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Lens Question.
Old 04-25-2005, 12:35 AM   #1 (permalink)
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I have a question for the Portrait and Glamour photographers out there. I am doing more and more Fashion/Glamour photography and I am pushing myself and my equipment to perform better.

I use Nikon equipment (D100 Body, Nikkor 24 - 120 MM F3.5 lens, Nikkor 80 - 200 mm F2.8 ED lens) and I have noticed something that has me concerned with regards to lens sharpness.

When I do a shoot I try to get a variety of poses and shots for my models. I especially like tight headshots. The tighter the shot, the better I like it. I can get good headshots with my 24 - 120 lens but for even tigher headshots I bring out the big kahuna 80 - 200 F2.8 ED lens and I have noticed much to my chargrin that the images I get from the 80 - 200 are noticeable softer than what I get from my 24 - 120 mm lens and this really bothers me a lot.

I originally had a Sigma 70 - 200 F2.8 HX lens when I first noticed the softness issue and I figured it was the lens in light of the quality of images I was getting from the Nikkor 24 - 120 so I sold the Sigma and bought a Nikkor 80 - 200 F2.8 ED Lens and the images I get from that lens are sharper but not as sharp as I would hope considering the reputation that Nikkor lens have. With the 80 - 200 mm lens I typically shoot at F5.6 or F8.0 and my focal length is set to between 150mm and 200mm.

I keep the elements on my lenses clean and I have tried shooting both with and without a UV Haze filter on the lens.

Can anyone tell me what is going on here? Is this a user problem or is it inherent to the bigger glass? Since I have experienced this problem with two lens of high quality and manufacturer I am thinking maybe it is an issue related to the nature of the lenses but I welcome other input. Thanks a bunch.
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Re: Lens Question.
Old 04-25-2005, 03:33 AM   #2 (permalink)
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David,

I shoot with the one of the earlier versions of the 80-200mm f2.8 AF. It's a push-pull type zoom without the tripod collar. I think the most recent 80-200mm's have a two ring setup, and a tripod collar. Anyway, I haven't noticed any problems with sharpness with my 80-200mm. In fact, this was the only zoom in my bag until last year. I shoot mostly primes because I like my lenses to be tack sharp and fast; and frankly, most zooms don't cut it. In my opinion, the 80-200mm f2.8 is one of those exceptions - a fast and sharp. When I got the 80-200mm, I got rig of my Nikon 180mm f2.8 to make room in my bag.

I really doubt that the problem is with the glass or lens design. However, I'm wondering what shutter speed are you using? If you are shooting closer to the 200mm end of the lens, and have a steady hand, you should still shooting at 1/500th sec or faster (especially with the 1.5X magnification with the D100) to make eliminate any lens shake. If your hand isn't so steady, I suggest using a monopod or tripod too.

Good luck and aloha from Hawaii,
Michael
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Re: Lens Question.
Old 04-25-2005, 03:40 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I once owned a Nikkor 80-200mm f2.8 and would say it was tack sharp. I can't speak about Sigma, but Nikon does have an excellent reputation for good glass. (Although mine was stolen, and I replaced it with an excellent Tamron).

I'm thinking the problem might be with your camera body. You should try using the lens on another body or two, perhaps go to a camera store and ask to try a couple of theirs. If it looks sharp on other cameras (and it should look sharp at 2.8, not just f8) then its your camera body. You could also take the camera and lens to a good repair shop, or you can probably find a Nikon-authorized repair facility in Phoenix. (Check NikonUSA.com for local authorized shops). What you want to do is have them tested locally (possibly repaired locally) which is faster then shipping them off to Nikon in NY.

It is possible for the "body focus" to be off, possibly as a result of a whack on the lens while mounted to the camera, or from holding the camera body and not supporting the heavy lens with your hand. If that's the problem, it can usually be fixed. You are more likely to see a problem show up on the longer focal lengths (150mm-200mm) than the shorter ones, and more likely on your long zoom than your shorter one because you have more depth of field at the same f-stop on the shorter focal lengths (with greater depth of field).

