Too sharp lenses?

Started 2 months ago | Discussions
Holger Bargen Veteran Member • Posts: 3,662
Re: Too sharp lenses?

Wheatfield7 wrote:

Holger Bargen wrote:

A lens will never be too sharp - but sometimes sharpening of the cameras is too much and you end up with problems. It's much easier to sharpen a photo than to unsharpen it.

If we look at the comparison photos here at dpreview most of us (me too) are pixel peeping and we love the finer detail and the cameras that bring out the studio scene in the sharpest way.

I use Pentax cameras and they have a very soft rendering as default setting. I correct it in the menu as I like a better sharpness. But to be true: if you want to avoid problems with too much sharpness (let's say for portraits) you are better off with the softer default setting.

Best regards

Holger

I bought the D FA* 50/1.4 because you can never have a lens that is too sharp. So far it hasn't disappointed me in this regard.

I'm not shooting a lot of portraits these days, but when that was my thing, I preferred a lens with a softer rendering.

If you shoot RAW you will find a lot of options for post-processing where you can fine tune micro contrast at several levels. I like the dynamic contrast tool of ON1 and they also have a tool at the basic procedures part of the program where you can soften the photo if there is to much detail. Also the "simplify" opton of the blur tool may help.

You can reduce the impact of high resolution form a lens - but you will hardly be able to get rid of the artefacts a too strong sharpening from the camera adds to the photos.

Best regards

Holger

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MediaArchivist
MediaArchivist Veteran Member • Posts: 5,049
No.
2

I have never, ever, felt that a particular lens is "too sharp," and I have a number of them that test very highly for sharpness.

I also have lenses that are not particularly sharp. I pick and choose as appropriate for the scene I am shooting, the results I am aiming for, and (sometimes) the stated needs of whoever I am shooting for. Sharpness is sometimes the most important criteria, and sometimes it is not.

I could substitute "distortion free" or "flat focal plane" or any number of measurable (and a few unmeasurable) lens tests and the previous paragraph would read the same.

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khunpapa
khunpapa Senior Member • Posts: 2,362
Re: Too sharp lenses?

Gato Amarillo wrote:

In the olden days of film some photographers spoke of Leica lenses as "always sharp but never too sharp."

I find my newest lens a bit harsh when it comes to skin texture compared to the lens I used before. Both do a nice job of rendering detail such as hair and eyelashes but one brings out pores and blemishes more than the other.

So I guess you could say it is in a sense too sharp.

Gato

In some old Nikon's article I had read, the author explains about the sharp-but-soft 105mm portrait lens.

They (Nikon's lens engineer) deliberately design the (far) red wavelength to be out-of-focus. So while the overall image of the human subject is razor sharp, the skin is not.

##

To OP.

For nowadays lens, the classic example of "too sharp" lens is the classic Olympus ZD 50mm f/2 macro-portrait lens. There are many topic that people complaint about its [too much] sharp.

The mZD 75mm f/1.8 is almost being accused of its overt sharpness too.

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OP DeathArrow Senior Member • Posts: 1,051
Re: Too sharp lenses?

khunpapa wrote:

Gato Amarillo wrote:

In the olden days of film some photographers spoke of Leica lenses as "always sharp but never too sharp."

I find my newest lens a bit harsh when it comes to skin texture compared to the lens I used before. Both do a nice job of rendering detail such as hair and eyelashes but one brings out pores and blemishes more than the other.

So I guess you could say it is in a sense too sharp.

Gato

In some old Nikon's article I had read, the author explains about the sharp-but-soft 105mm portrait lens.

They (Nikon's lens engineer) deliberately design the (far) red wavelength to be out-of-focus. So while the overall image of the human subject is razor sharp, the skin is not.

##

To OP.

For nowadays lens, the classic example of "too sharp" lens is the classic Olympus ZD 50mm f/2 macro-portrait lens. There are many topic that people complaint about its [too much] sharp.

The mZD 75mm f/1.8 is almost being accused of its overt sharpness too.

Here is the second sharpest lens from Dxomark's database:

https://www.onportraits.com/sony-90mm-macro-review/

Is it too sharp for you?

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khunpapa
khunpapa Senior Member • Posts: 2,362
Re: Too sharp lenses?
3

DeathArrow wrote:

khunpapa wrote:

For nowadays lens, the classic example of "too sharp" lens is the classic Olympus ZD 50mm f/2 macro-portrait lens. There are many topic that people complaint about its [too much] sharp.

