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Sharpness

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by dixeyk, Jun 3, 2011.

  1. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    I have been reading quite a lot about lenses. I see a good many posts about this lens or that lens being sharp or not sharp enough. I have also been following a very interesting thread on seriouscompacts about what constitutes the "Leica look".

    I am not a professional and to be frank I am sure I know less about photography than most. That said, I look at my photos and I see some stuff that I like and other stuff that I do not. For instance, for a time last year I had collected a number of very nice Konica lenses. I found that I didn't particularly like the images they gave me. They were very sharp and contrasty but to my eye they were not that appealing. I am not in a position to say whether or not they were good but simply that I didn't care for them on my m43 bodies. Since then I have found that I quite like old Zuiko lenses. I have a 28/2.8, 50/1.8 and 100/2.8 and all of them produce lovely images. They certainly aren't that sharpest lenses I have used but I find the images they produce quite pleasing.

    This brings me to the big question...what do you look for in a lens? Are you someone that want is super sharp or is it something else you are looking for in a lens?

    For instance...I find these images pleasing

    OM 100/2.8
    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dixeyk/5784425551/" title="After the Rain by dixeyk, on Flickr"> 5784425551_76e063b688_b. "1024" height="768" alt="After the Rain"></a>

    Helios 44M
    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dixeyk/5079640029/" title="Blue Spruce by dixeyk, on Flickr"> 5079640029_9c6483f1ca_b. "1024" height="768" alt="Blue Spruce"></a>

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dixeyk/5080234834/" title="Summer's End by dixeyk, on Flickr"> 5080234834_f73390dda6_b. "1024" height="768" alt="Summer's End"></a>

    Interestingly, none of them is amazingly sharp but there is something that I quite like about them (the shot of the Blue Spruce especially so).
     
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  2. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Your optics have a lot to do with color and exposure, as well as sharpness. :) I think one of the key elements of a good lens is the color it produces.
     
  3. My Canon new FD lenses are generally a touch sharper but I find my OM Zuikos to be smoother in the out-of-focus areas. Can't really say if I prefer one brand over the other.
     
  4. ismailfaruqi

    ismailfaruqi Mu-43 Regular

    33
    Apr 17, 2010
    Osaka, Japan
    In my case it depends on what I'm shooting...

    If it is landscape yes I can be pretty anal about sharpnezzz... in DxO measurbator term the blur index (or whatever) my upper limit is perhaps about 2... I use every mean possible to achieve that < 2 blur unit... technically it means low iso, remote release, lugging tripod, bean bag, setting optimal aperture, etc... of course purple/red fringing and field curvature could also ruin sharpness so I avoid lenses with those bad traits...

    If someone with a MILC/DSLR says that sharpness is not important in landscape I asked back then why you're lugging these DSLR instead of carrying 16MP 2/3" compacts that has NR splatted everywhere at base ISO... at landscape sharpness can be 2nd or 3rd important after composition color dr etc but not important it is not...
     
  5. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    Northumberland
    I would hazard a guess that you find these three especially pleasing at least partly because of the smoothness of the blurred background.
    I'm not going to use the forbidden word.
     
  6. Hikari

    Hikari Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2010
    There are two basic attributes to an image a lens produces--resolving power and contrast. When you design a lens, you are only able to optimize for one of those, but not both. Optical designers will chose something in between those extremes.

    Sharpness is a subjective term. And maximizing resolving power does not mean the image will look sharper, even though it will have more detail. As sensor size and pixel pitch decreases, you need to optimize more and more toward resolving power. The contrast will be reduced. You will find with adapted lenses, while you are not getting the same level of detail, you are getting more contrast. Since sharpness is our perception of edges, you simply are preferring the extra contrast over the detail.

    The Leica look is a factor of badly designed lenses that exhibit spherical aberration. They are getting better with their modern designs.
     
  7. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    Funny...yes, I suppose the smooth bokeh is part of what appeals to me. I do find busy bokeh distracting.
     
  8. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    SoCal
    LOL ... I always felt my Leica lenses were pieces of crap ... wouldn't use them for the bottom of Coke bottles.

    I first look for my perception of sharpness then bokeh and finally price ... maybe price is first.

    G
     
  9. Hikari

    Hikari Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2010
    I thought the red dot was first, then price...
     
