Make your lenses "better"

Sony NEX-7 Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton
Sony NEX-7 Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton

Images by David and Ann Taylor-Hughes

The great thing about the new version of Adobe Camera Raw, with its auto CA removal, is that it provides a software fix that makes lenses perform "better". Camera / Lens manufacturers have been doing this with their own brands for years, but now Adobe have provided a method of their own for lenses that aren't "compensated for" in this way.  Whether or not you think this is a good thing and that lenses should be made to optimum quality in the first place, the answer is that they are not. That budget zoom suddenly takes on a new life.

I tried this on some old images taken with lenses that suffered quite badly from CA, and the improvement was very noticeable.

Canon 5D 16-35mm f/2.8
Canon 5D 16-35mm f/2.8

Nikon D3 28-200mm zoom
Nikon D3 28-200mm zoom

 The Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 is an excellent lens, but does also suffer a bit from CA. Now it doesn't.

Sony NEX-7 Zeiss 24mm f/1.8
Sony NEX-7 Zeiss 24mm f/1.8

Sony NEX-7 Zeiss 24mm f/1.8
Sony NEX-7 Zeiss 24mm f/1.8

The Sony e-mount 18-55mm zoom lens is now looking like a bargain.

Sony NEX-7 18-55mm zoom 
Sony NEX-7 18-55mm zoom

My Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar lens is another that benefits from this "cleanup"

Sony NEX-7 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar
Sony NEX-7 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

So, I'm very impressed. The "blue branches against the sky" problem still persists and I'd love a software fix to remove that as I still have to do it manually, but overall the auto CA removal works very well indeed. Not 100% but pretty close from my observations so far.

In fact ACR 7 seems to provide much "cleaner" images overall and I suspect that there are other "tweaks" in there as well. A photographer who contributed pictures to my picture library a few years ago, told me that he couldn't see the point of raw files. He converted his to tiffs and then deleted the raw versions for ever. I told him then I thought he was crazy and this is why. Just like I have kept transparencies that weren't as I would like, and can now "improve" them using Photoshop. In the same way many of my digital files that have been languishing unused can now benefit from these improvements in raw conversion.

Finally I went out a couple of days ago with my Olympus E-P2, 12mm and 45mm lenses. The 12mm does suffer from some CA certainly and I wanted to see just what kind of quality I could squeeze out of m4/3 and whether this new raw conversion software could improve the results.

Olympus E-P2 45mm f/1.8 lens
Olympus E-P2 45mm f/1.8 lens

Olympus E-P2 12mm f/2 lens
Olympus E-P2 12mm f/2 lens

Olympus E-P2 12mm f/2 lens
Olympus E-P2 12mm f/2 lens

Olympus E-P2 45mm f/1.8 lens
Olympus E-P2 45mm f/1.8 lens

Olympus E-P2 12mm f/2 lens
Olympus E-P2 12mm f/2 lens

I was very pleased with the results. I used a tripod for all shots, and it does go to show that careful exposure and processing can contribute more to getting top class results than any manufacturers "gobbledygook" telling you what a difference their new sensor technology or whatever will do. This "antique" camera produced some excellent pictures. I upsized a few of them to 16MP, removed the exif data and uploaded them my "fussiest" picture library who accepted them all without any problem. 

As far as I'm concerned, image quality has always been about more than pixel size and supposed sensor and lens performance anyway. Any decent lens when used on a tripod and at its optimum aperture will be able to produce excellent results. I'm as guilty as anybody at being seduced by the "next big thing" but ultimately getting the exposure and processing right is just as, or even more, important than "whats in the box". 

Adobe don't get everything right, but they are to be applauded for their new version of ACR. It really does make a difference. Photoshop CS6 is a free download at the moment, and I strongly suggest you give it a try. It could probably make more of a difference to your pictures than that hot new camera currently tempting you.