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02-15-2021, 04:25 PM - 5 Likes   #1
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Sharpness

Over the last several years, I have been obsessed with acquiring lenses that excel in sharpness. But I知 beginning to think that sharpness is not necessarily important to making an artistic image. I致e seen images on this forum that are beautiful in their simplicity without being sharp. So I知 not going to get rid of my less sharp lenses. In fact, I知 going to use them more and concentrate on making better images, not necessarily sharp images.

02-15-2021, 04:35 PM - 1 Like   #2
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I was one of those "sharp" addicts until somewhat recently. I broke it with one purchase: A Lensbaby Sweet35. It makes you embrace the flaws and appreciate photography for the art. I spent a little over a week exclusively shooting with it, a Twist 60, and a Double-glass, and doing so has given me a seriously needed creative lift. Imperfection has it's own beauty.

Last edited by gatorguy; 02-15-2021 at 05:05 PM.
02-15-2021, 04:58 PM - 3 Likes   #3
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Painters often go thru this phase to. I expect they must seek the best brushes too. Picasso's red and blue phase show he mastered that phase before abandoning it. It can be clearly seen in Van Gogh in his many self portraits. In 1886 he has 6 with emphasis on different ways of being "sharp" by 1887 he changes over 18 self portraits. By 1888 he didn't bother with anything we could consider sharp and produced the masterpieces we remember him for.
You can see the portraits here.
Portraits of Vincent van Gogh - Wikipedia.
02-15-2021, 05:00 PM - 2 Likes   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kiddo70 Quote
Over the last several years, I have been obsessed with acquiring lenses that excel in sharpness. But I知 beginning to think that sharpness is not necessarily important to making an artistic image. I致e seen images on this forum that are beautiful in their simplicity without being sharp. So I知 not going to get rid of my less sharp lenses. In fact, I知 going to use them more and concentrate on making better images, not necessarily sharp images.
I feel composition and exposure outweigh sharpness, but that said a well composed and exposed image that is sharp is better than the image would be not sharp, if that makes sense.

02-15-2021, 05:14 PM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by ramseybuckeye Quote
I feel composition and exposure outweigh sharpness, but that said a well composed and exposed image that is sharp is better than the image would be not sharp, if that makes sense.
I’m beginning to see the difference between sharpness and out of focus. That’s what I want to work on.
02-15-2021, 05:24 PM - 2 Likes   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kiddo70 Quote
But I’m beginning to think that sharpness is not necessarily important to making an artistic image.
Personally I think "sharpness", the thing we gear centric photographers seem to obsess over, is the least important thing in a good artistic image. If you look at my website you will find a good number of images that a technical critique would reject as "soft". In general those are images that I would like to reject due to that softness but the image itself was strong enough to overrule the rejection. Of all the images I have sold, particularly those in my "best seller" category, hardly any are what I would call "sharp".

Like @ramseybuckeye says a good image that is sharp is better than a good image that isn't but the buying public (my metric of judgement) is decidedly unimpressed by sharpness alone. I have rafts of technically great, sharp, noiseless, perfectly exposed images that have never sold even once.
02-15-2021, 05:24 PM - 9 Likes   #7
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I took this image on film with a lens that was designed to be soft. The Pentax K 85mm 2.2 SOFT portrait lens.

02-15-2021, 05:31 PM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by pschlute Quote
I took this image on film with a lens that was designed to be soft. The Pentax K 85mm 2.2 SOFT portrait lens.

That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Beautiful!

02-15-2021, 06:49 PM   #9
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Gorgeous!
02-15-2021, 08:04 PM - 1 Like   #10
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Sharp enough is in the eye of the beholder.
02-15-2021, 08:43 PM   #11
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One of my favorite images was taken with a SMC F 70-210. Even at F8, that lens doesn't really sharpen up in the sides and corners on the K-1. But the color rendition of that lens is something else.

I printed it at 44"x30ish". If you get up close and look at some of the details, I would have liked it to have held up better. But real people see the colors and the moment. I've never had somebody get on my case about the fuzzy details in the corners.
02-15-2021, 09:58 PM - 1 Like   #12
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Sharpness

I have the Pentax 85mm soft, find it works well on my K1. I have used it in portraits, wedding and scenic shots, beats smearing a lens with vaseline!
02-15-2021, 10:23 PM - 5 Likes   #13
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For me, gear-based sharpness is a non-issue. Every lens I own is capable of taking sharp images when used correctly within its design parameters. If an image is not sharp, it's either because its capacity has been exceeded (e.g. small bird too far away for a 300mm lens or a corner is soft at a wide aperture) or, more commonly, because of user error.

Once you start looking for sharpness (and technical correctness generally) in your images, it can become an affliction. It is hard to overlook shortcomings. When I look at images I took 6 or 7 years ago which I liked enough at the time to keep in my Favourites folders, I see a number where I slightly missed focus, or which show slight camera or subject motion (or a distracting background or poor composition or whatever) or where I was using a lens that just didn't have enough resolution. If I took those photos now, I would delete many of them: "What a shame that I slightly missed the eye in that shot of the unicorn. Oh well, delete. Maybe next time."

Every year I do a diary for my partner, with a different photo for each week. I produce a long list of candidate images for the diary, but she often reaches past the list into the rejects and pulls out ones that have emotional resonance rather than technical correctness or what I would now regard as adequate sharpness. This should be an antidote to my fixation - I am genuinely pleased that she enjoys the images. But I must confess that personally it sometimes pains me to look at the diary because the faults in an image seem to scream at me.

I should say that in looking at other people's photos, I can often overlook a lack of sharpness (or other minor flaws) and enjoy them for what they are. It's mainly when my own photos are not sharp that I often can't unsee it.

Is this condition recognised in the DSM?

Last edited by Des; 02-16-2021 at 01:36 PM.
02-16-2021, 12:00 AM - 2 Likes   #14
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Blurring parts of totality of an image has to be intentional, not because your lens show low quality at a certain enlargement. I'm always liked abstracts as much as sharp and subject separation images, but slightly soft lenses (or too much enlargement) never made it into a piece of art. Accepting lower lens sharpness based on artistic considerations is just giving ourselves peace of mind because we can't afford the more expensive lens. One thing I came to realize is that large prints aren't forgiving because human vision is better at seeing image features at a distance than seeing smaller details close-up, so for people who can't afford an expensive camera system, I'd recommend to print small, e.g 16x24" maximum for apsc format images. There has been a lot of ink spent on arguing about sharpness and formats, the truth of the matter is that quality increases with size, as well as financial cost and decreasing ease of use, it is what it is, no matter how we turn use. Since I moved to the Pentax K1 system, I'll never go back to apsc again , I think.

---------- Post added 16-02-21 at 08:11 ----------

The thing is.. a painting isn't a photograph, and a photograph isn't a painting. I often tell myself that sharpness is overrated, but I know that I'm not being completely honest with myself

Last edited by biz-engineer; 02-16-2021 at 12:06 AM.
02-16-2021, 06:16 AM - 2 Likes   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kiddo70 Quote
Over the last several years, I have been obsessed with acquiring lenses that excel in sharpness. But I’m beginning to think that sharpness is not necessarily important to making an artistic image. I’ve seen images on this forum that are beautiful in their simplicity without being sharp. So I’m not going to get rid of my less sharp lenses. In fact, I’m going to use them more and concentrate on making better images, not necessarily sharp images.
Good for you, dare I say... you're now on the road to becoming a great photographer.
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