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FORUMS Post Processing, Marketing & Presenting Photos RAW, Post Processing & Printing 
Thread started 26 Jul 2016 (Tuesday) 11:09
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Can post processing make up for less than stellar lens quality

 
Alveric
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Jul 26, 2016 20:24 |  #16

Just throw your camera in the dumpster and use your smartphone. Apply all of those fancy filters and effects and photoshop away. You'll end up with a winner every time.


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Scottboarding
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Aug 02, 2016 00:18 |  #17

I'm not sure what you're expecting from your lenses, but the Sigma 17-50mm is the sharpest lens I've used. I used my friend's 24-105L for a video shoot one time, and I was really disappointed in the sharpness. I would never give up my Sigma for the 24-105 as long as I'm on a crop body. Perhaps my friend had a bad copy of the lens because I tried everything I could to make it sharp. At first I thought it was out of focus; so I tried contrast detect AF, and it was still really soft. I extremely slowly manual focused it, and I saw it go in and out of focus, but when it was in focus, it was just plain old soft. I don't see what you feel like you're missing by using the Sigma 17-50mm as opposed to the Canon 17-55mm. I know many people who are extremely happy with the sigma; plus it's much smaller than the Canon.


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MalVeauX
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Aug 02, 2016 00:39 |  #18

Hrm,

Yes and no?

Depends on what properties you mean. Sharpness? Pretty close. All the hype everyone goes nuts over when something even sharper gets released but if you really look at the sharpness of the final product compared to a softer lenses's final product, you can't really tell in most real world photographs that have both been processed. It used to be that you couldn't really duplicate the look that super telephotos give with maximum aperture and long focal length, like the 200 F2, but, it's getting closer and it's to the point where the wizards can take a full depth of field photo and make it very difficult to tell that it was not shot with a telephoto with maximum aperture and/or with a large sensor format. Micro-contrast is hard to duplicate without a lot of complex work, so that's at least something, but again at the end of the day if two photos are made and processed, is it going to be night & day? Not really. You can go on and on in this method really. Remember you're working in a digital medium, so I would expect that digital manipulation would get better and better. And it is.

That said, how much time & effort do you want to put into it? When I see videos on how to process certain things, it takes a long time really, even with actions. For some wizards, this is second nature and it goes faster. For someone only skimming the surface, it takes a long time. Mean while, with better gear, getting top quality available, is that not a means to remove something from that digital work flow perhaps? There's something to be said about that maybe.

Really, to what extent are we really stating that processing is making up for a low quality lens? In what way really that matters to the final image? Post processing won't fix an out of focus image after all. A poor lens with rotten AF performance will be hard to be made up for, compared to something that is fast and locks on tight (body not considered here, due to subject). You get the idea...

This sounds awfully more like a chart comparison, rather than photography though. A good composition and purposeful capture is what makes a photograph a photograph and not just a snapshot or pointless random collection of photo reflections.

I will admit, the stuff people are doing with post processing is crazy compared to back in the 90's and early 2000's even.

Some really interesting ways post processing can totally change an image and make it seem like different gear was used (ie, looks like a super tele was used):

https://www.youtube.co​m …4P6jSEo&index=1​66&list=WL (external link)
https://www.youtube.co​m/watch?v=lStzXwWC5O8 (external link)

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tonylong
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Aug 02, 2016 03:19 |  #19

Well, this is an interesting discussion, given the progress we've seen over the years, both in photogrsph gear and in post processing software!

one thing to bear in mind is that the colection of compact, bridge, point and shoot and cell phone cameras can take pretty dang good photos in the right hands, and whith a bit of post-processing, would want to be the judge? And, back in the old days, good darkroom work could make the difference between an Ansel Adams masterpiece and a quick snapshot of the same scene!

It's also true that some folks get into "GAS" (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and for many folks, it's about the best and greatest gear...

