Looking for more sharpness

Started Nov 12, 2012 | Discussions
Jimim
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Looking for more sharpness
Nov 12, 2012

HI. I hope you all can help me out to make shopping a bit easier and that I don't cause a battle re: sharpness.

I am def learning to be a better photographer each day and I fell I have learned alot especially this year with taking the time to understand lighting and external flash use.

My camera is a 7D and I primarily use the 17-55 2.8 from canon.  It worked well for me the past 2 years but I want to start to grow a bit and buy some new glass.  After looking at most of my sots over the past 2 years I'm always zoomed at 35mm and 50 mm approx.  I want more sharpness and have prime lens in my head.  Today when I called a shop in my area to go look at the 50L and 50 1.4 they asked if I was ever going to go full frame.  I said yes and they want me to look a the Tamron 24-70mm 2.8 with stabilization or the new Canon 24-70 2.8.  They are telling me that the sharpness of either of these lens at 35 and 50 are just as sharp as the primes and this would get me ready to go full frame.  They also said that the Tamron they feel is identical to the new canon but has the benefit of stabilization and is half the price.  They feel I should really give the new tamron a serious look and that way I wouldn't be switching lens.

So I was just looking for some direction for a sample of you folk out there.

I don't really care about price and I don't care about switching lens if I went with the prime route.  I am also not against buying another zoom that is similiar to what I have now if it is that much sharper.

Also just to through in here is the 50 1.2 vs the 1.4 that much sharper at apertures like in the 4 through 11 range.  I don't really need the lens for low light condition.  I'm just looking at picture quality and sharpness.

Feel free to correct me if I'm totally off here.  Like I said I'm learning and appreciate any help.

Thanks so much.

jim

Canon EOS 7D
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Matty W
Regular MemberPosts: 195
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Re: Looking for more sharpness
In reply to Jimim, Nov 12, 2012

Why do you need more sharpness? The 17-55mm is phenomenally sharp by f4 or f5.6 and good even wide open. I'm not sure you'll find something a lot better.

For the biggest increase in sharpness, I'd go full frame. The difference is significant and worse lenses perform better. The 50mm f1.2 L is softer than the 50mm f1.4 and 50m f1.8 (assuming you get a good sample) at normal stops (f4-f8), but it has better bokeh and is good wide open.

I'd go full frame.

As for lenses, you can see here that the 24-70mm II lives up to the hype and the Tamron is not as good:

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=787&Camera=453&Sample=0&FLI=0&API=3&LensComp=786&CameraComp=453&SampleComp=0&FLIComp=0&APIComp=3

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Majoren
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STOP - Looking for more sharpness
In reply to Jimim, Nov 12, 2012

Try this:

Take a shot you think is sharp but you dont think is sharp enough.

Have it printed in two sizes on a real photoprinter - pick a proffesional online printing service.

these to sizes:

4x6 inch (10x15 cm)

4x6 feet (60x90cm)

Put the big one up on a wall and leave the small one on at frequent seen spot, ie. kitchen table or on the fridge.

Leave them there for two weeks and then re-think:

On a daily basis ? - Do I really miss any details one the big one?

- If yes, then you got a really bad copy of the 7D + a sh.tty copy of the 17-55...

-- hide signature --

And if you often print 12x8 feet then consider MF camera's.......

nuf said,

You could consider a (used?) 5DII with the 35 f2(old version) , 50 f1,4 and 85 f1.8

and sell the 7D + 17-55

/Majoren

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Matty W
Regular MemberPosts: 195
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Why stop?
In reply to Majoren, Nov 13, 2012

If you're regularly printing large enough that sharpness is a real issue (and your photos are good enough to warrant the larger size and your technique or lens/body calibration is not an issue), then why not go after more sharpness? It's one improvement to your photos you can actually buy. And if your photos are already being shown in galleries, it's certainly worth the money.

