A Call to Overthrow the Cult of Sharpness!

Discussion in 'Digital SLR' started by John A. Stovall, May 10, 2006.

  1. I’m getting tired of seeing in photo forums all over the net posts
    like this:

    "Which is the sharper?" "I went through 8 before I got a sharp one."
    "Should this upper left corner be sharper at f/1.4 in a 100% crop?"
    "How do I know if I have a sharp one?"

    I’m calling for an end to this. If you don’t have something to say
    with the photograph all the sharpness of a KH-11 lens system won’t

    Photography is not about sharpness. It’s about communication.

    It’s time we started looking at just what we want our photographs to
    say not if they are sharp.

    Smash the Sharp and Free Expression!


    "I have been a witness, and these pictures are
    my testimony. The events I have recorded should
    not be forgotten and must not be repeated."

    -James Nachtwey-
    John A. Stovall, May 10, 2006
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  2. John A. Stovall

    Paul Furman Guest

    Well yeah but since I started printing at 13x19, sharpness really does
    matter now.
    Paul Furman, May 10, 2006
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  3. John A. Stovall

    Scott W Guest

    Well IMO fuzzy photos suck.

    When I look at a print that is soft it gives me the uncomfortable
    feeling that my eyes are not focusing right.

    For me it is important that a print shows good textures in such things
    as grass, sand or the bricks on a building, and this takes a sharp

    A large sharp print can give one an impressive feeling, almost like
    being there.

    So I for one am not going to be apologetic about wanting my images to
    be sharp.

    If you have words of wisdom on how to best communicate with photography
    by all means share them with us, I do believe these is room for
    discussion on both how to get sharp images and how to communicate.

    Scott W, May 10, 2006
  4. John A. Stovall

    Randy Howard Guest

    John A. Stovall wrote
    So ignore them.
    I'm all about freedom of expression. So, if you want to not
    worry about sharpness, great. If someone else does, more power
    to them. We don't need to label it a cult or otherwise try to
    curb the desires of others to do things we don't agree with.
    Photography is about whatever the photographer wants it to be.
    Smash those that want to tell others what to Smash!

    Randy Howard, May 10, 2006
  5. Yes here's to fuzzy photography!
    Hoo Flung Poo, May 10, 2006
  6. John A. Stovall

    Scott W Guest

    Hey aren't you the guy who wrote
    seems to me you were worrying about sharpness then.

    Scott W, May 10, 2006
  7. John A. Stovall

    ... Guest

    I could not agree more. Gaussian blur is a frequently used tool when I work
    in Photoshop. Who wants to be able to count the freckles on a 30 year old
    woman's face anyway? The only time sharp has any use is in pictorial
    advertising photography.
    ..., May 10, 2006
  8. I'm tired of the word "bokeh" and the idiots who are more concerned
    with the out-of-focusness of a particular lens.
    Randall Ainsworth, May 10, 2006
  9. John A. Stovall

    Sheldon Guest

    Interesting thread. I just got finished reading a review of some digital
    cameras, and some of the cameras this group loves were written up as not
    very sharp. I think it's all relative. You'd have to drop down into the
    category of "crap" to find an unsharp camera, especially when it comes to
    DSLR's. That said, I'd rather have the option of blurring a photo on
    purpose than to have the camera and lens blur it for me.
    Sheldon, May 10, 2006
  10. Today John A. Stovall attempted to dazzle everyone with this
    profound linguistic utterance
    who's putting the gun(s) to your head to make you look?
    All Things Mopar, May 10, 2006
  11. John A. Stovall

    dwight Guest

    I need sharp. I rely on the camera and lens to bring into focus what my eyes

    Took a shot of a gosling this morning. The surrounding grass is clear and
    crisp, but the gosling itself is a blur.

    I have to go doublecheck my dioptric now.

    dwight, May 10, 2006
  12. John A. Stovall

    JPS Guest

    In message <090520061823592622%>,
    JPS, May 10, 2006
  13. John A. Stovall

    aaJoe Guest

    I¹m getting tired of seeing in photo forums all over the net posts
    How can a picture be too sharp?
    What's the purpose of not having maximum clarity?
    If you're saying they are looking at sharpness as the end-all of lens
    judging, you have a point. But I don't read that in your words. Of
    course there are other parameters. But everything else being equal, I'd
    say 99.99999% of photographers will buy the sharper lens.

