Sharpening to optimize visual detail

When shooting film sharpness depended on lens quality, camera steadiness, aperture, focus accuracy, and film grain.

Lens quality included native sharpness along with contrast, distortion and color. The film grain, was smaller and tighter with lower ISO ratings. The developer used also influenced grain sharpness and contrast.

Today, with digital cameras things are a bit different. Lens quaintly is still important, along with camera steadiness, aperture and focus accuracy. Now the sensor design impacts sharpness and dynamic range. The characteristic curve associated with film stock and developer combinations is now adjustable via processing software. The processing software also can manipulate midtone contrast (Clarity) and apply sharpening algorithms with Amount, Radius, Detail and Masking variables.

The images included in this exercise where shot on a tripod with a Sony A7RII. The file is uncompressed raw. The lens used is a Sony 24-70 F2.8 GM. The processing applied to each image is included, along with the exposure information when viewing the image by clicking on its thumbnail. No processing was applied to the images other than sharpening, including clarity.

At the end of the series there are two cropped detail images, one at 1:1 and one at 1:2. These are included so you can evaluate whether extreme sharpening algorithm variable cause halos.

This second group of images is the same clarity and sharpening settings applied to a different image. Once again, no other processing has been applied. The strong bluish cast is from shooting in the shade. The sharpening on the sun face seems extreme in its strongest interactions. However, when looking at the brick wall it doesn’t appear over sharpened. It’s also noticeable that the sun face seems to darken as more clarity is applied.

This image was shot at F2.8 which taxes lens performance. It was shot handheld with IBIS on.