Maybe you noticed that regardless of what digital camera you use, as long as you shot RAW, the number 25 always appears by default in Lightroom 1.0’s Develop Module’s Detail pane Sharpening slider.
I’m aware that the topic of image sharpening makes many people hyperventilate and get really opinionated. It’s important then to point out that Lightroom isn’t applying a generic, all-in-one sharpening setting to every RAW file, even though it looks that way at first.
Lightroom subjects every RAW file to a demosaicing algorithm that includes purposeful blurring to help prevent color fringing by slightly blending adjacent pixels. It uses information specific to a particular camera model to do this and the number 25 represents the optimal sharpening strength applied to a RAW file for that camera.
So, for a RAW file made with my Leica D-Lux 3 (represented below) the sharpening value of 25….
…relates to a totally different sharpening value than the 25 that appears when I open a RAW file made with my Nikon D 200 (represented below) .
I’ve been assured by Adobe’s Thomas Knoll himself that LR uses a sharpening algorithm more sophisticated than Unsharp Mask, and most of the time you should be satisfied with the results, especially if speed is an issue. There are also hints of better things on the way…and that shouldn’t be surprising. Better things are always on their way.
In the meanwhile does this mean you shouldn’t ever touch the Sharpening slider? Not necessarily. For some “prize” images, you might consider moving the slider to 0 and going outside the Lightroom environment and using Photoshop’s Smart Sharpen filter, or third party plugs-ins such as Nik Sharpener Pro, PhotoKit Sharpener, or FocalBlade. Me? I’m getting so comfortable staying within the Lightroom work environment; I think I’ll just wait for the Adobe team to work their magic and come up with something even better.