The galleries I've seen of wall-sized prints made from 8x10 or 4x5 film are often very amazing; once you approach that level of detail you're working in an entirely different medium with different rules of composition and approach. No more HDR and UWA lenses, just elegant compositions that lead the eye through a vast amount of organized information. Sharpness is great.

That said, the 17-55mm is a very sharp lens. At f5.6 or f8, you won't find a lens that's dramatically better. Consider investing in a full frame body, maybe even the D800, if sharpness is that critical. Personally I find the step from 7D to 5DII/5DIII very significant, despite the small increase in pixel count.

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Jimim
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Re: Looking for more sharpness
In reply to Matty W, Nov 13, 2012

Matty W wrote:

Why do you need more sharpness? The 17-55mm is phenomenally sharp by f4 or f5.6 and good even wide open. I'm not sure you'll find something a lot better.

For the biggest increase in sharpness, I'd go full frame. The difference is significant and worse lenses perform better. The 50mm f1.2 L is softer than the 50mm f1.4 and 50m f1.8 (assuming you get a good sample) at normal stops (f4-f8), but it has better bokeh and is good wide open.

I'd go full frame.

As for lenses, you can see here that the 24-70mm II lives up to the hype and the Tamron is not as good:

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=787&Camera=453&Sample=0&FLI=0&API=3&LensComp=786&CameraComp=453&SampleComp=0&FLIComp=0&APIComp=3

Thanks Matty,

I read the review on the Canon.  It seems like a great lens.  I would love to go full frame now but it's a HUGE price jump being that  I would need a new lens for the full frame also at the same time being my lens now is for crop body only.  I think this place was thinking that it would be a great way to get me going in 2 phases.  One to have a sharper lens but also to have the lens I need when I go full frame.  It seems like from the review that it competes with primes for sharpness also.  I actually can't wait to compare them this weekend now cause the review vs what I was told is two polar opposites!

jimi

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Jimim
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Re: STOP - Looking for more sharpness
In reply to Majoren, Nov 13, 2012

Majoren wrote:

Try this:

Take a shot you think is sharp but you dont think is sharp enough.

Have it printed in two sizes on a real photoprinter - pick a proffesional online printing service.

these to sizes:

4x6 inch (10x15 cm)

4x6 feet (60x90cm)

Put the big one up on a wall and leave the small one on at frequent seen spot, ie. kitchen table or on the fridge.

Leave them there for two weeks and then re-think:

On a daily basis ? - Do I really miss any details one the big one?

- If yes, then you got a really bad copy of the 7D + a sh.tty copy of the 17-55...

-- hide signature --

And if you often print 12x8 feet then consider MF camera's.......

nuf said,

You could consider a (used?) 5DII with the 35 f2(old version) , 50 f1,4 and 85 f1.8

and sell the 7D + 17-55

/Majoren

I understand waht you are saying.  When I do print stuff I am always happy with the sharpness I have achieved.  I guess I'm looking for that studio sharpness but I know I'm never going to get that without being in a studio under controlled lighting, but I did want to achieve something close for portraits.  I did take pics of a friends daughter the other day and we got the prints back from WHCC and the 11x17's that we got done were great I think.

Maybe I am over thinking this.  I lso gues I don't know what is considered sharp at a 100% crop.  Maybe what I'm looking at is sharp enough, but I know at times that things aren't as sharp as they could be and that would be on me.

jim

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arty H
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Re: Looking for more sharpness
In reply to Jimim, Nov 13, 2012

The 17-55IS is certainly a very sharp lens, but you can always try a fast prime to see if you like the results better. The zoom won't do F2, and you can get some nice available light shots at wide apertures.

If you are interested in "sharp" per se, then try a good macro lens. You won't find many sharper than the Tokina 35F2.8 macro, or the Canon 60F2.8 macro lens. Sigma also makes some sharp lenses, and I like their 50F2.8 macro lens. Their 70 is reported to be among the sharpest out there.

