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Author Topic: Superhuman Sharpness, Gigantuous DR, Galactic Colors ...  (Read 10692 times)
Christoph C. Feldhaim
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There is no rule! No - wait ...


« on: May 08, 2010, 04:31:42 AM »
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I neither own a Zeiss, Leitz, Arca, Alpa, Linhof, Schneider, Rodenstock or other high end gear.
But what I ask myself often, when I see threads about sharpness, DR, Grain/Noise in the digital age:
 
  Do we really need/want this Superhuman Sharpness, Gigantuous DR, Galactic Colors ...?
(--> Fill in your favourite technical aspect of photography)

  Don't get me wrong - I myself struggle with e.g. sharpness as well and of   course try to get as good results as possible - be it with my pathetic P/S camera (Canon G11) or my Mamiya Press Dinosauruses.
 
Putting aside technical tasks like reproduction or scientific   photography - I sometimes have the impression, we get
subconsciously influenced in a not so good way by business and the technical race to buy awesome technical tools
without asking what we really need them for or if we really want the superhuman technical results they can produce.
One negative example that comes to my mind is gigapixel photography with hundreds of images stitched together.
Or the HDR hype.
Or the Super Sharpness hype promoted by software like helicon focus
(nothing against them - just against the "abuse" of the techical means)

Of course - expectations on technical quality in an image change over time with the technical development, but
somehow I have the feeling the technical race makes something important get out of focus.
 
Do we really want this? What are we going to miss?
 
  I have to admit - sometimes, when I see super-sharp images, after the first   (often good) impression I feel doubt
and also a sort of envy, like  "I want this too". But after some time I scratch   my head and feel much more comfortable with b/w film images.


To sum it up:


Do we need it ?
If yes: Why do we need it?
If no: Why not?

Do we want it?
If yes: Why do we want it?
If no: Why not?

And:
Could there be an advantage in stopping it and deliberately use inferior gear,
like an early photo mobile phone, an old 35 mm film camera?
If yes: What could be the advantage?

I'd wish myself an intelligent, non-flaming discussion here ....

Cheers
Chris
« Last Edit: May 08, 2010, 04:42:07 AM by ChristophC » Logged

fredjeang
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« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2010, 05:30:54 AM »
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Hi,

I mentionned in another thread that on my "daily camera", wich has a 12MP Sony's sensor (found in Nikons too), when I mount top prime lenses, the sensor seems to be in another league.
Without or before the need of more megapixels, what I've been seeing so far is that to use our sensors to their full potential, whatever that's not top class lens will limit the sensor's capability.

It seems that this fact is also truth on the other side.

So it's a little bit ridiculous being tempted by more megapixels if the lenses are not capable of responding to an increment in resolution.
But that's what happens in most cases. I've been falling in the trap to wanted more MP, but I realised that the first component to take into consideration is the lens quality.
Then, if needed, upgrade the sensor.

Sharpness is not determined always by the lens. A good technique and understanding of many factors are involved.

The thing is that you do not want necessary razor sharpness or maximum resolution, but the important thing IMHO is that when you want it you can.

An equipment is not going to make you a genious of photography, of course, but a regular equipment is not going to help you either, in some cases it can limits you.

Opting for the best gear possible you can buy means peace of mind. Good cameras and lenses gives you what I call: "you don't notice the equipment".
If I notice the camera in action, then this is not a camera for me. I have to be able to forget the gear and concentrate on the task. The equipment has to serve you,
not the opposite. If you are constantly fighting because of the bad design, bad controls, bad tripod etc...

And generally, the gear that respond to this simple law is the high end equipment. There are some bargains like the 5D MK2 or Sony 900 but these are more
exeptions than the rule.

If you deliberatly choose to use inferior gear, as a deliberate and conscient choice, you will be happy. Sometimes it can open creativity, so as the oposite.
I can open new paths using my 3MP mobile phone camera (I do it all the time), but also going LF, learn about that and increase my expression too.

Asking also simple questions as you mentionned: what do I need and why. Then that might leads you to simplify, or to go bigger, heavier and more expensive.

If the choice is conscient and truth, it will always be a good one.

Cheers.









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Rob C
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« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2010, 10:38:03 AM »
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Yes, Fred, and all the more reason why I wish I still had my 500 stuff!

I think that you need more pixels if you want to make huge prints, but I don't expect ever to need more than A3+ and my film and digi Nikons are perfectly good for that.

