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Author Topic: Are primes really more sharp?  (Read 6835 times)

elflord

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #15 on: April 26, 2012, 06:19:09 AM »
Environmental feeling - what?

I think zoom lenses are catching up and soon there will be no significant difference between a zoom and a prime (yes, they will be faster, but who does really need f/1.2?). My 70-200mm f/4 is extremely sharp, has great color and awesome contrast and costs less than some primes. So, I don't see the advantage of prime lenses at all (unless you are a professional photographer and need super sharp corners)...

It's not about "needs" (or for that matter "super sharp corners").  I notice you have the 50mm f/1.4 in your gear list. If you mount that lens and shoot in low light, what aperture will you use ? Would you shoot at f/4 and slower or will you find a use for f/1.4-f/2.8 ?

The 70-200 f/4 is a fine lens but doesn't have the wow factor that the 135L, Sigma 85 Canon 85L or even the 85 non-L offer.

It's not just about "sharp corners" (for teles it's not about that at all), it's not about "needs", it's about the effect of those extra stops.

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #15 on: April 26, 2012, 06:19:09 AM »

Neeneko

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #16 on: April 26, 2012, 08:26:43 AM »
I think it is less that primes are inherently sharper, and more that they are generally sharper for the cost.

Primes are simplier then zooms.  There is no reason you can not make a zoom lens with the same sharpness and general quality as a prime lens, but it will be more complex and cost more.  So to a degree it is about value.

HarryWintergreen

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #17 on: April 26, 2012, 09:07:56 AM »
...

Environmental feeling - what?

I think zoom lenses are catching up and soon there will be no significant difference between a zoom and a prime (yes, they will be faster, but who does really need f/1.2?). My 70-200mm f/4 is extremely sharp, has great color and awesome contrast and costs less than some primes. So, I don't see the advantage of prime lenses at all (unless you are a professional photographer and need super sharp corners)...
[/quote]

good point - not to mention better flexibility

TrumpetPower!

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #18 on: April 26, 2012, 09:21:53 AM »
I guess a follow up question would involve macro.... Take the 50mm for instance, will the macro lense resolve better then the 1.2 or 1.4?

First, to your original primes v zooms, as others have pointed out, "It depends." The 16-35 is a significantly better 20 f/2.8 than the prime, and it easily beats the other consumer primes in that range (28 f/2.8, etc.). On the other hand, the TS-E 24 absolutely mops the floor with every other wide-angle lens on the market, be it prime or zoom or whatever.

And, yes. The 50mm compact macro is an awesome lens. Autofocus is pathetic, and it's not exactly fast wide open at f/2.5. But stopped down to f/8, it'll slice right through all the other 50s. If you're the type who values sharpness over speed, the 50 was made for you. If you're doing art reproduction or product photography or anything like that and you need anything close to that focal length, it's a no-brainer.

Of course, the opposite is also true. If your goal is low-light, shallow DoF portraiture, even the Plastic Fantastic will do a better job. Of course, that's something of an unfair comparison, considering that the Plastic Fantastic is itself an utterly shockingly good lens, especially considering it costs less than a decent filter. (Yes, yes -- the other 50s are better in so many ways. But, damn, the Plastic Fantastic is still amazing.)

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ecka

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #19 on: April 26, 2012, 09:35:46 AM »
I'm checking out the MTF charts, and there does not appear to be a significant sharpness edge from using only prime lenses.  Is reality misrepresented on the MTF charts?  Are they not that much better than zooms?
The smart rule is - Don't choose one lens over another just because it is better (sharper), choose what is good enough (sharp enough) for you.
Primes are better in many ways, while sharpness being just one of those things. This one factor is slowly fading, because now there are some pretty sharp zooms. Yes, some ... not many. The cheapest 50/1.8II at f/4 is as sharp as the big boys up there. I prefer primes for their large apertures (brighter, better subject isolation, bokeh), size/weight and high image quality (including sharpness) specially for the non-L price. For what I do, any top grade zoom lens can be replaced by just 1 or 2 decent primes and serve even better for the reasons I've already mentioned.
Talking about f/2.8 primes - the best possible zoom can only be near as good as the best prime, never better. If it is - then the prime in your comparison is not that great.
FF + primes !

