Tack Sharp Help With AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm 4.5-5.6D

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by One Sister, Apr 30, 2008.

  1. One Sister

    One Sister TPF Noob!

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    This question may belong in the Beginners Forum...don't know...but I'm trying it here:

    I have owned this lens for a few months, but it has not received much use because I guess I don't know how to use it. I have yet to make a tack sharp capture.

    Please review the images below. Right out of a D200. The only pp I did was reduce the image size and save as jpg. I know they are not cropped or composed well, I was just concentrating on getting a tack sharp image and obviously I failed...again. Where is the sweet spot on this lens? Has anyone else ever owned/used one? Is it the lens or me or some combination thereof? I've already tried to use this lens a or near 400mm with horrible results.

    The first three images of a Mocking Bird about 8-10 feet from me and quietly posing. I know it is not cropped or composed well...I just shot it quickly. I would think these images should have been sharp.
    EXIF:
    1/125, f/5.6, 2/3 EV, ISO 250, 340mm
    #1
    [​IMG]

    #2
    [​IMG]

    #3
    [​IMG]

    The next image is of a dog about 6 or 7 feet from me. I had to shoot it quickly before she moved (She's a Katrina rescue and we don't know what happened to her before we got her, but she hates cameras. As soon as she hears a shutter she runs. Perhaps she was originally owned by a veeerrrry mean photographer) so it is not cropped or composed well either. Hmmm, I'm sensing a trend here.) I post it because it's acceptably sharp. By that I mean pp will make it sharp. Is it sharper than the Mocking Bird because of the shutter speed? I really expected more noise with the ISO 400. Is this normal? If I shot the bird at ISO 400 or higher would the faster shutter speed have yielded a better image? (I was shooting in Aperture Priority mode.)
    EXIF:
    1/1500, f/7.1, 0 EV, ISO 400, 230mm
    #4
    [​IMG]
     
  2. JimmyO

    JimmyO TPF Noob!

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    Its the shutter speed. Its a general rule of thumb that your shutter speed should be faster than the length of your lens. So when shooting at 400mm you should be using a 1/400th shutter speed or faster.
     
  3. Socrates

    Socrates TPF Noob!

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    Actually, even faster. The guideline came about with the 24X36 frame. Figure 50% faster with DX-sized sensors.
     
  4. Mav

    Mav TPF Noob!

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    It's VR so the rule doesn't apply.
     
  5. Socrates

    Socrates TPF Noob!

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    Oops...
    Missed that.

    Now I'm thinking perhaps that the DoF was too shallow. Perhaps a lower shutter speed (or higher ISO) with a smaller aperture would help?
     
  6. One Sister

    One Sister TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the advice but, at least for me today, I'm not getting much better results. The next two images of a Mocking Bird have so much noise I can hardly tell if it's sharp or not. Disappointingly, it was pretty bright and I still needed to bump the ISO to 1000 to get a faster shutter speed. No pp. This is what they look like horribly cropped and composed. Please make note that they still are not tack sharp.

    Oh, and there wasn't any breeze, but that shouldn't matter at 1/1250!

    EXIF:
    1/1250, f/5.6, 1 EV, ISO 1000, 330mm

    #5
    [​IMG]

    #6
    [​IMG]

    Have any of you ever used this lens? I'm wondering if there's a setting on the lens that I haven't set right. Could there be? I really expected much more from this lens. Unrealistic expectations or still user error?? Any more assistance would be much appreciated.
     
  7. One Sister

    One Sister TPF Noob!

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    Really? No one has had experience with this lens?
     
  8. goodoneian

    goodoneian TPF Noob!

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    personally i think those last two look pretty good haha, and i don't really see that much noise. sure i have seen sharper pictures, but it still looks pretty good to me
     
  9. One Sister

    One Sister TPF Noob!

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    ^^^Well, they are quite noisy and definitely not tack sharp, and if this is the best this lens can perform then I am quite unhappy with it. I'm hoping someone who owns/uses the lens can assist me or commiserate with me.
     
  10. Mav

    Mav TPF Noob!

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    What happens if you stop down to f/8 or even f/11? Looks like all of these are shot wide-open. I've never used this lens so I can't tell from first hand experience, but I know from the Nikon specific forums that a lot of people do seem to have difficulty getting satisfactory results with this lens, and that the older VR system might only give you 1 stop at best at the long end. So you wouldn't be alone in having difficulty getting sharp shots with this lens - apparently it's one of the trickier ones to use well.

    For the best results out at 400, a lot end up going with a 300mm f/4 and a 1.4x TC, or getting a super-telephoto (ie 300/2.8, 400, etc)
     
  11. One Sister

    One Sister TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for trying, Mav. I tried a few shots at f/8, which is where the lens supposedly functions best, but the shutter speed was too slow to produce a sharp image of a slightly swaying bird. And certainly the ISO up to 1000 was a complete failure. The noise is disturbing. It seems to be a lens that can only be used in bright conditions. I can't see how there could be any low light successes here.

    What's confusing me about this lens is that I've seen some images that others have taken and they look very good compared to mine. I must be doing something wrong.

    I need to keep experimenting, but if anyone has any suggestions I'm open!
     
  12. Mav

    Mav TPF Noob!

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    Ok, then back to basics. Forget about birds for a moment.

    Have you done a focusing check? Can you confirm that the lens isn't front or back focusing? You'll need a good tripod to test this, and switch VR OFF. At 300-400mm and the short distances you're working at you'll have very little depth of field, so accurate focus is critical. Also from a tripod, shoot a static subject at f/8 to f/11 at low ISO (and with VR OFF), how does it look? Any better? Also, are you adding any sharpening in post-processing? Sounds like not. What are the shaprening settings at on your D200? A lot of other people posting images online also add sharpening somewhere along the way but don't always mention it. I'm not familiar enough with this lens to really judge, but they do look reasonably sharp to me. If you have DxO software, they have a calibrated D200/80-400VR module that will auto-sharpen the image. Take one of these test shots that absolutely should be as sharp as it'll get and run it through DxO (even a demo version is fine). If it still looks soft, it could just be a soft copy of the lens. I know I have a hot copy of one of my other lenses, because the module actually over-sharpens in a particular range and I have to turn their sharpening down a notch to prevent it going overboard. Can do the same test with a lens you think might be a bit soft. And also (operator check :mrgreen: ) you usually need to wait a second or two for the VR system to stabilize before firing. You're doing that, right?

    Is this a new or used lens? If used, where'd you get it from?


    Focus test chart: http://www.focustestchart.com/chart.html <-- I use that and it was good enough handheld with short lenses, but you'll definitely need a tripod to test out a 300-400mm and closer distances. If you don't have a printer handy (I don't even have one at home anymore, lol) staggered cereal boxes with sharpied X's on them for test targets along with the text on the side of boxes to check the focus seems to work pretty well too. That was good enough to show that I had a badly mis-focusing 35-70 f/2.8 once (that was also lousy wide open) so I sent it back.
     

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