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Author Topic: Prints that pop. Sensor or lens?  (Read 2153 times)
bluekorn
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« on: June 16, 2014, 07:26:27 PM »
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 I shoot landscapes and use the G5 with the 14-45 and until I saw "micro contrast" demonstrated in prints at a local gallery, I was happy. Now I want that little bit more that makes those images sing. The Panasonic 12-35 is being sold at a small discount now. I'm not concerned with the fact that it's a stop or a stop and a half faster than my 14-45. I just want the pop. Or is it the sensor that's going to make the difference? Can anyone shed a little light on my concern? I want to spend my money on the potential for increasing local contrast in my images.
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bjanes
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« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2014, 07:51:28 PM »
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I shoot landscapes and use the G5 with the 14-45 and until I saw "micro contrast" demonstrated in prints at a local gallery, I was happy. Now I want that little bit more that makes those images sing. The Panasonic 12-35 is being sold at a small discount now. I'm not concerned with the fact that it's a stop or a stop and a half faster than my 14-45. I just want the pop. Or is it the sensor that's going to make the difference? Can anyone shed a little light on my concern? I want to spend my money on the potential for increasing local contrast in my images.

The lens is likely more important for getting images that pop, but the processing is also critical. Proper sharpening and micro contrast enhancement with clarity (in LR/ACR) or plugins such as Topaz Clarity can greatly improve the image.

Regards,

Bill
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robdickinson
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« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2014, 09:36:38 PM »
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Microcontrast is about small detail, IMO a print that pops is about global contrast.

This is more to do whith what and how you shoot, and process, than either lens or camera, but pretty much anything that can change lenses is good enough, look to the lens first.
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2014, 03:01:31 AM »
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I shoot landscapes and use the G5 with the 14-45 and until I saw "micro contrast" demonstrated in prints at a local gallery, I was happy. Now I want that little bit more that makes those images sing. The Panasonic 12-35 is being sold at a small discount now. I'm not concerned with the fact that it's a stop or a stop and a half faster than my 14-45. I just want the pop. Or is it the sensor that's going to make the difference? Can anyone shed a little light on my concern? I want to spend my money on the potential for increasing local contrast in my images.

Hi,

Unless the lens is a poor performer, in which case you'll start with a challenge, the most gain can be made by post-processing.

The capture process is inherently blurry, so you first need to apply correct Capture sharpening to compensate for that (best method depends on the software you use, e.g. Focus Magic plugin for Photoshop). Then during Raw conversion and especially with post-processing you can really make a difference by using the right tools for local contrast adjustments and Creative sharpening. Finally, you need to apply some output sharpening, depending on how the image will be displayed.

Some tools that allow to do an above average job of making your images pop, and Topaz Labs Clarity for adjusting local contrast and saturation, and Topaz Labs Detail for modifying the amount of detail with several different sizes (the Creative 'sharpening' part). 'Detail' also allows to use deconvolution sharpening, so it can also be used for Capture sharpening, and thus allows to avoid artifacts from over-doing it earlier in the process.

Cheers,
Bart
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bluekorn
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« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2014, 04:06:43 PM »
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I'm aware of my need to do my post processing home work. And thanks for the leads. Any thoughts on whether or not the 12-35 offers a better chance over the 14-45 for gaining an advantage in capturing local contrast.
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PeterAit
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« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2014, 04:54:22 PM »
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I've seen corn that pops, balloons, and champagne bottles. If my images started popping I might check into the local nuthouse.

Seriously, though, I think this is more a matter of post-processing. I really don't see how a lens can increase local contrast. If you are using Lightroom, crank up the clarity and/or vibrance.
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2014, 06:15:45 PM »
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In the old days, (before most of you were born) uncoated lenses were common, and they did reduce local contrast. For any lens made within the last several decades, I doubt whether the lens has any perceptible effect on local contrast, so I agree with those that suggest becoming familiar with the post-processing techniques that allow you to control both local and global contrast.
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Telecaster
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« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2014, 09:08:38 PM »
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The Panasonic 14–45mm is a solid performer and can certainly provide the raw material for images that pop.   Smiley  The 12–35mm, along with the Oly 12–40mm (which I own), is faster—very handy when you need extra speed or shallower DOF—but not much if any better at same apertures. At least not in my experience.

