Resolution Intro


My essay "No Brick Wall Ahead" published at The Luminous Landscape web site raises a number of issues in passing. Many readers will naturally be skeptical about many of the claims made. And if not skeptical, people may well ask what knowledge and assumptions drove these conclusions. To help people better understand "where I'm coming from" I provide additional detail here. The explanations are technical and somewhat long-winded. I would not expect the average photographer ­ amateur or professional ­ even to want to know "all this stuff". But other people may need the "details". So, here are at least some of them.

There are three separate papers here dealing with photographic resolution:

1. Concerning Photographic Resolution describes many of the technical issues that influence the ability to put detail in our images. You may be surprised by the number of factors one must consider!

2. Super Resolution ­ Or Not discusses some of the means available to improve photographic resolution. This discussion is, of course, not complete, but it relates at least some of the techniques we can use now and in the future.

3. Actual Resolution Tests describes some simple tests I did using a Canon 50D equipped with a 50 mm f/1.8 Canon lens. I was surprised by the results, and I expect you will be too. At the end is a quick summary of the salient issues, as I see them.

My submission to The Luminous Landscape originally included three illustrations not included in the final edition, but they are mentioned in the text. These were done using in-camera JPEG images before I did the tests included in the third paper here. The later tests suggest I could have dome significantly better with RAW files. But anyway, here are the illustrations. You will probably need to view the detailed images at full scale in order to see the differences.

This is the china floral arrangement photographed at f/16. The white box indicates the area selected for closer attention.

Left to right: Image at f/16, image at f/5.6, sharpened image at f/16. You may need to right-click on the image to see it at full scale in order to detect the differences.

Left to right: Image at f/32, Image at f/16 (same as above left), image at f/32 sharpened.


As of 30 July 2009, these papers are a work in progress; there are a few things to add yet. I hope they are far enough along to be useful, nevertheless.


- Harold


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