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Author Topic: Are primes really more sharp?  (Read 6842 times)

RedEye

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Are primes really more sharp?
« on: April 23, 2012, 08:05:58 PM »
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?

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Are primes really more sharp?
« on: April 23, 2012, 08:05:58 PM »

tron

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2012, 08:18:00 PM »
It always depends on the specific lenses being compared. Many years ago I had the 28-70 f/2.8L zoom. I was not totally satisfied when I was printing 10in X 12in images (although I didn't know what it was bothering me). Then I started using a lot more the 24mm f/2.8 28mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4 and suddenly everything was OK.

On the other hand when I got the 70-200 f/2.8L (non-IS it was the 90s) I was impressed by its performance.

It was the first time that I had a zoom that produced fixed lens quality photos.

RedEye

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2012, 09:34:16 PM »
Thanks for the info.  I'm just really bent out of shape about the new 24-70 delay so I'm trying to sort out something comparable for that range, and little is coming up.

Random Orbits

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2012, 08:55:15 AM »
Thanks for the info.  I'm just really bent out of shape about the new 24-70 delay so I'm trying to sort out something comparable for that range, and little is coming up.

It depends which set of lines you're looking at for the MTFs.  MTFs typically provide max aperture and f/8 data.  You can't compare a f/1.4 wide open to a f/2.8 wide open.  The larger the max aperture, the harder it is to maintain sharpness over the entire lens, but in many cases it doesn't matter much because the DOF is so thin and is not needed for portraiture.

Axilrod

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2012, 11:19:35 AM »
Yes primes are absolutely sharper, but I think the 70-200 f/2.8 IS II is the exception to the rule.  But like a 24-70 vs the 24L/35L/50L, no contest the primes are going to look better (hopefully this may change with the 24-70II).  And of course primes have the better bokeh, better light gathering ability, etc. 
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FarQinell

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2012, 12:19:31 PM »
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 inherent problem with zooms is that they have a lot more lens elements than primes.

More elements therefore means lower contrast - fact of life!

All lens elements have to be positioned correctly on the optical axis within engineering tolerances - the more elements the greater the problem of providing you with a decent lens.

 A Canon prime will always beat a zoom - sharper, lighter, cheaper!


leesutmost

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2012, 02:23:04 PM »
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?

Sometimes, 70-200II is also sharp but the img is not smooth and natural enough.
Primes, especially L class are sharp for the reason that it is more accurate in optical design.
Sharp is only one part, for primes, the unique feeling makes the difference.
Eg. 35L is rich in color and sharp enough even at F1.4
50L is not that sharp but is full of environmental feeling at F1.2
85L is extremely sharp at F1.2 and the bokeh is that nice...
This summarize may not be very accurate and complete but hope it could help understand

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2012, 02:23:04 PM »

!Xabbu

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2012, 03:39:03 PM »
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?

Sometimes, 70-200II is also sharp but the img is not smooth and natural enough.
Primes, especially L class are sharp for the reason that it is more accurate in optical design.
Sharp is only one part, for primes, the unique feeling makes the difference.
Eg. 35L is rich in color and sharp enough even at F1.4
50L is not that sharp but is full of environmental feeling at F1.2
85L is extremely sharp at F1.2 and the bokeh is that nice...
This summarize may not be very accurate and complete but hope it could help understand

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)...

swrightgfx

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2012, 01:38:26 AM »
Using a prime isn't just about the optical integrity of the lens. It is about the way it makes you shoot and think about your shots. It slows you down so you concentrate on more detail. It also (usually) gets you closer to the action. Primes make street photography in particular, fun!

Also, they are almost always more sharp.

RedEye

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2012, 01:59:46 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?

birtembuk

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2012, 03:19:05 AM »
I think the "magic" of primes goes beyond MTF charts readings. It's not only about sharpness, but contrast, colors, depth and well, magic or what some would call environmental feeling. Obviously, comparing sharpness of a good zoom at f/4 with that of a prime at f/1.2 doesn't really do justice to the prime. Comparing it at f/4 would be another story. Surely zooms have tremendously improved over the years and can deliver stunning sharpness. Your 70-200/4 is a known solid performer, no doubt. But it's opening at 4 only. Until you have used some fast L glass, you should keep your judgment. Maybe the day you'll get one for test and take shots wide open, you'll realize that you're producing something different and maybe that day you'll change your mind. For me, apart from a 70-200/IS/II I don't want to bother with any other zoom in my bag.   

myone

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2012, 03:35:19 AM »
It is really hard to explain how good are primes without actually using it. Just rent one, spend some time with it and you will know.

