Remeber, Sharpness is not everything !

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leopold
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Remeber, Sharpness is not everything !
10 months ago

Just wanted to talk about something that is now too much valued in lens testing and peoples priority when buying a new lens or comparing lenses.

Sure i like sharp lenses but when buying a lens sharpness is not the only thing i look at. The lens need to be sharp enough for my needs and taste. Bokeh, rendering, color rendition and flare are other aspects that i look in a lens. Vignetting, distorsion and CA are not as much of a problem now.

There is no point in owning "THE SHARPEST" lens if all the other charactheristics don't meet my needs or taste !!!

Not forgetting also as a side points ... size and weight.

I have photos taken with my kit lens on my Sony NEX-3 that were accepted by my Stock photo agency and they are quite severe, so when good technic is used and you know the limit of a lens then you can just concentrate on your composition.

Discussion is open now

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Donald B
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Re: Remeber, Sharpness is not everything !
In reply to leopold, 10 months ago

leopold wrote:

Just wanted to talk about something that is now too much valued in lens testing and peoples priority when buying a new lens or comparing lenses.

Sure i like sharp lenses but when buying a lens sharpness is not the only thing i look at. The lens need to be sharp enough for my needs and taste. Bokeh, rendering, color rendition and flare are other aspects that i look in a lens. Vignetting, distorsion and CA are not as much of a problem now.

There is no point in owning "THE SHARPEST" lens if all the other charactheristics don't meet my needs or taste !!!

Not forgetting also as a side points ... size and weight.

I have photos taken with my kit lens on my Sony NEX-3 that were accepted by my Stock photo agency and they are quite severe, so when good technic is used and you know the limit of a lens then you can just concentrate on your composition.

Discussion is open now

where's some evidence of your claim (photo) ? don't be shy ! LOL....

here's mine taken with my favourite lens for shooting dance schools Sigma 18 200mm love this lens.

cheers don

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SBS
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Re: Remeber, Sharpness is not everything !
In reply to leopold, 10 months ago

+1

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sleepwalker400
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Re: Remeber, Sharpness is not everything !
In reply to SBS, 10 months ago

Color rendiition

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brecklundin
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Re: Remeber, Sharpness is not everything !
In reply to leopold, 10 months ago

leopold wrote:

Just wanted to talk about something that is now too much valued in lens testing and peoples priority when buying a new lens or comparing lenses.

Sure i like sharp lenses but when buying a lens sharpness is not the only thing i look at. The lens need to be sharp enough for my needs and taste. Bokeh, rendering, color rendition and flare are other aspects that i look in a lens. Vignetting, distorsion and CA are not as much of a problem now.

There is no point in owning "THE SHARPEST" lens if all the other charactheristics don't meet my needs or taste !!!

Not forgetting also as a side points ... size and weight.

I have photos taken with my kit lens on my Sony NEX-3 that were accepted by my Stock photo agency and they are quite severe, so when good technic is used and you know the limit of a lens then you can just concentrate on your composition.

Discussion is open now

Amen brother...it all goes to create a lens with character.  I remember an episode of Murphy Brown where the photographer character, Frank, was completely distraught over losing a particular lens, a lens that he had a special relationship with that he grew to love over the years of use.  It was Frank's "lucky lens" and no other lens was ever going to replace it.  That has long stuck with me about how to evaluate a lens.  It's all there.  To me that describes anything from a favorite hammer that fits your hand just right to a lens which fits your vision of a shot.

I just don't get the idea of needing cookie cutter sameness out of each and every lens in the bag.  I don't want anything like that, I want lenses to be different with strengths and weaknesses.  Like you mention it is knowing those limits which allow you to get the most from a lens.  And honestly sometimes I want a lens that won't give a perfect shot under given conditions because it's a look I have in my head.

The differences you talk about are what I call "character" of a lens.  And trust me I HATE some lenses I've owned.  Could be the highest rated glass around but to me it could be dull as dishwater.

Nice post Leopold...well stated.

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andrew britten
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Re: Remeber, Sharpness is not everything !
In reply to leopold, 10 months ago

Not necessarily disagreeing, but where are these sharp lenses that are no good?

cheers

AB

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Unexpresivecanvas
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Re: Remeber, Sharpness is not everything !
In reply to leopold, 10 months ago

If we only could ask Imogen Cunningham....

source: wikiimage -

source: http://noapathyallowed.com/2014/01/bremen-sie-selbst-nackt/

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brecklundin
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Ansel Adams had a take on the "perfect" lens....
In reply to andrew britten, 10 months ago

andrew britten wrote:

Not necessarily disagreeing, but where are these sharp lenses that are no good?

I don't recall where I read it but there is a quote from Ansel Adams when he was asked to help design or was simply asked what needed to be done to make a "perfect" lens. His response was what sort of describes this issue. It was, and I am quoting from memory, "...no need, it has already been done..." or something to that effect.