Points to ponder, though -- even though post-processing can indeed enhance a photo an can indeed correct various problems, I still don't see it as a replacement for high-quality gear. I mean, there were major reasons why I made the move to good quality gear, even though I did get some nice shots with my "other" gear, and even though apps like Photoshop and then Lightroom certainly helped to "enhance" those photos, still, a major part of my growth in photography was to take on new challenges both in what I wanted to capture and in the quality of those captures. Think of action scenes, maybe a sport or people or animals on the move, birds in flight, say, or a subject at a considerable distance, try to get good captures of those things with cheap gear and, well, you will likely encounter problems that post processing just won't fix!

And then, when it comes to the "magic" of post processing, well yeah, and I spent countless hours and days learning to work over my photos. I don't regret that, but remember the old saying "Time is money". Or, for us non-professionals, you could say that "Time is life spent". In this discussion, spending hours trying to make a suffering photo look "good" is truly "Life spent"!


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kirkt
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Aug 02, 2016 09:45 |  #20

Part of this discussion also depends on the sensor. As sensors get more and more photo sites packed into them and the resolution of the sensors increases, poor optics will break down and you will see all of the deficiencies in their full 50MP, non-AA filtered glory. Not just aberrations and distortions, but lack of resolving power and micro contrast. The trend toward higher and higher resolution sensors will make these deficiencies more apparent.

There are corrections and techniques you can use to clean up a non-corrected lens with diffraction, poor resolving power, etc. Will it make the lens appear as if it performs like a well-corrected, high resolution lens? No. Some lenses provide correction that make them able to shoot scenes that similar focal length lenses simply could not due to flare, aberrations, distortion etc. that would make post processing a nightmare. Of course, it is trendy nowadays to shoot with the intention of making a flare-prone image with lack of contrast, for example, so that might be desirable. Lenses each have their own rendering style that shapes the nature of the light falling on the sensor - this is not a simple task to emulate.

In the end, it depends on your goal of final output and what you consider acceptable; however, there are reasons that fine optics are desirable and may be worth the expense. If you are considering purchasing an expensive lens, it may be worthwhile to rent one first to see how it works with your camera bodies and if the expense is justified for your shooting style, image content and final output.

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tekin112000
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Aug 02, 2016 09:51 |  #21

Scottboarding wrote in post #18084222 (external link)
I'm not sure what you're expecting from your lenses, but the Sigma 17-50mm is the sharpest lens I've used. I used my friend's 24-105L for a video shoot one time, and I was really disappointed in the sharpness. I would never give up my Sigma for the 24-105 as long as I'm on a crop body. Perhaps my friend had a bad copy of the lens because I tried everything I could to make it sharp. At first I thought it was out of focus; so I tried contrast detect AF, and it was still really soft. I extremely slowly manual focused it, and I saw it go in and out of focus, but when it was in focus, it was just plain old soft. I don't see what you feel like you're missing by using the Sigma 17-50mm as opposed to the Canon 17-55mm. I know many people who are extremely happy with the sigma; plus it's much smaller than the Canon.

I am not sure that a Canon lens is better than my Sigma. I was only using it as an example because I own a Sigma and had considered buying a Canon lens.

The point was to open a discusion. Could one use software to make up the perceived or real performance gap between less expensive lenses and the most expensive


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Post edited over 2 years ago by Wilt. (3 edits in all)
     
Aug 02, 2016 10:29 |  #22

tekin112000 wrote in post #18084471 (external link)
The point was to open a discusion. Could one use software to make up the perceived or real performance gap between less expensive lenses and the most expensive

One needs to consider that a lens' performance is a composite of multiple characteristics (not an exhaustive list, but some of the most important):


  1. spatial resolution
  2. contrast
  3. acutance (what is considered by most as 'sharpness')
  4. freedom from chromatic abberation (focuses all colors at same point)
  5. freedom from spherical abberation
  6. freedom from barrel/pincushion distortion
  7. out-of-focus area characteristics ('bokeh')


The items in the list are sometimes interrelated.
MTF rating is the result of a combination of 1, 2, 3, 4
#7 is the result of how much correction of #5..and you can create bad #7 by overcorrecting spherical distortion
#6 is independent of the other parameters

Post processing software might improve upon #2 and #3 without changing #1
Post processing software might be able to fix #4 and #6 without improving other characteristics
But in general, software cannot make piece of coal look like a diamond.

