Sharpness, just another hype?

Started Jun 25, 2012 | Discussions thread
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amalric Forum Pro • Posts: 10,839
Sharpness, just another hype?

One of the most boring things of newbies, next to the Hunt for the Creamy Bokeh, is the hunt of absolute sharpness, with a flurry of comparative samples down to the last pixel.

Most however ignore that sharpness is a relative concept. See here:

It has two components: resolution, and acutance. There is never enough resolution in you camera and lenses, OK, but what about acutance, is it related with microcontrast?

Some or most lenses have average resolution but good microcontrast. Therefore they work better than what the resolution charts show.

Moreover, and this is the central argument, if one works with perspective i.e. with DOF, only one single plane will be in true focus.

What matters however is what comes before and after the focus plane . See here, the simplest diagram I could find:

What matters here. with resolution a given of your system, is acceptable sharpness , what comes before and after the focus plane. This interval you increase by narrowing the aperture, say to f/8.

Most lenses are excellent at that aperture, notably the 17/2,8, tack sharp from edge to edge. So say you want everything in focus to the horizon. At f/8 according to hyperfocal tables everything will be in focus from 2.5 m to Infinity, if you take a focus reading one third of the way.

It will be in focus, but only acceptably so.

So the quality of your lens at full aperture is never questioned most of the time. Real photography is not pixel peeping, it's not Abbott's flatland. It is composing in depth, by perspective.

By selecting the relevant aperture you can create intervals of sharpness and relate the objects in that interval. There will be only one plane in perfect focus, but that will hardly matter when you compose. You do that by relating objects.

Not only by sharpness, but also by colour and by tones.

Therefore it will come as no surprise that the matter is related with 'the 'infamous' article on bokeh at TOP:

"I've enjoyed "demystifying" various aspects of photography—Oren Grad's nice word for it—and I've gone through various "phases," or fads, or preoccupations, or obsessions through the years. The most obvious one, and one most people arrive at early in their involvement with their own photography, is with sharpness. That didn't last all that long for me. Sharpness (slash, resolution) doesn't interest me much; in my opinion it ruins as many photographs as it makes.

"And yet, people might be amused to learn that I shoot with Micro 4/3 mainly because I think it's just about perfect for depth of field. That is, it gives the best balance of large-sensor advantages and smaller-sensor d.o.f characteristics. It's just really a luxury to be able to get such good d.o.f. with relatively wide apertures.

"And I hardly ever shoot with any lenses wide open. (And with some lenses, never.) It's just too easy for me to see the aberrations that are always most evident at the widest apertures."

A last consideration. Since all my lenses are good at f/8 I also realised I had a curiosity Toy Cameras, so I got a plastic fixed lens Yashica worth a few dozen bucks, the EZ F521. It had not even a focus ring. but it looked like a toy, and therefore it fooled these teddy boys :


My star shotat flickr and a great case for Hyperfocal shooting, does sharpness matter that much?


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Panasonic Lumix DMC-F5
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