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Author Topic: Image quality: camera vs. lens  (Read 16480 times)

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« on: January 01, 2010, 09:42 »
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Ive always been a firm believer that 90% of your image quality comes from your lens and was wondering what everyone else thinks.  Higher mega pixel cameras will get you a better enlargement but do you think they have any affect on  color saturation or sharpness of your image?  If  you shoot two images with different cameras with the same mp, one high end and one lower end but use the same high end lens will the image colors, detail and sharpness be better from the higher end camera?


« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2010, 10:10 »
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In yesterday's film cameras, yes they would be exactly the same.  The camera just opens in the light to the film.  With cheap film vs expensive film though you will see a difference.

Today, the film is part of the camera so yes - the camera has a lot to do with the picture quality.  If a Canon Rebel series camera had the same sensor as a 1Ds series camera then yes, the pictures would be identical.  The 1D series cameras have a full frame sensor though giving them a less noisy image, better focus.  When the camera was made (ie: the sensor technology) also has a lot to do with it though - not just the model.  I would guess that a new rebel takes a far better pictures than the first 1DS camera in regards to noise, color, light levels.

« Last Edit: January 01, 2010, 10:12 by leaf »

« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2010, 10:18 »
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It is best to know how separate parts of the photographic system works.

Lens contrast: it's the quality of the glass, it's transparency. Less transparent lenses produce low contrast and washed colors.

Lens precision: it's the ability to reproduce the image clearly. Very precise lenses reproduce sharp images, even at the border.

High pixel count in camera produces more noise since less photons fall on a smaller surface (the discrete pixel's surface). But the noise appears at pixel level, this means more fine noise, in this case stronger noise filtering can be applied while the actual image details are less affected.

Basically the best camera system is one with the highest megapixel count as possible and the best mechanically executed lens with the most transparent glass.
Disadvantages are high storage capacity needs and stronger computers to process the images.

« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2010, 12:45 »
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Apart from controls, different cameras are like films: different grains, quality, saturation, color.  

Lens quality, yesterday and today, affect optical aspects of an image: focus, sharpness, CA, vignetting, etc.

lisafx

« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2010, 13:05 »
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I can verify that the camera has a significant effect on image quality, as does the lens. 

My highest image quality lens  is my 24-70L.  I have used that on 3 generations of Canon cameras, but the resulting images color, noise, and even visible sharpness(resolution) are different for each body.  Not to mention white balance and how successfully the camera handles flash.

Seems to me that both the camera body and the lens are extremely important in overall image quality.

« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2010, 13:56 »
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I'd agree that both are important. I would add that an investment in a good lens is one you can reap benefits from over several camera bodies, so sometimes I look at the lenses as my long term investment and cameras are shorter term.

The other comment is that image quality - even with a great camera and great lens - can be significantly affected by the skill (or lack thereof) of the photographer. I've seen a lot of 5D2 owners in IS's critique forum who can't see why they can't just point their lovely camera and lens at anything and get a wonderful image as a result. This has always been true, but some of the spectacular advances in sensor and DSLR capture technology have encouraged people to become over optimistic about the role of great equipment.

RacePhoto

« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2010, 14:00 »
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I think the question at the end is kind of confusing, considering the statements at the beginning.

Of course a better camera is going to be better with the same lens.

What you may have wanted to ask, and this is a guess, with a high quality lens, example Canon 100mm macro f/2.8 non-IS ($599), vs a Sigma 105mm f/2.8 ($479), will your high quality camera take equal quality images with the "value" lens? My answer is no. Will your expensive more megapixel (flawed logic but people brought it up) take better pictures with your "value" lens, than a lower resolution camera with the best lens. It depends on the sensor and the camera, most megapixels doesn't mean best photos.

With a lower quality camera/sensor, you may not see the difference in the lens quality as much, but when the camera can resolve the image from the lens better, then flaws will show more. In the case of a lower resolution camera, you can still see the difference in the lenses, and a better lens will still make better photos than a cheaper one with more flaws.

Personal opinion is that the camera can't see what's not there and the first step is the light getting to the recording medium, whether it's film or a sensor.

Lens is #1 and as for longevity they are not outdated every two years by new electronics, more megapixels, buttons, switches, high speed dual processors, features and do-dads.  :) If someone made a base DSLR camera, with P (for being lazy),TV, AV and Manual, I'd be pretty happy. I'm not buying an $7,000 Leica rangefinder to get that simplicity and quality lenses.

PaulieWalnuts

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« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2010, 14:45 »
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It's both. Although I'd lean toward the lens as the most important part.

My 5DMII's image quality and output is totally different than the D300 I owned before it.

And different lenses produce different degrees of results. While you can measure sharpness and contrast, some lenses seem to have that magic output that others don't.

« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2010, 14:59 »
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It's both. Although I'd lean toward the lens as the most important part.

Nowadays the differences between various sensors and lenses, at least on on 'prosumer' equipment, are relatively marginal. The most important factor (by a country mile) is actually the camera operator __ even more so if it's about producing saleable stock images.

