PetaPixel

How to Read an MTF Curve to Gauge the Sharpness of a Lens

One of the things you’ve likely seen when looking at product or review pages for lenses is an MTF chart, used by manufacturers to give consumers an idea of how sharp a particular lens is. If you’ve never gotten around to learning how to interpret these charts, here’s a helpful 10-minute video tutorial on the subject. Luminous Landscape and Cambridge in Colour have great tutorials on this as well if you’re more comfortable with text-based tutorials.


 
 
  • http://www.confusionart.com/blog Nikhil Rasiwasia

    Thanks for the video. I was trying to look for the MTF chart for my canon 85mm f/1.8 (http://usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/cameras/ef_lens_lineup/ef_85mm_f_1_8_usm#Overview) and I see that inspite of it being a prime lens it has both blue and black lines, what does it mean?

  • http://www.confusionart.com/blog Nikhil Rasiwasia

    Thanks for the video. I was trying to look for the MTF chart for my canon 85mm f/1.8 (http://usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/cameras/ef_lens_lineup/ef_85mm_f_1_8_usm#Overview) and I see that inspite of it being a prime lens it has both blue and black lines, what does it mean?

  • http://www.confusionart.com/blog Nikhil Rasiwasia

    Thanks for the video. I was trying to look for the MTF chart for my canon 85mm f/1.8 (http://usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/cameras/ef_lens_lineup/ef_85mm_f_1_8_usm#Overview) and I see that inspite of it being a prime lens it has both blue and black lines, what does it mean?

  • Georg

    The explanation is not correct. The scale on the left side of the chart (y-axes) represents a RELATIVE amount of sharpness. 1.0 is the maximum sharpness you can get from that lens. So you can learn what is the best setting of this particular lens in terms of resolution. But you can not compare different lenses with theses charts in terms if aboslut amount if resolution. 1.0 from one lens could be have the resolution of 1.0 of another lens. Thats why these charts are mostly useless for me. As mentioned: only way you can use them is to find the best setting to use this particular lens.

  • Georg

    The explanation is not correct. The scale on the left side of the chart (y-axes) represents a RELATIVE amount of sharpness. 1.0 is the maximum sharpness you can get from that lens. So you can learn what is the best setting of this particular lens in terms of resolution. But you can not compare different lenses with theses charts in terms if aboslut amount if resolution. 1.0 from one lens could be have the resolution of 1.0 of another lens. Thats why these charts are mostly useless for me. As mentioned: only way you can use them is to find the best setting to use this particular lens.

  • Georg

    The explanation is not correct. The scale on the left side of the chart (y-axes) represents a RELATIVE amount of sharpness. 1.0 is the maximum sharpness you can get from that lens. So you can learn what is the best setting of this particular lens in terms of resolution. But you can not compare different lenses with theses charts in terms if aboslut amount if resolution. 1.0 from one lens could be have the resolution of 1.0 of another lens. Thats why these charts are mostly useless for me. As mentioned: only way you can use them is to find the best setting to use this particular lens.

  • Georg

    The explanation is not correct. The scale on the left side of the chart (y-axes) represents a RELATIVE amount of sharpness. 1.0 is the maximum sharpness you can get from that lens. So you can learn what is the best setting of this particular lens in terms of resolution. But you can not compare different lenses with theses charts in terms if aboslut amount if resolution. 1.0 from one lens could be have the resolution of 1.0 of another lens. Thats why these charts are mostly useless for me. As mentioned: only way you can use them is to find the best setting to use this particular lens.

  • Georg

    The explanation is not correct. The scale on the left side of the chart (y-axes) represents a RELATIVE amount of sharpness. 1.0 is the maximum sharpness you can get from that lens. So you can learn what is the best setting of this particular lens in terms of resolution. But you can not compare different lenses with theses charts in terms if aboslut amount if resolution. 1.0 from one lens could be have the resolution of 1.0 of another lens. Thats why these charts are mostly useless for me. As mentioned: only way you can use them is to find the best setting to use this particular lens.

