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Old Oct 26, 2007, 5:32 AM   #1
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Hi all,

Please bear in mind I've asked this on a newbie forum - I'm quite new to photography so please excuse if my questions seem a bit naive :-)

I've been 'playing' with my Canon 400D and on a recent holiday took hundreds of photographs learning about apertures and exposure compensation, light etc. I came back with a few 'keepers' but more than that I've learnt a bit more about my camera and the 'science' behind it.

Now, after reading the monthly photographic magazines I get the impression that one can't take a truly good photo without using imaging software. My main interest at the moment lies with the taking of the pictures, not sitting behind a computer manipulating them. I do use Picasa for basic tweaks though.

So my questions are, to people with a lot more experience than me:

1) How much do you use photo editing software to create your images, or with experience, can you generally get 'keepers' straight out of the box, so to speak?

2) I appreciate that editing software can only do somuch, (eg can't rescue blurred images etc) but how far can software compensate for quality of lenses?

3) Would I be better off as a long-term investment buying a) slightly less expensive but well-regarded lens plus editing software, or b) better quality lens?

I appreciate that this is a long-winded query, but I can't think of any other way to put it.

Many thanks, as always, in advance
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Old Oct 26, 2007, 6:21 AM   #2
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1) Out of the box: None. I tend to overshoot so everything needs at least a little bit of cropping. That avoids having to figure out exactly where (and how much) the viewfinder mismatches the final image. I also have the saturation, contrast, and sharpening turned down a bit so most images need that done. All stuff that can be done with freeware.

2) Very limited software corrections are possible for lens defects.

3) No software is a good long term investment - though learning photo editing is a good long term investment in terms of study time. Learn why you want to use (e.g.) levels, not how the buttons in any particular package's adjusts levels.
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Old Oct 26, 2007, 12:10 PM   #3
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Beejygirl wrote:
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1) How much do you use photo editing software to create your images, or with experience, can you generally get 'keepers' straight out of the box, so to speak?
Many of my keepers are straight out of the camera, many of my keepers have been tweaked in Microsoft Office Picture Manager (a basic image editor I use for cropping, rotating and resizing), some have been tweaked in Microsoft Office Photo Editor (for some more complicated things), and some have been tweaked in Photoshop Elements (mainly for lighting, but sometimes for other, more ambitious endeavors.)

Beejygirl wrote:
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2) I appreciate that editing software can only do somuch, (eg can't rescue blurred images etc) but how far can software compensate for quality of lenses?
Not very.

Vignetting: Sure.

Geometric Distortion:Ok, if you can tolerate the loss of detail at the edges, and especially at the corners.

Sharpness: Somewhat.

Chromatic Aberration: Not at all.

Beejygirl wrote:
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3) Would I be better off as a long-term investment buying a) slightly less expensive but well-regarded lens plus editing software, or b) better quality lens?
This is Photography. There is no substitute for a good lens.

And the methods for correcting the imperfections of a less than perfect lens often induce some imperfections of their own.

And good quality lenses don't necessarily cost an arm and a leg. The five best lenses I own have cost me less that $1000 total (I bought4 of them used.) To be sure, there are other lenses I'd like to have, but for the most part, I think I'm doing ok with the lenses I've got.
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Old Oct 26, 2007, 12:17 PM   #4
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I have to disagree somewhat.

IMO DXO optics goes a long way towards compensating for a whole range of lens defects. And to be honest I would expect better results from a modest lens with DXO than a more expensive lens without.

Of course the best results are when you use the best lens and the best software.

It's free so you can try it out. For those who are skeptical I would suggest you try it before telling me I'm wrong.
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Old Oct 26, 2007, 12:27 PM   #5
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peripatetic wrote:
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...to be honest I would expect better results from a modest lens with DXO than a more expensive lens without.
I'm pleased to hear about DXO Optics, and am happy to hear that you are satisfied with the results you've gotten.

But while DXO Optics may be a very sophisticated method of creating something from nothing, it still just creates something from nothing.
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Old Oct 26, 2007, 2:56 PM   #6
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Well that's putting it rather too strongly.

I think everyone would agree that there is a law of diminishing marginal returns on image quality when it comes to lenses. Beyond a certain point you have to start paying a lot more money to get fairly small increases in quality.

If you can't tell the difference in the final picture between a medium-priced lens corrected with DXO and an expensive lens without correction does it really matter which route you used to get that final image?

