It is mad how much stock people put in sharpness. On camera gear forums it seems to be the aim for many people – they’ll post what they think is an amazing shot – because it is sharp, not because of the composition, light, subject etc. People rate lenses and cameras on how sharp they are as the primary factor. I think it’s all bonkers.
Back when I used to have a little film camera and all my prints were 6×4 I don’t remember anyone talking about sharpness. Being in focus yes, but nothing more. But now folks can look at 100% images on large monitors they become obsessed with the pixel sharpness, throwing away images that would make pretty large prints before sharpness was an issue – even if sharpness actually is one.
But that’s gear forums for you. Go somewhere more about the end product and there’s less focus (no pun intended) on sharpness. Go to places that are about the art of photography – sharpness much less of a thing there.
Enthusiast forums go mad for sharpness. And good gear gets ignored despite many good qualities merely because its sharpness isn’t the main attribute. Meanwhile I see plenty of professional work in advertising, magazines and online that isn’t razor sharp and looks looks amazing. Other factors being more important to those pros.
I see it as a similar thing to the PC overclocking community. People build PCs to compete to achieve high overclocks, not because they will play games very well, but just for pure effort of building a machine they can clock so quickly. They have fun, it’s fine, but a PC much slower will do for any real world jobs.
Similarly folks build dragsters for the same reason. They want to reach extreme horsepower and speed over a quarter mile. These cars have not much other use, they aren’t even good racing cars, except for the short straight sprint of a drag strip. But they are competing to create massively overpowered vehicles for the sake of it.
And on gear forums people will buy gear and compete for the very sharpest of images. And this is totally okay as long as you realise that it’s a competition about sharpness and not photography. If people want to compete in that way then let them – they are having fun. But it’s got very little to do with art. And just like those dragsters and overclocked PCs, people look for a level of sharpness that is way beyond what most people need for practice everyday use.
Camera gear forums the camera equivalent of those hobbies. And that is totally okay. People compete, get very obsessed, and argue about gear. And the currency by which they measure isn’t horsepower or MHz, but sharpness. That’s how the game there is played.
Almost all digital cameras on the market today will give you a sharp enough image in a 6×4 print (and much larger really) that sharpness is just not an issue. People go looking for flaws and on a 24″ monitor at 100% they’ll always find them.
I used to be there too. But now every day and in every way, I’m getting better and better.