    Because its better. So may you wallow in a complacent blur happy in
    knowing your pictures won't divulge too many secrets. We wouldn't want
    too much detail would we?

    Like as if you can't tone down sharpness and detail occasionally with
    aaJoe, May 10, 2006
  14. John A. Stovall

    Pat Guest

    I think 99% of all photographers by the cheapest lens. Okay, I take
    that back. 99% of all camera owners buy the cheapest lens.
    Photographers are more like 50-50.
    Pat, May 10, 2006
  15. I agree. There is a place for blur, generally to show motion.
    But a slightly unsharp photo hurts the eyes (and that is
    different than a soft focus lens).
    And that, in my opinion, is the key. This gets into the reasons
    for large format photography. Part of the effect of "being there"
    is resolution matching that of the eye. The human eye has
    incredible resolution, and a large photo that matches that resolution
    is not easy to make. No consumer digital camera can do it
    with a single frame. For those who are unfamiliar with Scott's
    work, he achieves that high level by mosaicking many digital
    photos together. When one gets that large sharp photo,
    combined with a good subject and composition, all combine to give
    that "wow factor" that makes people want to get closer.

    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), May 10, 2006
  16. John A. Stovall

    aaJoe Guest

    I'm getting tired of seeing in photo forums all over the net posts
    I've never heard of the term bokeh but correct out of focus
    characteristics make sense. In Astronomy you gauge a telescope's optics
    in some ways by blurring a star and seeing if the doughnut is
    symmetrical. Is this the same principle? In high end audio, poor
    amplification is more easily identified on slightly distorted material.
    Its how the amp handles the less than perfect material given it. Bokeh
    sounds like a similar concept.
    aaJoe, May 10, 2006
  17. John A. Stovall

    Stacey Guest

    But we MUST continue to make looking for noise on 100% crops the prime
    objective! How can you seriously say this about lens quality when you
    yourself focus on image noise at 100% so much? I'd MUCH rather have good
    optics with high QC than fuss over noise like you canon guys do.
    Stacey, May 10, 2006
  18. John A. Stovall

    Stacey Guest

    He's just tired of reading about the lens QC issues his favorite brand has.
    If his favorite brand has a weakness (lens quality) then he has to pretend
    it doesn't matter!
    Stacey, May 10, 2006
  19. John A. Stovall

    Rich Guest

    Rich, May 10, 2006
  20. John A. Stovall

    RW+/- Guest

    Heh, and I just got through looking at some photo's and comments wherein
    one persons only real comment about the photo was the OOFA, lol, from one
    extreme to another photographers run the gamut.

    I have a tendency to agree with you, I suppose since a lot of people who
    focus on lens sharpness have no idea where it is useful and where it isn't.

    A picture can be crisp and yet not sharp in the technical sense and the
    best lens that is so sharp that a hair stands out like a pin can all be
    ruined in any event by the way/how the photo is shot. This is best
    recognized when a photo is printed in a large format. Which brings up
    another point, what good is a rather sharp lens when the sensor can not
    handle it? ie: not enough megapixels, or... you resize a photo only to
    realize to your chagrin that you now have a case of the jaggies. :)

    As has been stated here and elsewhere many times, WTH good is it to have
    the best equipment when ones skills/eye sucks?

    I've seen some great photo's taken with some "not so great" equipment, so I
    agree with your bottom line point which most seem to have missed in this

    That said, I have seen the best of both worlds, and one gentleman here who
    has terrific technical skills some of which is obvious in his discussion
    regarding sensors, has some of the best photo's I have seen in landscape
    and a few other subjects as well, so it can all come together if one knows
    WTH they are doing. Crisp can work well with people, sharp is usually not
    an option, most haven't a clue what the difference is.

    OTH, if one is shooting a macro of a razors edge..... :)
    RW+/-, May 10, 2006
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