Bokeh comparison between Sigma, Otus and Nikkor 58mm

Started Apr 19, 2014 | Discussions thread
TQGroup Senior Member • Posts: 1,315
Re: Bokeh comparison between Sigma, Otus and Nikkor 58mm

David Whysong wrote:

TQGroup wrote:

David, your gear list shows you own some incredibly fine glass... surely you can see more in an image than just "sharpness"?

Perhaps you could help me understand your opinion better by precisely explaining what you mean when you say "the lens is not sharp"?

Thank you


You were looking at my gear *wishlist*. I have a Nikon 180 AF, 85 1.4D, 85 1.8G, and a Sigma 35 Art. Those also qualify as nice glass, but it's not what you saw in the gear list.

Sharpness isn't everything one might want from a lens, but a sufficiently sharp focal plane is the most fundamental requirement of a lens.

Down-sampling is nothing more than throwing away resolution that the lens failed to deliver.

I love some of the pictures I've seen posted here from the 58, but I don't think its image quality is any better than the old Sigma 50 which costs about 4x less, achieves better sharpness, and provides similarly excellent bokeh.

I see a lot of people making claims related to bokeh quality of the Sigma vs. Otus vs. 58mm, but it's almost impossible to properly judge without a side-by-side comparison. Here we have one, and while there is a visible difference in bokeh, none appear perfect in this example. (On further inspection, I do see differences between the Zeiss and Sigma; I'd say the Sigma looks a bit better but it's a close call.) However the 58mm is noticeably unsharp even in this very low-resolution image!


Thanks for the comprehensive response, David... and I wish that your "wishlist" becomes your "gearlist" very soon.

I agree with a lot of what you write but I do see a dichotomy.

You very rightly say; "Sharpness isn't everything one might want from a lens, but a sufficiently sharp focal plane is the most fundamental requirement of a lens".

Then, your last sentence says; "However the 58mm is noticeably unsharp even in this very low-resolution image!"

In my prior post I wrote: "Perhaps you could help me understand your opinion better by precisely explaining what you mean when you say "the lens is not sharp"?"

Can you see my challenge? It is how to accurately interpret your concept of "sufficiently* sharp focal plane"! (* my underscoring and italicization)

To me, the concept of "lens sharpness" is totally subjective and totally dependent on the situation being shot and the desired result. It is quite different to a lens "potential sharpness".

The concept of "potential lens sharpness" in a laboratory setting under controlled conditions and at a distance of 40 X the focal length, etc, etc is of academic interest for the most part as virtually all good quality modern lenses are sharp enough for all but the most demanding assignments. And those who get those assignments know what they need and why they need it.

In fact, I am starting to believe that MTF, as in MTF Chart, is really an abbreviation of Meaningless, Titillating and FUDing

Meaningless: MTF charts are shot of a flat subject, usually black & white over distances of 40 X focal length or so from heavy tripods with remote releases, mirror-up for 4 seconds under controlled and even lighting conditions, etc, etc. Honestly, now who actually takes pictures like that in real life! Further, the results of these "tests" may or may not translate over longer distances...

Titillating: Oh, but these MTF-type sharpness scores are a "tease", aren't they. Professional testing sites, they know who they are, proudly proclaim that lens X is the sharpest that they have ever tested, etc, etc. Unfortunately, photographers with less experience can actually fall for this "dance of the seven veils" that can cloak a lens true performance in "real life" shooting situations. After all, why does each annual "Guinness Book of Records" sell so well. We all want to know what is "best".

FUDing: I first can across the term FUD at IBM. It stands for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt and it was used, and still is used very effectively to "cloud and pervade" people's thinking away from an alternative option. Less experienced photographers use "chart scores" to justify their decisions and to attack others different decisions. The less experienced "fear" about going against a prevailing opinion of a lens, even though they know it might not actually suit what they want.

In fact, it can take real courage to overcome this uncertainty caused and go against the trend and, for example, buy a Nikon 58 F1.4G when many are screaming that their much cheaper 50 F1.8G is actually "sharper". And, of course, they get this "data" from "lens reviews, scores and charts"! Believe me, FUD does work!

For the record, I own the 58 F1.4 and 50 F1.8G Nikons. They are two totally different lenses for two totally different applications.

The 58 renders hauntingly beautiful and whimsical "three dimensional-like" images that people absolutely adore.This is achieved by a very deft and brilliantly executed series of deliberate lens imperfections together conspiring to produce stunning image rendering that changes with each F-stop. IMHO, this lens is a masterpiece for its intended function as described by Nikon in its pre-release blurb.

The 50 F1.8 is a classic "nifty-fifty" that records quite faithfully everyday scenes and life, particularly street. It is small, light, fast and cheap... a winning combination for everyday use.

Both these lenses are more than sharp enough for my intended display purposes, viz; 4K UHD TV (8mpx) and 36 x 24 inch prints. Sadly, as I don't shoot billboards anymore, I don't need any more "sharpness!"

David, I believe you may have a predisposition towards apparent "ultimate sharpness" and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. May I also say I can understand your position but I do not share it for most of my photography.

Perhaps I can pose you a challenge: what is more important to your photography; image "recording" or image "rendering"?

Vive la difference!

 TQGroup's gear list:TQGroup's gear list
Nikon D500 Nikon D850 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 10-24mm f/3-5-4.5G ED Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm F4G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED +24 more
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