I'm not suggesting that it's a waste to spend money on good lenses, just that as we are operating in a digital world that it seems silly not to take advantage of some very cool technology.

I think of DXO as a "software upgrade" to my camera and lenses.

DXO has free trial versions available for download, so there's nothing to be lost by trying it out if you are skeptical except a few minutes of your time. You might be pleasantly surprised. (And no I don't get commission :-) and I paid for it with my own money.)

The technical details of how they analyse the lenses for a range of different factors and correct for them is pretty interesting I think...

http://www.dxo.com/intl/photo/dxo_op...ry_corrections

The proof to me is in the pictures. With DXO and Lightroom I find I almost never have to use Photoshop anymore, I fire it up once a month for a special image I want to work on but for the bulk of my images I just don't need to. That means less time in front of the computer and more time shooting.
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Old Oct 26, 2007, 3:02 PM   #7
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I've been impressed with some of the refocus, sharpening and distortion/perspective correction algorithms in open source Image Managenent and Editing tools available for Linux like DigiKam.

From my perspective, good image enhancement algorithms can go a long ways towards lens (and camera) deficiencies, especially at typical print and viewing sizes.

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Old Oct 26, 2007, 4:36 PM   #8
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Ok, but I'm going to paraphrase the OP's question as accurately as I can:

Would you rather buy a great lens, or would you rather buy a good lens and software to try to correct many if not all of its problems?

As I see it, I would rather use the best lens I can get, and deal with the few minor problems I may encounter, instead of using a mediocre lens with the understanding that I'll have to patch up almost everything I get from it.

Does anyone feel differently?
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Old Oct 26, 2007, 6:57 PM   #9
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I thinka better lenswill go a bit furtherthan a better image editor, if you want to take photos anyway. Which seems to be what you express. I don't like having to mess with my shots after I take them. Sure I'll crop a few or tweak a little something for the ones I want to frame but most of my joy comes from the capturing of images and moments with my camera rather than spending even more time behind my PC monitor trying to see how many ways I cantweak a pic I took 2 weeks ago.

I have noticed with some of my friends that they whoare software reliant tend to be much more lazy about the pics they shoot. They don't pay attention to all of the details or worry about settings. That has it's benefits too, since you can randomly fire off more pictures without worry, and can wind up taking shots you normally wouldn't that do turn out good. But they very rarely come up with a pic that they really like. In order for a program to "fix" your image, they have to basically imagine what should be in place of the stuff you are trying to fix. What you wind up with is having an image made up of stuff that the software thinks is best to cover up imperfections. Sure it could save you in a pinch, and in a lot of cases is the difference between a keeper and recycle bin. But you can still do a lot of decent editing with free software, and if I had to choose between putting $$$ into a lens or software, it would be spent on the lens.

Early Digital days the cameras were pretty darncrappy in contrast to a film SLR. So people had to process their images and more or less had fun doing things with them that came easily because they were digital to begin with. But now with a DSLR you're looking at a new level of photography, more along the lines of traditional film SLR's but with the advantages of digital convenience. With an SLR if you wanted better pics, you bought a better lens. I think the same holds true with DSLR's. If you want to improve your overall experience get a few good lenses.

Better lenses doesn't always mean huge $$$$. Huge $$$$ doesn't always mean a good lens either. So read reviews and try and get your hands on the lens first if possible.

Most good software packages also come in trial versions, you could always download a few and see what they can do with images you already have to help you decide what will be best for you.


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Old Oct 26, 2007, 7:13 PM   #10
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TCav wrote:
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Ok, but I'm going to paraphrase the OP's question as accurately as I can:

Would you rather buy a great lens, or would you rather buy a good lens and software to try to correct many if not all of its problems?

As I see it, I would rather use the best lens I can get, and deal with the few minor problems I may encounter, instead of using a mediocre lens with the understanding that I'll have to patch up almost everything I get from it.

Does anyone feel differently?
It seems pretty obvious to me. I would buy that combination of lens and software that gave the best image quality within my budget.

Actually determining what that combination might be is not always trivial, but isn't that hard either.

Consider for example two lenses, one has more distortion, CA and vignetting but the two are of similar sharpness, focal length and speed. If you make the output look essentially identical with no adverse effect on your workflow then why choose the more expensive combination?
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