How Much Lens Sharpness Do You Really Need?

Lens sharpness is one of the most sought-after characteristics in photography, with photographers often willing to shell out a lot of money on lenses that are often quite bulky and a lot to carry around. Why are we so obsessed with sharpness? How much do we really need? This excellent video essay discusses the topic. 

Coming to you from Matt Irwin Photography, this interesting video discusses the issue of lens sharpness and how much we really need at the end of the day. Along with bokeh, a lot of us tend to obsess about sharpness, whether that is through pixel-peeping, reading reviews inside and out, or spending a lot of money for top-shelf lenses. And no doubt, it can be really exciting when you pull up a file that is razor-sharp, but considering we often post our images on the web and social media, where you rarely need over 2,000 pixels on the long side, we might not need ultimate levels of sharpness as often as we think, and that can free up our wallets quite a bit and also allow us to explore more creative options (such as vintage lenses). Check out the video above for Irwin's full thoughts. 

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11 Comments

Stuart Carver's picture

The Internet “it’s the only thing that matters”

Oh and Micro Contrast, whatever the f—k that is.

Dan Jefferies's picture

I cannot abide images that aren't sharp, internet be damned....

Florin Obeada's picture

Depending on target audience the statement may be true. However, for professional purposes and different genres there are other requirements

Mike Ditz's picture

Kind of a weird topic to spend more than 20 minute talking about without showing examples (or maybe he did, I FFd a lot) , and plugging his books. I would like to see what lenses he uses, are they "sharp" lenses?

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

The images on his books were the examples. :)

Chris Jablonski's picture

You FFd too much. He did all that.

Chris Jablonski's picture

Thanks, Matt! Nice to see a fellow Melburnian's vids. I think you make an excellent argument here about what matters, and illustrate it clearly.

On a slightly separate note, I'm just an amateur, but often find myself commenting here on FS with its very technical bias that on A2 prints and longer panoramas cropped out of a single frame where I AM striving for overall sharpness, I cannot distinguish a difference in sharpness between my least-sharp prime, Nikon MF 35mm f/2.8, and my sharpest, like the Nikon AF 60mm macro, and my favourite Nikon MF 55mm f/2.8 macro, a 1979 design.

The most popular image in my portfolio was taken with a slow 28-105mm Nikon zoom, obliquely through a DC-3's window. It's plenty sharp enough. That image seems to resonate emotionally for people.

Charles Mercier's picture

When I take a photo, having learned via film, I frame the photo when I take it. I am very aware of the texture of what I am framing, including the corners. I don't want the beautiful image in the corner to be blurry or soft.

Ken Monahan's picture

“I’m here, l’m back and high”. Too much information. It’s snowing Melbourne again.

paul aparycki's picture

considering that the vast majority of fstupiders are constantly jerking off over spec sheets, I doubt that a single one of them could even hold a camera steady whilst they entertain their tiny members . . . so, like most drivel on fstupiders . . . the article is worthless