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Alveric
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Aug 02, 2016 12:09 |  #23

Wilt wrote in post #18084501 (external link)
[..] in general, software cannot make piece of coal look like a diamond.

Yup: no matter how much lipstick you put on a pig, it remains a pig.


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Aug 02, 2016 12:22 |  #24

He lenses he's talking about are already good lenses though...


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Aug 02, 2016 12:29 |  #25

tekin112000 wrote in post #18078103 (external link)
Software can now reduce vignetting, distortion, chromatic aberation and probably others I don't know about.

Can these capabilities make it possible to narrow the performance gap between third party lenses, Tokina, Sigma and high priced Canon L lenses?

Many of Canon lenses offer 4 stops of image stabilization, and it works very well. But not all lenses do - some have a lesser amount
of IS or no IS at all. This difference may show up in images shot at slow shutter speeds.

Photoshop's CC has a camera shake reduction feature, which in some cases can improve a photo's sharpness.
In the example that follows, I believe the initial image softness was due to the photographer and not the lens.
But Photoshop's feature can be a benefit with lenses without IS.

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Tom ­ Reichner
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Post edited over 2 years ago by Tom Reichner.
     
Aug 02, 2016 12:58 |  #26

.

tekin112000 wrote in post #18084471 (external link)
The point was to open a discusion. Could one use software to make up the perceived or real performance gap between less expensive lenses and the most expensive?

I think that you are making an assumption that a less expensive lens is of less quality than a more expensive lens. There are certainly differences in lens quality, but these differences are not always mirrored in the price of the lens.

For the types of images I shoot, software cannot compensate for quality optics. Why? Because I am usually trying to accurately capture extremely fine detail. The birds and mammals I shoot are covered with many thousands of individual feathers and hairs. I usually want my photos to show every individual hair, and for each hair to be sharp and distinct from the hairs next to it. If I don't get that degree of detail in the initial capture, then I missed the shot, and there is nothing that any software in the world can do to get each hair and each feather to look exactly as it did in real life.

There are exceptions to what I said above; times when the fine detail is not essential to the success of an image. Silhouettes would be one of these exceptions, and for many of the silhouettes that I shoot, I could get away with lower quality optics and be able to edit the images in such a way that the adverse effects of the lens would be reversed with the use of editing software. It's when there is a ton of very fine detail that software can't help.

For other genres maybe software can help to make up for poor optics, because the subject matter consists of relatively large areas that are without much fine detail. But when you want to clearly show hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of individual hairs and feathers, then you really need good optics in the first place.

.


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Aug 02, 2016 17:03 as a reply to  @ Tom Reichner's post |  #27

^ You make a good point, and I agree - all other things being equal, I think you're right.


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Aug 02, 2016 17:43 |  #28

I cannot recall the last time that I squeezed that shutter that fine detail wasn't important.


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Aug 02, 2016 18:16 |  #29

To some extent, all of this depends on the OP’s perception of image quality and delineation, whereby software might be sufficient...or not.

Most modern lenses and a good many antiquated ones would meet my needs in terms of image quality, so I have nothing further to add in regards to software’s compensating assets.

Oh, and don’t forget about overall character, which is the more subjective rendering that can vary among even objectively technically sophisticated lenses.


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Aug 03, 2016 12:11 |  #30

Look at it this way - however good you are at software manipulation - garbage in = garbage out.

PS etc. can really improve an image but if the detail is not there then you can't bring it out.

When I stared I had the usual 70-300mm zoom and the images were OK, I was happy.

I managed to borrow a 70-200 F2.8L from a mate and tried it back to back - I ended up giving the 70-300 away within 2 weeks as I realised I'd never use it again as the images were just not sharp enough.

Initially I thought my technique was at fault, but the back to back comparison proved that I was doing it right - the kit was just not up to the job.


  
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Can post processing make up for less than stellar lens quality
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