Knowledge of how to use the gear massively outweighs everything else. A good photographer can produce outstanding results with bottom-of-the-range equipment and a novice may very well produce rubbish even if he was lugging around a Hasselblad.

« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2010, 15:08 »
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The other comment is that image quality - even with a great camera and great lens - can be significantly affected by the skill (or lack thereof) of the photographer. I've seen a lot of 5D2 owners in IS's critique forum who can't see why they can't just point their lovely camera and lens at anything and get a wonderful image as a result. This has always been true, but some of the spectacular advances in sensor and DSLR capture technology have encouraged people to become over optimistic about the role of great equipment.

This is all too true. A top lens and a top cam make your job as a photographer even more critical. When I first used my 5D-II + 24-70/2.8 (a top lens) I was exited about the focusing and the exposure. After some pixel-peeping, I had to revert to my old method of all-manual, select 1 focus point, and use the monopod.
I prefer to chose my focus point myself, and also to slightly over-expose since the D5-II has a lot of headroom in the raw and all noise is gone in black hair this way.
The monopod is essential, except outdoors in bright tropical light > 1/500. The 24-70 is a very heave lens, heaver than the cam, and difficult to use handheld at lower exposures. Every little motion blur you will see on a 21MP cam and with a top lens. My carbon Manfrotto monopod is actually my best accessory.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2010, 15:12 by FD-amateur »

« Reply #10 on: January 01, 2010, 15:23 »
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What are your shooting conditions?  I would always rather put a good lens on a cheap camera.  However, the amount the camera quality influences output is strongly affected by the shooting conditions.  If you're shooting in a studio at ISO 100 you won't notice the difference as much as ISO 800 handheld at a sporting event or a wedding chapel.  Or being able to use high speed fill flash which the Rebel doesn't do.


« Reply #11 on: January 01, 2010, 15:31 »
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What are your shooting conditions?  I would always rather put a good lens on a cheap camera.  However, the amount the camera quality influences output is strongly affected by the shooting conditions.  If you're shooting in a studio at ISO 100 you won't notice the difference as much as ISO 800 handheld at a sporting event or a wedding chapel.  Or being able to use high speed fill flash which the Rebel doesn't do.

Events are totally different than outdoor shoots and studio. I think for events and high ISO, a Nikon D700 is ideal, with its large sensor at just 12MP. I only do outdoors and studio, 100 ISO. My lightboxes allow F13 then. I tried 500 ISO in a mall with the D5-II, and the noise is great, but not up to stock standards, IMHO.

PaulieWalnuts

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« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2010, 17:04 »
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It's both. Although I'd lean toward the lens as the most important part.
Nowadays the differences between various sensors and lenses, at least on on 'prosumer' equipment, are relatively marginal. The most important factor (by a country mile) is actually the camera operator __ even more so if it's about producing saleable stock images.

Knowledge of how to use the gear massively outweighs everything else. A good photographer can produce outstanding results with bottom-of-the-range equipment and a novice may very well produce rubbish even if he was lugging around a Hasselblad.

Cameras in the same class will produce comparable technical quality. The OP appears to be talking about general technical quality (enlargement, saturation, sharpness) which has little to do with the camera operator.

A good photographer can produce great aesthetic quality and saleable images with crappy equipment. But since technical quality is a requirement for stock the argument that it's the photographer and not the tool that matters most doesn't apply most of the time.

« Reply #13 on: January 01, 2010, 18:09 »
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But since technical quality is a requirement for stock the argument that it's the photographer and not the tool that matters most doesn't apply most of the time.

Trust me, from my time as a reviewer, I know it is mainly the photographer. I found it almost incomprehensible how some contributors could produce truly awful images, both technically and aesthetically, whilst using the latest and best equipment. Conversely I know one particular contributor who sold over 100K images on IS before bothering to upgrade from a 2003 Rebel Mk1 + kit lens combo. Just the photographer's post-processing skills alone will usually make more of a difference to the quality and visual impact of the final image than the sensor or lens.

PaulieWalnuts

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« Reply #14 on: January 01, 2010, 18:54 »
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But since technical quality is a requirement for stock the argument that it's the photographer and not the tool that matters most doesn't apply most of the time.
Trust me, from my time as a reviewer, I know it is mainly the photographer. I found it almost incomprehensible how some contributors could produce truly awful images, both technically and aesthetically, whilst using the latest and best equipment. Conversely I know one particular contributor who sold over 100K images on IS before bothering to upgrade from a 2003 Rebel Mk1 + kit lens combo. Just the photographer's post-processing skills alone will usually make more of a difference to the quality and visual impact of the final image than the sensor or lens.

I'm not disagreeing but your example site accepts 2MP images as a minimum. Not too hard of a target to hit with even the oldest of DSLRs and a decent kit lens.

Yes, knowing camera limitations, optimal lens settings, editing software, raw converters, etc., absolutely goes a long way. But as the technical requirements go up, such as upsizing for macro sites, the more critical technical quality in addition to aesthetics matters. Even your example contributor would most likely struggle with that low end camera if it had a soft lens.

