Today's Learnings


Mu-43 Regular
Feb 16, 2010
Hey All,

So I spent the better part of today trying to see if I could figure out some of the intricacies of image quality. I tried to look really hard at one of my pet peeves - detail and sharpness. I have to admit that the more I look at images the more "softness" bothers me (unless deliberate - like an orton filter) and I suspect that in the case of a lot of images that look "soft" when they are shown at low resolutions like 1024 by 768 or lower when they are printed and sold at whatever size they are a lot sharper. Am I right?

All I want from my photography is Ansel Adams sharpness and detail in color digital images that potentially could be sold through stock agencies from small bodied highly flexible cameras that cost less than $1000 with a minimal amount of work on my part - is that really so much to ask? :rolleyes:

So I started with focusing systems because if your image is out of focus it'll be soft. I quickly realized that multi-point auto-focusing systems often can do nothing but give you soft images as they average appropriate focus from multiple sources hence nothing may be truly sharp. So why are multi-point focusing systems so highly touted? The best is probably single point small area focusing that you choose yet a lot of cameras don't come with this option! Why not? Next best may be manual focusing and if we are going to have that why don't we put in for example the split line/prism techniques that were so prevalent and good back in the old 35mm SLR cameras? Now I have not yet tried manual focusing on my G1 to see if I can do as well as the old prism/split line system on my old (35 years) Minolta 35mm camera. I don't know if I can do as well or not.

On to the next issue - sensor/lens resolution and how that might relate to megapixels. I barely scratched the surface but the whole issue of which is more limiting - your sensor or your lens is really fascinating to me. From what I could tell it is generally the lens especially when talking about kit lenses. I spent some time trying to comprehend dxomark and the system used at dpreview. Very interesting work and I think I get the jist of what is going on in both systems. Still fuzzy and will need more study but I confess to really liking objective evaluation systems like these. While looking at these I became really absolutely gobsmacked by a couple of points:

1) For a lot of camera systems we really have no choice. You can study these results all you want but if the lenses the manufacturer puts out are it - that's basically it! In the case of mu-4/3rds you can use an Oly kit lens or you can use a Panasonic kit lens and there isn't a lot to choose between them and what other choice do you even have?

2) Looking at this review of the Panasonic 14-140 (read this page)

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 Review: 17. Photographic tests (Kit Lens): Digital Photography Review

these companies aren't necessarily even trying for true optical quality if they can "fix" the image problems using software, save cash product development costs and "hoop" their competitors at the same time by doing so. Where does that leave the consumer in terms of choice?

Choice - makes me wonder just who the customer is here. So is your choice buying old 3rd party quality optics off ebay and manually focusing? Might that explain that phenomena?

It seems to me that the Nikon and Canon lines generally have the same or similar lenses in varying quality and hence price lines - is this true of micro 4/3rds manufacturers? If not why not? Couldn't Leica for example produce a high quality set of lenses to mirror the consumer line of Panasonic lenses? Isn't Sony doing exactly that with their Sony lenses backed by Zeiss lenses? Makes for a strong arguement to buy into the Sony small body cameras (A33 and A55) even if they are full of flaws based on the bet that the bodies will continue to be developed as you gradually build up your Sony/Zeiss even Sigma lens inventory. Is any 3rd party lens company like Sigma or Tameron or Tokina even developing a micro 4/3rds lens?

I'm just getting started and I've more to look into like the ramifications of high ISO shooting. I mean I know there is more noise but how tameable is it really? Related to this is one gripe I do have about my G1 - why can't I in aperture priority set my aperture, minimum shutterspeed and have the camera then select the best ISO? All it would be is another mode.

An edit: So something else I just started looking into - depth of field (DOF). Now on my old 35mm SLR every lens had a DOF scale in feet and meters on it. I used to use that scale religiously and then "check" DOF with a DOF preview button. I have noticed that I have been very hit or miss on DOF in many images and it was very irritating as I used to know the DOF distances by checking the scale since the lens was focused. Now why can't a digital camera manufacturer include numeric results of DOF calculations as a display item on your camera once you've focused it? What do people do in the real world? Carry tables or a computer with a satellite link to like this website?

I've used digital cameras for at least 15 years but I've never "dug into" the technical details of how to do things until I "discovered" the potential of HDR to capture additional detail and eliminate that "flat look" of film that always left me cold. It reawakened my interest and enthusiasm in photography that I had when doing black and white in a dark room. But jeez the technical detail is not applied in the same way between digital and 35mm film cameras of years ago. Quite frustrating when you understand the principles but are clueless about so many details when you thought you "knew" photography.

Truly Enough for today!

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to all!


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