A quest for the ultimate, beautiful, meaningful picture

quality

Researchers Develop Method for Getting High-Quality Photos from Crappy Lenses

It’s a research result for the moment, far from being ready for the market, but once such a plug-in became available for LightRoom and similar apps, I’d certainly go for it! It promises to sharpen images based on knowing the sharpness errors of lenses (‘point-spread functions’ of PSFs). You find a more extended piece, with further links, under:

Researchers Develop Method for Getting High-Quality Photos from Crappy Lenses.

Does that mean we don’t have to buy expensive lenses anymore? Not quite, I think. For one thing, It still takes a lot of glass to make lenses with large apertures, which are needed for the selective focus and nice bokeh that so often distinguish good pictures.

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Arabian conference –“And now for something completely different”

A conference room in an Arabian country. The contrast with the pictures shown here in the last couple of months could hardly be bigger. Monty Python’s famous phrase “And now for something completely different!” certainly applies!

Plenary session in ANQAHE's first conference

For the photo camera fans: this is the first picture I enter here taken with the new Sony A77 camera and the equally new 16-50 f/2.8 objective, and that is something completely different, too! The electronic viewfinder takes some getting used to, but has some great pluses: it shows the actual brightness of the picture you are going to take, so you see if in the conference room some exposure compensation is necessary; it gives 100% of the picture so there are no surprising heads entering the edge of the picture, etc. Besides, the camera is incredibly silent and fast, since there is no flapping mirror. The 2.8 lens is a joy to work with, as well: with the large amount of light that it picks up you need the flash less often (in combination with the camera’s 24 megapixel sensor, making ISO1600 a very acceptable high speed to work with), and the lens also seems to have very little distortion compared with my previous Sony 16-105 one.

Another technical advance of the A77 over the Sony A700 is that the RAW mode seems to interpret colour temperature much better in the automatic white balance mode, making post-processing a much lighter and faster exercise too.


Test, relevance and reputation

The November 2008 issue of Black & White Photography has a column in which Mike Johnston defends his way of testing cameras and lenses. He argues against trying to be completely objective: it is not the figures that matter, but the trial of the gear in dfficult, actual photography circumstances. I completely agree with Mike: too often testers focus on what is measurable rather than on what is relevant–not just in photography but also in my professional field of higher education. There, rankings are made of things that can be measured but whose relation to educational quality are uncertain. Similarly for photo gear: their ‘performance’ in laboratory circumstances is only a remote indication of what you can do with the thing in practice. In practice, all kinds of circumstances and especially your own needs are much more important than the ‘objective’ figures. You use different focal lengths, differnt distances, and handheld instead of on a tripod as they did in the test, or you take different types of pictures. For instance, my new standard zooom lens got fairly good test results, but with my preference for architectural pictures, the slight distortion in the wide-angle setting weighed more heavily than what I could read in the mags. Or take the high-quality lens I looked at: it was indeed great from a technical point of view, but way too heavy to be practical on a day-long hike. So let me quote Mike’s conclusion: ‘The bottom line is that observation is at least as important a method of inquiry as measurement is. It is no less relevant and no less reputable.’