New Olympus 17mm 1.8

Started Mar 7, 2014 | Discussions thread
Anders W Forum Pro • Posts: 21,468
Re: New Olympus 17mm 1.8

tt321 wrote:

Anders W wrote:

amtberg wrote:

Anders W wrote:

texinwien wrote:

Anders W wrote:

Jolly Oly wrote:

By your standards this is very unscientific and shallow I guess.

Ming says: "The 20/1.7 has the highest overall scene contrast, but the 17/1.8 wins out in microcontrast and reproduction of fine detail structures – personally, I prefer this as it gives me more latitude for processing before the shadows and highlights block up."

My comment: It's clearly evident from Ming's samples that the 20 does better with respect to global contrast and microcontrast (the contrast between smaller details) alike. When Ming says that he has "more latitude for processing [with the 17] before the shadows and highlights block up" he means that he can apply more sharpening. But the point here is that the 20 simply needs less sharpening by virtue of having more microcontrast in the first place. And not having to sharpen (much) is preferable on all counts. It doesn't increase the noise level and yields a cleaner, more natural look.

Ming's conclusion about microcontrast seems bizarre to me, in light of his 100% comparison crops. The superiority of the 20mm f/1.7 in terms of sharpness and microcontrast is plain as the light of day (to me) in his samples. It's hard to understand how he could look at the same comparison photos and reach the conclusion he did.

I've always found that completely incomprehensible too. It is extremely clear to my eyes that the 20 does noticeably better in his samples not only with regard to global contrast but also with regard to sharpness/microcontrast. I've seen similar differences in other places as well, but this is about the clearest example I am aware of, yet with the wrong conclusion drawn by the reviewer. Truly ironic.

Another ironic fact is that Jolly Olly is certainly not the first to refer to this review to support the claim that the 17/1.8 is superior to the 20/1.7. Happens all the time. So quite a few are willing to buy the views of the "expert" although it is there for everyone to see that "the emperor is naked". And if they don't manage to see what is actually going on here, what reason do we have to pay any attention to their subjective impressions of their own images.

I think that some people use "microcontrast" in the same way that others use "that 3D look", i.e. it's put forth as a quality that argues in favor of the lens they prefer when the objective measurements favor the other lens.

I am afraid you might be right about that. I get the impression that many people don't realize that resolution and microcontrast (as the latter term should properly be used) are inherently linked in logical terms, and that whenever we talk about the one we are implicitly talking about the other as well.

Looking at the comparison examples in MT's review, it would seem that the 20/1.7 offers a higher colour saturation (at least in the reds and in the centre of the frame) than the other two lenses. Same body, assuming exactly the same processing and therefore this is only the lenses differing, would this have anything to do with 'microcontrast'?

The effect on the color that you see in that image is an effect of contrast/microcontrast, yes. More contrast gives better color, but it is not really a matter of "saturation" (although I think I understand perfectly well what you mean when you say that). You can see the difference clearly when you PP. Increasing contrast gives deeper as well as crisper color that I often find attractive. Increasing saturation usually doesn't, so I typically leave the saturation slider alone.

Very clear examples of how it works out can be found by looking at foliage with a good and a bad lens (or the same lens but at different apertures, if there is a significant sharpness difference between them). With a good lens, the green will be fresh and crisp. With a bad lens, it will look like a dark-green mush. I'll see if I can find some good examples for you later. Don't have the time right now.

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