I recently bought a 35L and love everything about it. The ability to take sharp pictures constantly at f/1.4 change the attitude and taste of your pictures. The smooth bokeh renditions, colors, contrasts really set it apart from zooms.
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Hillsilly

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2012, 04:13:33 AM »
I think the days of categorically saying primes are sharper than (quality) zooms are over.  Its more a question of the versatility of a zoom vs wider aperture and lower weight of a prime.  Primes are usually cheaper, too.

There are some shots that you can only get with a wide aperture prime.  Yet there would rarely be a shot that you could only get with a zoom.  (Unless you are doing some ultra tricky zoom-while-you-take-the-shot thingy - in which case you obviously need a zoom!).
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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2012, 04:13:33 AM »

SandyP

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #13 on: April 26, 2012, 05:11:15 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?

Sometimes, 70-200II is also sharp but the img is not smooth and natural enough.
Primes, especially L class are sharp for the reason that it is more accurate in optical design.
Sharp is only one part, for primes, the unique feeling makes the difference.
Eg. 35L is rich in color and sharp enough even at F1.4
50L is not that sharp but is full of environmental feeling at F1.2
85L is extremely sharp at F1.2 and the bokeh is that nice...
This summarize may not be very accurate and complete but hope it could help understand

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)...

Uhm..... f/4 is EXTREMELY slow of a lens. It's a death sentence for anyone who wants to work in low light. f/1.2 lets in almost 10x more light than f/4, think about that.

There are countless examples of why primes are advantageous over zooms for image quality. Generally sharper, better contrast because of less glass in the way, lighter (usually), smaller, allows for slower shutter speeds when required. Also, the low light abilities. Try taking f/4 to: a concert, wedding, event, travel, anything remotely dark. Even in some dimmer day time scenarios where you want more speed. High ISO isn't going to save you. Not to mention more control over depth of field. This is a big one. Having the ability to choose more options when depth is concerned, is also a big plus. Who wants less?

Besides, sharpness is only one factor in making a good lens, and it's not even near the top of the list... but primes still win there, mostly.

I shoot at f/1.2, f/1.4 and f/2 all the time. Daily. Even with my film cameras I do. It's a necessity for a lot of people, and even if it isn't REQUIRED in some situations, having the ability to control the depth of field is an INCREDIBLE asset. Sure, you can get good depth of field blur from 70-200mm f/4 lenses, but you have to be pretty far away, even to frame closely at 200mm. My 50L, or the 85L, I can be quite close, and have insane depth of field control.

To someone who spends his life taking photos of people, that's absolutely a key factor. But regardless of that, I find that most people drool over these lenses because of that, because they CAN achieve such results, even if it's a snap-shot, or a purely hobby sort of thing.


Once you handle all the classic L primes from Canon (or I mean, a bunch) you start to see exactly what I mean. They are special lenses, and it's FAR more than just sharpness that makes them special. They produces extremely amazing images from an over all feel stand point. Once you know, you'll never forget.

NormanBates

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #14 on: April 26, 2012, 05:35:02 AM »
they're usually sharper, but not always
and they usually have much better bokeh, but not always

use the-digital-picture to get a visual idea of how much sharper they are (and, as pointed before, make sure you set the same focal length and aperture)
http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=101&Camera=453&Sample=0&FLI=3&API=0&LensComp=115&CameraComp=453&SampleComp=0&FLIComp=0&APIComp=4

and I have some tests, for both sharpness and bokeh, here:
http://www.similaar.com/foto/lenstests/lenstestsa.html
http://www.similaar.com/foto/lenstests/bokehtests.html

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Re: Are primes really more sharp?
« Reply #14 on: April 26, 2012, 05:35:02 AM »