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Example MTF Chart

MTF Introduction

This page is intended to provide a helpful layman’s guide to reading MTF charts. For an in-depth discussion of MTF, see H.H. Nasse from Carl Zeiss in part 1 and part 2.

MTF is a useful but limited starting point: nothing beats making real images to assess lens performance.

Modulation transfer function or MTF simply means how much contrast at a specified resolution. In essence, what MTF means is “how black is black” and “how white is white”. With real lenses, all real images are shades of gray, by optical physics.

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Diglloyd Making Sharp Images articulates years of best practices and how-to, painstakingly learned over a decade of camera and lens evaluation.

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  • Eases into photographic challenges with an introductory section.
  • Covers aspects of digital sensor technology that relate to getting the best image quality.
  • Technique section discusses every aspect of making a sharp image handheld or on a tripod.
  • Depth of field and how to bypass depth of field limitations via focus stacking.
  • Optical aberrations: what they are, what they look like, and what to do about them.
  • MTF, field curvature, focus shift: insight into the limitations of lab tests and why imaging performance is far more complex than it appears.
  • Optical aberrations: what they are, what they look like, and what to do about them.
  • How to test a lens for a “bad sample”.

Intrigued? See Focusing Zeiss DSLR Lenses For Peak Performance, PART ONE: The Challenges, or (one topic of many) field curvature.

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