I use my fast primes more than any macro lens.

Are you looking for increased resolution or contrast?

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Jimim
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Re: Why stop?
In reply to Matty W, Nov 13, 2012

Matty W wrote:

If you're regularly printing large enough that sharpness is a real issue (and your photos are good enough to warrant the larger size and your technique or lens/body calibration is not an issue), then why not go after more sharpness? It's one improvement to your photos you can actually buy. And if your photos are already being shown in galleries, it's certainly worth the money.

The galleries I've seen of wall-sized prints made from 8x10 or 4x5 film are often very amazing; once you approach that level of detail you're working in an entirely different medium with different rules of composition and approach. No more HDR and UWA lenses, just elegant compositions that lead the eye through a vast amount of organized information. Sharpness is great.

That said, the 17-55mm is a very sharp lens. At f5.6 or f8, you won't find a lens that's dramatically better. Consider investing in a full frame body, maybe even the D800, if sharpness is that critical. Personally I find the step from 7D to 5DII/5DIII very significant, despite the small increase in pixel count.

Matty,

Thanks for that again.  I should go back and look at the Mark II.  The III is just way too much of price jump right now with not having glass to get me going.  I never realized that going full frame makes that much of a increase in quality.  I knew contrast increased and color accuracy but didn't realize much more than that.

I'm sorry if this is kind of a novice thread but liek I said I'm still learning and want ot keep improving.  One of the best things I also did this year was invest in a calibrator for my screen and proper lighting to edit and compare prints with.  Holy cow that has made my life easier and my quality of prints is great compared to last year.  Also using WHCC has also really helped too compared to walgreen's or mlix (who was very good too).

jimi

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Matty W
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Re: Why stop?
In reply to Jimim, Nov 13, 2012

Your combo should be much more than sharp enough for 11x17 prints. I assumed you were printing much larger. With good technique you'll get near per-pixel sharpness (and then smart sharpen in photoshop) at 300dpi. At 11X17 I'm surprised you have any issues whatsoever; that should be totally tack sharp with that combination. Larger and I'd consider full frame an improvement, but I've seen 30X40 or so prints from the 5D Mark I and II that were acceptable.

For portraiture I'd go longer than 35m or 50mm, though (though not for "environmental portraiture"). Although Martin Schoeller shoots 140mm on a 6x7 and gets good results and that's shorter than one would expect for portraiture. I like his style. Simple and tacky, but distinctive and expressive.

Full frame does give you better micro contrast for sure. If you like 50mm consider getting the 50mm f1.8 as a stop gap, though, as it's nice on full frame and APS-C. That is a very sharp lens (with poor bokeh, unfortunately). My favorite lens on my Mark III. But you'll have to strain very very hard to tell the difference between the 7D and 5D at 11X17 except for the shallower depth of field on the 5D at a given aperture and field of view. Just get some lights and control your light outside better (reflectors, butterflies, strobes, etc.); it sounds to me like sharpness isn't your problem. Being in a studio will make nothing any sharper, just better lit.

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CameraCarl
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Re: Why?
In reply to Jimim, Nov 13, 2012

Forgive me for this observation, but it appears you are still learning your art.  Why commit to spend more money while you are still learning?  For example, if you want sharper images, have you chosen the optimum aperture for your lens? Are you using a tripod or a high enough shutter speed to eliminate any camera motion (which looks like unsharpness)? Are you shooting at the lowest possible ISO to avoid noise? Once you have perfected your technique with the gear you have, then evaluate what you lack in equipment and buy that... whether it be a new lens or a new camera. But it seems to me that you want to substitute hardware for experience.

 CameraCarl's gear list:CameraCarl's gear list
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billythek
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Re: Looking for more sharpness
In reply to Matty W, Nov 13, 2012

Wow, the Tamron really does look awful in that comparison.  I wonder if they had a bad copy.  I wasn't expecting something that bad from other reviews.

