The whole question of lens sharpness...

Started Jun 12, 2013 | Discussions
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gdourado
gdourado Regular Member • Posts: 247
The whole question of lens sharpness...
1

Hello, how are you?

So, after spending a lot of time on photography sites, blogs and forums, one thing that seems to always be mentioned is lens sharpness.

There seems to be sort of an obsession about sharpness that always generates flaming debates about sharpness, bad copies, sample variation and such...

This got me wondering... Do we really need more and more sharpness? For portraits, events, models... is super sharpness even a good thing? How much is enough? And why do people get so turned on by this?

Hope to hear your opinion on this matter.

Cheers!

-- hide signature --
Cailean Gallimore Veteran Member • Posts: 6,082
Re: The whole question of lens sharpness...
2

Some people take the issues of sharpness and high ISO performance to the point of obsessing over barely discernible differences, but when it comes to easily discernible differences, it does matter what we see.

Daisy AU
Daisy AU Senior Member • Posts: 1,564
Re: The whole question of lens sharpness...

gdourado wrote:

Hello, how are you?

So, after spending a lot of time on photography sites, blogs and forums, one thing that seems to always be mentioned is lens sharpness.

There seems to be sort of an obsession about sharpness that always generates flaming debates about sharpness, bad copies, sample variation and such...

This got me wondering... Do we really need more and more sharpness? For portraits, events, models... is super sharpness even a good thing? How much is enough? And why do people get so turned on by this?

Hope to hear your opinion on this matter.

Cheers!

-- hide signature --

I wonder about the same.  However, one advantage of very sharp images is that it allows you to crop and still retain acceptable sharpness.  I'm not into portraits but a softer look is better, in my opinion.

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D Cox Forum Pro • Posts: 13,563
Re: The whole question of lens sharpness...
6

You don't always want a very sharp image, but often you do. It is easy to reduce sharpness, but very hard to increase it.

The ideal is to have a range of lenses in your armoury to suit different occasions. This can include soft focus lenses.

Chris R-UK Forum Pro • Posts: 15,203
Re: The whole question of lens sharpness...
2

I think that there is a minimum sharpness requirements.  There are a small number of lenses around that are definitely not sharp, e.g. the Canon 75-300mm lens that is sometime bundled with Canon bodies by less scrupulous retailers. Judging by posts on this site, owners of these lenses seem to want to upgrade quite quickly after purchase.

However, IMHO most lenses are sharp enough for most general purpose photography and less experienced photographers are unlikely to see much improvement in their shots after upgrading to a sharper lens. Their limitations will be their own skills and not the lens that they are using.

Of course there are some types of photography that definitely require sharp lenses.  Detailed landscape/architectural photography and bird photography are two that spring to mind.

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Chris R

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Alphoid Senior Member • Posts: 3,294
Sharpness is easy to measure
7

Lens quality matters much more than almost anything else in equipment. Lens quality comes down to contrast, bokeh, flare resistance, distortion, and a hundred similar properties. Sharpness happens to be the easiest to stick a number on, so people obsess over it. It's by no means the most important. Contrast is more important (and also easy to measure), but somehow, reviewers don't give numbers it. Distortion is easy to measure, but matters less (and is also somewhat subjective -- there are different shapes and easy/hard-to-correct). Flare and bokeh are important, but almost completely subjective.

That said, sharpness does tend to correlate with lens quality -- nice lenses tend to be nice along multiple axes. Contrast and sharpness, in particular, are closely related in optical design, so sharp lenses tend to be contrasty as well. I've seen a small number of reasonably sharp lenses that take mediocre photos (Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 comes to mind), as well as a small number of not-so-sharp lenses that take beautiful photos (my Minolta Beercan 70-210mm f/4 comes to mind). As a rule of thumb, however, most of my best lenses also tend to be my sharpest, so it is a good proxy.

The same thing happened with sensor megapixels for many years, and now with high ISO performance. They aren't the most important properties of cameras, but they tended to correlate with camera quality, so they were good things to shop on. At some point, manufacturers realized that this was happening, and started optimizing first entirely for megapixels, and now increasingly for high ISO, sometimes sacrificing more important properties in the process, so they stopped acting as good proxies.

