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Thursday, 02 December 2010


I note from Lloyd's site that years 2+ subscriptions will be "deeply discounted". He does not say my how much. So I have emailed him to ask!

I have two reactions:
1. very cool, I'd love to read that.
2. [insert needle scratch sound] wait, what kind of pricing is that?

I'm really tempted to go off on a tangent about the pricing, but I think that I'll stick with saying that any resource that Ctein learned something new from is pretty darn valuable, and probably worth investigating. I looked at the linked table of contents, and it seems really interesting.

I agree completely on the pricing structure. If the book analog holds true, I can get deep discounts at Amazon on any book I want. Sure, at Barnes & Noble you can pay the full 44.95 or whatever MSRP is, but you can probably get it for closer to 30 at Amazon. With free shipping. Can I buy Lloyd's book from the equivalent of Amazon, please?

It's pretty easy to copy an entire website with readily available tools. Mr. Chambers knows this I'm sure so is pricing accordingly

Ctein, can you explain a bit about what the difference is between depth of field and depth of focus? I could probably google it, but would much rather have your take. Much obliged!!

He should just upload the book to "Lulu.com" and make it available as a paper print. $45 to have access to a set of web pages covering only one topic for a limit of one year makes me look elsewhere for information.

If this were some form of an actual "book," I think it would be very much worth the $45. There's no way I'll pay that much for a year of "access" to the information, though. It's the type of stuff that I could see myself referring to a few times a year. A one time investment of $45 would be well worth it. $45 a year? No way.

That kind of obnoxious pricing deal seems like a good way of saying "I hate my customers, and I want them to know it".

That's my problem. It's a reference work, but priced like it was a training course.


Lloyd might have made a mistake, or we might just disagree with him, but I'm quite sure he doesn't hate his customers. He's a good guy, and "one of us." (Meaning, a dyed-in-the-wool photo enthusiast.)


I'd be asking for that book for Christmas if I could get it through amazon for $40. I might be willing to pay more if i had a chance to read some excerpts or thumb through it at Barnes and Noble. Or, maybe the author should look into self publishing through blurb.com

Dear Mathias,

It's very simple: depth of field is what happens outside the camera, depth of focus is what happens inside the camera. In other words, depth of field is about how far in front or behind the subject the photograph will be acceptably sharp, while depth of focus is about how far in front of or behind the camera sensor/film the image will be acceptably sharp.

The two are connected, obviously, by the laws of geometric optics. It happens that in the simple, ideal lens approximation (that trick never works) depth of focus varies in strict proportion to the lens aperture (or, for a given lens, F ratio). Depth of field is only proportional to aperture when the subject is fairly close to the lens.

For the record, I am now declaring the topic of depth of field closed within this article. If you search TOP using Mike's or my name in combination with “depth of field” or "DoF", you will find that we have both written several lengthy articles and made many, many more technical comments on the subject as well as provided outside references. They pretty well address every imaginable question someone would have about depth of field. Not going there again.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Dear folks,

I have to write my reviews from the viewpoint of the buyer, not the author. When I say that I think “Making Sharp Images” is unpleasantly expensive, I'm saying that entirely from the position of someone who might want to buy the book. I am in no way commenting on Lloyd's business practices, ethics, personality, expenses, need or desire for money, or preferences in sushi. It is absolutely in no way a commentary on him, and in my judgment anyone who chooses to go that way is basically engaging in an ad hominem attack on someone they don't know and have essentially no information about.

I'm fine with people trying to think of alternatives and discuss pricing options, but it is absolutely not okay to use that to impugn Lloyd's character. It's an editorial policy of TOP that that sort of thing is not appropriate to this forum.

Pricing electronic media to provide a fair return to the author as well as an acceptable/popular price for the buyer is an extremely difficult and sometimes impossible problem to solve. Most readers are probably unaware that I've controlled the electronic rights to POST EXPOSURE since its publication 15 years ago. Furthermore, I have always had it in a form that would readily convert to an electronic publication, since I did the design and layout of the book. The problem for me and Focal Press has been that so long as a paper edition of the book existed I couldn't come up with a viable price for an electronic edition. If it were priced too close to the paper edition few enough people would want to buy the electronic version to make it worth administering sales and orders. Price it too low and it drains enough sales from the paper edition that one actually makes less money.

We could not come up with a price point where we felt at all comfortable that we would end up making more money by offering electronic edition. So we didn't.

Now that POST EXPOSURE is out-of-print, I am rethinking that. But I present the history as an example of why this is not a trivial problem for authors and publishers to address.

From the reader's point of view, it's different and much simpler: I want as many books as I can get, as cheaply as I can get them [greedy grin]!

