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Old Nov 3, 2009, 10:12 PM   #1
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Default Question about sharpness of digital photos

When I mentioned to a very experienced photograher that I thought digital photos seemed to be "soft" to me in terms of sharpness compared to 35 mm print photos he told me that even "print" photos were sharpened by the processor lab.
Can someone tell me if that is a true statement?
Is is just my "old" eyes or are digital photos really not as sharp even when they are in focus?
Thanks for any feedback.
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Old Nov 4, 2009, 11:01 AM   #2
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I don't have an answer for you. However, your question reminds me of the ongoing debate amongst audiophiles. Vinyl LP vs. CD. Some find Vinyls to have warmer sound.
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Old Nov 4, 2009, 11:04 AM   #3
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It all depends on the printer used and the size of the print, you would have to do a controlled text to compare. An 8x10 film print from an 8x10 negative will be sharper than any dslr digital camera and ink jet can make.
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Old Nov 4, 2009, 11:58 AM   #4
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keep in mind that the default sharpening/contrast/saturation is set pretty low on many dslrs. this allows the user more latitude for control over these parameters in post processing. so they really do expect you to do some post-process. even if all you do is tweak the sat/cont/sharpening.

this softness does not mean the details are not there, as modern dslrs and even high end p&s offer more than enough detail when properly processed to print very very large pictures at very good resolution.
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Old Nov 4, 2009, 5:49 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hards80 View Post
keep in mind that the default sharpening/contrast/saturation is set pretty low on many dslrs. this allows the user more latitude for control over these parameters in post processing. so they really do expect you to do some post-process. even if all you do is tweak the sat/cont/sharpening.

this softness does not mean the details are not there, as modern dslrs and even high end p&s offer more than enough detail when properly processed to print very very large pictures at very good resolution.
First, let me state that it's almost an academic question. At least in my opinion. Sharp, smarp, digital is sharp enough.

But the anti-aliasing filter built into bayer pattern sensors is the chief contributor to this "soft" phenomonon. Plus, some cameras use a more powerful filter than others - One of the reasons to read reviews...

Kodak once put out a camera without such a filter, and it suffered heavily from artifacts and purple fringing. Personally I thought it wasn't That bad.

My Foveon based Sigma does not use such a filter, and the images are sharper than Bayer - But again, academic. The benefits of the foveon sensor is Not in its sharpness.

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Old Nov 4, 2009, 9:30 PM   #6
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Which apples and oranges are we comparing? 35mm film could be shot on nearly everything from pocket snapshooters to top-line SLRs. There were major differences in prints from the various categories.
With digital, we can make prints from cameras ranging from camera phones to full-size 35mm sensors. (excluding the medium format monsters)
If your friend is comparing average P&S camera prints to 35mm SLR prints, this isn't a valid comparison. Take a gander at what comes from even APS-C DSLRs, and you will find they equal 35mm SLRs as far as sharpness goes.

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Old Nov 16, 2009, 12:56 PM   #7
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computer screens have very low dpi than prints and you never feel sharpness in any picture with 100dpi screen. when i get my 35mm shootings from photograhper in a cd, it is 1772x1181 pixels. it is 15x10cm print size resolution. i believe if you downsize your digital photos to that resoultion and sharpen them, they will look better on print. and also DOF is important on feeling sharpness in corners. you can use masking and lensblur to obtain that in ps.
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Old Nov 16, 2009, 1:50 PM   #8
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35 mm. was never sharp enough.
I still use medium format film and it's sharp for my needs. I mean 50x40 cm. prints.
Big format film was the real truth of sharpness. May be the new Hassel 60MP can do it.
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Old Nov 17, 2009, 1:46 PM   #9
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The question as you phrased it originally had way too many variables left unspecified to reach a meaningful answer.

Cheap consumer film and a minilab produces prints far less sharp than even a modern P&S digital camera.

The very sharpest 35mm B&W films behind Leica lenses can still produce prints to rival the 21Mp 35mm DSLR cameras.

I still shoot a fair amount of film. My take is that for colour work DSLRs give at least as much subjective quality as a piece of film about 3-4x the size of the sensor. Current 20Mp FF DSLRs match medium format colour film. For B&W it's more like 2x. Medium format film still does better in BW, and when you take lenses into account it's certainly possible to get better results from BW film than a FF 35mm digital.

A lot of very famous large format photographers have now switched from 4x5 sheet film to the 60+ Mp medium format digital backs.

Whole books can and have been written about this. As well as a gazillion articles.

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/es...-testing.shtml

Of course things have moved on a lot since 2006. In most circumstances now 6x4.5 Medium format film will be bettered by a Sony A900, Sony A850, Canon 5DMkII, Canon 1DsMkIII or Nikon D3X. That was Drum-Scanned Velvia 50. But they haven't stood still in the film world either. New finer-grained films are also being released.

Mostly it's all pointless comparisons. Decide on the size prints you need and work backwards from there. If you like film there's nothing wrong with that. I still shoot a lot of film.
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Old Nov 18, 2009, 5:05 PM   #10
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Depending on how one sees your question, indeed it's one that is almost impossible to answer because there are limited details to work with (types of cameras used, lenses, the output (inkjet or real photographic paper used), the experience of who took the photos, etc.

In regard to "he told me that even "print" photos were sharpened by the processor lab. Can someone tell me if that is a true statement?"

I will answer yes to that having worked in a photo lab. Since it wasn't a high end place, we took the developed negative film strip, shoved it into a digital scanner, then on the computer screen we would color correct and sharpen (amongst other things), and then sent the digital images stored the machine off to a photo printer (not inkjet, this machine used light sensitive paper). This process certainly is quite digital, even though it involves film, unlike some more traditional labs that would perhaps utilize an enlarger... although I bet those places are become quite rare (and likely expensive!).
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