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Archive 2012 · How much sharpness do you need?
  
 
Ben Horne
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p.2 #1 · How much sharpness do you need?


This obsession with perfection leads only to disappointment.


Aug 21, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Gunzorro
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p.2 #2 · How much sharpness do you need?


I'm with Roger -- I want maximum sharpness as a general rule. It can always be reduced, but never really increased. Most often I like edge to edge sharpness of anything from medium distance to infinity. Since close up is nearly impossible with any semi-wide, normal or slight telephoto, I want a sharply defined subject surrounded by varying degree of OOF areas for emphasis.


Aug 21, 2012 at 02:49 AM
rico
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p.2 #3 · How much sharpness do you need?


Solution to the tyranny of sharpness is 35mm film with massive grain structure, and a single-coated lens with spherical aberration. An implausible handheld shutter speed also helps.


Aug 21, 2012 at 05:15 AM
alfarmer
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p.2 #4 · How much sharpness do you need?


>> "How much sharpness do you need?"

How much can you give me?



Aug 21, 2012 at 05:31 AM
philip_pj
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p.2 #5 · How much sharpness do you need?


'This obsession with perfection leads only to disappointment.'

Ben, it is far from an obsession with perfection, that is for fondlers of high end limited release stuff, like exotic lenses and such. This is more a cool headed decision, for those of us who shoot material which warrants high levels of performance.

Now as to disappointment - how hard can it be? Figure out what you need and go buy it! If you buy and use the best, they deliver in spades and can be resold for the same money or better - because quality endures and the marketplace knows it.

Every time I check out my RAWs my reaction is 100% the exact opposite of 'disappointment'. I spend too many years limiting my output with sub-standard gear, but those days are over for good.



Aug 21, 2012 at 10:43 AM
Zaitz
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p.2 #6 · How much sharpness do you need?


What two Ansel prints look like they were wide open? Unless they were portraits I know of only one landscape photo of his shot near wide open and I don't think he was too fond of it either. Also, you work with what you have or what you can get. I don't believe Ansel was swimming in money during the first part of his career. Reading his books it sounded like he used what he could. There were a ton of great lenses by the 20's but I am sure they were pricey for the time.

That said one of my goals is not something arbitrary like absolute sharpness. I've shot my 8x10 camera at f/90 and would have gone further if it had the stop marked. I've yet to see it impact my large format images the way f/22 impacts d300s images. On the flip side though, throughout Ansel's books he always preaches having a sturdy as hell tripod and using a shutter cable release. It's not like he disregarded proper practices for obtaining a sharp image. I doubt though that one image was ruined by wind, at least throughout the whole image. I do recall him saying in his book he sold a print of Redwoods at Bull Flat Creek and the recipient said it was blurry! No, not the whole image just a single bush at the bottom from wind.



Aug 21, 2012 at 11:11 AM
Hrow
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p.2 #7 · How much sharpness do you need?


Many of HCB's images aren't even close to sharp. One of my favorites is a portrait of Henri Matisse near the end of his life that is just technically awful - but it works. So the answer to your question from me is that "it depends."


Aug 21, 2012 at 12:24 PM
RCicala
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p.2 #8 · How much sharpness do you need?


philip_pj wrote:
'
If you buy and use the best, they deliver in spades and can be resold for the same money or better - because quality endures and the marketplace knows it.

Every time I check out my RAWs my reaction is 100% the exact opposite of 'disappointment'. I spend too many years limiting my output with sub-standard gear, but those days are over for good.



+1 -- Good points well made!!!



Aug 21, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Bifurcator
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p.2 #9 · How much sharpness do you need?


A couple of things:

I can't understand why anyone would ever want a lens that wasn't sharp! Believing myself to be sane I avoid lenses I know aren't sharp - I dig sharp ones.

Every lens is different! There is no "best"! Each (good sharp) lens is like a different paintbrush which can be used in different ways as the artist sees fit. But unsharp lenses don't fit into this category at all. There is lens defocus and there is digital selective and FF blurring which make millions of times more sense than wanting to use a soft lens. There are also soft filters.

Mr. Adams strove for sharpness and even invented and/or perfected darkroom techniques to improve perceived sharpness. Also most of his bread & butter came from portraiture - not landscapes. Portraits are often best shot with large apertures while landscapes are usually best shot with the aperture closed down (both for the obvious reasons).

If someone is famous and yet their prints, negs, and files aren't sharp when it looks as if they should be then they probably became famous due to politics, inner-circle relationships, and/or buttloads of self-promotion! Nothing new there. Most famous people became famous in just that way.

In a phrase: Sharpness ROCKS! And softness sucks ass! Period! People thinking otherwise are probably not very good with their hardware or their software yet.

Edited on Aug 21, 2012 at 03:28 PM · View previous versions



Aug 21, 2012 at 03:19 PM
AmbientMike
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p.2 #10 · How much sharpness do you need?


Sharpness is way overblown on FM. If absolute sharpness was critical nikon wouldve gone out of business. They always seem to lose my lens tests. Forget about the other Japanese manufacturers too for the most part. We'd need to forget about af and shoot Zeiss and Leica. Probably need to throw out your tcs too they don't help sharpness

I don't know the names of the images but yes I believe the entire image looked like it had been blown by the wind. One of the shots I suspect was wide open looked like it was dark and he had to. The other was early. These were his favorites.

Taylor Hobson & Cooke triple convertible just doesn't sound like a sharp lens to me.

I shot the 18-55 II Canon next to the 180 tamron. Difference Not terribly noticeable.



