What's the quality that gives some lenses (like Minolta G) a "3D" look?

Started Jan 29, 2013 | Discussions thread
Tom2572 Senior Member • Posts: 1,129
Re: What's the quality that gives some lenses (like Minolta G) a "3D" look?

I've been on a quest to find the answer to this as well, and while I get over my head quite quickly on the science behind it, there are a couple of misconceptions with the word "contrast" when it comes to lenses, and the contrast that we think of with a modern lens with modern coatings is not the same contrast that helps to create that 3d effect. Take the below image from the Library of Congress. There is no way you can call the undoubtedly un-coated lens used to take this photo a "high contrast" lens, in fact the whole image is quite low in contrast, yet the 3d effect is readily apparent.

Resolution also has a part in this because what people think of as sharp these days is actually just high contrast, and lens makers are more than happy to exploit this misconception which has brought us to an age of ultra-coated high contrast lenses that people mistake as being sharp.

So, put this together and the secret sauce is actually a low contrast lens with high resolution. Which, when you think about it makes perfect sense why some of those older Minolta lenses seem to have that "look". It's also why a lot of those early 20th century pictorialist photos have that look.

There's a pretty good Luminous Landscape article that goes deeper into contrast though it doesn't really touch on 3d.


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