Vinyl or Digital? It got me thinking…

There has been a movement over recent years to listen to music on the old vinyl records rather than play the same music digitally. The reason vinyl aficionados give is that because you can hear every little scratch, dust particle and interference it’s more realistic and closer to reality than digital. I’m no vinyl music expert by a long way so I’m not going to debate the issue but it got me thinking about lenses.

I was listening to a fellow pro photographer who argued that expensive glass often makes images too sharp and less like reality. No, I’m not kidding, he actually believes it. He suggests that we don’t see the world ‘tack sharp’ and asks why would we want our images to be tack sharp if reality isn’t like that. Thus, he says, that’s why we don’t need expensive lenses because they don’t reflect reality: they produce images that are too sharp. He concludes by saying a ‘kit’ lens is more than adequate.

Now I’m no nerdy geek when it comes to the technical aspects of why and how some lenses produce sharper images than others but one thing I do know for certain: if you have very, very good eye-sight and your sight deteriorates over time then I guarantee you’d want your vision back to ‘normal’ where you saw the world in all its sharp brilliance. Or ask two people with differing qualities of vision – one has what used to be called ’20/20′ vision and the other needs spectacles – if they would swop. Given ’20/20′ vision, according to optometrists, we do see the world in all it’s sharp brilliance. So why the heck would we be satisfied with anything less if we have the choice? We wear spectacles because we want our sight to be a near as ‘normal’…just like it used to be. And it is crucial to how we see the world both socially and professionally: work and home. So why, if I had the choice, would I not use quality glass on my camera? Note that I say ‘if I had the choice’. I’m not talking about price because this is about choice. Of course, we are all limited by how much we can afford but for this argument I’m excluding price…this is about choice. To put it simply, if you have a ‘kit lens’ and I say to you I’ll give you a high quality lens to replace your standard lens what would you say? Or to continue the analogy, I’ll cure your failing eye-sight free of charge or you can carry on the same. What are you going to do? To my way of thinking the answer is blindingly obvious (forgive the pun). From my own experience I know that I’d prefer not to wear spectacles: I’ve already pushed my camera’s dioptre to its limit!

So enough of this nonsense. In my opinion, the world is tack sharp and we see it as such… except when atmospherics get in the way…even then we often say ‘I wish it was clearer’. If I’m photographing reality and reality is tack sharp then I want the image to be tack sharp. I’ll buy the best lens I can afford. And whether it’s ‘kit’ or ‘best’ I’ll always strive for sharpness.

If I want to mimic some of the old style film photography where images were soft then there are enough readily available pre-sets out there to use during processing!

Stay as sharp as you can my friends.

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