How real is rendering differences between the lenses?

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AlmostDoctor Regular Member • Posts: 486
How real is rendering differences between the lenses?
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Lens in a digital camera captures light then projects them onto the pixels on the sensor.

So it's not difficult to imagine how the light goes through the lens can affect how it is translated to the information in each pixel, which affects the rendering of the final output.

The question is, how much difference does it actually make in how we perceive the images?

Do different lenses produce perceptible differences in rendering given the same focal length and aperture as long as the sharpness is similar? Or do the final output vary beyond the sharpness numbers? Does it depend largely on the scenes and amount of OOF areas in the image? (I personally expect that the renderings will vary more greatly in scenes that include the combination of shadows, complex three dimensional subjects and textures, and wide range of color gradations because the lenses will likely vary more in how they project these light information on to the sensor.)

There's of course other standard lens qualities, like sharpness, chromatic abrasion, fringing, contrast, vignetting, bokeh to consider.

Personally, I often feel that the output from my 12-35II feel punchier and more "in your face" than a 12-32 even when using the same aperture settings. But it is rare for me to shoot these lenses side by side so it could very well be a confirmation bias. As far as the sharpness goes, they should be pretty similar in the center. Is the difference I think I see real or imagined? If real, is it caused by the subtle difference in sharpness, evenness of sharpness across the frame, transmission, or something else?

What do you guys think? Do you feel that you have lenses that renders differently even though spec wise they are very similar? (for example, I'm particularly interested in Oly 12-40 vs 12-45 vs 12-100, or say Lumix 12-60 vs PL 12-60 etc.) Do you think it's mostly a function of the sharpness and aperture, or is there something else that contributes to the images? (bokeh quality? subtle distortion?)

By the way, I discovered that one of the reasons why I enjoy my PL 15 is the natural and subtle vignetting it adds to its images. I like it so much that I turned off the shading compensation on my EM5III. Sure you could always add it in post, but it comes out all so perfectly from that lens that there's no reason for me to try to mess with it. It's part of the uniqueness of that lens that I actually really enjoy.

Beyond the vignetting, I quite like the rendering of that lens in general, as well as my 20mm. But I often shoot both of those wide open so it could just be the wide aperture/bokeh that I'm enjoying. (But I'm not a huge fan of 42.5 F1.7. It's a good lens, sharp and smooth. I just kind of felt that the images come out rather flat and boring, but maybe I'm just not a fan of that focal length. I just never really get that excited from the images from that lens.)

One of the main reasons why I brought this topic up is because I often feel that the images I see from 12-100 particularly pleasing (I don't own this lens, but I have considered it and looked at many many images from this lens). But when I look at the MTF chart, it's not far more impressive that 12-40, 12-35, or even some sharp kit zooms in certain focal length. Yet I've often found that the images I've seen from that lens just seem to have certain pleasant quality that I can't quite put a finger on. Again, it's entirely possible that the people who primarily shoot with that lens are skilled and dedicated photographers that know how to process the photos very well. Or that I'm just projecting my own biases and it's actually not different at all from other lenses of its class. But I feel like there's something there, and the number of people who swear by that lens even though the MTF chars and spec sheet doesn't quite put it over other lenses, might mean that that lens offer something special beyond convenience.

Thoughts?

 AlmostDoctor's gear list:AlmostDoctor's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85 Olympus E-M5 III Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F4 ASPH Panasonic Lumix G Vario 45-150mm F4-5.6 ASPH Mega OIS +7 more
Panasonic Lumix G 42.5mm F1.7
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