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Thread: Lenses Vs Software?

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    Lenses Vs Software?

    The importance of lenses and to a lesser degree bodies is constantly emphasised when talking about producing good images....and of course its true. But I'm wondering just how much people could save if, instead of spending thousands on 'L' or 'DA' lenses they had a reasonable look at what a good quality image processing app can do?

    Ive been recently having a good look at DXO Optics Pro and rather like it and while an app like this wont turn an IPhone snap into an award winner it can certainly have a profound effect on a reasonable Raw image produced with, say, a sub $500 lens.

    Im sure most of the pros shoot with, say, 'L' glass and still do a lot of post processing but it occurs to me that it makes sense to spend $170 on some software and a $300 lens that together might outperform a lens costing two or three times more.

    Anyway, I'd be interested to hear some thoughts on this!

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    Re: Lenses Vs Software?

    Hi Stu,

    I see what you're getting at, but I don't think it's really that easy in practice.

    These days I shoot excludively with L-Series lenses - and I apply as much post-processing as is needed, but (excluding kit lenses of which I have a fairly well publicised loathe), the difference in image quality between a prosumer lens and an L-Series isn't necessarily anything spectacular; for me L-Series optical quality is never less than non-L counterparts, but it also comes down to other areas such as maximum aperture, build quality, robustness etc. I've had commission jobs where it's ended up raining - and I end up with a very wet 1Ds3 camera and very wet 70-200mm f/2.8L lens ... which didn't bother either me or the equipment one little bit. I certainly wouldn't want to try that with anything less.

    In terms of image quality though, if I shot with a 550D and an EF-S lens, I doubt many would be able to tell the difference (not saying I'd want to mind you!).

    With regards to DxO Optics, I know that some here like it (and obviously use it), but personally, try as I may, I just can't find a use for it (and their persistance in not supporting DNG as an input file type rules out exactly 100% of my images).

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    Re: Lenses Vs Software?

    hmmm,
    I'm not sure if you can point it as straigth as you do.
    I looked at DXO and afaik they have a database with the typical caracteristics of different lenses. Next to that, for lenses that are not in the database, the software does assumptions to make the correction and you can tweak these.
    Will DXO support the less advanced non "L" lenses and place them in the database?
    I didn't invest that deep into DXO so maybe they do.

    One other remark about the proffesional lenses: Mostly they are weather sealed, more solid build and often have a wider opening (e.g. 85mm 1.2 L). These can not be achieved by software.

    I just see Colin was a little quicker
    Last edited by Hansm; 15th October 2010 at 09:56 AM. Reason: I asposting approx same time as Colin did

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    Re: Lenses Vs Software?

    Welcome to CC. I am going to have disagree with your statement. I feel the better the pic starts out in PP the easier, faster and more latitude you will have to edit the photo. PP programs should be used as tool to help photographer achieve the end result they are looking for.
    "L" vs consumer glass means that we are starting out with a chance of getting the shot we want. Better materials and better craftsmanship make for a better foundation to work from. They are sharper and faster and give a edge over a consumer lens. Does that mean a outstanding pic cannot be taken with a consumer lens. No, but the the same pic taken by the same person at the same should be better and require less PP.

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    Re: Lenses Vs Software?

    Quote Originally Posted by hansm View Post
    Will DXO support the less advanced non "L" lenses and place them in the database?
    Yes they do.
    If you're thinking about it, go into DxO and look at all the modules they have (combinations of bodies + lenses). My combinations (Canon 40D + EF-S 17-85 Kit, Tokina 11-16, Canon 1.8 (nifty fifity) and 70-200 F4 L IS) are all covered by the DxO modules.

    ps - DxO is a brilliant bit of kit, but it ain't a substitute for good glass. Like Colin and Sam, I don't think you can make the argument that good PP can compensate for what happens when you press the button. Good PP software can help you create the image you envisioned.
    Last edited by Donald; 15th October 2010 at 10:37 AM.

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    Re: Lenses Vs Software?

    Thanks Guys .....I wasnt necessarily pushing DXO OPtics Pro specifically but any decent PP software.
    From what I generally read a 'good' lens is one that displays the least of such things as chromatic aberration,vignetting, barrel distortion etc and displays wanted features like sharpness...all of which can be adjusted in post processing.