The reason I'd like the 500 back is the format, both of the camera and the image shape. I am very unhappy with the cropping limitations of the vertical 35mm image; all you can do is make it shorter! Of course, if you have a square original, then you run into the problems associated with A3+ sheets and then you have to crop, like it or not, or just keep making tiny whole images which you could have done just by cropping your 35mm in the first place... might as well stay with 35mm!

Why is photography equipment designed to be so frustrating?

Perhaps the only perfect combination ever made in photo heaven may have been that of the 500 Series and LP covers!

Rob C
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fredjeang
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« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2010, 11:22:30 AM »
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Yes.
I know I'm going to say something stupid, I know it does not make me a better photographer, I know it is not the most important, but: I can't love most digital files.

When I was a designer, I had the chance to work with many different files from many different systems.

You can tell me that this gear is good, whatever; you will be right but just doing post production all I was watching was a sort of dirty soup in most cases.  

Recently I had some files from the S2 and you know, that was like: "whao"!  fresh air. Clean details, beautifull resolution etc...photography in a word.
The other just seemed dirty. (I'm not talking about some kind of dirtyness that might be trully beautifull).

Yes, It's snob, expensive and I won't buy one but I can not find the S2 feeling with most of the cameras.

The very best files I've ever seen where drum scans from LF cameras. That's what I call a digital file, not these dirty pixels we mostly have to deal with.
I hate aps and 35mm files really, but I deal with them for flexibility, cost reasons etc...not because I like them.

When I look at the hair of the people in more than a A3 size, they don't look like hair but a kind of blured dog's pelage. On the Leica, they are hairs...

When you work all day in front of your monitor with these, at the end it matters. You just get sick of this dirtyness.

I can understand people like Michael Reichmann who are behind the best possible equipment. It is just a matter of life style, a certain idea of the quality.
I say that, thinking that we do not have all the same mediums but even poor, in what one can get, it is good IMO to try to get the best in our possibilties.

For example, the 300euros Sigma DP1: I like the files from this little camera. The camera itself is a mess, slow etc...but a leave is a leave on a Sigma file, not a peace of undetermined green shape.
It lacks resolution, yes, but way better if you do not push it too much than most of these boring aps 10 or 12 or 18MP cameras.

But that's just me.




« Last Edit: May 08, 2010, 11:38:17 AM by fredjeang » Logged
Christoph C. Feldhaim
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There is no rule! No - wait ...


« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2010, 12:17:25 PM »
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Just right now, while I am typing, I am sitting at my desk and having my little mechanic workplace behind me. I was disassembling my new Mamiya Sekor 100 mm f 1:2.8 Lens to fix the slowed shutter speeds. The shutter is disassembled into 50+ parts and the tube is going to be disassembled too for cleaning and re-greasing, since its a bit stiff in its movement.  

Why am I telling this?

I took lessons at an old 65 year old camera mechanic to learn this. It completely changes the relation to my tools into some sort of love affair, instead some "click and buy". I believe this will influence the way I'm going to take images as well.

I also believe apart from our technique and motives one of the very basics of photography is the psychological relation we have taking images and to our subjects, be it abstract motives, landscape, portrait, documentary or whatsever.

So - the tech race and the business around it changes the relation we have with our tools, the art and/or photo business and I believe it changes the relation we have to the whole process and the motives as well.

It appears to me as some sort of "faster, higher, further ..." .... where shall this lead to?

When I bought my G11 I was overwhelmed by the possibilities of this little camera and very enthusiastic about it and the move to digital. After I got my Nikon scanner and started working with my 20+ year old 6x9cm negatives something completely changed. I am now working on completing my Mamiya Press/Super23 system and fixing the lenses I acquired over the last months. And I am looking forward to use it in my summer holidays.

I don't want to say this or that is better or the only true way of doing it.
But I wanted to spot a light on the issue which concerns me a lot since I started photographing again last year.

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fredjeang
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« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2010, 12:22:51 PM »
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Quote from: ChristophC
Just right now, while I am typing, I am sitting at my desk and having my little mechanic workplace behind me. I was disassembling my new Mamiya Sekor 100 mm f 1:2.8 Lens to fix the slowed shutter speeds. The shutter is disassembled into 50+ parts and the tube is going to be disassembled too for cleaning and re-greasing, since its a bit stiff in its movement.  

Why am I telling this?

I took lessons at an old 65 year old camera mechanic to learn this. It completely changes the relation to my tools into some sort of love affair, instead some "click and buy". I believe this will influence the way I'm going to take images as well.