-- hide signature --

- Bill

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Jimim
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Re: Looking for more sharpness
In reply to billythek, Nov 13, 2012

billythek wrote:

Wow, the Tamron really does look awful in that comparison. I wonder if they had a bad copy. I wasn't expecting something that bad from other reviews.

-- hide signature --

- Bill

And to boot I got someone else telling me there is absolutely no diff in image quality.  that's why I'm going to look at it this weekend and he has prints to show me.  Sometimes the net bombards us with too much info!    But I agree with you maybe it was bad?

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Jimim
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Re: Why stop?
In reply to Matty W, Nov 13, 2012

Matty W wrote:

Your combo should be much more than sharp enough for 11x17 prints. I assumed you were printing much larger. With good technique you'll get near per-pixel sharpness (and then smart sharpen in photoshop) at 300dpi. At 11X17 I'm surprised you have any issues whatsoever; that should be totally tack sharp with that combination. Larger and I'd consider full frame an improvement, but I've seen 30X40 or so prints from the 5D Mark I and II that were acceptable.

For portraiture I'd go longer than 35m or 50mm, though (though not for "environmental portraiture"). Although Martin Schoeller shoots 140mm on a 6x7 and gets good results and that's shorter than one would expect for portraiture. I like his style. Simple and tacky, but distinctive and expressive.

Full frame does give you better micro contrast for sure. If you like 50mm consider getting the 50mm f1.8 as a stop gap, though, as it's nice on full frame and APS-C. That is a very sharp lens (with poor bokeh, unfortunately). My favorite lens on my Mark III. But you'll have to strain very very hard to tell the difference between the 7D and 5D at 11X17 except for the shallower depth of field on the 5D at a given aperture and field of view. Just get some lights and control your light outside better (reflectors, butterflies, strobes, etc.); it sounds to me like sharpness isn't your problem. Being in a studio will make nothing any sharper, just better lit.

Most of my stuff I would say is environmental portraiture like you said.  Not close up stuff.  I don't know maybe I am expecting more than I should.  Tonight I'll throw up a pic or too that to see what you all think.  What size should I post hem at?  1024x1024 is that good enough?  I have a flikr account but it isn't a pro account?

thanks again everyone for all the input!

jim

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Jimim
New MemberPosts: 21
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Re: Why?
In reply to CameraCarl, Nov 13, 2012

CameraCarl wrote:

Forgive me for this observation, but it appears you are still learning your art. Why commit to spend more money while you are still learning? For example, if you want sharper images, have you chosen the optimum aperture for your lens? Are you using a tripod or a high enough shutter speed to eliminate any camera motion (which looks like unsharpness)? Are you shooting at the lowest possible ISO to avoid noise? Once you have perfected your technique with the gear you have, then evaluate what you lack in equipment and buy that... whether it be a new lens or a new camera. But it seems to me that you want to substitute hardware for experience.

No I deff don't expect that.  With my 15-55 I know 5.6 through 9 is very sharp and I alwaystry to get at least 125 shutter speed and try to stay at least 400 ISO or lower if possible when outside.  My biggest prob is not using a tripod as much as  I should cause I 'm always moving around.  I deff have not perfected my tech but I did want to try something new.

jim

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Jimim
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Re: Looking for more sharpness
In reply to arty H, Nov 13, 2012

arty H wrote:

The 17-55IS is certainly a very sharp lens, but you can always try a fast prime to see if you like the results better. The zoom won't do F2, and you can get some nice available light shots at wide apertures.

If you are interested in "sharp" per se, then try a good macro lens. You won't find many sharper than the Tokina 35F2.8 macro, or the Canon 60F2.8 macro lens. Sigma also makes some sharp lenses, and I like their 50F2.8 macro lens. Their 70 is reported to be among the sharpest out there.

I use my fast primes more than any macro lens.

Are you looking for increased resolution or contrast?