    The things that are independant of software, as Colin pointed out, are things like build quality, ergonomics, auto-focus speed etc. But it seems in the discussion of this or that lens the most recurring theme is IQ.

    And the same goes for bodies [again disregarding build quality etc]......camera x has a great sensor!!....fantastic dynamic range....little noise at high ISOs etc....again factors that can be overcome to some degree at least in PP.

    So my point really....and its all relative....is that possibly people should look at not over spending on hardware when its might be possible to get the same results with a cheaper hardware/software combination.

    But then software mightnt be for everyone.....as Ken Rockwell says....'Life's too short the spend your time mucking around with RAW files'

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    Re: Lenses Vs Software?

    + to what Colin said... Maybe I could add something. I hope that I am not just repeating what Colin stated. I will just talk about image quality and versatility since Colin has elaborated quite well on build quality.

    Prosumer lenses are capable of very good quality imagery under middle of the road circumstances. If you are shooting outdoors on a relatively bright day and can use apertures of f/8 or f/11; the prosumer lens will provide suprisingly good imagery. Additionally, if you only have small prints made at your local discount store or use the images to send pictures of the kids and dog to grandmother; the prosumer glass is probably all you need. Using "L" lenses for that type of product is, to use an old hunting term, "being overgunned".

    However, the profesional lenses will stand out when you are working at the edges of the box... That is when you are scraping as much light as you can to get a shutter speed that will both stop action and dampen camera shake. Or when you are dragging your shutter using flash so that the background will not appear to be a dark black cave.

    You then need to shoot at or near the maximum aperture of your lens. The Canon "L" class lenses (I will include the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens into this group because of its quality) usually have a larger aperture AND will produce excellent image quality when shot wide open. As an example, when shooting at 55mm with the 18-55mm f/4-5.6 "kit" lens, your maximum aperture will be f/5.6. When shooting at 55mm with my 17-55mm IS lens, I am at f/5.6. The 17-55mm will provide two stops more light and also will provide better imagery wide open.

    Additionally, the highest quality lenses will stand out when large prints are required.

    If a photographer wants to get the very best quality from the prosumer glass, I suggest shooting with a tripod and keeping the aperture stopped down a couple of stops. That will ensure that the lens will produce quite acceptable imagery under many circumstances.

    Certainly effective post processing will add to imagry from prosumer lenses as it will to any digital images. However, I don't believe that there is any "free lunch" in photography...

    However, to paraphrase Ken Rockwell.... "My secret is that if I sound expert enough; no one will probably know where my head is buried!"
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 15th October 2010 at 02:48 PM.

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    Re: Lenses Vs Software?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stu3133 View Post
    And the same goes for bodies [again disregarding build quality etc]......camera x has a great sensor!!....fantastic dynamic range....little noise at high ISOs etc....again factors that can be overcome to some degree at least in PP.
    Keep in mind also though that - in my opinion anyway - oh so many photographers worry about things that contribute very LITTLE to most everyday "real world" images. Things like dynamic range (most cameras have a DR in the range of 10 to 12, and we typically display 6 and print 4) - High ISO noise in a correctly exposed and not-excessively-cropped real-world print is generally undetectable by the human eye. And at the same time they publish images that are flat and/or poorly (or un-) sharpened. As Lance Armstrong said, "it's not about the bike".

    So my point really....and its all relative....is that possibly people should look at not over spending on hardware when its might be possible to get the same results with a cheaper hardware/software combination.
    In my case, cheaper hardware won't give me the ability to save a full resolution RAW file to my CF card for later processing and simultaniously save a low-resolution JPEG to my SD card so that images only take 2 seconds instead of 7 seconds to appear on the 40" screen in the studio. Cheaper hardware won't give me weather and dust sealing so I can comeplete a $400 job in the rain. Cheaper hardware won't give me a plethora of custom functions that allow me to automatically configure my camera to suit my shooting environment.

