Silent Moments

Started May 13, 2012 | Discussions thread
Veteran MemberPosts: 7,715Gear list
Re: It's time to rain on the love parade
In reply to Press Correspondent, May 16, 2012

I've heard and read about the micro-contrast differences between lenses for years and IMO some of it has merit and some is smoke. My question is do you feel you can see this in a good quality 20x 30 inch ink jet print at 300 dpi? if so have you actually compared two prints from the same camera of the same scene captured at the same time but with two different lenses? If not then might you not be looking at other variables possibly not understood?


Press Correspondent wrote:

Please understand that I am only trying to help and the only way his can be done is by pointing out what can be improved. You have a dozen posts here stating how great your image is. They may be pleasant to read, but useless to improve your technique. So no, it is not that my mileage may vary, the issue is that you are missing an opportunity to make some of your images better, because you overlook the lack of contrast in the 24-105.

Let me give you two versions, short and long. The short version is, if the 24/1.4 II is on your list already, then move it up to the highest priority, get it before your next trip, and use it instead of the 24-105. That's it. The paradise deserves it and you would be rewarded.

Now the longer version. The term of "sharp lens" is so common to this forum overlooking the lens contrast being more important than sharpness. For example, Canon 50mm is actually sharper than Zeiss 50mm (per DXOmark), but they are still not even in the same league. You are correct, the 24-105 is sharp. I never said it was not, but it has a horrible contrast.

The pictures you have posted are very helpful to explain this point. The most important thing to understand is that the microcontrast of the image is a combination (convolution) of the microcontrast of the subject and microcontrast of the lens . Therefore you have 3 possible scenarios all covered by your samples.

1. The microcontrast of the subject is high. Most commonly it is due to direct sunlight or other direct light source (especially on an angle unlike for direct flash from the camera that gives a uniform light). Your last sunset image is a spectacular example. The portraits of a guy also are in this category. In this case the low contrast of the lens is not apparent, because the high contrast of the subject translates into high enough microcontrast of the image.

2. The microcontrast of the subject is inherently low. In this case the lens has an easy job and the contrast of the lens again is not apparent in the image. Example: your bride shot. With smooth skin colors, white dress, and diffused light there is not a lot of contrast to capture. A trained eye would still see lack of contrast on the edges, but it is not important for this image. However, it is an important point, because Sports Illustrated uses the 24-105 for some beach portraits, except they shoot against the sun to improve the contrast of the edges along the hair.

The above twe cases are the reason most people are unaware of the 24-105 contrast problem. This lens is actually good for portraits fully upen at the long range.

3. The microcontrast of the image is neither high nor low. This is where this lens fail. Examples include your OP shot and the first portrait of the kid.

I am telling you this, because I would be glad if someone told me that before I have wasted much time and shots I now could have enjoyed much more if I used a better lens. The 24-105 is deceiving, because a half of it's shots are good making you suspect your technique in the other half. For this reason I call it the evil lens and have stopped using it at all. Although it could be used successfully by someone with a good understanding how to avoid its limitations, I just don't want to bother or take a risk anymore. I am waiting for the 24-70 II this summer as a replacement. It is a small price to pay for long term enjoyment, if this lens is as good as its MTF charts imply.

I also have the 17-40 since the day it was released. It is not stellar, but noticeably better than the 24-105, enough to enjoy the shots taken with it. To put it in the emotional perspective, when I look at the shots from the 24-105 (even in your OP), I think, "What the heck is wrong with it?" But when I look at the shots from the 17-40, I think, "Oh, I see, it sure could have been better, but it still is good". And when I look at my Zeiss 50 Macro, I think, "Where did this color and contrast came from? Canon's processing clearly was not designed to expectat this".

The 16-35 II does not impress me. The 17-40 still has a better contrast with more pop in the images for less money and with less weight. CA are easily corrected in PS and the distortions actually look fine, if not better, but are also easily corrected if there are straight lines. One stop in aperture is irrelevant with today's high ISO sensors and extended DR. I would not invest in the 16-35 II unless I had a very specific need for it, like a shallow DOF at wide angle for fast action, but I don't. I rather save on a good prime like 17 TS or 24/1.4 II. I also would avoid the 35/1.4. It is a 15 y/o lens with a low contrast. I would rather wait for the Mark II.

I hope this helps

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