-Dave-
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bjanes
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« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2014, 11:08:43 PM »
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In the old days, (before most of you were born) uncoated lenses were common, and they did reduce local contrast. For any lens made within the last several decades, I doubt whether the lens has any perceptible effect on local contrast, so I agree with those that suggest becoming familiar with the post-processing techniques that allow you to control both local and global contrast.

Eric,

I don't agree that uncoated lenses reduce local contrast, but rather the effect of flare is global. I'm not certain on this point, and more knowledgeable photographers may correct me. I think you underestimate the importance of a good lens. A well corrected lens will give better micro-contrast. See the article on local contrast in Cambridge in Color:

"Local contrast enhancement attempts to increase the appearance of large-scale light-dark transitions, similar to how sharpening with an "unsharp mask" increases the appearance of small-scale edges. Good local contrast gives an image its "pop" and creates a three-dimensional effect — mimicking the look naturally created by high-end camera lenses."

Regards,

Bill
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2014, 02:47:11 AM »
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In the old days, (before most of you were born) uncoated lenses were common, and they did reduce local contrast. For any lens made within the last several decades, I doubt whether the lens has any perceptible effect on local contrast, so I agree with those that suggest becoming familiar with the post-processing techniques that allow you to control both local and global contrast.

Hi Eric,

It's not a question of either a better lens, or post-processing. Both are required. With a lesser lens, more post-processing will be required to come close to the same result (and more processing may increase things like noise).

The issue is that the lens resolution that is lost cannot be recovered, and contrast is closely related to resolution. In addition to uncorrected lens aberrations that reduce contrast, lens glare will destroy microcontrast and hence resolution (because micro-detail has low contrast to begin with and may be drowned in the noise floor). So not only will we lose resolution and the possibility to recover some of it with post-processing, the overall image will look duller than it would do with a better lens.

Lens design is the first step in reducing the number of air/lens surfaces, because at each transition, some 0.5-1% of the light will scatter into non-imageforming glare, and that is with well coated lenses (non-coated lenses can lose some 2.5% at each air/lens surface). The design of the inner surfaces of the lensbarrel, and focusing gears, blackening of lens edges, and designing kitted lens groups instead of loose elements, all contribute to a better image.

Let us also not forget the Lens shade/hood and a clean front (and rear) lens surface. A zoom lens may have to compromise as to the depth of the lens hood. At a longer focal length a deeper version can be used, while at a shorter focal length/wider angle of view, a shallower version is required. Some designs use a front element that retracts deeper into the hood at longer focal length settings.

I have no information about the specific lenses that the OP mentioned, so I cannot advise on that. There are probably brand specific lens comparison sites and fora that may assist.

Additionally, the mentioned software solutions can come a long way in turning a mediocre image quality into something more useful, and very good image quality into something stellar. In both cases the images will benefit, a lot.

Cheers,
Bart
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wildlightphoto
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« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2014, 10:04:24 AM »
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... For any lens made within the last several decades, I doubt whether the lens has any perceptible effect on local contrast

From experience, I can't agree.

It's not a question of either a better lens, or post-processing. Both are required. With a lesser lens, more post-processing will be required to come close to the same result (and more processing may increase things like noise).

+1 this has been my experience.

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bluekorn
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« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2014, 11:09:03 AM »
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"Hi Eric,

It's not a question of either a better lens, or post-processing. Both are required. With a lesser lens, more post-processing will be required to come close to the same result (and more processing may increase things like noise).

The issue is that the lens resolution that is lost cannot be recovered, and contrast is closely related to resolution. In addition to uncorrected lens aberrations that reduce contrast, lens glare will destroy microcontrast and hence resolution (because micro-detail has low contrast to begin with and may be drowned in the noise floor). So not only will we lose resolution and the possibility to recover some of it with post-processing, the overall image will look duller than it would do with a better lens.

Lens design is the first step in reducing the number of air/lens surfaces, because at each transition, some 0.5-1% of the light will scatter into non-imageforming glare, and that is with well coated lenses (non-coated lenses can lose some 2.5% at each air/lens surface). The design of the inner surfaces of the lensbarrel, and focusing gears, blackening of lens edges, and designing kitted lens groups instead of loose elements, all contribute to a better image.

Let us also not forget the Lens shade/hood and a clean front (and rear) lens surface. A zoom lens may have to compromise as to the depth of the lens hood. At a longer focal length a deeper version can be used, while at a shorter focal length/wider angle of view, a shallower version is required. Some designs use a front element that retracts deeper into the hood at longer focal length settings.