Adams was saying that the lenses he had were already perfect. Look at his results and even though he was a master in the darkroom, it's hard to argue against the sentiment in that comment.

Here the issue is not that sharpness is bad, it's not, but in evaluating a lens it is not now, should never be and really until modern times never was the sole criteria in judging a lens.

As to the issue of too sharp portraits are a great example. Too much detail can actually make an image less interesting as much as camera shake or missed focus. There are times when you don't always want or need bleeding edge crispiness in a shot. You can add sharpness to edges in post to give the perception of sharpness but going the other way never has worked out well for me...then again I stink-on-ice in post processing.

And know I am not arguing against sharpness as a portion of the criteria to evaluate a lens. I mean it has to capture enough detail to give you something with which to work, right? But it doesn't need to be perfectly sharp.

Also when i talk about sharpness of a lens I am generally referring to across the frame. Almost all modern lenses are excellent to outstanding in the center at one or more apertures. It's this across the frame thing where it becomes a creative tool. I feel, personally, that less sharp towards the corners makes for a creative rather than documentary/clinical tool.

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andrew britten
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Re: Ansel Adams had a take on the "perfect" lens....
In reply to brecklundin, 10 months ago

brecklundin wrote:

andrew britten wrote:

Not necessarily disagreeing, but where are these sharp lenses that are no good?

I don't recall where I read it but there is a quote from Ansel Adams when he was asked to help design or was simply asked what needed to be done to make a "perfect" lens. His response was what sort of describes this issue. It was, and I am quoting from memory, "...no need, it has already been done..." or something to that effect.

Adams was saying that the lenses he had were already perfect. Look at his results and even though he was a master in the darkroom, it's hard to argue against the sentiment in that comment.

Here the issue is not that sharpness is bad, it's not, but in evaluating a lens it is not now, should never be and really until modern times never was the sole criteria in judging a lens.

As to the issue of too sharp portraits are a great example. Too much detail can actually make an image less interesting as much as camera shake or missed focus. There are times when you don't always want or need bleeding edge crispiness in a shot. You can add sharpness to edges in post to give the perception of sharpness but going the other way never has worked out well for me...then again I stink-on-ice in post processing.

And know I am not arguing against sharpness as a portion of the criteria to evaluate a lens. I mean it has to capture enough detail to give you something with which to work, right? But it doesn't need to be perfectly sharp.

Also when i talk about sharpness of a lens I am generally referring to across the frame. Almost all modern lenses are excellent to outstanding in the center at one or more apertures. It's this across the frame thing where it becomes a creative tool. I feel, personally, that less sharp towards the corners makes for a creative rather than documentary/clinical tool.

Again, I basically agree that sharpness is not the beginning and end of a good rendering.

Witness the Pentax lenses that don't do all that well in lab tests, but interpret scenes beautifully.

But, as I asked, where are these sharp lenses that are no good?

As to portraiture, there's always some filter out there, be it physical or computer code, that will take the edge off.

You can always blur sharpness, but the opposite is not always possible. Was that an Ansel Adams quote? 

cheers

AB

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sleepwalker400
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Re: Remeber, Sharpness is not everything !
In reply to leopold, 10 months ago

I whole heartedly agree, this is why I like the old lenses better

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MightyMike
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Re: Remeber, Sharpness is not everything !
In reply to leopold, 10 months ago

I totally agree, one of my favourite lenses for rendering is my Sigma 24mm F1.8, sure i prefer only using it at close ranges but its absolutely wonderful for rendering and suites my creativeness perfectly. Its not super sharp, it score pretty poorly on photozone but its bokeh at close range is second to none! its silky smooth transition both to and from focus is impressive and it allows for a wonderful depth and perspective. I also unlike many play with mirror lenses with great success, you just need to know how to use them right and how to edit out a lot of their weaknesses.

EDIT ADD: As your points about some lenses being the sharpest or not, well like many without trying for ourselves we only have reviews to go on for a lenses performance and the price point to compare it to. There are some lenses that don't get my personal stamp of approval, however I'm willing to have my mind changed if it can be.

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Ned-B
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Re: Remeber, Sharpness is not everything !
In reply to leopold, 10 months ago

"I’m always amused by the idea that certain people have about technique, which translate into an immoderate taste for the sharpness of the image. It is a passion for detail, for perfection, or do they hope to get closer to reality with this trompe I’oeil? They are, by the way, as far away from the real issues as other generations of photographers were when they obscured their subject in soft-focus effects."

Henri Cartier-Bresson

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EHDesigns
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Re: Remeber, Sharpness is not everything !
In reply to leopold, 10 months ago

A good discussion. So if all else on the IQ front is equal (call it "character"), then would a sharper lens be better? Or are sharper lenses not capable of passing the "character" test? Or have we just not yet seen a sharper lens that measures up?