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

When you buy a $44.95 paper book most of that goes to publisher, printer, distributor & book store. Web publishing costs a small fraction of what publishing a hard copy book does. With that in mind plus the fact that it is competing with other web resources that are cheaper or free, $44.95 is way too much. Yes, I could capture and print out the individual pages but that only makes it that much more expensive for something non-essential. If the level of sharpness he's talking about was the be all end all of photography it might be justified but the reality is that millions upon millions of more than adequately sharp photos are made every year without that kind of in-depth focus on sharpness (pun intended).

That's true, but that's like criticizing a biology textbook by saying that most people don't need to know that much about biology. Ctein mentioned that Lloyd is just writing about it from a technical standpoint, not making an aesthetic claim or value judgment about it. And it's certainly a legitimate subject of technical inquiry, like any other.


Dear folks,

Something I didn't mention in the review, for reasons of space and because it didn't seem especially important, is that a large fraction of the pages in Lloyd's electronic book are hot pages that hyperlink to related pages or even, in a few cases, off-site material. More importantly, most of the comparison illustrations are “live,” where mousing over them or over a scroll bar at the bottom shows immediate comparison views.

I think it would be possible for Lloyd to produce a paper version of the website, but it wouldn't be the simple exercise of just porting the HTML into page layouts. The links would have to be rethought and restructured for “dead tree” reading, and there would have to be substantial changes in the layout to accommodate side-by-side illustrations for the rollovers. In a great many cases, the paper illustrations would have to be much larger than the web illustrations to be sure that subtle differences would carry over to the printed page.

Not saying this can't be done. Not saying it shouldn't be done. Not even saying that Lloyd might not be working on it as we speak.

Just want people to understand that my failure to provide a clearer description of what the "book" looks like created a false impression of how easy it would be to port it to paper. Mea culpa.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

It's pretty cheap when you compare it to figuring it all out for yourself, or hiring a consultant to do the same. If you are a pro $44.95 is way cheaper than having the assistant test a bunch of lenses that the importer sent over for free ( do they still do that ? ) and if you are an amateur, trying to make up your mind between Coastal, Zeiss, or Leica, well it's less than a lens cap.

I haven't bought it because I'm not in the market for what he's testing , and figuring it all out for myself is half the fun.

When he starts testing aerial camera lenses from the 50s , well then I won't be able to afford them either I guess.

Information wants to be free, but what it would really like is dinner and a show.

Oops, I thought we were talking about his lens test subscriptions. The Making Sharp Images, looks pretty worthwhile too, compared to opportunity cost.

Does he have the hold the camera upside down with the monopod pointing up for handheld exposures (subset of increasing the polar moment of inertia) trick?

Ctein said, "For the record, I am now declaring the topic of depth of field closed within this article. If you search TOP using Mike's or my name in combination with “depth of field” or "DoF", you will find that we have both written several lengthy articles and made many, many more technical comments on the subject as well as provided outside references. They pretty well address every imaginable question someone would have about depth of field."

Shoot. I was going to ask if depth of field or depth of focus varies for the different wavelengths (colors) of light.


Making Sharp Images is not $44.95 every year. That is the initial subscription price, and it renews at $14.95 per year, 1/3 the initial price. That hasn't really come up yet, since MSI launched in September 2010.

The view of printed vs. online does not discuss several key points:

- Readers are welcome to print it for their own use and view it on any of their computers or iPad or iPhone, etc.

- The "book" is not static, and has already seen several updates since its release in September 2010. More will be added on a regular basis, on other lenses and cameras, and anything new and relevant. No printed book gets such additions. The regular additions typically target new findings, and also new cameras and lenses, etc. No printed book can do that.

- A printed book cannot compete with mouse-overs, movies, or animated sequences, nor can print media properly present the materials about sharpness. Nor can PDF.

- The information I present is written to be approachable to beginners, yet with enough depth for experienced shooters. The feedback I have received is overwhelmingly positive, including from experts.

- I have had experts review MSI, including one optical designer.

Lloyd Chambers
author of Making Sharp Images

Paper is problematic for the presentation or Making Sharp Images, and moving forward that will become more so. (n videos, animation, subtleties between images, etc).

I would not rule out a printed book, but that's a massive undertaking, and I could use the time to make further additions and enhancements to the online version instead. Easy choice. Also, physical books have very poor margins,

Any reader who has ever had sharpness issues will benefit from Making Sharp Images (which starts out by covering blur!) To spend $1K or $2K or $8K on a camera system only to spend years learning about the issues involved in getting top results is one approach. It's what I did— years of wondering, testing, being frustrated with some results. I would have paid $500 to read Making Sharp Images, and it would have saved me thousands of hours of learning. I consider it a bargain, but no one is obliged to subscribe to it.

Regarding diffraction, well, it is the issue of our time as cameras take on higher resolutions; it is the 800 ound gorilla, and must be dealt with. Anyone buying a high-res camera had better understand it.

