 3-point adjustment, slight 's' curve), adjust saturation (usually a bump up), adjust brightness/contrast as needed, save with minimum compression, then run through NeatImage pulling 60/80/100 % noise.
"To my untrained eye, the images do seem to have quite a high level of noise, maybe to tight a crop or to much saturation?"
-- I'll try cropping back a bit and easing up on the saturation as well.
"To shoot in low-light, you have to have wider glass, faster "film" (ISO) or both. I don't think what you're working with right now is your best combo. The compositions and timing of the shots are dead on. So it's not in your head, but in your hands. I know what you're going through. I shot with cheap glass for years and always felt my eye was exceeding my ability. In truth, it was my gear."
-- Thanks for the advice... I've always had a fair amount of respect for my camera, and F2
.8-3.5 seems like it's "fast enough", but maybe I'm not noticing that going to such a wide aperature is causing photo quality to suffer? Forget bumping the ISO, noise is already high at 100. The biggest problem I've ever noticed was the lack of image-size to play with (1600x1200 max size), so anything with a heavy crop was usually not up to spec... hence, I only pick the pics with near perfect framing off the line. Maybe I should start shooting at TIFF level and really concentrate on framing?
I'd like to get a bit more use out of my camera, and keep using it even when I upgrade. Maybe there is a problem I haven't seen that's causing adverse quality problems?