THE OBSESSION WITH CONTRAST & COLORS by Toni Ahvenainen

Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen. Sony Nex-5N, ZEISS Touit 2.8/50M, ISO100, 1/400sec, f/6.3, Raw. Flickr account

Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen.
Sony Nex-5N, ZEISS Touit 2.8/50M, ISO100, 1/400sec, f/6.3, Raw.
Flickr account

Season of Touit - picture 11
Week 38, Wednesday

People who are into photography usually approach it from some particular point of view which is often individual and determines, at least to some extent, their photographic eye. For example, the composition might be something you always consider and come back, while others seek perfect light. Possibilities are endless and the one thing I am always drawn to in my photography is color. I love color and I'm always drawn to it at first. But to be truthful to you, my relationship with color is really a love-hate thing and I use ridiculous amount of time to it. Having developed over 5000 RAW-files with an obsession for color, I can say that I have developed my eye for certain details and have a routine to go with it. I believe I know my way around with terminology and technical skills, but the color is still an unanswered question to me. While one can know how to pull and push sliders to meet his goal, to really be artisan of color means that you have to acquire a good taste for it and know how to apply it. Another difficulty with color comes with an observation that it is often experienced with a feeling rather than analytically considered, much in the same way as melody or chords in the music. There are 'rules', 'definitions' and 'all that' of course, but it is still difficult to conceptualize what makes good colors beyond the obvious. This makes it an everlasting question and to put it shortly, I think I've put lot of effort for color in my photography and while I'm certainly not a master of it or anything, I feel I have trained my eye quite a bit.

When I received the Zeiss Touit 2.8/12 & Touit 2.8/50M I immediately noticed, already from the camera's LCD, that the pictures I took looked somehow different from what was common with my Sony E-mount lenses (SEL1855 & SEL50F18). It's difficult to put in words, but I would say more vibrant and subtle regarding the overall look. Having used them for over month now, I can say for certain that these lenses deliver more contrast and have better colors than my usual lenses. Better contrast shows with greater clarity in pictures and I feel I get better colors in post processing with less work. To demonstrate this I chose this particular picture for today's post. Keep in mind that while it's relatively lightly edited in post processing (VSCO filmpack 4 with 'Provia100F --' plus couple of local edits to save highlights), it looks like a winner in terms of colors. When I did this picture, I literally thought to myself that anything from my Sony Nex-5N has never looked this good before with so little work. At the same time this picture stands as a first example of Touit 2.8/50M for standard photography.

I really can't conceptualize my experiences with objective scientific language, but I just feel the colors I'm getting with these lenses are better and 'more clear', if that makes any sense. Before this experience I had a preconception that minor color & contrast differences between lenses is something that can be 'fixed' and 'made better' with computer and post processing. I guess this is a pretty common conception and while images can and surely are made better with post processing, it is still just the perception of things what we are editing, and the actual light signal captured by the camera isn't going to get any better. For example: the Zeiss lenses deliver better contrast than my Sony E-mount lenses and while I can adjust the 'contrast', 'curves', etc. in software for both pictures , the pictures taken with my Sony E-mount lenses are still not getting there with the Zeiss – instead they get congested and stuffy before they reach same overall clarity. It's the same with colors and I think the usual HSL tab is just too cumbersome to touch the subtle textures and grading of natural colors – you can change the colors in macro level but cannot fix the loss of subtle things that might have happened during the capturing. All in all, the contrast and colors are better and I can also see this improvement when comparing pictures of this season with, for example, the previous one. The only way I can explain this to myself is to think that with the Zeiss lenses the contrast and colors are captured with more accuracy – and this accuracy transfers into final pictures as well.  

I realize that this may sound like a exaggeration of small differences, but for me – approaching photography from the colors point of view – this feels like a big improvement. In fact, I'm willing to say that the contrast & colors I'm getting with these lenses is the single most important thing which justifies the Zeiss's legendary reputation in my eyes. But having said this, I do recognize that for some these differences might be something not worth mentioning – and rightly so, because photography is a large field where diversity of visual approach is a positive thing.