The mZD 75mm f/1.8 is almost being accused of its overt sharpness too.

Here is the second sharpest lens from Dxomark's database:

https://www.onportraits.com/sony-90mm-macro-review/

Is it too sharp for you?

I don't know. I am  the member of not-being-obssesed-by-sharpness cult. For me, content and message of the image are more important than sharpness. The no content, no meaning, ultra-sharp image is merely the waste electric energy.

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Krav Maga
Krav Maga Senior Member • Posts: 2,689
Re: Too sharp lenses?
1

Gato Amarillo wrote:

In the olden days of film some photographers spoke of Leica lenses as "always sharp but never too sharp."

I find my newest lens a bit harsh when it comes to skin texture compared to the lens I used before. Both do a nice job of rendering detail such as hair and eyelashes but one brings out pores and blemishes more than the other.

So I guess you could say it is in a sense too sharp.

Gato

In today's digital world there is no such thing as "too sharp" from a practical point. It's easy to deal with in post.

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khunpapa
khunpapa Senior Member • Posts: 2,362
Re: Too sharp lenses?

Krav Maga wrote:

Gato Amarillo wrote:

In the olden days of film some photographers spoke of Leica lenses as "always sharp but never too sharp."

I find my newest lens a bit harsh when it comes to skin texture compared to the lens I used before. Both do a nice job of rendering detail such as hair and eyelashes but one brings out pores and blemishes more than the other.

So I guess you could say it is in a sense too sharp.

Gato

In today's digital world there is no such thing as "too sharp" from a practical point. It's easy to deal with in post.

Ever try de-sharp the image from Foveon sensor?

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D Cox Forum Pro • Posts: 23,416
Re: Too sharp lenses?

khunpapa wrote:

Krav Maga wrote:

Gato Amarillo wrote:

In the olden days of film some photographers spoke of Leica lenses as "always sharp but never too sharp."

I find my newest lens a bit harsh when it comes to skin texture compared to the lens I used before. Both do a nice job of rendering detail such as hair and eyelashes but one brings out pores and blemishes more than the other.

So I guess you could say it is in a sense too sharp.

Gato

In today's digital world there is no such thing as "too sharp" from a practical point. It's easy to deal with in post.

Ever try de-sharp the image from Foveon sensor?

However, I haven't found a way to emulate spherical aberration, which is what is wanted.

Gato Amarillo Veteran Member • Posts: 5,981
Re: Too sharp lenses?

khunpapa wrote:

...

In some old Nikon's article I had read, the author explains about the sharp-but-soft 105mm portrait lens.

They (Nikon's lens engineer) deliberately design the (far) red wavelength to be out-of-focus. So while the overall image of the human subject is razor sharp, the skin is not.

Interesting. Now I'm thinking about how to emulate this in Photoshop.

##

To OP.

For nowadays lens, the classic example of "too sharp" lens is the classic Olympus ZD 50mm f/2 macro-portrait lens. There are many topic that people complaint about its [too much] sharp.

The mZD 75mm f/1.8 is almost being accused of its overt sharpness too.

FWIW, the lens I am complaining about it the Olympus 12-100 zoom, as compared to the Panasonic 12-60

Gato

Barry Twycross Contributing Member • Posts: 874
Re: Too sharp lenses?

Gato Amarillo wrote:

khunpapa wrote:

They (Nikon's lens engineer) deliberately design the (far) red wavelength to be out-of-focus. So while the overall image of the human subject is razor sharp, the skin is not.

Interesting. Now I'm thinking about how to emulate this in Photoshop.

Select only the red channel and try blur would be my thought.

You might be able to get really cleaver and difference the red and green channels to make a mask and only do that to the red channel where there's no green.

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Gato Amarillo Veteran Member • Posts: 5,981
Re: Too sharp lenses?

Barry Twycross wrote:

Gato Amarillo wrote:

khunpapa wrote:

They (Nikon's lens engineer) deliberately design the (far) red wavelength to be out-of-focus. So while the overall image of the human subject is razor sharp, the skin is not.

Interesting. Now I'm thinking about how to emulate this in Photoshop.

Select only the red channel and try blur would be my thought.

Already tried it -- blurred hair and lashes along with skin

You might be able to get really cleaver and difference the red and green channels to make a mask and only do that to the red channel where there's no green.

That sounds interesting -- probably too involved for me, but interesting.

