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Image contrast and why it is important

When you read my reviews about lenses you can see that I really love micro contrast. It’s the thing that makes an image come alive and give it that extra ‘pop’ or ‘bite’ of fine details.
It is also important in how sharp we see an image.

Personally I know what I like in an image and I know what I’m searching for in a lens.
If the lens helps you capture the image how you like to see it in the final stages it will help you to transfer your vision into images you love. Now I’m no where near being a master in the technical part of lens design, but I know enough why certain lenses perform better than others and what has to be done to achieve that goal.
It is that extra care that manufacturers take to make great lenses and that is why they are more expensive than regular lenses.


But how about that ‘pop’

An image ‘pops’ when you have great contrast, especially micro contrast (the contrast in the fine details). These fine details make an image come to live, let us see more depth in an image and give the image a visual compelling impact.
But there is more.

During low contrast scenes like overcast skies or at dusk it is even more important that a lens delivers maximum contrast or else the scene is going to look dull and lifeless.
An other big advantage of high micro contrast is that less sharpening is needed to your images.

– When applying sharpening to an image we add dark pixels to light ones and the other way around. When there is noise in the image this becomes a problem because we accentuate the noise.-

One of the things that I didn’t realised before reading more about this subject is that good micro contrast makes manual focus easier, and helps the auto focus system as well. When using manual focus you determine the correct focus on the contrast of the details you are focusing at. Actually it’s quite logical that when the lens gives you good contrast, it’s easier to see if the image in in focus or not.

The ZEISS Otus lenses are known for their superior micro contrast and the Milvus lenses are performing fantastic on that part too.

Learn more

Lloyd Chambers has a popular blog and has written an in depth article on this subject over on Lenspire at the ZEISS website.
If you want to learn more about this subject and I can highly recommend reading it, head over to the Lenspire blog and dive into the technical world of lenses.




Cover image ©Lloyd Chambers Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 1.4/85


Author Martijn.Kort

Fine art photographer focusing on architecture and cityscapes as well as capturing unique moments from the cockpit. Writing about photography techniques and sharing reviews. Ambassador for both ZEISS Netherlands and Nisi Filters. If you like my work, consider following me on Instagram!

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