When photographers talk about lens diffraction, they are referring to the fact that a photograph grows progressively less sharp at small aperture values – f/16, f/22, and so on. As you stop down your lens to such small apertures, the finest detail in your photographs will begin to blur. With good reason, this effect can worry beginning photographers. However, if you understand how diffraction impacts your photographs, you can make educated decisions and take the sharpest possible photographs in the field. In this article, we will explore the topic of lens diffraction in detail and talk about different techniques you can utilize to avoid it.
One of the common misunderstandings in photography has to do with the focal length of a lens, or its optical distortion properties. Many photographers claim that a wider angle lens will distort facial features either because of the lens distortion, or the focal length of the lens being too short. In this article and the accompanying video (which is extracted from our upcoming Photography Life Basics Video), we will prove that focal length has nothing to do with distorting a subject’s face and the additional information on lens distortion will explain in detail exactly what gets impacted by lens distortion.
A decentered lens contains one or more optical lens elements that are either moved or tilted from the principal axis of the lens. Such shifting or tilting of lens elements can potentially lead to blurring / softness of parts of the image due to divergence of light rays. While very slight decentering of optical elements can be observed in many lenses, especially on superzooms, severe decentering and tilting can render the whole image blurry, with the lens unable to achieve good sharpness across the frame.
When light rays coming from a bright source(s) of light (such as the sun or artificial light) directly reach the front element of a camera lens, they can reflect and bounce off different lens elements, diaphragm and even off the sensor, potentially degrading image quality and creating unwanted objects in images. Better known as lens “flare”, the effect can impact images in a number of ways: it can drastically reduce image contrast by introducing haze in different colors, it can add circular or semi-circular halos or “ghosts” and even odd-shaped semi-transparent objects of various color intensities. Flare is not always undesirable in photography though – sometimes in is used creatively to add artistic elements to images. In fact, lens flare is often deliberately added to movies and computer games to add a sense of realism and boost the visual experience of the viewer.
Just as I have suspected, the Sony A7 and A7R cameras are not immune to the Red Dot Flare issue, thanks to the short flange distance. The effect of the red dot flare can be significantly reduced if the rear lens element has non-reflective coating applied to it. In the case of the two below, the Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 ZA handles flare a little better due to its optical design, but the red dots are still all over the place. Both shot at f/16, pointing directly at the sun.
A while ago, I posted a detailed article about a very defined pattern of red dots / artifacts that I saw on the Fuji X-series cameras when shooting against the sun. This was the first time I encountered such a problem, so without fully researching the issue and understanding the real cause, I wrongfully blamed the Fuji X-trans system for creating those patterns (my sincere apologies to all the Fuji fans!). A couple of our readers pointed me to some other links on the Internet that show a similar issue on different camera systems from Sony, Panasonic, Olympus and a number of others. The pattern indeed seemed to be quite similar between those and what I saw on Fuji cameras. I then decided to take my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera for a side-by-side comparison and see if I could reproduce the issue on it as well. Now that I have done enough research to understand the root cause of this problem, I will not only explain the red dot phenomenon in detail, but also show image samples from two different mirrorless systems to illustrate the point.
Vignetting, also known as “light fall-off” (sometimes spelled “light falloff”) is common in optics and photography, which in simple terms means darkening of image corners when compared to the center. Vignetting is either caused by optics, or is purposefully added in post-processing in order to draw the viewer’s eye away from the distractions in the corner, towards the center of the image. Depending on the type and cause of vignetting, it can be gradual or abrupt. There are a number of causes of optical vignetting – it can naturally occur in all lenses, or can be caused or increased/intensified due to use of external tools such as filters, filter holders and lens hoods. In this article, I will talk about each type of vignetting and also discuss ways to reduce or increase the amount of vignetting in photographs using post-processing software like Lightroom and Photoshop.
How would you like the future, if a lens like the Nikkor 800mm f/5.6 VR weighed a kilo / couple of pounds and cost 10 times less? Or perhaps a wide angle lens as big as a pancake that delivers the same quality images as your favorite 24mm f/1.4 prime? Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Well, we might not be that far away from this dream, since the researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Siegen might change the way modern optics work. Their current research on using a single lens element in a lens and correcting lens aberrations looks promising – a method called “deconvolution”, which is based on analysis and reconstruction of the image via software. Instead of using physical elements within a lens to correct for lens aberrations such as distortion, spherical aberration, chromatic aberration and coma, the idea is to use a lens with a single (or more) lens elements and correct such aberrations via computational photography techniques and software algorithms that are applied after the image is captured. This obviously results in lenses with very few lens elements, making them both lighter and cheaper to manufacture.
In photography, there are two types of distortions: optical and perspective. Both result in some kind of deformation of images – some lightly and others very noticeably. While optical distortion is caused by the optical design of lenses (and is therefore often called “lens distortion”), perspective distortion is caused by the position of the camera relative to the subject or by the position of the subject within the image frame. And it is certainly important to distinguish between these types of distortions and identify them, since you will see them all quite a bit in photography. The goal of this article is to explain each distortion type in detail, with illustrations and image samples.
When my article on field curvature was published a while ago, where I talked about how one could do a quick analysis of lens MTF data and determine if it exhibits any field curvature, some of our readers expressed interest in understanding how to read MTF charts. Since we talk quite a bit about lens performance and MTF data here at Photography Life, I decided to write a detailed article on the subject and do my best to thoroughly explain everything related to MTF curves, charts and all the verbiage that comes with them.