Lloyd Chambers
author of Making Sharp Images

Dear James,

I am going to guess that you have little familiarity with how much time, effort and study go into writing a book? Authors are entitled to be paid for the labor and expertise, even when the cost of production is nil (and, for the record, the labor involved in building a website like Lloyd's is far from nil).

There's a reason I frequently plug Lloyd's site, and it's not 'cause he's a friend (I have lots of friends whose web sites are not worth plugging). He's a fabulous source of useful, and usually FREE, information.


Dear John,

Lloyd actually talks on that in his book, when he discusses chromatic aberrations.

Me, I'm keeping mum [vbg].

pax / Ctein

I read a story about the person that founded LuLu when it first opened, and he mentioned that he started it because he wrote a book that retailed for something like 45 dollars, and he was getting about 75 cents a copy, with the majority of the profit after production costs going to the publishing company; via LuLu, you could add whatever you wanted to make per copy and get what you deserve...probably an easy enough idea to understand why he wants to web-publish: production costs...

BTW, I already know how to "Make Sharp Images", and I'm giving it away free: a Hasselblad in reasonably good shape, and transparency film asa 100 or under.

Just doing some minor research to trouble shoot my own problems since the 90's, I can say I'm amazed anything digital is sharp at all, and seems to be more dependent on camera processing and correction than anything physical; just the whole "pixel-photobucket-overpixel-lens" thing is enough to cause a "nachtmare". Sheesh...

3-5 more years, and the software will be so good, you'll be able to just press a button and everything will be fine!

I've read MSI and found it useful. If there's such a cohesive and thorough body of research on this topic available elsewhere, I'm not aware of it. Ditto the Guide to Zeiss Lenses.

Would more user friendly pricing be more appealing? Sure. But Lloyd also provides useful freebies - the Mac Performance Guide is one example.

Lloyd's brand of rigorous technical analysis is unique among photo websites. Let's give him credit for that.

Thank you, Lloyd!!!

this article always makes me laugh, though i believe it has serious intent...

"The following article is meant to be a ten step guide to images that are significantly sharper than average ones."


The articles on the site generally are worth a read if you like that kind of thing (which i must assume you do or you wouldn't be here)


Robert P,
I guess this is kind of pathetic, but I actually recognize that technique. I'll bet the writer was Kornelius Fleischer of Zeiss.

Mike (been in this business too long)

When I am pricing cabinetry or design services what I really want to hear from the client is "that costs a little more than we thought but we think it will be worth it". It is the pricing sweet spot.

Based on Ctein's enticing review (I haven't read the book) and what I do know of Mr. Chambers knowledge (I used to read his comments on Rob Galbraith's blog back in the day) it sounds like Lloyd might have figured this one out. I wish him luck.

By the way, how did we all get so lucky to live in a time where there is more free information (not all of it useful or productive) at our fingertips than we can ever possibly use? And where do you guys find the time to compile and write it?


PS Ctein's second edition of Digital Restoration is worth every penny.

Dear Crabby,

... and worth every penny you're charging.

The 'Blad actually ranks pretty low when it comes to sharpness, because the film holders do a really lousy job of holding the film flat and in the correct plane. No joke. The runouts are monstrous. The only way one can guarantee consistently sharp photographs is to stop the lens down so far that you're way beyond optimum aperture.


pax / bubble-bursting Ctein

I agree with McD, the resources on Lloyds site are unmatched by anything that is available on the web in my opinion. Also, MSI, Zeiss Guide, DAP and every part of Lloyd's site are very much alive, they are updated very frequently with brand new material. I for one am a happy subscriber.

I notice Ctein mentions that Chambers covers, in his "Making Sharp Images", the idea of getting multiple copies of lenses to test before accepting one. Might be a good place to mention that back in the dawning days of professional photography (my youth!), it wasn't unusual for your local pro shop to extend this service to their professional clientel. We never bought a view camera lens from our local supplier without getting a couple and testing them. That's how we knew Schneider went off the dock in the 70's! People weren't buying all those Nikon view camera lenses because they were cheaper; it's because, by the mid-70's, 2 or 3 out of 3 Nikons you tested were perfect, and 1 or none out of the 3 Schneiders you tested would be acceptable!

Probably a comment for another column, but it's one of the things I'm missing about not having a local pro shop, caused mostly by marketing and pricing changes that made it impossible for the little store.

Have to laugh a little about the DanteStella/Zeiss jump, day one in college photo: "the sharpest any lens will be is 2 stops down from wide-open, enough to correct residual abberations, but not enough to add pinhole distortion". And, as any professional who shot extended bellows 8X10 with tungsten lighting can tell you, the way to eliminate vibrations is NOT to balance the camera on the tripod, a camera slightly off-balance will settle down far faster, whereas a balanced camera will keep see-sawing forever!

