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02-05-2016, 11:00 AM - 3 Likes   #16
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dewman Quote
For a lens to be "top drawer," it's got to be more than just sharp. But, it if has all the other desired attributes and is only a 6 on the sharpness scale, then what?
The thing is, after decades of being brainwashed by photography magazines and manufacturers who pay for them via ads, people have come to value a very narrow understanding of sharpness, aka resolution, as if it was indeed everything. Manufacturers rejoice, because it helps them to sell zillions-of-megapixels cameras and ridiculously priced lenses with an ever-growing element count and the fanciest specialty glasses used to achieve that oh-so-coveted "corner-to-corner sharpness". Over their pixel-peeping raptures, customers are ignoring other attributes of image quality that are no less important to overall image quality, notably (micro)contrast, colour saturation and rendition, correction of chromatic and other aberrations, flare resistance, vignetting, and image distortion. To my mind, it is the careful balancing of all these traits that makes a lens optically great, and it is in this respect that designing lenses still remains an art.

Paradoxically, then, we are now in a situation where essentially unbalanced lenses - technically "corner-to-corner-sharp" lenses - are unquestioningly awarded the highest accolades even when they render rather dull colours and lack in microcontrast. And as if that wasn't enough, marketing has no scruples about dubbing such lenses, wait for it, "Art Series" lenses, while nearly perfectly balanced lenses are merely perceived as, well, underwhelmingly "soft" lenses. It's kind of painful to watch, really. [End of rant.]

02-05-2016, 11:42 AM   #17
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QuoteOriginally posted by MPrince Quote
Sharpness is a bourgeois concept.
QuoteOriginally posted by MPrince Quote
Sharpness is a bourgeois concept.
Is this the most frequently misused quote in photography? I'm pretty sure I read that Cartier-Bresson said it in response to the question of whether he was still able to focus reliably in his older age, due to diminishing eyesight.

The man used Leica lenses for his whole career. He was obviously a fan of sharpness.
02-05-2016, 12:45 PM   #18
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I want a lens that makes my backyard look like Canyon de Chelly in moonlight in 1938. I'll pay anything for a lens that can do that. Um, black, in mint condition.

Oh wait, I don't have a backyard...
02-05-2016, 01:03 PM   #19
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dewman Quote
I've heard that said.... and I'd have to say BS to it! If that is so, WHY are lenses rated, first and foremost, on their sharpness?
Yep, it's complete BS! There are various ways to produces soft focus; vaseline on the filter (not recommended), back off the focus ring ever so slightly from tack sharp or use soft focus filters. You can find ways to make a sharp lens look dreamy but you can't make a soft lens look sharp.

02-05-2016, 01:07 PM   #20
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QuoteOriginally posted by excanonfd Quote
vaseline on the filter (not recommended)
Perhaps not, but it's better than smearing it on the front element.
02-05-2016, 01:08 PM   #21
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That's a great pairing of colors, but the way! The softness works out nicely too.

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02-05-2016, 01:25 PM - 1 Like   #22
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QuoteOriginally posted by redrockcoulee Quote
But if a lens is not very sharp it better be very good at something else.
That would be bokeh, I'm thinking...
02-05-2016, 01:48 PM   #23
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QuoteOriginally posted by excanonfd Quote
Yep, it's complete BS!... You can find ways to make a sharp lens look dreamy but you can't make a soft lens look sharp.
So what constitutes a sharp lens, and what is "sharp enough"?

02-05-2016, 01:59 PM - 1 Like   #24
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QuoteOriginally posted by fuent104 Quote
Is this the most frequently misused quote in photography? I'm pretty sure I read that Cartier-Bresson said it in response to the question of whether he was still able to focus reliably in his older age, due to diminishing eyesight.

The man used Leica lenses for his whole career. He was obviously a fan of sharpness.
Relax, it was just a lame attempt at humor.
02-05-2016, 02:01 PM   #25
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
So what constitutes a sharp lens, and what is "sharp enough"?
Oh noes, it's the circle of confusion!
02-05-2016, 02:05 PM   #26
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QuoteOriginally posted by dsmithhfx Quote
Oh noes, it's the circle of confusion!
Ha ha! I *am* the circle of confusion, I don't need a lens for that!
02-05-2016, 03:36 PM   #27
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QuoteOriginally posted by excanonfd Quote
Yep, it's complete BS! There are various ways to produces soft focus; vaseline on the filter (not recommended), back off the focus ring ever so slightly from tack sharp or use soft focus filters. You can find ways to make a sharp lens look dreamy but you can't make a soft lens look sharp.
My dad would take a plastic cup from Dairy Queen that looked like a martini glass with about a 15 degree angle instead of 45. He'd cut it at the stem end with a coping saw and the other end to fit the filter ring of his TLR taking lens. That would soften the corners a lot. He told me he was imitating some expensive accessory another wedding photographer used. This was in the late 60s, when the idea was to produce maybe 40 decent shots to sell an album of 24 large prints.
02-05-2016, 04:07 PM - 1 Like   #28
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dewman Quote
I've heard that said.... and I'd have to say BS to it! If that is so, WHY are lenses rated, first and foremost, on their sharpness?
Because sharpness can be measured, so lenses can be ranked and a 'winner' can be selected.

After all, this is the Consumer Reports culture.
02-05-2016, 05:54 PM   #29
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QuoteOriginally posted by pathdoc Quote
There are indeed times you don't want sharpness so sharp it cuts the universe in half.

Well put! I must admit that cutting the universe in half has been a photographic goal of mine since I started! Or so I've behaved.


QuoteOriginally posted by MPrince Quote
Sharpness is a bourgeois concept.

Wait! Did you say that here first? Seems like I heard that before. "Bourgeois" is a really huge word for me, however!


QuoteOriginally posted by othar Quote
Because it's one of the few objective measurable features of a lens (although most measure the sharpness of the whole system (lens+camera/sensor) and not just the lens). The character of a lens is a subjective feature and not really scientific describable.

How true! Reminds me of the term "pixie dust", which I asked here on PF a few years ago how to define it. Wow, that thread did not exactly land anywhere productive. That's the problem with these subjective factors - they can mean a great deal to certain lens owners and in some circumstances - you just cannot measure them well (quite often), so the comparison lens to lens sort of falls apart and you're just left with "here's an image - like it? - there's no other lens that can make this image look like that."

QuoteOriginally posted by redrockcoulee Quote
Sharpness is one very important aspect of a lens, but not the only important aspect and sometimes far from very important. But if a lens is not very sharp it better be very good at something else.

Like having an enormous zoom range! Or, being light as a feather and really cheap. Or actually being able to mount on a Nikon DSLR.
02-05-2016, 06:48 PM   #30
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If the lens is capable of sharpness, you can at least select to have the sharpness somewhere, but seeking sharpness everywhere in every image is a false goal. On the other hand, a lot of money has been spent on soft-focus filters, and to a lesser extent on their substitutes: the vaseline, the stretched swatch of pantyhose, and other DIY accessories.

But going back to Dewman's picture it does have a few small areas that verge on sharpness, where the lens blur effect reads more like velvety texture on those blue petals! And then we must remember that it is the play of deep, rich colors that really brings out the life of the image.
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