Alleg1 Contributing Member • Posts: 863
Re: The whole question of lens sharpness...
1

gdourado wrote:

Hello, how are you?

So, after spending a lot of time on photography sites, blogs and forums, one thing that seems to always be mentioned is lens sharpness.

There seems to be sort of an obsession about sharpness that always generates flaming debates about sharpness, bad copies, sample variation and such...

This got me wondering... Do we really need more and more sharpness? For portraits, events, models... is super sharpness even a good thing? How much is enough? And why do people get so turned on by this?

Hope to hear your opinion on this matter.

Cheers!

-- hide signature --

I like to have a reasonable level of sharpness, but what constitutes this is highly subjective in the real world outside of test charts.

I think you are spot on, ultimate sharpness can become an obsession for some people, and can be undesirable in some areas such as portraiture.

Many digital pictures posted on photo forums appear to be oversharp,in my view, and appear somewhat artificial.

Judged on the criterion of sharpness, many great photographers would fail.

 Alleg1's gear list:Alleg1's gear list
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(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 5,593
Do you wish your vision was less than sharp?
4

gdourado wrote:

Hello, how are you?

So, after spending a lot of time on photography sites, blogs and forums, one thing that seems to always be mentioned is lens sharpness.

There seems to be sort of an obsession about sharpness that always generates flaming debates about sharpness, bad copies, sample variation and such...

This got me wondering... Do we really need more and more sharpness? For portraits, events, models... is super sharpness even a good thing? How much is enough? And why do people get so turned on by this?

Hope to hear your opinion on this matter.

Cheers!

-- hide signature --

Do you wish for your vision to be less than sharp?

The goal should always be to maximize the sharpness of a lens. One can always blur the image through software later on if that is what they want.

(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 5,593
Re: The whole question of lens sharpness...
1

D Cox wrote:

You don't always want a very sharp image, but often you do. It is easy to reduce sharpness, but very hard to increase it.

The ideal is to have a range of lenses in your armoury to suit different occasions. This can include soft focus lenses.

No, it's impossible to increase real sharpness if it wasn't there to begin with. There is also no point in a soft focus lens when you can use software to blur a sharp lens.

looper1234
looper1234 Regular Member • Posts: 314
Re: The whole question of lens sharpness...
3

sharpness is a bit vague in its definition, what people really want, is the resolution.

a sharp picture will contain more data on the light than a unsharp version.

and this abundance of information gives one room to maneuver in post processing.

(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 5,593
Re: The whole question of lens sharpness...
2

Alleg1 wrote:

gdourado wrote:

Hello, how are you?

So, after spending a lot of time on photography sites, blogs and forums, one thing that seems to always be mentioned is lens sharpness.

There seems to be sort of an obsession about sharpness that always generates flaming debates about sharpness, bad copies, sample variation and such...

This got me wondering... Do we really need more and more sharpness? For portraits, events, models... is super sharpness even a good thing? How much is enough? And why do people get so turned on by this?

Hope to hear your opinion on this matter.

Cheers!

-- hide signature --

I like to have a reasonable level of sharpness, but what constitutes this is highly subjective in the real world outside of test charts.

I think you are spot on, ultimate sharpness can become an obsession for some people, and can be undesirable in some areas such as portraiture.

Many digital pictures posted on photo forums appear to be oversharp,in my view, and appear somewhat artificial.

Judged on the criterion of sharpness, many great photographers would fail.

For the discerning and serious photographer lens sharpness is not at all "subjective."

There is no such a thing as an image being "oversharp" because of a lens. A lens can not be too sharp.

Few 'great photographers" would have preferred a blurry lens over a sharp lens, especially today.

(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 5,593
Re: The whole question of lens sharpness...
1

looper1234 wrote:

sharpness is a bit vague in its definition, what people really want, is the resolution.

a sharp picture will contain more data on the light than a unsharp version.

and this abundance of information gives one room to maneuver in post processing.

There is nothing "vague" about the definition of sharpness. You can have a camera with 50 megapixels on it but slap a blurry lens on it and all the potential resolution of the sensor can not be realized.

Chris R-UK Forum Pro • Posts: 15,203
Re: The whole question of lens sharpness...
3

Basalite wrote:

[snip]

There is no such a thing as an image being "oversharp" because of a lens.

