The magnifier Part 3
Then there is the relative sharpness at f2. Let’s be clear, the native lens is not soft at f2, but it is definitely not as razor sharp as at other apertures.* I actually like this slight degree of gentle sharpness, as it often (but not always) suits faces and portraits. However, with the TCL-X100, this degree of softness seems to be magnified just fractionally enough to be problematic with faces (more under the photograph**).
Often the curving, organic nature of faces makes them seem soft next to the harder, more edge filled surrounds of clothing, even when using a lens (any lens) at its sharpest apertures. The harder lines and the contrast that are often present (or rather, apparent) in clothing just draws the eye away from the softer features of a face. It’s an inherent problem.*** The TCL-X100, at f2, seems to just magnify this enough to make the issue frequent and harder to deal with (more under the photograph).
My solution is to shoot at f2.8. I’m not losing so much in terms of depth of field, but this lens, at f2, is nowhere near as shallow as say, the new 85mm equivalent at f1.2, so I don’t really like giving up anything at all. I understand that this difference is mitigated to some degree too, when stepping forward to achieve the relative same framing size. However, I still don’t like giving anything up.
Anyway, despite sounding like Mr. Negative here, I’m actually liking this lens a lot recently.
* it’s very hard to talk about this without sounding like you’re saying the lens is soft at f2. I’m not. And as for the other apertures, while I use the term “razor,” I most certainly do not mean it is a hard or harsh sharpness. The lens seems to add something. As I write this, I find myself recalling the pristine Alpine streams of New Zealand, with their beautiful, absolutely crystal clear water that somehow seems to magnify and make even more beautiful the underlying stream beds. That’s how I feel about the crystal sharpness of this lens from f2.8 on out
** the photographs here are decorative, not illustrative – & in fact chosen to be ironically sans clothing
*** when some photographers over sharpen or over clarify the eyes, often to the point that it becomes distracting in it’s unnaturalness, I wonder whether they might not be, possibly unknowingly, reacting to this situation?