I have no information about the specific lenses that the OP mentioned, so I cannot advise on that. There are probably brand specific lens comparison sites and fora that may assist.

Additionally, the mentioned software solutions can come a long way in turning a mediocre image quality into something more useful, and very good image quality into something stellar. In both cases the images will benefit, a lot.

Cheers,
Bart"

Bart,
Thank you so much for taking the time to offer the foregoing. Well intentioned explanations are often beyond the pale for those of us not versed in  scientific esoterica. I am actually able to understand and certainly appreciate your what you have said. I am guessing you might be an educator.
Best regards,
Peter
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Jim Kasson
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« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2014, 11:23:19 AM »
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For any lens made within the last several decades, I doubt whether the lens has any perceptible effect on local contrast...

Ignoring the word "perceptual", this is equivalent to saying that all lenses have the same MTF curves, since MTF is a measure of local contrast as a function of scale.

Jim
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2014, 05:44:31 PM »
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Sorry if my overly simplistic comments offended some of the experts.

I will readily grant that a high-quality lens is better than a cheaply made one, but my personal impression, having always avoided bad lenses, was that the major differences between good and bad lenses with equal coating were in terms of resolution and distortion and other abberations, and much less in contrast.

And back when most good lenses were still uncoated, the main thing that coating did was increase contrast, but most of us didn't distinguish between "local" and "global" contrast back then. And "postprocessing" consisted mainly in choosing film development (N, N+!, N-1, etc.), paper grade, and burning and dodging.

So I have to agree ith Bill Janes, Bart, and Jim Kasson. Thanks for fleshing out the situation.
And to Bluekorn: Yes, Bart certainly is and educator, at least here on the LuLa forum, time and tiome again.

Eric

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-Eric Myrvaagnes

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Jim Kasson
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« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2014, 06:30:26 PM »
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Sorry if my overly simplistic comments offended some of the experts.

Eric, I for one am in no way offended, and I'm sorry if it came across that I was. I appreciate your posts greatly.

I will readily grant that a high-quality lens is better than a cheaply made one, but my personal impression, having always avoided bad lenses, was that the major differences between good and bad lenses with equal coating were in terms of resolution and distortion and other aberrations, and much less in contrast.

If resolution is measured at zero contrast like it is when you eyeball it from, say, the Air Force chart, then your experience is at variance with mine. I've found that the best lenses show their mettle at MTF's of well over 50%. In particular, I've been very impressed with the Zeiss 55mm Otus contrast for fine structures even compared to excellent lenses like the Coastal Optical 60mm f/4 and the Nikon 58mm f/1.4.

And back when most good lenses were still uncoated, the main thing that coating did was increase contrast, but most of us didn't distinguish between "local" and "global" contrast back then. And "postprocessing" consisted mainly in choosing film development (N, N+!, N-1, etc.), paper grade, and burning and dodging.

Well, yes, in those days the tools were less precise and trickier to use, but I remember going through all the trials and tribulations of pin registration so I could use contrast reduction masks and print on harder paper, thereby gaining local contrast while not blowing out the highlights or losing detail in the shadows. Even going up a paper grade and dodging and burning to keep the overall contrast under control is playing with the two kinds of contrast separately.

Thanks for your insights,

Jim
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #15 on: June 18, 2014, 07:09:59 PM »
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... Lens design is the first step in reducing the number of air/lens surfaces, because at each transition, some 0.5-1% of the light will scatter into non-imageforming glare, and that is with well coated lenses (non-coated lenses can lose some 2.5% at each air/lens surface). The design of the inner surfaces of the lensbarrel, and focusing gears, blackening of lens edges, and designing kitted lens groups instead of loose elements, all contribute to a better image.

Let us also not forget the lens shade/hood and a clean front (and rear) lens surface....

... Additionally, the mentioned software solutions can come a long way in turning a mediocre image quality into something more useful, and very good image quality into something stellar. In both cases the images will benefit, a lot.

To illustrate what Bart was saying, see the attached Before/After photo. It was taken with a zoom lens (i.e., many air/lens surfaces by definition), through a thick and dirty zoo glass enclosure, with flash reflections adding glare. Software solution was Lightroom 5, with mostly auto adjustments.
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