Aug 21, 2012 at 03:19 PM
 

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Bifurcator
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p.2 #11 · How much sharpness do you need?


There's a difference between Sharp, Sharpest, and Soft. Lenses in the first two categories are useful while lenses in the later are not.





Aug 21, 2012 at 03:25 PM
FlyPenFly
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p.2 #12 · How much sharpness do you need?


AmbientMike wrote:
If absolute sharpness was critical nikon wouldve gone out of business. They always seem to lose my lens tests.


Nobody said absolute sharpness is the end all of image making. You're attacking a straw man.



Aug 21, 2012 at 03:29 PM
AmbientMike
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p.2 #13 · How much sharpness do you need?


If sharpness is that important, you wouldn't want to shoot your 85 1.4 rikenon or most other lenses wide open. Or use zooms much of the time. Many are sharper than primes but I wouldn't say most.

People give up sharpness to improve their photos constantly.



Aug 21, 2012 at 03:37 PM
edwardkaraa
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p.2 #14 · How much sharpness do you need?


I think there is never enough sharpness in a lens. Lenses by their physical properties can never be as sharp as reality, there is always a loss. The closer the lens to perfection the better. Now of course there are high resolving lenses and high contrast lenses, and sharpness is a combination of both. As for digital sharpening, it can be easily overdone, and more is less rule applies.


Aug 21, 2012 at 03:37 PM
AmbientMike
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p.2 #15 · How much sharpness do you need?


FlypenFly Seem to sometimes. Canon forum worse though.


Aug 21, 2012 at 03:39 PM
edwardkaraa
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p.2 #16 · How much sharpness do you need?


AmbientMike wrote:
If sharpness is that important, you wouldn't want to shoot your 85 1.4 rikenon or most other lenses wide open. Or use zooms much of the time. Many are sharper than primes but I wouldn't say most.

People give up sharpness to improve their photos constantly.



Even when you shoot a lens at f1.2 or f0.95, you still expect a very tiny plane to be sharp, and the sharper the better. Otherwise the photo is a total failure of mush and blur. That is why sharpness WO is very important in a lens. By shooting WO, you are willingly giving up sharpness in a large part of the frame, as you mention, but still the tiny part that is in focus must be very sharp.



Aug 21, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Guari
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p.2 #17 · How much sharpness do you need?


Adams was a marvellous photographer. He was an exquisite printmaker. He was a master of his art.

He did with the tools he had at his disposal and that budget allowed, for his time (technology always goes ahead).

Even though I do not consider sharpness to be the north of photography (to me it is content, emotions, fluidity, expression) it is important nonetheless.

Using the argument that Adams had fuzzy corners to disapprove of modern lenses and their sharp rendering is a fallacy. First, Ansel did not have access to what we have now, ergo, he was limited by technology. He made the best with what he had.

And you know, Adams did love sharp renderings. He ran away as fast as he could from the pictorialist soft focus nonsense that photographers were doing in order to emulate paintings so that people would accept their prints as "proper" art. There is a reason Ansel Adams was such a strong follower of group F64, a movement defined by bitting-sharp renderings (limited by the time's technology).

Here's their manifesto if you still haven't seen how wrong it is to use Adams as a stick against sharp renderings


"The name of this Group is derived from a diaphragm number of the photographic lens. It signifies to a large extent the qualities of clearness and definition of the photographic image which is an important element in the work of members of this Group.

The chief object of the Group is to present in frequent shows what it considers the best contemporary photography of the West; in addition to the showing of the work of its members, it will include prints from other photographers who evidence tendencies in their work similar to that of the Group.

Group f/64 is not pretending to cover the entire spectrum of photography or to indicate through its selection of members any deprecating opinion of the photographers who are not included in its shows. There are great number of serious workers in photography whose style and technique does not relate to the metier of the Group.

Group f/64 limits its members and invitational names to those workers who are striving to define photography as an art form by simple and direct presentation through purely photographic methods. The Group will show no work at any time that does not conform to its standards of pure photography. Pure photography is defined as possessing no qualities of technique, composition or idea, derivative of any other art form. The production of the "Pictorialist," on the other hand, indicates a devotion to principles of art which are directly related to painting and the graphic arts.

The members of Group f/64 believe that photography, as an art form, must develop along lines defined by the actualities and limitations of the photographic medium, and must always remain independent of ideological conventions of art and aesthetics that are reminiscent of a period and culture antedating the growth of the medium itself.

The Group will appreciate information regarding any serious work in photography that has escaped its attention, and is favorable towards establishing itself as a Forum of Modern Photography."




Aug 21, 2012 at 03:50 PM
FlyPenFly
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p.2 #18 · How much sharpness do you need?


Seems like most Canon lens users don't care much about sharpness, just the extremely limited dynamic range of their cameras for wedding shots.

[/troll]


(the 70-200 II and TS/E of course an exception)



Aug 21, 2012 at 03:56 PM
sebboh
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p.2 #19 · How much sharpness do you need?


HCB is definitely a better famous example of sharpness not being important than AA. many of his photos are amazing (HCB) and i'm not sure making them sharp would improve them much if any.


Aug 21, 2012 at 04:03 PM
carlitos
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p.2 #20 · How much sharpness do you need?


If I can have sharpness across the frame, I want it.

I've spent enough time laboring over images in Photoshop trying to bring back a portion of an image that was slightly out of focus. There is a point where there simply is not enough contrast, etc. to work with. As a result, I learned to focus to several points in a scene, and bracket, in order to have enough "information" to work with.

I don't want to feel like I've left something behind at the scene that completed the story.



Aug 21, 2012 at 04:10 PM
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