7enderbender

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #20 on: April 26, 2012, 09:36:09 AM »
I'm checking out the MTF charts, and there does not appear to be a significant sharpness edge from using only prime lenses.  Is reality misrepresented on the MTF charts?  Are they not that much better than zooms?


To me that's beyond the point of why I like primes. Sharpness in this day and age seems almost a little overrated - especially given that a lot of "sharpness" in digital photography is to some degree artificial. Aesthetics have certainly changed because of that. I don't really mind that my 50 1.4 can be a bit "soft" wide open. Often that's exactly the look I'm after - I even throw in some "grain" in post processing to get back to what the same lens design gave me in the film days.

Sure, there are many cases where you want tack sharp parts of the photograph. Primes do that as well (just like the good zooms of today). But it's mostly about control over DOF and best possible background blur with fast primes.
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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #21 on: April 26, 2012, 10:53:06 AM »
Yes and No.

Yes, because the good primes offer excellent sharpness at insane F-stops (F/2 and faster). Something which no zoom can do. Thats why Super primes like the 24mm 1.4L II, 35mm 1.4L, 50mm 1.2L and the 85mm 1.2L II are so expensive, your paying for the wide open performance and sharpness at those fast apertures.

and

No, because at small F-stops (F/4 and slower) most of the benefits of primes go away, but IMO color is still better on primes than zooms because of less elements.

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #21 on: April 26, 2012, 10:53:06 AM »

helpful

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #22 on: April 26, 2012, 11:18:47 AM »
Some of you have been talking about the words "environmental feeling" and wondering what that means and why primes are better because of it.

I have no idea what the meaning of those words is as applied to a lens, but let me suggest a possible interpretation.

People with zooms are prone to zoom when they should be moving. It's not the focal length of zooming that is wrong, but just the perspective. People with a prime lens tend to become sensitive to adding the "environmental feeling" (whatever that is) to the photograph, because they move to where a person would actually move in order to see a human perspective of the scene.

If someone with a zoom lens would move and zoom, then that could be circumvented, but the very act of zooming makes everyone, including me, forget how to properly move. It's just too much for the brain to process. A prime lens takes this confounding factor of zooming out, and let's one more naturally take pictures, and capture the "environmental feeling."

I am kind of liking those words even though they have no meaning except what we choose to give to them.
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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #23 on: April 26, 2012, 01:19:53 PM »
Environmental feeling - what?

I think zoom lenses are catching up and soon there will be no significant difference between a zoom and a prime (yes, they will be faster, but who does really need f/1.2?). My 70-200mm f/4 is extremely sharp, has great color and awesome contrast and costs less than some primes. So, I don't see the advantage of prime lenses at all (unless you are a professional photographer and need super sharp corners)...

It's not about "needs" (or for that matter "super sharp corners").  I notice you have the 50mm f/1.4 in your gear list. If you mount that lens and shoot in low light, what aperture will you use ? Would you shoot at f/4 and slower or will you find a use for f/1.4-f/2.8 ?

The 70-200 f/4 is a fine lens but doesn't have the wow factor that the 135L, Sigma 85 Canon 85L or even the 85 non-L offer.

It's not just about "sharp corners" (for teles it's not about that at all), it's not about "needs", it's about the effect of those extra stops.

The interesting thing is that I feel like the 50 f/1.4 is almost unusable between f/1.4 - f/2.0. It's super soft (some people also call it dreamy), which means it doesn't really add anything to my flexibility. Stopped down it might be slightly sharper than my Tamron or the Canon 70-200, but there's literally no real world difference.  And I personally much prefer the look I get from my 70-200mm f/4 - better colors, better contrast, ...
And yes, I get beautiful portraits from the f/4 - even at 70mm it gives nice OOF blur and above 120mm or so it becomes a perfect portrait lens when you want to get some distance to your subject (which allows me to get very candid shots).