"The 'Blad actually ranks pretty low when it comes to sharpness, because the film holders do a really lousy job of holding the film flat and in the correct plane. No joke."

Not to mention that mirror-slap vibration very often affects handheld ambient-light shots. I learned of this in an article in Hasselblad's own house publication, and confirmed it with my own tests. They recommended always using a tripod and mirror lock-up when shooting outdoors (which is how Ansel used them). Not for nothing are Hassleblads most effectively used with studio flash. My ownership of a Hasselblad was very short-lived. Outdoor and available light shooters are better off with a good TLR.

Also, I got rid of my otherwise beloved Exakta 66 medium-format camera because of film-flatness issues. Let's just say it was hit or miss.


Don't let the "book" description fool you into a misguided assumption about this resource. It is an online reference guide, not a book.

"Way Beyond Monochrome - Second Edition" is a BOOK. "Making Sharp Images" isn't.

I subscribe to a couple online resources and this is not unusual in other technical worlds. Just because you don't get something tangible to hold in your hands for the money doesn't mean it's not worth it.

Lloyd is an excellent writer and has enough of an engineer mindset that he really does understand what he is saying, not just parrotting other information. I wish him great success. At least he isn't selling flash reflectors.

Funny old world. We buy $5 cups of coffee, spend thousands on new model digital cameras every couple of years, but balk at $45 for a highly recommended reference work.

Everyone was looking forward to the information age. Well, we're i it now, everybody wants information but no one wants to pay for it. How's that going to work?

Boys, ya got me!

I do some very sharp work with the Hasselblad, and again, and as someone mentioned on here before, one look at 40X40 blow-ups from Brian Lankers "I Dream a World..." series, and you'll see how sharp the 'blad can really be!

But, 90% of the stuff I do IS strobe, mostly in studio settings, I never use less than 125th a second, 'cause there's too much mirror bounce (Hasselblad also has one of the easiest to use mirror "pop-ups"), and to Cteins point, the backs are crap for flatness, but no Hasselbladian ever put a piece of film in a back unless they were gonna use it right that second, as the roll "set" when left in the back is a sharpness killer...I've already loaded a back, then the art director called "lunch", and after lunch, I just rolled the film out and threw it away, and loaded a new one!

I've even had crap 'blad lenses that aren't sharp! Genuflect and cross yourself here! But you'd have to be the analog version of a digital pixel-peeper to think it's not all that sharp, it's superior to, and with a level of performance that can be counted on, to almost any other 120 available, and I've had them all. Many that are mechanically superior lack the lens superiority, and many like the Rollei, with no mirror flap, well, it depends on the particular copy you get, and it doesn't meet the interchangeability needs of a "working" pro ...

But you boys are correct, it's dependent on using it "exactly" a certain way!

Crabby Umbo,
You know how to use 'em, all right!


Why so much interest in "sharp images?" - there's more to life, and photography, than that. I know this is a book review, not an article about "sharpness", but more articles about "photo quality" would be appreciated

Dear Richard,

This comes up several times a year-- some reader will write in and say, in so many words, "That column topic doesn't interest me; you shouldn't write about it."

I ignore all such entreaties. My charge, from our Steamy Editor, is to write about whatever I feel like. So, if it interests me, I write about it. If it doesn't interest a reader, then they can wait until next week and I'll be writing about something different.

When a reader writes in that they'd like to see me write a column about X, I always consider it. Almost always, I wind up not writing about that, but I'll give the idea at least a few seconds of attention. But any requests that I not write about a particular topic get absolutely zero consideration.

(Other than a post like this that explains the situation, that is.)

Them's the rules of the game, as I play it.

pax / autonomous Ctein

"Steamy"? I hope that's short for "esteemed"?

--Mike the Ed

Dear S.E.,

""Steamy"? I hope that's short for "esteemed"?"

Ummm, uhh, yup, exactly, whatever you say boss, uh huh.

pax / Ctein

Finally some good word salad.

So begging for more adventures in parrot behavior means we don't get more?

Damn it.

I've been using my own observations on parrot behavior to figure out how to photograph red tail hawks with my point and shoot. A lot of the feather flicking, preening and prelaunch moves are very similar. Only pet parrots are a lot less alarmed by weird human behavior, like running around with funny, shiny boxes.


I was just musing really - I've been talking to a few people recently who are getting into photography, and they all seem obsessed with sharpness and resolution - so that's where it came from. Just a knee jerk reaction, rather than a meaningful comment about the post. Sorry - I don't think I really meant to appear to be prescribing topics for you

All the features offered by HTML (ie. mouse-overs. animations) are avalible with CHM format <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Compiled_HTML_Help>.
Providing customers with that off-line version would make the buyers left with something after a year is over.

For me $45 is a high price, but maybe for USA citizens or professional photographers it shouldn't be.

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