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12-11-2010, 08:04 AM   #1
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Are Quality Lens vs Post Processing

In the days of film, Pentax was famous for its Super Multi Coating ( SMC ) on its lens. We often read about the rich colours produced by certain lens such as the FA Limiteds, FA 28 - 70 f/2.8, FA 80- 200 f/2.8, just to name a few. But given today's digital environment with various software for Post Processing. Is the hobbyist better off buying lower grade lens, and still getting great results through Post Processing. Can fellow Pentaxians kindly comment or advise.

12-11-2010, 08:23 AM   #2
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In my opinion, there is more than just lens coatings that make for a quality image, and a while back there was a discussion about the lens reviews and ratings, where almost everything was rated 8 or more.

In reality, used under the right conditions, almost any lens can take exceptional images,

I think the difference between a cheap lens with marginal optics, and bad coatings is that the range of situations where an exceptional image can be taken is greatly reduced. Some of these lenses may, for example, be described as difficult to use. It is one reason I never post images taken with a lens during a review. I describe the pros and cons and behavior of the lens, but don't go out and take exceptional shots just to show it is possible. That is a little misleading.

Sorry for the digression, now for the other side of the discussion.

A
12-11-2010, 08:25 AM   #3
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Post processing is no substitute for a quality lens. I prefer my photos to look good right out of the camera. I don't want to spend a lot of time in PP. I really don't think any PP program or plug in will make a quality lens obsolete. I have been able to save a screwed up shot in PP but it was time consuming and the end result, while acceptable, still would have been much better had I done it right to begin with. Consider that with a poor quality lens, you would be doing that with every shot you take. The general consensus is that with the choice of a camera body upgrade or buying better lenses, the lenses should come first. This is not to say that you can't find inexpensive lenses that are good. There are some real gems out there and those old SMC lenses you refer to will still perform as well today as they did 20 years ago.
12-11-2010, 08:31 AM   #4
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I'll have to agree with Lowell on this one. Take a look at some pinhole shots done by good photographers and you'll see why the lens really doesn't matter as much as the photographer, the light and the subject.
That being said, a good lens give you the ability to take better pictures in more situations.
PP can only save an image if there's enough detail to work with in the first place (a lesson I learned fairly quickly). But, so far as contrast goes it always seems to work better when the image has good contrast in the first place. They always seem artificial when the contrast is played with too much in PP as opposed to captured in the original (although this may be personal preference).

12-11-2010, 08:35 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by maverickh Quote
In the days of film, Pentax was famous for its Super Multi Coating ( SMC ) on its lens. We often read about the rich colours produced by certain lens such as the FA Limiteds, FA 28 - 70 f/2.8, FA 80- 200 f/2.8, just to name a few. But given today's digital environment with various software for Post Processing. Is the hobbyist better off buying lower grade lens, and still getting great results through Post Processing. Can fellow Pentaxians kindly comment or advise.
Two things you will get from a better lens that you won't get from a lesser quality one.
Sharpness and flare control.
Sharpness can be artificially gotten via sharpening in post, but this is at the expense of fine detail (not resolved) and sharpening artifacts.
Flare is pretty much just something you have to live with if you get it, and can murder contrast (which can be recovered again at the expense of resolution) and gives all sorts of ugly visual artifacts that are impossible to get rid of in many situations.
If you want to get the most out of a high resolution sensor, top quality glass is still the best solution.
Nothing has changed since the days of film.
12-11-2010, 08:45 AM   #6
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got interrupted in my last post, and since then,. others have said what I would have.

While processing can do a lot with an image, it is always better to start with a good image, and wheatfield hit the nail on the head. sharpness and flare control are the two biggies, I would add contrast close behind those two, but contrast is also benefitted by coatings that reduce or control flare.

you can succcessfully today correct for CA, lens distortion, vignetting, and color. You can also take away sharpness but it is really difficult / impossible to take away flare, or to add sharpness in PP
12-11-2010, 09:01 AM   #7
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Comparing my Takumar Bayonet (very simple coatings) with SMC, especially the newest DA coatings:

Regardless of processing, th difference in colour shows. This is how I see it... with digital you can't really add anything, but you can take it away. Digital values can be manipulated with various equations, but those initial states are determined by the lens itself. Therefore, it is much easier to desaturate an image than saturate it, soften it than sharpen it, reduce contrast than add contrast, etc.

Flare control is another very important one, which is impossible to control in post.

My takumar bayonet is not as bad as some say, but it was worth 30 dollars... no more. My approach might be different than others who want their look straight out of the camera. Mine is: get the highest fidelity image you can get, and then screw it up as you see fit.