RLPhoto

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #24 on: April 26, 2012, 01:28:39 PM »
Environmental feeling - what?

I think zoom lenses are catching up and soon there will be no significant difference between a zoom and a prime (yes, they will be faster, but who does really need f/1.2?). My 70-200mm f/4 is extremely sharp, has great color and awesome contrast and costs less than some primes. So, I don't see the advantage of prime lenses at all (unless you are a professional photographer and need super sharp corners)...

It's not about "needs" (or for that matter "super sharp corners").  I notice you have the 50mm f/1.4 in your gear list. If you mount that lens and shoot in low light, what aperture will you use ? Would you shoot at f/4 and slower or will you find a use for f/1.4-f/2.8 ?

The 70-200 f/4 is a fine lens but doesn't have the wow factor that the 135L, Sigma 85 Canon 85L or even the 85 non-L offer.

It's not just about "sharp corners" (for teles it's not about that at all), it's not about "needs", it's about the effect of those extra stops.

The interesting thing is that I feel like the 50 f/1.4 is almost unusable between f/1.4 - f/2.0. It's super soft (some people also call it dreamy), which means it doesn't really add anything to my flexibility. Stopped down it might be slightly sharper than my Tamron or the Canon 70-200, but there's literally no real world difference.  And I personally much prefer the look I get from my 70-200mm f/4 - better colors, better contrast, ...
And yes, I get beautiful portraits from the f/4 - even at 70mm it gives nice OOF blur and above 120mm or so it becomes a perfect portrait lens when you want to get some distance to your subject (which allows me to get very candid shots).

Perhaps a bad 50mm 1.4 copy? Its happens, but when I had mine it was superb, and heres an "Enviromental" portrait @ f1.8.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2012, 01:30:34 PM by RLPhoto »

AJ

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #25 on: April 26, 2012, 05:53:03 PM »
they're usually sharper, but not always
and they usually have much better bokeh, but not always
Yes indeed.  And:

they're usually faster, but not always
they're usually cheaper, but not always
they're usually smaller and lighter, but not always
they can tilt and shift, but not always
they can focus closer (macro lenses), but not always

.. and they're usually blacker in color, but not always.

swrightgfx

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #26 on: April 26, 2012, 10:02:52 PM »
Some of you have been talking about the words "environmental feeling" and wondering what that means and why primes are better because of it.

I have no idea what the meaning of those words is as applied to a lens, but let me suggest a possible interpretation.

People with zooms are prone to zoom when they should be moving. It's not the focal length of zooming that is wrong, but just the perspective. People with a prime lens tend to become sensitive to adding the "environmental feeling" (whatever that is) to the photograph, because they move to where a person would actually move in order to see a human perspective of the scene.

If someone with a zoom lens would move and zoom, then that could be circumvented, but the very act of zooming makes everyone, including me, forget how to properly move. It's just too much for the brain to process. A prime lens takes this confounding factor of zooming out, and let's one more naturally take pictures, and capture the "environmental feeling."

I am kind of liking those words even though they have no meaning except what we choose to give to them.
Good point. Indeed, as I said before, using primes makes you shoot differently. It also gives you a different image. Comparing shots at 17mm or one with the same framing with a 35 or 50L where the photographer has moved back a few steps, you will notice considerable differences. Using wides for people often leads to big-foot or big-head syndrome. Unless you are after that look, one needs to step back and zoom in, or better yet, use a lovely prime. Primes force you to work with what you have and it you want consistency in your images, one of the easiest things to do it stick with just a couple of primes (eg. 35 or 50 for the street, 85 for more intimate portraits).

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #27 on: April 27, 2012, 04:47:29 AM »
I love primes.

I especially love my 85. My 50 is amazing too.

I think a couple advantages of primes have not been mentioned yet...
They usually (but not always) have less distortion, and less vignetting. And, on the higher end stuff, less fringing I think too.

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #27 on: April 27, 2012, 04:47:29 AM »