« Reply #15 on: January 01, 2010, 19:28 »
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I'm not disagreeing but your example site accepts 2MP images as a minimum. Not too hard of a target to hit with even the oldest of DSLRs and a decent kit lens.

Yes, knowing camera limitations, optimal lens settings, editing software, raw converters, etc., absolutely goes a long way. But as the technical requirements go up, such as upsizing for macro sites, the more critical technical quality in addition to aesthetics matters. Even your example contributor would most likely struggle with that low end camera if it had a soft lens.

Let's go back to the OP's opening statement of "Ive always been a firm believer that 90% of your image quality comes from your lens". Personally I believe that 90% of image quality actually comes from the photographer, assuming of course that you have at least basic DSLR equipment with which to use.

Obviously, because this is a microstock forum, I'm assuming that the OP's question was geared towards producing microstock images. Although I have a 22MP camera it is still the case that about 98% of my sales on IS are at Large size (5MP) or smaller. I think better lenses and sensors allow you to actually capture images in marginally less favourable conditions than you could do so with poorer equipment __ not so much about quality specifically. Although I've got pro lenses that theoretically allow me to shoot at f2 or less, if I do so then the DoF is so shallow that the results are unlikely to be useable for stock.

In my experience if you're shooting for microstock then you basically need optimum conditions or you might as well not bother. Even if you get images captured in sub-optimum conditions accepted then it is unlikely they will sell much unless they are truly unique __ and that's a relatively rare circumstance. If you are shooting under studio/controlled/perfect situations, which probably 90%+ of successful microstock images are, then at say f8+ you probably won't be able to tell much difference between a pro lens and a kit lens.

The one area where the lens really is everything is the long-range telescopic stuff like sports and wildlife __ but you're probably not going to recover your outlay let alone make a living on microstock shooting that.

Xalanx

« Reply #16 on: January 01, 2010, 19:47 »
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You generally need to address the key points of your work. If you mainly shoot studio stuff and do some f/8 - f/22 then your choice is broad. However, keep in mind that even at f/8 with a 50mm f/1.8 (some 150$ lens) you'll have more barrel distortion and worse image quality in corners than you'd have with a 50mm f/1.2 L or lets say 50mm f/1.4 sigma for that matter.
Also with 85mm f/1.8 you'll have clearly more chromatic aberrations than with a 85mm f/1.2L.
If the bokeh is what you're after then you need to step up the price and you're clearly in "L" zone (Canon speaking).

« Reply #17 on: January 01, 2010, 20:39 »
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its AND logic, from the pure technical standpoint good photos need a good back AND good lens, but still plenty of scope for operator error

Both are important, but for perhaps the past 2 or 3 years I think the spotlight has shifted back onto the lens more than it was with the early generations of DSLRs

before 10MP came along it was mainly camera body that made the difference (less noise etc, resolution mattered a lot etc) and any old lens would take a similar quality of image as the camera could not resolve a high enough resolution to see all the imperfections of the cheaper lenses. yes faster glass would get push the limit some more, and cheaper lenses would distort more etc but body made the biggest difference

I'm still at 10MP D200, but I know that my better lenses can take better pictures if i got a new back because I can only spot an image taken with the cheap(ish) wide angle zoom that I have, I can't see much difference between my other primes or even the 70-300 if used at sensible lens angles and their best apertures

« Reply #18 on: January 02, 2010, 02:55 »
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A few years ago I performed a simple test with a Nikon D 200 body, the Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8 and the Sigma EX 50 mm f/2.8... non controled circomstances, just a basic set up of a plant in daylight setting.  
Both lenses used on f/5.6, same camera settings all set to neutral, used tripod, both shot in raw.
Clearly the Sigma EX lens performed much better than the Nikkor.... better contrast, better sharpness, colors about the same.  (a well known photographer also member on this forum was present during that simple test), it was around Xmas when we both purchased the Nikon D 200...  ;D

So in a way the OP has it right with the statement that good lenses contribute to the end result.
However, IMO it's the combo of camera/lens/photographer/model/composition that gives the end result.  Using a tripod tilts the image crispness/sharpness to a higher level, something a lot of photogs seem to forget.  Get the best equipment and start shooting handheld will most probably result in lesser appealing results and the need to sharpen images in post processing.

I'm always using a tripod for outside shots, a monopod for studio shots with models or tripod for still life.

Just my two cents.

Patrick H.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2010, 02:58 by patrick1958 »

« Reply #19 on: January 02, 2010, 22:18 »
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However, IMO it's the combo of camera/lens/photographer/model/composition that gives the end result.
Patrick H.

I would add an editing software to the end.
I think the order of importance would be; photographer, composition, model, lens, camera, editing software.

Kone

« Reply #20 on: January 05, 2010, 12:57 »
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Read the subject, camera vs lens, not tripod photographer lights software studio.  :-X  Lens is most important camera is second.


 

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