I have been evaluating a 17-55 DX for sharpness, and waffling as to whether it's sharp enough (given the high price). Part of my problem, I think, is that my testing protocol is "unscientific" as I've never been much of a tester. I shoot the lens and then make prints, slides (in the old days, and see if it's sharp enough. Using K64 chrome it was easy to see.
The other day I sat with an old friend who is a magazine/agency photographer and who has a great handle on digital exposure, post, and printing. I asked him to help me evaluate this lens, but he started by showed me his workflow on some samples from an assignment he just did for ESPN Magazine. Note: He's a Canon guy, but that's beside the point.
He shoots mainly with the 5D MkII and the 35 1.4 and fast 85mm, iirc), and most of the images he processed were shot with the 35mm lens at f2, some available and some with added strobe fill. He shot everything at ISO 100, RAW uncompressed. He uses Photo Mechanic, and then goes to Raw Converter in PS, and uses another program for B+W conversions... a German one, can't recall the name but it has very broad options. He is VERY careful when metering, and then working with his B and W points and curves to preserve all the data possible.
The results, for me, were nothing short of astonishing, an epiphany. At 100%, the detail was astonishing. In a horizontal frame with two people full length (a photog shooting photo of a ring girl at an MMA fight), you could literally see and almost count the droplets of sweat on her bare belly. Mind you these were what, 16x20 sized files or larger? They looked like 2-1/4 images on the Mac screen. I haven't seen any prints, but I am sure they would be amazing. This was like a veil was lifted off my eyes and I was seeing again. Like listening to music on a fine stereo from the room next door, and then walking in and sitting down in front of it and hearing a level of clarity you had no idea existed. I am sure the results would be the same with a Nikon and 35 1.4, or other sharpest lens.
I have 25 years' experience as pro photog in photojournalism (though now inactive), shooting 35mm to 4x5, and was a Leica rangefinder nut for years. I know quality analog files... the Mamiya 7 st the standard for handheld camera. I have done digital on a casual basis for 5 years (shooting jpegs on my 20D), taking my images seriously but not getting deeply into the digital processing aspect. I don't know what I don't know, but these results were nothing short of amazing to me, about what is possible. I know this isn't news to some here, but to others like me who are serious about capturing moments but haven't fully realized the potential of their files, lenses, cameras... you're missing something, as I have been. I will start shooting RAW+jpeg for most things, immediately, especially if it's something I think I'll want for more than snapshots or 8x10s. Unfortunately, it's opened Pandora's Box too...because I obsess and this will trigger that quest for the best I can get. Bigger monitor, better glass, better file processing knowledge, FX bodies, a large printer and know-how for it...
Uh-oh. I'm in trouble.