Thanks

Gato

D Cox Forum Pro • Posts: 23,416
Re: Too sharp lenses?
1

Gato Amarillo wrote:

khunpapa wrote:

...

In some old Nikon's article I had read, the author explains about the sharp-but-soft 105mm portrait lens.

They (Nikon's lens engineer) deliberately design the (far) red wavelength to be out-of-focus. So while the overall image of the human subject is razor sharp, the skin is not.

Interesting. Now I'm thinking about how to emulate this in Photoshop.

Display the channels (Window menu), select the red channel, and apply a bit of blur. Click back on the RGB and save.

Tuonov2 Senior Member • Posts: 1,115
Re: Too sharp lenses?
2

When I was younger I was riding my pushbike and my camera fell out of my back pack, it was dragged along the road by the strap when it caught on the derailleur as it fell.

The (metal) lens was abraded so much that when I tried to remove it from the camera I cut my hand, that lens was far too sharp for my liking....

fPrime
fPrime Senior Member • Posts: 2,852
Modern full frame lenses are indeed too sharp
5

Here's a different tack than the one taken by the OP, but hear me out.

I do think modern full frame lens design has drifted too far towards optimizing sharpness over price/weight and other lens rendering qualities. Compared to what, you ask? Well, just a decade ago we had DSLR's with 6-12MP resolution that worked great with modestly-sized (and priced) lenses like Nikon's AF-D series of primes.

But Canikony basically couldn't innovate cameras beyond adding more resolution so now we have full frame resolutions that fall between 24-50MP. Previously this sort of resolution belonged primarily to medium format. The problem is that in order to squeeze this much resolution into full frame, Canikony had to optimize their full frame lenses for sharpness over all other considerations.

Lens design is basically an exercise in trade-offs. Although a lens can be created with as few as two or three elements, its optical aberrations are likely to be high and its corners wide open will be soft. To correct a sufficient number of aberrations for older DSLR's, older primes typically used 6-9 elements depending on focal length. This led to compact, lightweight designs that were inexpensive as well.

Designing lenses optimized for high resolution full frame sensors, however, requires more corrected optics which increase sharpness by reducing aberrations. Additional elements are needed to reduce aberrations, bring corners into better focus when shooting wide open, and to better blur the OOF background. Typical modern primes consequently use 12-15 elements. All of this additional glass adds to the monster weight, size, and cost of these lenses.

Unfortunately many modern lenses also pay a price in rendering compared to their older predecessors. This is because the more glass there is in the barrel, the more the light is degraded before it hits the sensor. Low-level tonal resolution, otherwise known as microcontrast, is one of the first casualties. Without being able to transmit as much microcontrast, many modern lenses can render images that look decidedly clinical, sterile, and flatter.

Here is where I find some older lenses are still better... because of their simpler designs many of them still render more microcontrast and 3D Pop than modern glass. Lens sharpness is a good thing, but to prioritize it over microcontrast is a crime. To balance the two would obviously limit full frame resolution to its 12MP sweet spot, however, and I can just hear people arguing that would be a crime.

Yet, this is when I would counter that high resolution imaging be left to medium format. There the larger sensor format allows for more balanced lens designs as sharpness need not be driven as hard as it is being currently being driven in full frame. Unfortunately people want to have their pie and eat it too. So here we sit with 50MP full frame DSLR's and monster lenses that render very "digitally" compared to a decade ago.

fPrime

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J A C S
J A C S Forum Pro • Posts: 14,137
Re: Too sharp lenses?
1

It could lead to worse aliasing. This is a property of the lens and the body, not just the lens.

Gato Amarillo Veteran Member • Posts: 5,981
Re: Too sharp lenses?

D Cox wrote:

Gato Amarillo wrote:

khunpapa wrote:

...

In some old Nikon's article I had read, the author explains about the sharp-but-soft 105mm portrait lens.

They (Nikon's lens engineer) deliberately design the (far) red wavelength to be out-of-focus. So while the overall image of the human subject is razor sharp, the skin is not.

Interesting. Now I'm thinking about how to emulate this in Photoshop.

Display the channels (Window menu), select the red channel, and apply a bit of blur. Click back on the RGB and save.

Already tried it -- didn't work that well.

Gato Amarillo Veteran Member • Posts: 5,981
LOL -- NT

Tuonov2 wrote:

When I was younger I was riding my pushbike and my camera fell out of my back pack, it was dragged along the road by the strap when it caught on the derailleur as it fell.

