How Much Does Lens Sharpness Matter?

Many of us enjoy quality. Be it a car or a lens, there's a pleasure in using quality things. And in the case of lenses, how perceivable is the quality of the images captured?

MTF Charts: The English Translation

This post contains absolutely no mathematics. Explaining MTF without math is sort of like doing a high-wire act without a net. It’s dangerous, but for any number of reasons is more likely to keep the audience interested.

Perceptual Megapixel: Lens Sharpness Boiled Down to a Single Number

Modulation Transfer Function (MTF) charts are a very commonly used tool in the photo industry for measuring and describing how sharp a particular lens is. However, it's a system that is largely enigmatic to those outside the realm of optic experts and camera gearheads.

For those of you who don't want to learn how to read MTF charts, camera gear testing service DxOMark has announced a new metric that boils a lens' sharpness down to a single easy-to-understand-and-compare number: the Perceptual Megapixel.

Nikon D800 Resolution Compared to the Canon 5D Mark III

Last week camera testing service DxOMark announced that the Nikon D800 had earned the highest sensor quality score ever awarded. Roger Cicala of LensRentals wanted to see for himself how much of an advantage the D800's 36.3MP sensor had over its competition, so he did some sensor resolution tests on the camera, comparing it to the Canon 5D Mark III, 5D Mark II, and Nikon D700. His conclusion?

[...] there’s no question the D800 can actually get those pixels to show up in the final product (assuming your final product is a big print – they’re going to be wasted posting on your Facebook page). But you’d better have some really good glass in front of it. I don’t think the 28-300 superzooms are going to cut it with this camera.

In the real world, highest possible resolution is nice to know about and talk about, but usually not of critical importance compared to other factors. You’ll be able to make superb images with any decent lens for an 8 X 10 or even 11 X 16 print. But if you’re getting the camera because of the resolution, it makes sense to know which lenses will allow all of that resolution to be utilized. Just in case you get that job that needs billboard sized prints.