  10. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    WOW...how long before the Leica faithful show up at your house?

    The more I play with my lenses the more I am starting to understand what I find pleasing in an image...not that anyone else will find the same things appealing but at least I'll know. Like my Dad used to say "your opinion is very valuable...that an .25 will get you a cup of coffee".

    Of all my lenses at the moment (and I don't have that many) I am finding I am most pleased with the images of my Olympus lenses and my Helios 44. I can't go as far as to say ALL Olympus lenses because I only have 3 of them (and of course I know that FSU lenses can vary wildly lens to lens) but the ones I have seem to be turning out consistently pleasing results. I am curious about the appeal of Leica lenses however. I have NO experience with them so I cannot say anything other than some of the images I have seen look great (or course than can be said of nearly any lens). On the seriouscompacts "Leica look" thread, a few posters (as I am understanding it) mention the importance of the process and the skill of the photographer being a large part of the "look" and the fact that one commits a significant amount of resources to a Leica setup establishes a certain level of commitment in the photographer. If that is the case then it would stand to reason that the "Leica look" is less about the gear than the photographer and that look (being more about choices made by the photographer when creating the image) is achievable with any decent gear. Sound reasonable or am I totally missing the point?
     
  11. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    SoCal
    Your Dad is right, opinions are like armpits, we all have them and they all stink.

    G
     
  12. Hikari

    Hikari Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2010
    Yes, you are totally missing the point. It is about the bottle, not the beer. What is the point of me spending money on a really hot sports cars if you are just simply going to compliment my driving? You don't impress chicks with how well you parallel park, but what you parallel park in.
     
  13. Art

    Art Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 13, 2011
    San Francisco, CA
    When looking for a fast lens, there are three factors are important to me:
    1) Sharpness (must have similar sharpness wide open as Panny 20mm at f1.7)
    2) Bokeh (must be silky smooth, no bubbles)
    3) Contrast/color (can be corrected to an extent but still very important)
    After going through a number of legacy lenses, none of them posessed all three qualitites. Only Olympus 4/3 ZD 50mm f2 had all three and that's why I settled with it even though it's a little slower than I like (ideally f1.4)
     
  14. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    ...I guess I can stop all that tiresome working out and just buy myself a padded shirt. :biggrin:
     
  15. Hikari

    Hikari Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2010
    Now you've got it! :2thumbs:
     
  16. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    Fair enough...

    What about the contrast/color? I recall reading somewhere that less contrast can actually be preferable in some situations. My Vivitar 70-210 for instance is what I would call contrast challenged (and middling sharp). Yet it makes some of the coolest looking images with a very nice creamy bokeh that in the right circumstances is breathtaking. I have seen images taken with a Holga that I really like and I think I'm safe in saying the Holga lens won't win any awards for contrast or sharpness. I appreciate what you are saying. For my own work I am finding it increasingly difficult to apply any sort of standard to lenses when it comes to IQ. I find that I may not care for the way a lens feels or the aperture ring is in a weird place (like the Mir 1B) but image wise I am still trying to get a grasp of what I am looking for. At least the search is enjoyable.

    FWIW I do think the ZD50/2 is terrific (just like the Zuiko 50/2 macro before it).
     
  17. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    ...up until the school yard bully kicks sand in my face...but if it impresses the girls.
     
  18. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    So I took out my OM 50/1.8 and took a few shots with it. And dont'cha know...same nice soft background and reasonably sharp in focus area (although not super sharp). I am sensing a pattern here. I'm going to feel really dumb if I start thinking about all the lenses I have gone through over the past year only to settle back on the VERY FIRST LENSES I EVER BOUGHT.

    That is just too funny.

    In looking at the Zuiko images the things I see as appealing are the way it renders the OOF area, the color which is...distinctive and I do think due in part to the glass and what appears to me as a very film like look (of course I always shot with cheap film). I also spent some tim looking at that "Leica look" again and in the images where I can see any sort of difference I notice the same sort of thing (I'm not trying to campare my $30 50/1.8 to Leica glass so everybody stay calm). Although I will say for $30 (I think that's what I paid for it) it is great fun.
     
  19. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Dammit, that's what I've been doing wrong! I always thought they'd be impressed by how well I could handle such a dangerous hunk of junk, lol.
     
  20. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    See what you can learn on these forums.