How to Check a Lens if Your Photos Aren't Sharp (VIDEO)

Attaining fast and precise focus is a primary goal of just about every photographer, regardless of the type of images they shoot. When soft photos result with regularity, the first thing that comes to mind is, "I must be doing something wrong."

It's possible, however, that blaming your technique for this problem is missing the point, because sometimes the issue results from a defective or improperly performing lens. If you think this may be your problem, watch the tutorial below before sending a lens in for evaluation and repair, because you'll learn several effective ways to check the lens yourself.

Instructor Mario Killian is a German landscape and wildlife photographer whose been capturing beautiful images for over 40 years. He specializes in workshops and tutorials for photographers using budget gear, and this episode is intended to help diagnose autofocus problem and may just save you some money in the process.

Killian describes his lens evaluation procedure in several steps, beginning with the most common issues to those than are more concerning. His approach works for any lens you own, and as well as for those you may purchase in the future.

Let's hope your diagnosis turns out OK, and in that case, Killian explains a few ways to compensate for "operator failure"—in other words things you may be doing wrong. OK let's get started with the easy stuff. The first thing to check is the outside of a lens for damage that's more than cosmetic.

This means looking for loose screws, shaking the lens for any rattling (that may indicate something loose inside), and making sure all the buttons work well. You'll also want to confirm that the focus ring moves smoothly, zooming isn't too tight or too loose, and there is no apparent damage to the front or rear elements.

If there are no apparent concerns at this point it's time for "check two," to determine if the lens is actually functioning as intended. Here Killian explains how to check the image stabilization system, as well as manual and autofocus performance.

Still OK? If so, you'll need to more on the third step in the process which a bit more time coming. This involves a focus-accuracy test to determine if the lens has a front-focus or back-focus issue that requires adjustment (which you can often do yourself). If you're testing a zoom, Killian suggests beginning with the focal length settings you use most, and he demonstrates the step-by-step process for checking this out.

You'll also learn how to check sharpness at various f/stops. If everything checks out at this point, there's a good chance that your shooting technique is the problem, and Killian has several suggestions for fixing that too.

Be sure to check out Killian's interesting YouTube channel for more great advice. And don't miss the tutorial we posted earlier, explaining how to shoot beautiful wildflower photos with simple gear.