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The sharpest lens in the world

mrcal 13 1.0k
22 Oct 2012 8:11AM
Does this get the award for oldest resurrected thread? Has CB changed his mind on his final comments?

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NEWMANP 9 1.6k 574 United Kingdom
22 Oct 2012 10:11AM
i read somewhere that the nikkor 28 mm f2.8 mm AIS (predigital manual focus with rabbits ears made for the f2 and later pro cameras) was the sharpest and as near to optically perfect lens that has ever been made. this was at a time when Nikon only made pro lenses.

it was the result of an unlimited research and development budget to reafirm Nikons position in the pro lens market from the rapidly rising manufacturer Canon, who at the time were making large inroads into the press and sports world..

as i understand it, the revered East German lenses used by Leica were not actually as sharp as you would believe in terms of resolvement but handled contrast better than anything before and so the final image looked sharper.

to be fair , i still have such a lens and i have to admit i havnt seen anything come close, not even the 50mm from the same stable.

thewilliam 8 6.1k
22 Oct 2012 10:14AM
Lens design is a compromise.

The sharpest lenses that I've ever come across are the Ultra Micro Nikkors that are used for integrated circuit manufacture but the extreme sharpness has been gained at a price. The "photography" has to be with one particular wavelength of green light and at one reproduction ratio so it's hardly suitable for general photography.

Normal camera lenses need to perform well under a huge variety of situations. The Zeiss planar is indeed sharp but intended for distant subjects. The Makro Planar is stunning for close-up but less sharp when focussed at infinity.

On the Zeiss site, one of the FAQs is how the sharpness of lenses for 35mm and medium format compare. They say that the ZM Planar is about 100 lppm sharper than the ZF and this is because Leica M cameras don't have a mirror. ZM lenses can protrude into the body whereas ZF designs for Nikon must leave space for the reflex mirror. The ZV lenses for Hasselblad are less sharp than ZF by the same margin.

However good the lens, a bad photographer will still take a lousy picture.
Carabosse Plus
14 40.9k 269 England
22 Oct 2012 12:07PM

Quote:Does this get the award for oldest resurrected thread? Has CB changed his mind on his final comments?

My final comment was: "I don't think we are really drifting too far away from the topic. Just indicating that the question is really a trifle pointless when there are more important factors."

So have I changed my mind? Of course, not - it's valid so why would I? Smile
Paul Morgan 16 18.7k 6 England
22 Oct 2012 5:02PM
The new Olympus lenses are getting rave reviews for sharpness, the 45mm is right up there and its being given away as a free gift for the next few months Smile
Carabosse Plus
14 40.9k 269 England
22 Oct 2012 5:04PM
Indeed, even the modestly priced Oly lenses seem to be up there with the best. I've never used Olympus until quite recently, and it's been a bit of an eye-opener. Smile
Sooty_1 7 1.5k 221 United Kingdom
22 Oct 2012 7:26PM
Leica lenses are the standard everything is measured against, and have been for a very long time. Not just in resolving power, but contrast, distortions across the frame, CA, "bokeh" and everything else a lens may be judged by.

Mostly sharper wide open than competitors, the Summiluxes at f/1.4, Summicrons at f/2, are at least as good throughout the aperture range. They also exhibit more 3-dimensional-ness than any digital lens I have seen or used.

I'm not making the claim that they are the 'sharpest' but they are probably the best overall optically, considering all the parameters.

BTW, the Leica works is at Wetzlar and Solms, near Frankfurt, both of which were in West Germany during the cold war. The factory was not split like the Zeiss one into East and West.

Leica produced the 800mm Tele-Elmarit back in the '60s, that came with a complimentary VW Beetle! That gives an idea of the prices....Wink

31 Jan 2013 9:27PM
Glad this thread has come back from the dead, as it is an interesting theme.Smile

Sharpest lens ever? That is tough

If it was from trawling through the net, the Canon 24mm TS/E II is sharp as they come, but I am sure that the photographer has to work hard to get the sharpness out of it in the first place.

From friends images, all of them who have the Canon 70-300mm F4-5.6L lens, that is one sharp monster! As is the Canon 100mm F2.8 L Macro.

From my point of view, I have some that could be considered sharpest ever.
My Tamron 90mm F2.5 SP Macro is so sharp, I should not use it for portraits......But I do! Same with my Sigma 105mm F2.8 macro.
Just about all my primes are stunningly sharp - SMC-Takumar 35mm F3.5, Super-Takumar 55mm F1.8, SMC-K 55mm F1.8, SMC-M 50mm F1.7, SMC-DA 40Ltd, SMC-DA21Ltd. Even my DA*50-135 is sharp thoughout the range and aperture.

But, there is one lens that is unbelievable. Especially as it is old, east-european and came with my praktica. I have used it a lot on digital too.
That is the Carl Zeiss Jena 50mm F2.8 Tessar. There, that one word - Tessar.

Maybe Zeiss got it spot on with sharpness when they came out with the Tessar, and indeed the Planar on 35mm. They are old, but very very sharp, and still surprise today.
2 Dec 2014 9:28AM
The thing is. Nobody will know for sure, but my belief is, that Film will always remain aesthetically superior(printed photograph)

There is a quality that Films such as velvia and Ektar give when used in great mf and lf cameras. The fact that the majority shoot mainly in digital puts the minority at an advantage in certain fields where aesthetic print quality is a factor. I think as film fades it will also become more desirable in the fine art world for example.
2 Dec 2014 9:46AM
I very much like LeicaR Elmarit-R 90/2,8 (4.6), and I've been using it for a year now
2 Dec 2014 9:56AM
Being a smartest person in the world I would not contribute to this thread. Alas...Tongue

All is relative and conditional in this world. Lens sharpness too.
It depends on such a number of factors that none of the lens will be the sharpest one in every particular situation and on every particular camera, especially digital. Period.
thewilliam 8 6.1k
2 Dec 2014 11:09AM
I'd suggest that, provided a photographic lens is good, it doesn't have to be the best.

Good lenses have a character and many users would consider a pleasing character to be more important than ultimate sharpness. In the movie world, the "Cooke look" is highly regarded because it gives the final product a very pleasing look. They don't care that some of the Zeiss lenses might be a little sharper. Some of the old Leica optics give very pleasing results, so does it matter that their modern replacements give superior sharpness and contrast?

Would even the most skilled worker be able to tell the difference between the best and second-best lens in the world when they're used for image creation?
Chris_L 3 3.8k United Kingdom
2 Dec 2014 1:03PM
Sharpness is something I treasure in a lens and I don't bother with lenses that I find too soft. Sharp lenses allow much more leeway when wanting to print large or to crop heavily. Sharp lenses pick out fine details in antique objects, butterflies, bridal gowns etc. Software allows us to selectively sharpen or soften. It helps if the detail has been captured in the first place.
thewilliam 8 6.1k
2 Dec 2014 10:07PM
As a vulgar professional, we're selling emotional content rather than realism so ultimate sharpness isn't paramount. In the good 'ol days, when we used Hasselblads and medium-format film, it was quite normal to use a Softar on our otherwise razor-sharp Zeiss lenses.

I've never encountered a portrait customer who wanted us to portray every tiny detail of the face.

Some lenses are sold a soft-focus.

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