My lens is sharper than your lens, and I can prove it!

Dennis Faas's picture

Photographers have always argued which camera lens is the sharpest.

Speaking from experience (and I have 30 years of it!), Nikon's 105mm f/2.5 Nikkor lens ("Nikkor") is by far my sharpest lens; in fact, I use it all the time when taking portraits and still-life shots.

The Nikkor utilizes a simple design that traces back to the famed pre-WWII German Zeizz lens. Surprisingly, the 105mm is still on the market. But, with the digital camera, the "Nikkor" just isn't practical (I.E.: you don't want to get any dust on the CCD sensor when you change lenses). That's why zoom lenses only belong on digital SLR cameras.

So, which SLR zoom lens is "the best"?

Just recently, a new web site, called went live. Created by Dave Etchells (an editor for since 1998), focuses on the most important specs, and like Amazon/eBay, you can scroll down to read what other photographers think about the product.

"Seeing the details of how a lens performs across it's focal length and aperture range lets users make intelligent tradeoffs between cost and performance. On the other hand, our test data shows why it's worth paying the high price commanded by premium lens," says Etchells in his recent press release announcing the October 20 launch.

The directory gives the specifications for 136 commercial lenses; the test data includes 20 or so lenses that have been "tested" for comparison. On my visit to the site, I was able to plot on a graph the differences between focal length and/or aperture, which allowed me to predict the sharpness and contrast of a picture.

I can now prove to my friend that my Nikon lens is sharper than his Canon lens (well, technically, mine is sharper at F/8, but his is sharper at F/11). On the, I found out that if I stop down to F/8 and set the lens at 80mm, the picture is going to be sharper than taking it at F/3.5 zoomed out to 24mm. Well, I knew that already -- but did you? It's nice to have that kind of info at your fingertips, and that's what provides.

Just remember: sharpness isn't necessarily everything!

-Jim Domke

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