The (metal) lens was abraded so much that when I tried to remove it from the camera I cut my hand, that lens was far too sharp for my liking....

Barry Twycross Contributing Member • Posts: 874
Re: Too sharp lenses?

Gato Amarillo wrote:

D Cox wrote:

Gato Amarillo wrote:

khunpapa wrote:

...

In some old Nikon's article I had read, the author explains about the sharp-but-soft 105mm portrait lens.

They (Nikon's lens engineer) deliberately design the (far) red wavelength to be out-of-focus. So while the overall image of the human subject is razor sharp, the skin is not.

Interesting. Now I'm thinking about how to emulate this in Photoshop.

Display the channels (Window menu), select the red channel, and apply a bit of blur. Click back on the RGB and save.

Already tried it -- didn't work that well.

I'm wondering if having two red layers, blurring one, and blending them in some proportion might work. That way you have a core of focussed with some soft.

On the other hand there may just not be the information needed in the RGB data.

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Gato Amarillo Veteran Member • Posts: 5,981
Re: Too sharp lenses?

Barry Twycross wrote:

Gato Amarillo wrote:

D Cox wrote:

Gato Amarillo wrote:

khunpapa wrote:

...

In some old Nikon's article I had read, the author explains about the sharp-but-soft 105mm portrait lens.

They (Nikon's lens engineer) deliberately design the (far) red wavelength to be out-of-focus. So while the overall image of the human subject is razor sharp, the skin is not.

Interesting. Now I'm thinking about how to emulate this in Photoshop.

Display the channels (Window menu), select the red channel, and apply a bit of blur. Click back on the RGB and save.

Already tried it -- didn't work that well.

I'm wondering if having two red layers, blurring one, and blending them in some proportion might work. That way you have a core of focussed with some soft.

On the other hand there may just not be the information needed in the RGB data.

Might work. My current home-grown portrait action works by blurring a duplicate image layer, then adjusting opacity and blend mode. One could probably do something similar with the red channel.

KLO82 Senior Member • Posts: 1,191
Re: Too sharp lenses?
2

Don't know about photography, but in the world of cinema they often say that some lenses are too sharp for shooting actors/ people, and they have demand for lenses which are kinder to human face. In moviemaking, too sharp is synonymous to (broadcast) video aka "digital" look and they try to avoid that. 4k videos are usually much sharper than 4k movies.

Have you seen the press release of the newly introduced Sumire primes from Canon? In the press release they wrote: "Pronounced“Soo-mee-ray,” the word is of Japanese origin and is associated with a floral gentleness and beauty. Sumire Prime Lenses offer a unique artistically pleasing look with gentle and beautiful skin tones and smooth bokeh, designed for use with large-sensor cinema cameras, including 35mm full-frame cameras such as the EOS C700FF Cinema Camera. In addition to bright T-stops and Canon’s renowned warm-color imagery, a unique optical design introduces a nuanced look as the lens aperture approaches its maximum setting - subtly modifying the textural renderings of the human face closeup. “Sumire in Japan is the name of a flower, and like the petals of a flower, our lenses are most beautiful when fully opened. This is the inspiration behind the Sumire look,” said Kazuto Ogawa, president and COO, Canon U.S.A., Inc. “The feedback from cinematographers is crucial and their voices have beenheard loud and clear – they asked Canon to introduce a set of PL-mount cinema prime lenses. We went a step further and our new Sumire Prime Lenses produce the beautifully cinematic and unique images professionals desire."

What all those words mean is, the lenses have very high degree of uncorrected spherical aberrations when used at wide apertures, which gives very soft look. This was done intentionally to beautify people in front of the camera. Once stopped down a bit, these lenses are as sharp as regular prime lenses. You can see the example of the softness of these lenses compared to regular Canon cine primes here.

Also in the press release of Panavision Primo V lenses, Panavision wrote: " “Cinematographers tell us that the hyper-sharp sensors in today’s digital cameras can result in images that are harsh and lack personality,” says Panavision’s VP of Optical Engineering Dan Sasaki. “That’s one reason why there’s so much emphasis on glass these days. The Primo V lenses bring the smooth, organic flavor of Primo lenses to the high fidelity digital image. Our philosophy is to take what cinematographers love about the Primos, and update them for the digital world.” " In other words these lenses were made to look a bit less sharp.

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