The best FSTOP? Do you need to put the camera down?

I would be thrilled if you had told me a few years ago that almost every lens on the market would be razor sharp when used wide open. However, I wouldn’t trust you if you also told me that lenses may be overly sharp. How is it even feasible, really? When choosing a lens’s optimal fstop in the past, sharpness was all that was taken into account. That’s not always the case these days. People now seek a new kind of photography since it has changed. We’re going to discuss more about the greatest fstop and how it’s evolved over time now that we’ve tested lenses for more than 12 years.

Lenses were quite different when I initially began The Phoblographer more than 12 years ago. They were primarily created for film cameras before being transferred. There aren’t many that were created with the notion of being digital first. To get the optimum fstop back then, you had to stop the lens down. The previous range for full-frame 35mm was from f8 to f11. Depending on the medium format choice you were employing, it differed, but you tried to get the same equivalent. This held true for APS-C and Four Thirds sensors as well.

Back then, shooting with a lens wide open put you at risk of a number of issues:

Wide open, your lens would be quite soft, which is good today.
Your lens may have a lot of color fringing, which is now considered to be a characteristic of lenses.
Vigilante activity was widespread but is now readily remedied.
Due of the worse autofocus of DSLRs and film SLRs, you would also likely fail to concentrate on your target.
Then, everything was different.

I recall a little period of time during which many things changed. Many industries in the east were damaged by storms and tsunamis. Then, strangely enough, the sector recovered with favorable optics. First, they went to Zeiss and Sigma. The selection of Zeiss Otus lenses was almost unrivaled. The picture quality of the Sigma Art lens series was likewise unrivaled. Then Sony figured it out, followed by Nikon, Tokina, Tamron, etc. Optics much improved.

This was intriguing since Zeiss began to promote the idea that the Otus lens range didn’t necessarily need to be discontinued. The Zeiss 55mm f1.4 Otus lens would offer the same sharpness as the closest rival lenses, according to a ton of MTF charts that were shown to the press. The Otus, on the other hand, performed it wide open while the opposition performed it at f5.6 or f8. Even though it had several major flaws, the technology was impressive. With an outrageous price tag, no weather sealing, and a few other factors, Zeiss accomplished what they do. Then the Otus was overtaken by the 50mm f/1.4 Art from Sigma. Sigma has always been good at producing clinical images but at the expense of the construction, personality, and AF speed. The situation was the same then as it is now.

As a result, Zeiss started to advocate shooting wide open at that time. The rest of the industry began to alter as a result. This, together with increasing megapixel counts on camera sensors and advancements in flash technology, make for a winning combination.


A lens nowadays that isn’t crisp wide open is difficult to find. Although Lensbaby accomplishes this on purpose, which is fantastic, all other camera and lens makers aim for crisp wide-open performance. Since then, the greatest fstop and all it implies have evolved. When the lens was sharpest, there was once a concept known as the “sweet spot.” Achieving a pleasant balance between sharpness and bokeh is increasingly important nowadays. Generally speaking, most photographers believe that the optimal fstop is either wide open, f4, or f5.6, depending on the kind of sensor they are using. Since lenses are so crisp when used wide open, few of us on staff find it necessary to stop down unless the exposure demands it. A lens is valued more when a camera sensor has a high megapixel count. Combining it with flash and the effects of specular highlights, you have a winning combination.

Overall, the fstop that matches the exposure is still the best. You must stop down to f8. then carry it out. Need an aperture of f1.4? Use it! Given the capabilities of modern cameras, post-production is no longer necessary because to the high quality of lenses.

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