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File Size as a Measure of Optical Performance

File sizes across aperture for Nikon D800 + Zeiss 100/2 Makro-Planar
File sizes across aperture for
D800 + Zeiss 100/2 Makro-Planar

RAW file size (lossless-compressed variants) for the same scene across apertures is an excellent measure of the total detail recorded, which includes the effects of depth of field, diffraction, and lens performance.

With a planar scene (which eliminates depth of field as a variable), file sizes can tell you exactly where peak lens performance is reached in terms of recorded detail.

For the example at right, the scene is not strictly planar; there is some foreground and some background and the camera is tilted up slightly. Still, it’s mostly planar.

Observe that the peak file size is reached at ƒ/4, indicating that the maximum amount of detail is being recorded.

Aperture ƒ/5.6 maintains this file size, but diffraction begins to soften detail at ƒ/8, which thus drops the file size.

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