Thanks for all those recommendations.  I would say resolution.  My contrast  I seem happy with most the time  I think?  Can you explain a bit more to me?  I'm sorry!

jim

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arty H
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Re: Looking for more sharpness
In reply to Jimim, Nov 13, 2012

Some macro lenses and sharp primes may give you sharper images in the corners than you can get with zooms. Whether or not this matters depends on the subject matter and apertures you are using. In addition, some lenses will be sharper at closer distances (macro lenses), while others may do better at far distances. The lenses that I mentioned are known to do well at near and far distances.

The only downside of macro lenses is that AF is going to be slower, but you can get fast AF with the Canon 100 mm macro lenses. If you do decide to get a macro lens, I recommend getting one with a focus limiter, so the lens won't go through the full range of focus distances if it hunts for focus indoors. If you stay with Canon lenses, the color rendition will be the same as the lenses you own. If you go with a different brand, color can be rendered a little differently, and you may like it or not, depending on personal taste. I am much more likely to use the shorter macro lenses, the 35 and 50 for my purposes, since they can be easy to use for general purpose shooting. For example, I used my Tokina 35F2.8 at a kid's birthday party and it was fine, and produced lots of nice shots. It is sharp wide open.

The 17-55IS is a sharp lens, and better than most zooms. It is going to be sharper stopped down to F4 or F5.6 than wide open. This may or may not be an issue, but it depends on the subject matter.

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elfroggio
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Re: Looking for more sharpness
In reply to Jimim, Nov 13, 2012

Jimim wrote:

HI. I hope you all can help me out to make shopping a bit easier and that I don't cause a battle re: sharpness.

I am def learning to be a better photographer each day and I fell I have learned alot especially this year with taking the time to understand lighting and external flash use.

My camera is a 7D and I primarily use the 17-55 2.8 from canon. It worked well for methe past 2 years but I want to start to grow a bit and buy some new glass.

Here's an image that I printed 20" by 30".

This image was taken with a lens that anybody that claim to know lenses is junk. It's a Sigma 17-70mm (the old one). It's supposed to be extremely soft. No pixilation, no visible noise with a naked eye even at 5 inch from the print. All the hairs and the whiskers are sharp. According to everybody's assessment, I should have had problems printing anything larger than 11" by 14". So why not?

  1. The image is bright with a strong side lighting from the window, camera right. Some fill from the light yellow cream wall, camera left. You can see how bright the light is by the eyes of the cat.
  2. There's an excellent contrast in the white hairs and whiskers against the orange color of the fur.
  3. The face of the cat is brighter than the background. The correct exposure is for the face of the cat. It's not for the background.
  4. The quality of the photo-lab. They did an excellent job, but this is a custom lab. After uploading the JPEG, I went to the lab and dropped a 5" by 7" to match before they started with the printing.
  5. Sharpness is an optical illusion. It has nothing to do with the technical specifications. Sharpness is very subjective. A 100% black photo, like a photo taken with the lens cap on, is 100% unsharp. It's the same with a 100% white photo even with the best camera/glass combination. Sharpness depends on the contrast between the light and the dark. The higher the contrast between the pixels, the higher the impression of sharpness. Everything else being equal, a bright, side lighting will be significantly sharper than front flat lighting. Bright sunset vs fog... The higher the sharpness, the bigger the prints.

Lighting and technique is far more important than quality of a lens. But then again, a great technique with a fantastic lens is even better.

-- hide signature --

Thanks
http://www.foto-biz.com
The Business of Being a Photographer -- Lightroom Q&A

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Vera Cognome
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Re: Why?
In reply to Jimim, Nov 13, 2012

Jimim wrote:

My biggest prob is not using a tripod as much as I should cause I 'm always moving around. I deff have not perfected my tech but I did want to try something new.

