Choosing a Camera Lens: How to Read an MTF Chart


Trying to figure out which camera lens to purchase (or, if really expensive, put on a hope-for-someday wish list) poses confusion for me.

I know MTF (Modulation Transfer Function) charts are important to consider, but I wasn’t completely understanding what all the lines in them meant. This YouTube video (below) helped me out today. I’m still a little confused, but not as much as before I watched the video.



At  Canon’s site there is an MTF chart for each Canon lens listed, or at least for most of them. (Canon’s listing of lenses is here.) To navigate to the chart for the lens of interest: 1) get to the Canon page for the particular lens you want to investigate, 2) click on the “Overview” link and 3) scroll down a little ways. There you’ll see the MTF chart for that particular lens.

I assume Nikon and other major lens companies also have charts on their web sites.

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(Click here to go to Louise Gunderson Shimon’s blog’s home page.)


3 Responses to “Choosing a Camera Lens: How to Read an MTF Chart”

  1. heyesphoto Says:

    MTF charts serve a purpose but they are really low down on my list when it comes to new lenses. Focal length/range, aperture, build quality etc all come first after deciding what role it needs to fulfil.

    You could find the sharpest, most contrasty lens on the market but if you take pictures of motorsport and the lens is slow to focus and doesn’t zoom far enough it won’t help you get the pictures you aspire to take.

  2. Louise Gunderson Shimon Says:

    Thanks, heyesphoto, for your comment and for stopping by. I agree with you whole-heartedly. The things you said to look at are what I take into account, first, as well. When comparing apples to apples (e.g., two different lenses with same focal length and same — or almost same — aperture) is when I take a look at the MTF charts the most. Or, sigh, when I’m just “window shopping.”

  3. Peg Says:

    Greek to me! But fun for you! Even if just “window shopping.” 🙂

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