Saturday, January 25, 2014

Contest Time!... um... let's take a closer look at this...

Yesterday I posted a contest to win a free beer.

As you think about the two lenses whose images I posted there, I thought I'd throw four more lenses at you.  This time to illustrate several ideas which we will get to in a moment.

As background, I chose similar effective focal lengths so as to retain a common perspective to the scene.  For the first run I shot the lenses all at the same aperture.  For the second run, I let just one of the lenses shoot wide open where it was stopped down during the first run.  Three lenses were shot wide open for both runs.

To start, here was the "test" setup -
  • Canon 5D MkII or Canon 7D
  • ISO50 (5D MkII) and ISO100 (7D)
  • 2 second shutter release delay
  • With manual lenses I Live View focused, otherwise AF was used
  • Stout tripod
  • In-camera sharpness set to 3 in both cases
  • CR2 output converted straight into jpg without any processing
  • Light "curves" adjustments applied to help match the subtle difference between the images after conversion
To start, here was the overall scene shot with four lenses.  As in yesterday's contest, enlarge these images to 100 percent to observe any subtle, or not so subtle differences.

Here is the first run.  These are 100 percent crops of the sharpest area in the scene.  There is one image where I sharpened the output.  It should be fairly obvious.  And if it's obvious to you, think about what kind of lens might make the original image.  Then think about which lenses made the other three selections.

Here are 100 percent crops of an out of focus region.  One of the lenses was stopped down to match the aperture of the other three lenses.  Knowing what you do about lens design, consider what kind of lenses might be used to render the various out of focus areas.  Then consider which you find most pleasing.

Here are 100 percent crops of the same out of focus region as the images we just considered.  This time only three lenses are used.  One lens was shot wide open (instead of stopped down to match the aperture of the other three lenses).  Consider which it is and take another close look at the comparative images.

Can you answer the following questions?
  • What focal lengths do you think these are, remembering that I shot two in APS-C and two in Full-Frame
  • What lens would have made the sharpest images?
  • Can you tell if zoom lenses were used?
  • Conversely, can you tell if fixed focal length lenses were used?
  • If you can tell any of these things, can you tell the apertures these were shot at?
  • If you can tell any of these things, can you name the lenses?
I am being deliberately provocative in presenting these "tests" in this way and asking the previous questions.

Here is a processed image.  While I will give the full set of answers to all the questions asked in this post later in the comments section in a week or two (so as to give people time to consider their answers carefully), I will say that the lens used in the making of the following image is ancient.  It's purpose is more in line with late 1800's Pictorialism than modern ultra-sharp, ultra contrasty image making.  With all this in mind, I like the style and the way the lens behaves.

Think about it.  Ponder it.  Then answer the next set of questions.
  • What are the important factors in making a fine image?  
  • Do you rely on people to inform you what is the "best"?  
  • Do you rely on the latest "advancements" in imaging technologies to give you a "edge" in image creation?
  • Are you handing your creative process and artistic output over to the control of others (private or corporate) who might not have the same goals as you?

For myself I've found that answering all of these questions openly and honestly can provide real insight into what I do, what I have control over, what I expect others to do for me, and what is very much my responsibility to understand and manage.

Which leads me to asking this very provocative question:
  • If you can't tell which lens made which image, what other ways might you have in deciding what makes a fine image?

Artistic liberation is just around the corner.

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