  • Georg

    The explanation is not correct. The scale on the left side of the chart (y-axes) represents a RELATIVE amount of sharpness. 1.0 is the maximum sharpness you can get from that lens. So you can learn what is the best setting of this particular lens in terms of resolution. But you can not compare different lenses with theses charts in terms if aboslut amount if resolution. 1.0 from one lens could be have the resolution of 1.0 of another lens. Thats why these charts are mostly useless for me. As mentioned: only way you can use them is to find the best setting to use this particular lens.

  • http://twitter.com/pete_boyd Pete Boyd

    Thank you. That explains the elephant in the room with this presentation, where he says you can’t compare these between manufactures but fails to explain why. That’s obviously what you _would_ want to use them for. Presumably he doesn’t explain why because he doesn’t understand that the scale is relative.

  • http://twitter.com/pete_boyd Pete Boyd

    Thank you. That explains the elephant in the room with this presentation, where he says you can’t compare these between manufactures but fails to explain why. That’s obviously what you _would_ want to use them for. Presumably he doesn’t explain why because he doesn’t understand that the scale is relative.

  • http://twitter.com/pete_boyd Pete Boyd

    Thank you. That explains the elephant in the room with this presentation, where he says you can’t compare these between manufactures but fails to explain why. That’s obviously what you _would_ want to use them for. Presumably he doesn’t explain why because he doesn’t understand that the scale is relative.

  • http://twitter.com/pete_boyd Pete Boyd

    Thank you. That explains the elephant in the room with this presentation, where he says you can’t compare these between manufactures but fails to explain why. That’s obviously what you _would_ want to use them for. Presumably he doesn’t explain why because he doesn’t understand that the scale is relative.

  • http://twitter.com/pete_boyd Pete Boyd

    Thank you. That explains the elephant in the room with this presentation, where he says you can’t compare these between manufactures but fails to explain why. That’s obviously what you _would_ want to use them for. Presumably he doesn’t explain why because he doesn’t understand that the scale is relative.

  • http://www.f8daily.com F8daily

    This is a bit misleading! Sure he mentioned not to compare MTF across brands. But he also needed to mention some companies use actual measured MTF (zeiss) and others use theoretical (canon). Also Canon uses 30 line pairs for resolution while leica and zeiss use 40. It’s inevitable for someone to look at canon’s chart and look at the another manufacturer’s data for comparisons. 

  • http://www.f8daily.com F8daily

    This is a bit misleading! Sure he mentioned not to compare MTF across brands. But he also needed to mention some companies use actual measured MTF (zeiss) and others use theoretical (canon). Also Canon uses 30 line pairs for resolution while leica and zeiss use 40. It’s inevitable for someone to look at canon’s chart and look at the another manufacturer’s data for comparisons. 

  • http://www.f8daily.com F8daily

    This is a bit misleading! Sure he mentioned not to compare MTF across brands. But he also needed to mention some companies use actual measured MTF (zeiss) and others use theoretical (canon). Also Canon uses 30 line pairs for resolution while leica and zeiss use 40. It’s inevitable for someone to look at canon’s chart and look at the another manufacturer’s data for comparisons. 

  • http://www.f8daily.com F8daily

    This is a bit misleading! Sure he mentioned not to compare MTF across brands. But he also needed to mention some companies use actual measured MTF (zeiss) and others use theoretical (canon). Also Canon uses 30 line pairs for resolution while leica and zeiss use 40. It’s inevitable for someone to look at canon’s chart and look at the another manufacturer’s data for comparisons. 

  • http://www.f8daily.com F8daily

    This is a bit misleading! Sure he mentioned not to compare MTF across brands. But he also needed to mention some companies use actual measured MTF (zeiss) and others use theoretical (canon). Also Canon uses 30 line pairs for resolution while leica and zeiss use 40. It’s inevitable for someone to look at canon’s chart and look at the another manufacturer’s data for comparisons. 

  • http://www.f8daily.com F8daily

    This is a bit misleading! Sure he mentioned not to compare MTF across brands. But he also needed to mention some companies use actual measured MTF (zeiss) and others use theoretical (canon). Also Canon uses 30 line pairs for resolution while leica and zeiss use 40. It’s inevitable for someone to look at canon’s chart and look at the another manufacturer’s data for comparisons. 

  • http://www.recommendedlenses.com Vashistha Pathak

    see how to read canon MTF chart… very nice article http://www.recommendedlenses.com/2011/10/how-to-read-canon-mtf-chart.html