Micro-contrast and the 14 2.5

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by tl1234, Feb 9, 2013.

  1. tl1234

    tl1234 Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 5, 2013
    I've been reading about how the 14 Panasonic could have better micro contrast compared to the 12mm.

    I have the 14mm now and I want to compare its micro contrast ability to a lens know to better it. I have the Oly 45 and 75 on loan now and I was wondering if this can be a sensible comparison of micro contrast.

    Two questions:
    1. Can I even compare?
    2. How should I do it?

    Thanks a million!
  2. RevBob

    RevBob Super Moderator

    Jun 4, 2011
    NorthWestern PA
    Real Name:
    Excellent question. I see the occasional comment about micro contrast but wouldn't begin to know how to measure it or even what to look for in a comparison. I'm looking forward to someone explaining it. :cool:
  3. zapatista

    zapatista Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 19, 2012
    Denver, Colorado, USA
    Real Name:
    See, micro contrast is just like contrast, only smaller...
    Honestly, this is one area where I'm woefully ignorant too. I know on the Sony bodies, you can adjustment micro contrast of certain lenses, that's where my knowledge begins and ends.
  4. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Take a photo containing fine, textural details, eg an image of sand, soil, a textured wall, flower petal, sidewalk, etc. A lens with greater microcontrast will show greater contrast between adjacent tones in the finely detailed regions when viewed at high magnification. Two lenses may capture the same total amount of detail (the micro structures are resolved to the same extent), but one may look sharper because of the greater microcontrast which makes those resolved details more apparent.

    From an image standpoint, both overall contrast and microcontrast can be increased by sharpening in post.
    • Like Like x 4
  5. atmo

    atmo Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 11, 2013
    What is micro contrast a result of?
  6. zpierce

    zpierce Super Moderator

    Sep 26, 2010
    Minneapolis, MN
    Real Name:
    I don't have a clue how to measure it, but I can say that I rarely use my 14 because it feels less contrasty / more washed out than my other primes for what it's worth. Still as good or better than the zooms I've had but not nearly as good as the 25 and both 45s I've had. With that said, I don't think the 14s strength is in being stellar optically, it's good optically but super convenient and inexpensive. I haven't use the 12 but I'd expect/hope that it's in another's league at 4x the price.
  7. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Never done this but here's an idea

    * Use a resolution chart or maybe its better for a highly textured surface?
    * Take photo... same conditions same camera etc.. with both lenses.
    * RAW of course. Turn off any in camera sharpening etc... which enhance micro contrast for perceived sharpness
    * Bring both into Photoshop
    * Apply "Find edges" filter
    * see at what point the filter fails to find the edges.
    • Like Like x 3
  8. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 14, 2012
    New Mexico
    Real Name:
    I have to confess that I now use the recently acquired Topaz labs Detail plugin to goose the micro contrast in images if I feel it is appropriate. I know we live in an age where more contrast is usually seen as better, but I do miss some of the great lenses from the 50's that resolved lots of detail but which were not as contrasty as later lenses. There is a smoothness to the tonal transitions in the images those lenses give that is very appealing. So, while I love my PL25mm, and my Oly 45mm, I find micro-contrast one of those preoccupations du jour that don't really engage me. Generally, if contrast can be gained later, a lens with less contrast and lots of resolving power would be my ideal. It's why I avoided late model Fuji and Nikon large format lenses when I was shooting 4x5. The older Schneiders gave me much more what I wanted.
    • Like Like x 2
  9. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    microcontrast has diddly to do with resolution per se, and a resolution chart isn't going to help at all. It's generally a catch-all term for describing lens character and rendering.

    None of the MFT lenses I have are particularly unique in terms of micro-contrast. The 45 is possibly the sharpest, but is 'just' really sharp. My adapted contax/zeiss glass has very rich micro contrast that just does wonders for both black and white and color imagery of people and landscapes. Adapter leica (R) is 'smoother' and less punchy, but equally arresting. Just...different.

    Can't say the 14/2.5 is particularly exciting in that regard; the only AF lenses I've had that sort of 'wow' rendering from are the 35L, sigma 50/1.4 and 135L for Canon. The Oly 75 and PL 25 look promising, though.
  10. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Your response would make sense if and only if I was suggesting resolution as the intent of me suggesting a resolution chart.

    I'm not.... :-/

    It contains a uniform pattern at the edges of the frame that can be examined for a variety of reasons... not just resolution.
  11. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    Yes, but I find it's too easy to get distracted by the resolution aspects on the black and white charts, and miss the character of a lens. Zeiss 50/1.4 wide open = looks great for people and nature shots that don't require crazy sharpness, and is only 'good' when you point it at a chart.

    I think my point is that charts won't tell you if the lens 'works' for you. Shooting a good photo will.
  12. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    why dont you just answer the OP instead..... I hate pissing contests with people I dont know.

    one, It was a suggestion I explicitly said I have not performed.

    two, I did mentioned maybe a textured wall would be better

    three, what's your contribution?

    four... shooting a good photo in a non controlled environment wont be helpful in controlled experiment

    its easier to pick on people's responses and yet contribute nothing.... and if you do it out of some sort of self assurance... then you gotta figure that out on your own.

    move on...
  13. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    Dude, chill. Nobody's attacking you. It's a forum. I have a tendency to state things in fairly absolute ways, because the fact it's my opinion is implied. I'm truly sorry if it came across differently.

    Summary version of my response to the OP's questions:
    1. What Amin Said. I think a portrait will do (skin textures, eyes, eyelashes, and so forth). I personally don't think 'scientific' methods will help a great deal, since 'micro contrast' tends to be used to describe how a particular lens 'draws' or 'renders' an image, and my most 'contrasty' 50mm is also one of my 'softest' wide open. And thus won't work all that well (wide open) with a test chart. I also gave a few examples of lenses I consider to have great (Zeiss) to good (a few Canon L's, a Sigma, and based on samples I've seen, Oly's 75 and the PL 25, but I don't own the latter two).
    2. Ergo, go out and shoot something with nice light, with a couple of different lenses. Compare the results.
  14. napilopez

    napilopez Contributing Editor

    Feb 21, 2012
    NYC Area
    Real Name:
    Napier Lopez
    I agreee. Microcontrast, whatever it means it hard to measure. I've said before that I find the 20mm to be noticeably sharper than the 25mm in resolution, but the 25mm looks sharper at most smaller viewing sizes because of the increased microcontrast. It simply renders better to most people. Leica designed lenses in general tend to be exceptional in this area.

    The 45mm has very neutral microcontrast.

    My Canon FD 50mm f1.4, particularly at narrower apertures has what i consider to be pretty good microcontrast, even if not the best "macrocontrast". Idk, it's weird.