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klimbkat
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Re: Remeber, Sharpness is not everything !
In reply to leopold, 10 months ago

Agree, Steeve - technical sharpness is only one of many factors to consider in a lens.  While a lens must be adequately sharp for many subjects, it is often the rendering, color, micro contrast, and frame evenness that matter more in the photo, not to mention thinks like size and weight.  Certain portrait lenses are designed to be "soft" while macro lenses are necessarily very sharp - everything else falls in between.  Many landscape photographers sacrifice overall sharpness for DOF, both at the native lens level and due to diffraction.  I've several shots from my DA 18-250 that have been printed to 20x30" and sold in galleries, and that is not a lens highly reputed for sharpness.

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jimrpdx
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Re: the "perfect" lens....
In reply to andrew britten, 10 months ago

andrew britten wrote:

brecklundin wrote:

Here the issue is not that sharpness is bad, it's not, but in evaluating a lens it is not now, should never be and really until modern times never was the sole criteria in judging a lens.

Again, I basically agree that sharpness is not the beginning and end of a good rendering.

Witness the Pentax lenses that don't do all that well in lab tests, but interpret scenes beautifully.

My enjoyment of the DA50-200WR is a fine example of this.  Love its color & consistently nice bokeh, but definitely not my sharpest weapon.

Water and cormorant, November 2010 (K-7 and DA50-200wr)


Water and cormorant, November 2010 with K-7 and 50-200wr

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andrew britten
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Re: the "perfect" lens....
In reply to jimrpdx, 10 months ago

jimrpdx wrote:

andrew britten wrote:

brecklundin wrote:

Here the issue is not that sharpness is bad, it's not, but in evaluating a lens it is not now, should never be and really until modern times never was the sole criteria in judging a lens.

Again, I basically agree that sharpness is not the beginning and end of a good rendering.

Witness the Pentax lenses that don't do all that well in lab tests, but interpret scenes beautifully.

My enjoyment of the DA50-200WR is a fine example of this. Love its color & consistently nice bokeh, but definitely not my sharpest weapon.

Yes, it does have a nice painterly look to it.

AB

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Rod McD
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Re: Remeber, Sharpness is not everything !
In reply to leopold, 10 months ago

Hi,

I agree absolutely - there are many lens characteristics in addition to sharpness.  OTOH, for any given task, I think the lens of choice depends a heck of a lot on your uses.....

People have mentioned that portraits may not fare so well if they are overly sharp.  Yes, there, it's not the key to a good image.  However, I'm an old large format man.  I'm interested in landscapes and sometimes architecture and do occasionally print big and sell.  So for my wide angle lenses I'm typically very interested in corner to corner sharpness.  OTOH it's not something that concerns me with longer lenses (say over 50mm FF FOV) because the composition is usually center dominant.  Horses for courses.

Two aspects I do look for in my lenses are lack of distortion and flare resistance.  I like my straight lines straight.  Fish-eyes are anathema!!  And I like my contra-light shots clean and flare free and my included suns and point sources with a nice clear star-burst - sort of 15/4-ish.  The modern religion of fast apertures tends to work against this - one has to hunt down just the right lenses and they're often a bit slower......

Regards, Rod

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Adam Aitken
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Re: Remeber, Sharpness is not everything !
In reply to SBS, 10 months ago

+2

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Adam Aitken
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Re: Remeber, Sharpness is not everything !
In reply to Ned-B, 10 months ago

Ned-B wrote:

"I’m always amused by the idea that certain people have about technique, which translate into an immoderate taste for the sharpness of the image. It is a passion for detail, for perfection, or do they hope to get closer to reality with this trompe I’oeil? They are, by the way, as far away from the real issues as other generations of photographers were when they obscured their subject in soft-focus effects."

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Love the quote Ned. Of course Cartier-Bresson was after a different kind of perfection - capturing a moment that seemed spontaneous in composition. I am fascinated by how black and white photographers created depth and contrast and learned how to produce the illusion of sharpness. Our generation are just getting spoiled by the technology and the ease with which we can change color, contrast hue, add any filter we like etc. Many have forgotten about texture, contrast, depth of field, and the actual soul of an image, its meaning, its associations and suggestiveness. Super sharpness in an image can impress, but without the other aspects it is just  - technical.

Adam A

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Adam Aitken
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Re: Ansel Adams had a take on the "perfect" lens....
In reply to brecklundin, 10 months ago

brecklundin wrote:

andrew britten wrote:

Not necessarily disagreeing, but where are these sharp lenses that are no good?

And know I am not arguing against sharpness as a portion of the criteria to evaluate a lens. I mean it has to capture enough detail to give you something with which to work, right? But it doesn't need to be perfectly sharp.

Enough detail as you need. That's a good standard and landscape and architectural shooters will need more than portraitists and street-shooters.

Food photography is an interesting thing - no corner sharpness needed at all as many now blur everything except  a small area around a small area of focus, since food that looks forensic close up doesn't always look appetizing.

Adam A

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