Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1998/10/29

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Subject: [Leica] Re: HCB vs. modern lenses
From: (Jim Brick)
Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 16:27:06 -0800

As lenses got sharper, Zeiss invented the Softar.


At 06:02 PM 10/29/98 -0600, you wrote:
>I agree with you , Alexy, that many of these pictures make good use of
>regional  focus to make them work.  I don't recall any picture in the book
>that would be improved by increased sharpness or contrast.  I'm saying the
>   What I am trying to say is that adding crisp sharp detail and high
>contrast would detract from more than a few of these pictures.  I gave the
>book back to the library.  However, the picture of the woman in the crowd
>with the pope is a good example.  That picture would not be helped at all
>if you were able to see great detail of the texture of the people's
>clothes, the dandruff on their shoulders, maybe an interesting whorl of
>hair on someone's cheek, etc.  Probably, this kind of detail and contrast
>would distract your focus of attention away from that interesting face on
>the woman.  So, I am saying that even in addition to the tool of selective
>focus, there are pictures, like this one, where high sharpness and contrast
>would actually work against the picture.   The two people in bed is another
>example that is really too obvious.
>    Very certainly, many people's pictures really do depend on high
>contrast and sharpness.  That's fine use the best tool for the job, as
>another LUGger has said.   The best tool for the job is not always the
>newest, sharpest lens.  Many  say that better sharpness and better flare
>suppression can't hurt.  I disagree.
> By the way, that Oz summary is hilarious.   -Mark Walberg
>>-Mark Walberg writes:
>>>So, I was looking through the HCB Aperture book last night, too - I've
>>>got it out from our local library.  I wonder how some of those pictures
>>>in there would look if taken with a current generation, sharp as my old
>>>barber's freshly stropped blade  Summicron, with every last bit of flare
>>>suppressed.  I think many of those pictures would still look great.
>>>However, there are definitely some that would suffer from all that
>>>crisply rendered detail, which would distract your attention away from
>>>what makes some of these pictures great.
>>I think that a lot of us on this list own that, or other, HCB books.
>>Maybe it woud be interesting to be more specific? *Which* images would
>>be stronger with more detail, or with a lens displaying reduced spherical
>>aberration? While sharpness may be overrated, it's clear that a lot of
>>HCB's images work through the *regional* control of focus vs. out-of
>>-focus and movement-blurred vs. frozen areas. The Aperture book contains
>>abundant examples - the photo of the crowd surrounding the Pope, with that
>>one woman's passionate, almost crazed eyes completely dominating the
>>photo - that image will be with me forever. The portrait of Matisse, with
>>its blurred foreground, is another.
>>On the other hand, one of the last photos in the book, of the leg and
>>fist jutting out of the prison cell, was clearly made with a more modern
>>lens, and I think it would be weaker if it were less harshly rendered.
>>Alexey Merz | URL: | email:

>>            | PGP public key: | voice:503/494-6840
>>            | Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the
>>            | first woman she meets and then teams up with three complete
>>            | strangers to kill again.
>>            |                    -- TV listing for _The Wizard of Oz_,
>>            |                       in the Marin County, Ca., newspaper
Jim Brick, ASMP, BIAA
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