I don't know which tripod you own, but before you drop a couple of months take home pay on lenses, invest in quality tripod head and a 2-series or larger Gitzo or Gitzo knockoff and train yourself to use it.  First learn to do it right.  ​Then​ learn to do it fast.

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Jimim
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Re: Looking for more sharpness
In reply to arty H, Nov 14, 2012

arty H wrote:

Some macro lenses and sharp primes may give you sharper images in the corners than you can get with zooms. Whether or not this matters depends on the subject matter and apertures you are using. In addition, some lenses will be sharper at closer distances (macro lenses), while others may do better at far distances. The lenses that I mentioned are known to do well at near and far distances.

The only downside of macro lenses is that AF is going to be slower, but you can get fast AF with the Canon 100 mm macro lenses. If you do decide to get a macro lens, I recommend getting one with a focus limiter, so the lens won't go through the full range of focus distances if it hunts for focus indoors. If you stay with Canon lenses, the color rendition will be the same as the lenses you own. If you go with a different brand, color can be rendered a little differently, and you may like it or not, depending on personal taste. I am much more likely to use the shorter macro lenses, the 35 and 50 for my purposes, since they can be easy to use for general purpose shooting. For example, I used my Tokina 35F2.8 at a kid's birthday party and it was fine, and produced lots of nice shots. It is sharp wide open.

The 17-55IS is a sharp lens, and better than most zooms. It is going to be sharper stopped down to F4 or F5.6 than wide open. This may or may not be an issue, but it depends on the subject matter.

Arty,

Thanks so much for this.  I am going to look over some of those lens tonight.  I appreciate it a lot!

jimi

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Jimim
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Re: Looking for more sharpness
In reply to elfroggio, Nov 14, 2012

elfroggio wrote:


Jimim wrote:

HI. I hope you all can help me out to make shopping a bit easier and that I don't cause a battle re: sharpness.

I am def learning to be a better photographer each day and I fell I have learned alot especially this year with taking the time to understand lighting and external flash use.

My camera is a 7D and I primarily use the 17-55 2.8 from canon. It worked well for methe past 2 years but I want to start to grow a bit and buy some new glass.

Here's an image that I printed 20" by 30".

This image was taken with a lens that anybody that claim to know lenses is junk. It's a Sigma 17-70mm (the old one). It's supposed to be extremely soft. No pixilation, no visible noise with a naked eye even at 5 inch from the print. All the hairs and the whiskers are sharp. According to everybody's assessment, I should have had problems printing anything larger than 11" by 14". So why not?

  1. The image is bright with a strong side lighting from the window, camera right. Some fill from the light yellow cream wall, camera left. You can see how bright the light is by the eyes of the cat.
  2. There's an excellent contrast in the white hairs and whiskers against the orange color of the fur.
  3. The face of the cat is brighter than the background. The correct exposure is for the face of the cat. It's not for the background.
  4. The quality of the photo-lab. They did an excellent job, but this is a custom lab. After uploading the JPEG, I went to the lab and dropped a 5" by 7" to match before they started with the printing.
  5. Sharpness is an optical illusion. It has nothing to do with the technical specifications. Sharpness is very subjective. A 100% black photo, like a photo taken with the lens cap on, is 100% unsharp. It's the same with a 100% white photo even with the best camera/glass combination. Sharpness depends on the contrast between the light and the dark. The higher the contrast between the pixels, the higher the impression of sharpness. Everything else being equal, a bright, side lighting will be significantly sharper than front flat lighting. Bright sunset vs fog... The higher the sharpness, the bigger the prints.

Lighting and technique is far more important than quality of a lens. But then again, a great technique with a fantastic lens is even better.

-- hide signature --

Thanks
http://www.foto-biz.com
The Business of Being a Photographer -- Lightroom Q&A

Thanks alot for this info.  I deff understand what you are saying cause my pics that I feel are sharper are deff always lit better so that all makes sense to me.  I like that pic too.  The background colors next to the cat are great I think!

jim

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