In the eye of the be­holder?

NPhoto - - Over To You... -

I was sur­prised and a lit­tle puz­zled on read­ing your usu­ally ex­cel­lent guid­ance in the por­trait lenses test ( N-Photo 69). It was not so much that your fig­ures seemed at odds with the re­sults pro­duced by

pho­to­, DxO and Ken Rock­well, who rated the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 very highly, with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 not far be­hind; ob­vi­ously sam­ples vary and meth­ods of test­ing are dif­fer­ent.

But I did not un­der­stand how the Tam­ron 85mm f/1.8 emerged as the win­ner, when your own re­sults seemed clearly to con­tra­dict this. I would have thought that, in por­trai­ture, what you need is max­i­mum sharp­ness and con­trast, bokeh be­ing not vis­i­ble with a back­drop in a stu­dio and sig­nif­i­cant only in out­door pic­tures. Sim­i­larly, vi­gnetting is fairly unim­por­tant in por­trai­ture, and both that and bar­rel/ pin­cush­ion dis­tor­tion can be off­set in Pho­to­shop as well as in DxO.

If that is so, then on your charts the best 85mm lens looks to be the Nikon 85mm f/1.4, which only got four ‘blobs’ for per­for­mance (and was con­sid­ered “out­dated”); half a blob be­hind the Tam­ron, which seemed to have no­tice­ably in­fe­rior sharp­ness. The run­ner up, the Sigma 85mm f/1.4, was worse still, yet was said to have “beau­ti­ful im­age qual­ity”. Per­haps you can help by ex­plain­ing the weight­ing you ap­ply to dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter­is­tics in reach­ing your fi­nal de­ci­sion? Michael Becket, via email Lab test re­sults never re­ally tell the whole story and, for por­trai­ture, the pic­to­rial qual­ity of de­fo­cused ar­eas in a scene can be more im­por­tant than whether the lens is sharp enough to re­veal ev­ery blem­ish and wrin­kle. We felt that the Tam­ron de­liv­ered the best per­for­mance and han­dling, as well as bet­ter value for money.

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