I saw a post the other day, questioning whether the A7Riv out-resolves the G Master and G lenses and whether people would need to upgrade lenses as a result. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking…who the hell cares? Apparently some people do. 6 months ago they had the sharpest lenses in the Sony lineup but suddenly their sharpness world has imploded and they need new lenses because their camera now out-resolves it.
In another case, someone asked whether to buy the 100-400mm or the new 200-600mm based on image quality if the pricing was the same. You would have expected focal length to be the key criteria given it’s the big difference between the two, but apparently sharpness is a far more important consideration. The focus should be on whether you need the 100mm bottom end of the range offered by the 100-400mm, or whether you need the 600mm top end of the 200-600mm. If 100mm is not required, and 600mm is, it’s a no brainer. If 100mm is important, its a no-brainer. If both 100mm and 600mm are important, then you decide what is more important, having the 100 and slightly worse image quality with a 1.5x teleconverter, or not having the 100mm at all. What it isn’t is a sharpness test. Both lenses are over $2000 and Sony don’t make bad lenses in that range.
The problem this highlights is a large portion of our photography population has become so obsessed with image sharpness or image quality that they’ve lost their sense of direction when it comes to purchases. They are buying something because they can mark off a checkbox “sharpest lens” or “micro contrast”. The irony is the real magic from lenses is often the kinds of things that can’t be measured. It’s the pop you get with portraits or landscapes, a colour rendering or just a look that is immediately recognisable from that lens.
In short, stop worry about micro differences in sharpness and worry about what you intend using the lens for. Sharpness isn’t going to help you produce better photo, they’ll just be sharper bad photos.