Regards,
Andy Pearlman
Andy Pearlman Studio
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Re: Lens Question.
Old 04-25-2005, 03:57 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I've shot with the D100 80-200 nikor combination and while this lens certainly isn't the sharpest piece of glass I've use its still a very capable lens.
Shooting at a focal length of 150-200mm for tight head shots will undoubtedly give you somne issues with depth of field even at 5.6 or 8. Typically if your shooting a model with a BIG HAIR STYLE you focus on the eys but will invariably find softness is some of the hair either well forward of the eyse or well back behind the eyes.
You don't say if your shooting with stobes or available light, indoors or out but if your shooting available light, subject or camera movement maybe taking the edge of your images. The increased focal length effectively multiples both camera and subject movement. For example you can comfortably hand hold a fifty mil lens at 1/30th second, clip on your 80-200 and set the foccal length to 200mm and you will need to increase your shutter speed to 1/125th to have a chance obtainning a sililar sharpness as you were experiencing with the fifty. At the same time any slight movement from you suject even assuming you camera is rock solid will be multiplied by 4.

The 80-200 is also prone to lens flare if extraneous light is falling on the front element, mild cases of flare typically look softer and have lower contrast but may not exhibit the hots spots often associate with lens flare. Unshielded hair lights in studio situations because of thier low power output ar often overlooked as sources of lens flare.

Hope you get the problem shorted

Ian
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Re: Lens Question.
Old 04-25-2005, 06:41 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Two possible reasons come to mind: Focus calibration and too slow a shutter speed. It is possible that the focus calibration is off on this lens. But, since you've seen the same problem with a different lens, I'd tend to discount that. I suppose it's possible that you could have acquired two lenses that exhibited focus alignment problems, but it's not likely.

The second possibility is too slow a shutter speed. To hand-hold a lens and keep the image sharp, the general rule is to use a shutter-speed that is the reciprocal of the focal length. So, with a 200mm lens, you'd use 1/200th of a second minimum shutter speed to avoid blur. That means setting the shutter speed to 1/250th. If you're using studio strobes or a speedlight then the speed of the light discharge is much faster than this, so the camera shutter speed isn't as critical unless you're trying to balance available light and artificial light, but that's another story.

-Chip
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Re: Lens Question.
Old 04-25-2005, 10:44 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Dave

The 24-120 (unless you're talking about the new 24-120 VR) has a reputation for being soft. If you're doing heads, try the 85mm prime lens -- either the 1.4 (best at $1,200) or the 1.8 (good at $300).

I'd agree with the other folks here that if you're using a large 2.8 lens, use it on a monopod.

Bob

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Re: Lens Question.
Old 04-25-2005, 11:18 AM   #7 (permalink)
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While I still want to add a 80-200 f/2.8 to my system. Have used the 85mm f/1.8 almost exclusively with outstanding technical results--artistic is another matter.
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Re: Lens Question.
Old 04-25-2005, 07:57 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I have a question for you .
How many shots have you ran through your D100 ???
I ask this because I have been looking at mine lately and thinking it is soft
(the last time I used it I thought every shot was blurry)
actually thought my eyes were going bad [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/frown.gif[/img]

I only have 2500 shots on it, but compared to ones from the beginning , I swear the last 100 or more have been soft
I have been trying to figure out if I changed a custom setting that would have effected it
Like the "sharpening" from auto to normal or something like that
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A bunch of hocus pocus diagnosis going on here
Old 04-26-2005, 12:36 AM   #9 (permalink)
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How about answering these questions BEFORE I tell you what the issue could be. For someone to offer advice prior to knowing this info would be jumping to conclusions.

1. Shooting strobe or available light?
2. If available light.....what shutter speed?
3. What f-stops do you notice what you call softness?
4. What focal length in the zoom range do you notice it most?
5. Is you camera's autofocus setting on static or dynamic setting?
6. Are you absolutely sure you are focusing on the subject (the eye, etc)? Sometimes the sensor focuses on the nose, etc...not the eye.
7. Have you checked the lens for front focusing and rear focusing errors at max aperture?
8. Are you sure your sharpening method in post-processing is proper?
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Re: Lens Question.
Old 04-26-2005, 12:13 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Along with the previous post, how about posting a sample, including some 100% crops so we can see what is happening. It's impossible to diagnose the problem without all the information and sample images.

Dan
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