I also believe apart from our technique and motives one of the very basics of photography is the psychological relation we have taking images and to our subjects, be it abstract motives, landscape, portrait, documentary or whatsever.

So - the tech race and the business around it changes the relation we have with our tools, the art and/or photo business and I believe it changes the relation we have to the whole process and the motives as well.

It appears to me as some sort of "faster, higher, further ..." .... where shall this lead to?

When I bought my G11 I was overwhelmed by the possibilities of this little camera and very enthusiastic about it and the move to digital. After I got my Nikon scanner and started working with my 20+ year old 6x9cm negatives something completely changed. I am now working on completing my Mamiya Press/Super23 system and fixing the lenses I acquired over the last months. And I am looking forward to use it in my summer holidays.

I don't want to say this or that is better or the only true way of doing it.
But I wanted to spot a light on the issue which concerns me a lot since I started photographing again last year.
Well Christophe, I agree 100%
Since I went back to photography, with digital, I disassembled and fixed 3 lenses. The last home-made reparation was just yesterday. I like to do it from time to time.
It just draw a different relation with your task. Here you can't go speedy, you need to stop, doing things like the craftman.


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feppe
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Oh this shows up in here!


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« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2010, 02:53:38 PM »
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I wonder if watercolor painters are as obsessed with canvas choice, paints and bristle counts as photographers about papers, sensors and pixel counts.
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David Sutton
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« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2010, 05:38:59 PM »
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Quote from: feppe
I wonder if watercolor painters are as obsessed with canvas choice, paints and bristle counts as photographers about papers, sensors and pixel counts.

I haven't done watercolour, but as far as oils go, the answer is  a definite “yes”. However it is probably a stage painters go through, since the technology is not changing week by week, and they settle into finding what works for them.
As far as music goes, most guitarists I knew when I started learning were obsessed with the technology of their craft for at least the first five or ten years. It wears of when things don't change much in reality, as against the perception of change. This year a new type of string came out and for the first time in ten years I have changed something on my instrument because I could hear a difference..
Chris, I would like to post a longer reply, and may do so if I get time later, but as far as equipment and the novel technology we are seeing goes, I think what I wanted to write is summed up by saying that when I do what makes me happy, then it leads somewhere.
When I became seriously interested in photography in the 1960s the pace of change was relatively slow and that helped to to keep things in perspective. Now it is hard to “see the wood for the trees”.
David
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bill t.
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« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2010, 11:53:48 PM »
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Depends on what you're trying to communicate with photography.  I like to communicate as much information as possible about my subjects, so Gigantuous technique serves me well.  If you want communicate the ambiguous poetry of light and shadow as seen by the Unconscious, try a Holga with some mayonnaise smeared on the lens.

Let your purpose dictate your technique.  Or, as in my case, let your proclivity for highly technical legerdemain dictate your subject, which is just as legitimate.  Always a good idea to play your strong hand, and you will ultimately be happier for doing it that way.
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Rob C
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« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2010, 04:14:04 AM »
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Quote from: bill t.
try a Holga with some mayonnaise smeared on the lens.



That is dangerous advice: always smear it on the filter, never on the lens.

Of course, you will start another flame-war if you stray into making excessive claims about the uv-absorbing characteristics of Hellmann v Kraft, and those original crafsmen from Menorca will not let it pass quietly either.

I'd stay well away from that kind of thing.

Rob C
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Rob C
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« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2010, 04:16:12 AM »
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Quote from: bill t.
Always a good idea to play your strong hand, and you will ultimately be happier for doing it that way.


I do hope Mr P never reads that line; he will be inflamed.

Rob C
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fredjeang
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« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2010, 05:44:50 AM »
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Quote from: feppe
I wonder if watercolor painters are as obsessed with canvas choice, paints and bristle counts as photographers about papers, sensors and pixel counts.
Yes they are, but the difference is that the information is easy and the materials are clearly determined. So they can't be obsessed.
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Christoph C. Feldhaim
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There is no rule! No - wait ...


« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2010, 06:49:45 AM »
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Hmmm ... seems we're slowly drifting off topic ...
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Rob C
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« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2010, 10:03:02 AM »
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Quote from: ChristophC
Hmmm ... seems we're slowly drifting off topic ...





That's the trouble with playing the strong hand - it takes you to another place.