    In terms of image quality, it's important to optimise every step, and to make choices that optimise image quality at every step. Images from my EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II lens come out looking fantastic, but images from my EF 85 f/1.2L USM II are sharper and have better colour and sharpness, and this require less processing to reach my standards. Images from a non-L-series lens may well require more processing to reach the required standard (which with 400+ images from a typical shoot) gets to be somewhat time consuming.

    as Ken Rockwell says....'Life's too short the spend your time mucking around with RAW files'
    And as Ken Rockwell also says ...

    "Although most of the technical information is probably true most of the time, the rest is all pretend. I love to fool around, pretend, and make things up.
    I'm just one guy with a computer who likes to take pictures. I have the playful, immature and creative, trouble-making mind of a seven-year-old, so read accordingly."

  9. #9

    Re: Lenses Vs Software?

    Putting this through my technobabble translator I am getting;

    Pro bodies and pro glass where your children's inheritance is at stake and prosumer kit for those of us who have other means to make ends meet. With pro kit you do not necessarily get better image quality all of the time but you will have more chance of consistency in competent hands. You will also have the ability to keep working in conditions when us amateurs will be packing up our kit and heading for the pub.

    Why do amateurs buy pro kit?....because they can. But they do have a choice. If I had to rely on photography to keep WireVixen in high heels I would certainly be investing in the type of kit that Colin has. The problem is that very few photographers who rely solely on photography to make a living from day one can afford this gear. You need loans (with business rate interest) and that is a massive hit on new business with depreciation of electronic assets reaching 100% after 2 years (for accounting purposes) You would need a heck of a lot of $400 jobs to pay the mortgage, business loans and keep the business solvent. Many pros I see on forums use other income and savings to get the tools and support the business in the hope that their investment will be returned. That is not good business unless you can get a worthwhile return in 2 years or less. Frankly I do not know how young photographers get into this game unless they can get a salaried job or sponsorship and going solo only when they can risk investment of their hard earned cash.

    As for the software vs. glass. I do not think there is a simple answer to this (as alluded to above). Software is another stage in the processing, to a lesser or greater degree depending on the style of the photographer. I find it difficult to believe that expensive glass shaves time off the PP....unless you are trying to recover what may have been a pigs ear in the first instance.

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    Re: Lenses Vs Software?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wirefox View Post
    I find it difficult to believe that expensive glass shaves time off the PP....unless you are trying to recover what may have been a pigs ear in the first instance.
    Hi Steve,

    It does ... simply because one spends less time pushing and prodding pixels to get them where they need to be.

    Probably not on non-critical stuff, but for close-up portraiture it does; with the likes of the EF 85mm f/1.2L USM II it's pretty much correct "out of the box" in terms of contrast, colour, and sharpness.

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    Re: Lenses Vs Software?

    "Frankly I do not know how young photographers get into this game unless they can get a salaried job or sponsorship and going solo only when they can risk investment of their hard earned cash."

    I can understand where you are coming from... However, IMO, one of the primary causes of failure in virtually any new business is under capitalization. If the difference in cost between a set of topline lenses and a set of consumer lenses is critical to the photographer starting a business... I would strongly advise that photographer to keep his daytime job until he can afford the gear with which to work...

    I have a professional carpenter doing some repairs in my house at this moment... I notice that none of his tools were bought from the dollar bin at a discount store.

    Or... When my friend upon acceptance to a prestigious photography school complained that one of the requirements for attendence was an expensive Hasselblad camera with a 150mm lens (this was years ago); he was smugly informed... "Leonardo da Vinci did not paint the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel with a paint by numbers set!"

  12. #12

    Re: Lenses Vs Software?

    Ok I can understand that if that but you would need your skill at the capture end to make a tangible time saving. So I would think that its L Glass + skill at capture that saves the time. The glass alone is only part of the mix.

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    Re: Lenses Vs Software?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wirefox View Post
    Ok I can understand that if that but you would need your skill at the capture end to make a tangible time saving. So I would think that its L Glass + skill at capture that saves the time. The glass alone is only part of the mix.
    Dunno to be honest. Often the capturing isn't a big deal ... the light meter tells me what dial in in terms of exposure, and the grey card pops the colour temp into line in PP ... it's more what happens after that when I'd studying the image and thinking "OK - in theory, this should look perfect, but it doesn't - so what do I need to adjust". So the saving isn't so much in the time it takes to move the controls as it is in the time spent evaluating the image and testing the (interactive) adjustments. It's great when an image can be opened - examined - and then "hit the button" with not having to make any changes (or only one or two) - and in that respect it really is just the glass.