But in the end, the photographer, and his/her use of light, is going to make a cheap lens look good, and an expensive lens look bad.

You are correct though, in stating that this stuff was much MORE important in the film era.
12-11-2010, 09:02 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
Flare is pretty much just something you have to live with if you get it, and can murder contrast (which can be recovered again at the expense of resolution) and gives all sorts of ugly visual artifacts that are impossible to get rid of in many situations.
If you want to get the most out of a high resolution sensor, top quality glass is still the best solution.
Don't forget CA, and other registration issues(PF, blooming etc).
Beyond that of color and resolution, one of the most prominent issues with cheap or none compliant glass often appears in the OOF rendering end of things.

12-11-2010, 09:25 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by JohnBee Quote
one of the most prominent issues with cheap or none compliant glass often appears in the OOF rendering end of things.
You know, this is the funny point, many people seek out older "cheaper" lenses because the bokeh (OFF rendering) is preferred over newer designs.

This is not a question at all of quality, but more a question of the impact of technical advances, specifically internal focusing and automatic apertures, plus a sprinkling of newer LD glass, and how these have moved the location and design of the aperture compared to the old classics
12-11-2010, 10:50 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by maverickh Quote
In the days of film, Pentax was famous for its Super Multi Coating ( SMC ) on its lens. We often read about the rich colours produced by certain lens such as the FA Limiteds, FA 28 - 70 f/2.8, FA 80- 200 f/2.8, just to name a few. But given today's digital environment with various software for Post Processing. Is the hobbyist better off buying lower grade lens, and still getting great results through Post Processing. Can fellow Pentaxians kindly comment or advise.
Well you are talking about the character of a lens. Yes, you can mess around in post to get a good chunk of that. However, optical quality, sharpness, edge to edge uniformity, etc. are all things that make up a good lens. They cost money. They are valuable, even with post processing. In many cases, the easily available post processing makes some of those characteristics MORE valuable than they used to be.
12-11-2010, 12:16 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by JohnBee Quote
Don't forget CA, and other registration issues(PF, blooming etc).
Beyond that of color and resolution, one of the most prominent issues with cheap or none compliant glass often appears in the OOF rendering end of things.
+1 on this. How the lens renders the OOF areas is almost as important to me as sharpness, flare resistance or contrast. It can really make or break an image.

NaCl(and it is something that PP can't really do very well)H2O
12-11-2010, 12:51 PM   #12
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While I agree with the others that there is no substitute for a great lens, there are situations where compromises are necessary. For instance, I see a lot of photojournalists with 28-300mm zooms. For them, obviously the flexibility of quickly going from wide angle to telephoto beats absolute image quality.
The same may apply if you're taking pictures on vacation for instance, and your wife/family don't want to wait while you set up your tripod, change lenses, focus manually etc. In these cases, being able to enhance stuff in PS after the fact is absolutely invaluable.
12-11-2010, 01:57 PM   #13
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The combination of sharpness, bokeh and flare control do matter, and naturally are better with the more expensive (not necessarily faster) lenses.

I will also reiterate what Lowell mentioned from the start - if you perfect your shooting conditions (setting, lighting, subject control), then a kit lens will perform remarkably close to that of its more expensive counterparts.

Problem is, greater than 90% of the conditions in which we're shooting (outside the studio) are suboptimal, and the difference between a kit lens and premium optical quality lens comes out to be light night and day, not only in sharpness and flare, but importantly in microcontrast and the X factors such as 3D rendering and texture detail. All of these aspects are virtually impossible to create in post-processing.
12-11-2010, 03:11 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by maverickh Quote
In the days of film, Pentax was famous for its Super Multi Coating ( SMC ) on its lens. We often read about the rich colours produced by certain lens such as the FA Limiteds, FA 28 - 70 f/2.8, FA 80- 200 f/2.8, just to name a few. But given today's digital environment with various software for Post Processing. Is the hobbyist better off buying lower grade lens, and still getting great results through Post Processing. Can fellow Pentaxians kindly comment or advise.
Image processing may help you create images from nothing, but it doesn't help you capture images. Do you want to be outside taking pictures or do you want to sit inside fixing shots?
12-11-2010, 03:20 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Laurentiu Cristofor Quote
sit inside fixing shots?
I don't like to think of it this way. Even with an amazing shot... PP can help create the proper mood that the shot deserves to give it it's extra kick. I think a little PP goes a long way on evn the best shots.

Just don't overdo it .
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