Today I came across an excellent article discussing micro-contrast by Yannick Khong. In it he discusses how sharpness is being over-emphasized by buyers and I couldn’t agree more. For a short period of time I was really wrapped up in technical reviews; before I started demoing and reviewing equipment on my own.
I’m a technical person at heart, but gaining access to a large amount of equipment caused me to form an appreciation for the intangible characteristics associated with how a lens draws a subject. Now, when I shop for a lens that I personally want to purchase and do not have time to demo, I look for examples of other people’s photos on sites like 500px to see what photographers have created with it, or for non-technical reviews that have photos with minimal editing, so I can see what I will have to work with. From there, if I’m sufficiently impressed, I’ll read about the build quality of the lens and any auto focus characteristics that maybe important.
Sadly, as Yannick Khong addresses, many manufactures are responding to the metric driven buying habits of consumers by producing lenses that are ultra-sharp and score well on DXO, but have very poor micro-contrast. This is a shame, because micro-contrast is largely where things like the Leica/Zeiss/Fuji look comes from, and consumers haven’t taken the time to appreciate its importance because it is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify. Relying too heavily on objective values provided by DXO mark scores or resolution charts, instead of your own subjective opinion of many examples of how a lens draws, might cause you to make an expensive mistake.