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    Re: Lenses Vs Software?

    Hello friends!
    I'm just starting out. I don't know much about software. I scored CS3 from a friend and I'm amazed at what it can do. I can only imagine what else is out there.
    Alls I do know is I have an L series lens and I love it way more than my non L series lenses. I had been on deployment to Iraq and I had a load of money and I figured that Canon didn't have enough so I gave them A LOT of what I had. I wish I had given them more, and bought all L series. Using one of them is just like the first time your girl tells you she loves you. Wait, that was kinda awkward. Anyways, it's awesome.
    I doubt I would get that feeling sitting at my computer.

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    Re: Lenses Vs Software?

    Quote Originally Posted by pono View Post
    I wish I had given them more, and bought all L series. Using one of them is just like the first time your girl tells you she loves you.
    Aww, you're lucky. No no - not about the L-Series lenses (I've got them too), but my girlfriends never told me they loved me!

    (My kids do though ... usually right before: "Daddy, will you buy me ...")

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    Re: Lenses Vs Software?

    @ Steve,

    Hi Steve,

    Just to show you what I mean, here's a 100% crop of an image taken with an EF 85mm f/1.2L USM II with ZERO ACR adjustments (colour temp set to 5500 'cause I used flash, EVERYTHING else at their default values) ... (be sure to click on the image to view at 100%). I can't even get away with that with my L-Series zooms.

    Note: Capture sharpening of 300% 0.3 0 has been applied, as per usual

    Lenses Vs Software?

    Part of this image here ...

    Lenses Vs Software?

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    Re: Lenses Vs Software?

    Wow that crop is impressive.

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    Re: Lenses Vs Software?

    This arguement gets a bit senseless when it becomes a shoot-out between kit and top end lenses......[As much as he loves the Canon 18-55mm f3.5-5.6, Colin would have to reluctantly admit that it doesnt quite match up to the above 85mm 1.2L ]

    I was really thinking of instances where somebody might be thinking of 'upgrading' from a kit lens to a mid range lens, most likely with a similar 3.5-5.6 range, and paying $500-$800 for it...when any perceptible IQ difference could be easily negated by PPing.

    [And the reference to Ken Rockwell's [loose] quote was obviously, in this context, tongue in cheek ]

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    Re: Lenses Vs Software?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stu3133 View Post
    This arguement gets a bit senseless when it becomes a shoot-out between kit and top end lenses......[As much as he loves the Canon 18-55mm f3.5-5.6, Colin would have to reluctantly admit that it doesnt quite match up to the above 85mm 1.2L ]
    I used to have an EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 - it caused me a lot of grief (that I was unable to fix in post processing). The only thing that stopped me kicking it into orbit was the fact that someone gave me $50 for it.

    I was really thinking of instances where somebody might be thinking of 'upgrading' from a kit lens to a mid range lens, most likely with a similar 3.5-5.6 range, and paying $500-$800 for it...when any perceptible IQ difference could be easily negated by PPing.
    Some things are easy to fix in PP - some not so easy - some impossible. My personal experience is that the better it comes out of the camera - and the less I have to try and fix - the better the final image.

    [And the reference to Ken Rockwell's [loose] quote was obviously, in this context, tongue in cheek ]
    Well it wasn't a loose quote - it was a direct copy/paste from his website. I like Ken, I just don't always agree with him (and I'm sure he doesn't always agree with me either), but at the end of the day, to make a living from his website he has to differentiate himself ... which doesn't make him wrong or right, just different.

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    Re: Lenses Vs Software?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    I used to have an EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 - it caused me a lot of grief (that I was unable to fix in post processing). The only thing that stopped me kicking it into orbit was the fact that someone gave me $50 for it.
    I could not sell it even for $20, so I gave it away as a free bonus when I sold my old SLR on Craigslist

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