Rob C
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bill t.
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« Reply #14 on: May 09, 2010, 11:55:13 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
That is dangerous advice: always smear it on the filter, never on the lens.
No, with a Holga it goes right on the lens, and it will be better for it.  The only possible exception is if the filter is a bit of sandwich wrap.  Or for that matter, smear some mayo & mustard right into the film transport mechanism, but mention that to the lab ahead of time please.

Behold the Mighty Holga, the anti-Gigantuous Camera.  $27.95 at BH Photo.



A leading practitioner of Holga-ography...

http://www.tedorland.com/holga/holga.html

Rob will like this...




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Justan
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« Reply #15 on: May 09, 2010, 12:19:45 PM »
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I did a study not too long ago and used a diffusion technique to not only soften the image but go for an impressionistic, paint brush like blurring. I loved the result but was the only one.

There was a lesson in that study: Most don’t like a photo to look at least like a photo - they demand it. Many like ultri-high sharpness (resolution), which shows the most minute of details. In my pano work, the small prints often take on a super-real quality due to cramming what started as over 100 megapixels onto a 22” long image. People love it because it meets or exceeds their expectation of what a photo should be. Expectations set the stage.

I use a bit of sharpening on almost all work. My favourite sharpening technique is a PS tool called the high pass technique. This works best when done in moderation and often I only sharpen the central subject and leave the rest alone, or sometimes put just a tad of blur on part of the background.

Of course, not all works have to be ultra sharp and edgy. I’ve done some stuff, mostly shots in the fog, which intentionally take on a water colour like softness, but the scene encourages it. Often the digital age is about reproducing what the eye sees and going just a whisker further to hint at what the mind wants to see.

That opens the door to a level of sharpness where the artist is perceptive enough to portray what most want to see without rubbing the effect in the viewer’s face. That’s the best kind of sharp. But in any event most digital tools are best used in moderation.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2010, 12:21:38 PM by Justan » Logged

Justan
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« Reply #16 on: May 09, 2010, 12:22:56 PM »
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Quote from: bill t.

Speaking of technique, how does one get the torn from a page appearance as shown in the image of Holga the patriotic babe above?
« Last Edit: May 09, 2010, 12:24:05 PM by Justan » Logged

bill t.
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« Reply #17 on: May 09, 2010, 12:52:45 PM »
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Quote from: Justan
Speaking of technique, how does one get the torn from a page appearance as shown in the image of Holga the patriotic babe above?
I'm just guessing, but since Ted and I shared a print washing tank for many years I may be right.  May have something to do with selecting the naturally vignetted corners of a Holga image, then evolving some sort of layer mask from that.  On other of Ted's Holga images you may be able to tell how easy that would be to do.

The Holga has remarkable optical properties not found in ordinary cameras that offer one a rich and unusual range of possibilities.

Just a warning Justan...look out for that soft focus stuff!  That's how Ansel Adams started out shooting Yosemite Valley.  The road to Gigantuousness is paved with Soft Focus!

Photo by Ansel Adams, ca 1930

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fredjeang
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« Reply #18 on: May 09, 2010, 01:03:01 PM »
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I had a Lubitel 6x6 (LOMO) when student in Fine Arts, basically was doing huge enlargements 2m size: fantastic camera!
Cost me nothing.

These are cameras with strong personality, they are so "unperfect" that are capable to deliver a special atmosphere in any boring picture (or that would have been boring with a more advanced tool).
But it is a two sides sword.

Like the images they are capable to produce, can't deal with the cheap plastic feel and design.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2010, 01:10:17 PM by fredjeang » Logged
Justan
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« Reply #19 on: May 09, 2010, 02:56:31 PM »
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Quote from: bill t.
Just a warning Justan...look out for that soft focus stuff!  That's how Ansel Adams started out shooting Yosemite Valley.  The road to Gigantuousness is paved with Soft Focus!

Photo by Ansel Adams, ca 1930

I'm a master of soft focus and that fact lead to 10 years wandering though the corridors of higher ed and now shows up as a threat on the horizon.

But what’s even more amusing is that i have a snap in my collection that’s fairly similar to the AA one you posted above. I will now have to find that as it Gigantiously channels the AA image above, except, ya know, for the skills and large format camera which he used, but which I didn’t. And then the nagging question will percolate up from the depths of my bag of tricks - to high pass, Gaussian blur, vignette, sepia tone, or just keep moving…

And is Gigantuousness a proverbial summit, or a place to pause, rest and per chance to dream?

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