Author Topic: How Much Contrast Is Enough? Can Excessive Contrast Be Acceptably Reduced?  (Read 480 times)

BruceSD

  • Confirmed Bokeholic
  • NG Member
  • *
  • Posts: 136
  • I'm here to learn from the best
    • The F/2 Guru
.
Yesterday, in another thread, Birna commented that the Nikkor 200/2 VR II "has slightly higher contrast" than the older VR I version.  I interpreted that to be a positive lens characteristic of the newer version of this lens.  Those of use who grew up shooting film era lenses appreciate modern lenses with a bit more contrast.  But, can there ever be too much of a good thing; in other words - do some modern lenses have too much contrast?

Most of my many vintage film-era lenses have lower contrast then their newer counterparts.  But, with the latest post processing software I can easily and effectively increase the contrast in images made using older/lower-contrast lenses.

I own no modern lenses with excessive contrast.  Do you own any modern lenses with too much contrast, and does post processing do as good a job in reducing contrast as it does increasing contrast?  My suspicion is that post processing software is probably better at increasing contrast than in decreasing contrast.

pluton

  • NG Member
  • *
  • Posts: 2502
  • You ARE NikonGear
I know only a tiny bit about optics, but I don't see how a passive optical system (just lenses, no image intensifier or AD conversion or television rig) can increase the scene contrast beyond what contrast is present in the scene itself. It can surely, and in most cases does, reduce the scene contrast in the delivered image. 
Keith B., Santa Monica, CA, USA

paul hofseth

  • NG Member
  • *
  • Posts: 54
  • You ARE NikonGear
occasionally some people complain of too much contrast. They could easily be satisfied by not using any sunshade or by putting on a neutral filter or two and if still unsatisfied, smear the fiter with  some penetrating oil. Or get an inferior lens. In potoshop or GIMP there are several methods of discarding picture information. Presumably losing contrast will also lose resolution.

p.

Lucabeer

  • NG Member
  • *
  • Posts: 21
  • You ARE NikonGear
Lenses with very high contrast could be a problem with some slide film (Velvia) which was already very contrasty on its own.

With digital, it's no longer an issue, and IMHO it's actually better to have a lens with high contrast (and microcontrast) and then lower it a bit when developing the RAW file.
Mountain and nature photographer / Nikon Z6 + 14-30/4 S + 20/1.8 S + 50/1.2 S + 24-70/4 S + 105/2.8 MC S / Nikon D700 + AF-D 16/2.8 + AF-S 17-35/2.8 D + AF-S 24/1.4G + AF 50/1.8 + AF-D 105/2 DC + AF-D 80-200/2.8

David H. Hartman

  • NG Member
  • *
  • Posts: 2737
  • I Doctor Photographs... :)
Vintage lenses, particularly those with single coatings, tend to have a veiling flair that reduces contrast most notable in the shadow areas of the image.

Digital controls for RAW images has reduced problems with excessive contrast in the subject. If the camera can record the dynamic range of the scene then skillful manipulation of that DR can be used to create a pleasing image on 2D, on paper or a flat screen. If the camera cannot record the DR of the scene then clipping of the highlights or blocking of the shadow will occur. I find clipping of highlights beyond specular highlights quite unpleasant. I like a hint of detail in dark shadows but if the deep shadow is completely blocked a appealing image probably can still be achieved.

The human eye is limited in its ability to discern great contrast but if the brightness isn't such as to cause pain the human eye is able to discern great contrast. Something the camera can not do that the human eye can is change the aperture (iris of the eye) while viewing (during exposure). The camera cannot do this.

In my thinking a high contrast lenses has reduced veiling in the shadows so a high contrast lens in the digital age in a good thing.

Dave

Beatniks are out to make it rich
Oh no, must be the season of the witch!

Ilkka Nissilä

  • NG Member
  • *
  • Posts: 1566
  • You ARE NikonGear
I think yes, but I've gotten used to more contrasty lenses over time.

I felt that the Zeiss lenses produced very deep shadows without much information in them, i.e. they were essentially black. I've in many occasions shot with Zeiss and Nikon's nano-coated lenses and much preferred the latter as there seem to be still some details in the shadows. Now, one could say that one can lift the shadows to suit taste, but if there is noise there rather than subject features, it's hard to get something out of it.

I don't use the Zeiss lenses much any more, and prefer Nikon. Among Nikkors, I still like the new coatings a lot and generally prefer the nano-coated ones to older Nikkors. The colour seems more and there is this delicate beautiful feeling to the images. I have one lens with the ARNEO and nano coatings (24-70/2.8 Z) and it's just wonderful how they could make a zoom lens that one can shoot towards people next to a large window and everything is just perfect.

BruceSD

  • Confirmed Bokeholic
  • NG Member
  • *
  • Posts: 136
  • I'm here to learn from the best
    • The F/2 Guru
I think yes, but I've gotten used to more contrasty lenses over time.

I felt that the Zeiss lenses produced very deep shadows without much information in them, i.e. they were essentially black. I've in many occasions shot with Zeiss and Nikon's nano-coated lenses and much preferred the latter as there seem to be still some details in the shadows. Now, one could say that one can lift the shadows to suit taste, but if there is noise there rather than subject features, it's hard to get something out of it.

I don't use the Zeiss lenses much any more, and prefer Nikon. Among Nikkors, I still like the new coatings a lot and generally prefer the nano-coated ones to older Nikkors. The colour seems more and there is this delicate beautiful feeling to the images. I have one lens with the ARNEO and nano coatings (24-70/2.8 Z) and it's just wonderful how they could make a zoom lens that one can shoot towards people next to a large window and everything is just perfect.

Interesting!  I did not know that coatings played such an important role in image quality.

Akira

  • Homo jezoensis
  • NG Supporter
  • **
  • Posts: 11570
  • Tokyo, Japan
I would think that the setting of Picture Control (in the Nikon term) would be set to the contrasty one, if the pictures look too contrasty.

When I was using D750, I always set the Picture Control to "Flat" for the largest pliability of NEF data.  The NEF data shot with the "flat" Picture Contol never looked contrasty, rather dull in terms of color and sharpness.

Now I set the Color Mode (corresponding to the Picture Control of Nikon) to "OFF" for the same reason.  The DNG data shot with the "OFF" setting looks even duller than the NEF shot with "Flat".  They almost look like log files.

All above can be said regardless of the contrast of the lenses.

Theoretically, the "OFF" means that the RAW data are put out without any in-camera processing.  So, it would be safe to say, that the images cast on the sensor are not as contrasty as we believe them to be.
"The eye is blind if the mind is absent." - Confucius

"Limitation is inspiration." - Akira