Most straight-out-of-the-camera (aka SOOC) images from DSLRs exhibit some haze and lack of overall “punch” to the image, this is primarily due to filters.
First, the camera’s anti-aliasing filter (AA filter) mounted in front of the sensor softens images to reduce imaging artifacts inherent on most CCD/CMOS camera sensors. Second would be the fact that most folks use UV filters that may reduce sharpness if the filter isn’t optically transparent.
Some additional factors such as most travelers shoot landmark and building images when the temperature is high. The haze caused by atmospheric smog, heat, and other contaminants reduce the contrast and apparent sharpness of the captured image even more.
I’m going to share a quickie workflow in Adobe Photoshop that is easy to do and easy to run as a batch action with minimal worried about sharpening halos and eyeballing every single image.
The image below was shot in HK Disneyland, as the shadows reveal, taken around high-noon. Quite a bit of haze and the inevitable softness from the camera’s sensor filter.
Here’s the detailed area we want to use for comparison. The subject (railway station) has enough textures and details captured, we’d like to get more details out through improving contrast and sharpening the details as well.