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Reviews of photography products that enhance the enjoyment of taking pictures. Published frequently but irregularly.

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18 November 2013

In this recurring column, we highlight a few items we've run across that don't merit a full story of their own but are interesting enough to bring to your attention (with more than 140 characters). This time we look at Taitiana Altberg, an 'in spec' lens, making fine hair selections and a simple three-light portrait setup.

More to come...


Really enjoyed the 'In Spec' lens article. Shows you don't always get what you pay for.

Being basically an amateur photo enthusiast, I remember having a wonderful 50mm f1.4 lens which I used back in my Canon A-1 camera days. It was wonderfully sharp and worked well for many years until becoming a victim to a flooded basement.

I replaced it twice with other 50mm 1.4 lens using the same Canon A-1 camera, but was never as happy with the results. Now, many years later than I want to admit, I'm finally using digital cameras and find it takes HDR shooting to get the sharpness I fondly remember from my old beater of a lens.

-- Joyce Stein

Sharpness being a combination of resolution and acutance, maybe we can explain that special 50mm as having delivered more local contrast (or acutance) than its successors.

Software can help here, as you've found with HDR. The hard way to do it is with unsharp masking (with one too many balls -- or variables -- to juggle). Smart Sharpening in Photoshop avoids the artifacts of unsharp masking (but still has a few balls to juggle). But the simplest way to get there is with the Clarity slider. Some applications simply call this micro-contrast, but it's the same trick.

Positive values increase local contrast, enhancing acutance and hence sharpening the image. And, as a special bonus, negative values decrease it, which minimizes wrinkles in portraits.

-- Mike

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