But is can certainly be "oversharp" because of excessive sharpening in post processing.  I think that that is what the previous poster was referring to.

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Chris R

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papillon_65
papillon_65 Forum Pro • Posts: 25,263
It's amazing how sharp most lenses can look...

with the appropriate use of flash or controlled lighting.

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Tony
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olliess Senior Member • Posts: 1,069
Re: The whole question of lens sharpness...

Basalite wrote:

There is nothing "vague" about the definition of sharpness.

Ok, then what's your definition of sharpness?

richardplondon
richardplondon Veteran Member • Posts: 9,855
Re: The whole question of lens sharpness...
2

Being interested in having a lens with good peak sharpness, is not the same thing as being obsessed with having only sharp pictures.

Very often, one wants to control different degrees of sharpness or softness within a picture - through depth of field manipulation by using different subject distances and background distances, together with aperture control, also even with subject and/or camera movement.

That is a (uniquely photographic) "creative parameter" alongside all the other kinds of tone and colour, perspective, composition etc considerations.

And if a given lens is very restricted in its ability to show sharp vs soft contrast in the subject - because it is never capable of being truly sharp, no matter what you do, and/or, if its effective aperture range is not very broad - then certain kinds of pictorial "story" simply cannot be told.

It is worth expanding the concept of a "sharp" lens, BTW, in this respect: a lens needs to show not only a high resolution, and a broad aperture range, but also good control in terms of contrast / flare, to deliver these kinds of pictorial contrasts clearly to the viewer.

RP

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UtahManSir Veteran Member • Posts: 4,645
Re: The whole question of lens sharpness...
1

gdourado wrote:

Hello, how are you?

So, after spending a lot of time on photography sites, blogs and forums, one thing that seems to always be mentioned is lens sharpness.

There seems to be sort of an obsession about sharpness that always generates flaming debates about sharpness, bad copies, sample variation and such...

This got me wondering... Do we really need more and more sharpness? For portraits, events, models... is super sharpness even a good thing? How much is enough? And why do people get so turned on by this?

Hope to hear your opinion on this matter.

Cheers!

-- hide signature --

The sharper the lens, the bigger I can print. I hate to tell a client that I cannot print something the size they want because the file is not sharp enough and breaks down at larger print sizes.

Lloyd

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BertIverson Veteran Member • Posts: 3,462
Sharpness not too important on 2.4MP monitor ...
1

gdourado wrote:

... Do we really need more and more sharpness? For portraits, events, models... is super sharpness even a good thing? How much is enough? ...

My take on this is simple. If one can fill the frame (avoiding cropping), lens sharpness is usually irrelevant when viewing on a 2.4MP monitor. Viewing a 16MP shot on a 2.4MP monitor means about 4-6 sensor pixels are rendered into 1 pixel on the monitor. In the case of a zoom lens, it only needs to be real sharp at the extreme long end. At lesser FL one will fill the frame (see above).

my 0.02 -- PS pixel peeping not allowed

Bert

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UtahManSir Veteran Member • Posts: 4,645
Re: Sharpness not too important on 2.4MP monitor ...

BertIverson wrote:

gdourado wrote:

... Do we really need more and more sharpness? For portraits, events, models... is super sharpness even a good thing? How much is enough? ...

My take on this is simple. If one can fill the frame (avoiding cropping), lens sharpness is usually irrelevant when viewing on a 2.4MP monitor. Viewing a 16MP shot on a 2.4MP monitor means about 4-6 sensor pixels are rendered into 1 pixel on the monitor. In the case of a zoom lens, it only needs to be real sharp at the extreme long end. At lesser FL one will fill the frame (see above).

my 0.02 -- PS pixel peeping not allowed

Bert

I don't care about the screen, I want good prints. The screen is irrelevant.

Lloyd

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Detail Man
Detail Man Forum Pro • Posts: 16,402
Re: The whole question of lens sharpness ...
2

gdourado wrote:

There seems to be sort of an obsession about sharpness ... Do we really need more and more sharpness? ... For portraits, events, models... is super sharpness even a good thing?

This got me wondering ... How much is enough?

Solve the problem once and for all with a 2 Mpixel camera ...

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