Frustrated with my DC 135mm

hawkdl2hawkdl2 Posts: 56Member
edited April 2014 in Nikon DSLR cameras
I've had this lens for a few months and regardless of what I try (focus adjust, MF, DC, etc.) I just cannot get what I consider to be an acceptably sharp image at anything less than f/4 when I shoot handheld or on a tripod. However, I did manage to get the image a bit better by MF in LV without DC, but it still wasn't impressive and that's not how I want to shoot portraits. I've found a number of threads on various forums from people claiming similar problems, while others claim it is sharp at f/2. But who knows what some people consider sharp. I am comparing to my 50 and 85 /1.8. I really want to like this lens, but I could use some advice on expectations or solutions.
Post edited by hawkdl2 on
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Comments

  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,363Member
    You might want to send the lens in with your camera to get the focusing adjusted.
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • hawkdl2hawkdl2 Posts: 56Member
    You say this because you have a 135 and know that it should be sharp at f/2 and not just f/4 and beyond?
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,363Member
    edited April 2014
    If you look at most reviewers they say that sharpness is good at F2, but the sweet spot is said to be at F4.

    As for sharp, that depends on what you mean by sharp? Are we talking about corner to corner sharpness, which is somewhat unreasonable at F2 on a lens that starts at F2, or centre sharpness? Do you have any examples?

    Also make sure you are using DC correctly.
    Post edited by PB_PM on
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,387Member
    check your focus, the lens may be out of adjustment and focusing to the front or back of the indicated point of focus
  • framerframer Posts: 491Member
    edited April 2014
    What camera body are you using it on?

    It may just need a cleaning.

    framer
    Post edited by framer on
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    Hmm.....the only lens sharper than my 135 DC 2.0 is my 200 F4 Macro. See my signature line.

    Sometimes I debate what is sharper? My 85 1.4G or my 135 DC 2.0. Not sure of the answer. Everything else in my collection is a distant third, second, fourth......

    Both my 85 1.4G and 135 DC 2.0 are sharper a little wider if I am looking closely - say F4 for it to be noticeable. But wide open, they blow away everything else wide open that I have.

    There are four possible issues that I can think of with your 135. I would trouble shoot in this order:

    1.
    Defocus control. As soon as you switch it from anything other than zero, you lose some sharpness, but you are "gaining bokeh" (whatever that means) and in my view it is an acceptable tradeoff. If this is the problem, it is valid, but you are pixel peeping.

    2.
    When you use the defocus control, it has to be set to the aperture that you are using. If you are shooting at F2 and the defocus control is set to anything else, you will get a soft focus effect. I like the effect and it is often suitable for portraits, but it is not sharp.

    3.
    Your lens may be front or back focusing. There is a thread on how to diagnose and deal with that.

    4.
    There is an issue with the lens. Take it to Nikon.
  • hawkdl2hawkdl2 Posts: 56Member
    Thanks for all the suggestions.

    I'm referring to center sharpness, in truth, I rarely pay much attention to corner sharpness with my portrait lenses. I am comparing results with my 50 and 85 f/1.8, and to a lesser extent my 20-70 f/2.8, all of which are sharper. Admittedly the issue is most clear when I pixel peep, but I can see the lack of sharpness on my screen without enlargement.

    I'm using a D800. I'm very familiar with autofocus adjustment. I have a set up I use to test all of my lenses. This one stays "soft" below f/4 regardless AF adjust setting. At f/4, focus is sharp where it is supposed to be with equal fall off in front of and behind the focus point (with my AF adjust set up).

    I'm heading out for a few days, but I will post some examples of what I mean by "soft".

    I [think] understand how DC works and I've tested the lens with and without DC at each aperture. I can make the image worse, but I cannot make it better.

    I've read a number of threads around the web where people report the same thing and some of the reviews do indicate the lens really becomes sharp at f/4, while others claim it's "really sharp at f/2 but better at f/4". It's hard to tell where people set their expectations - mine included.

    I'll post a few images in a few days.
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    I suppose that I should have added option #5, your own expectations. Those are often pretty tough to deal with, especially when we pixel peep.

    Good luck.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    I will grab my 135 and see what I get today wide open. I think it really works well, but what do I know?
    Msmoto, mod
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    OK, here is a quick test…

    Focus on the Planters Peanut jar
    Nikkor 135mm f/2 Wide_Open_TEST

    Large: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fantinesfotos/13849398935/sizes/o/

    Extreme magnification
    Nikkor 135mm f/2 Wide_Open_TEST

    Focus on the Royal Dock label
    Nikkor 135mm f/2 Wide_Open_TEST

    Large: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fantinesfotos/13849416333/sizes/o/

    Extreme magnification
    Nikkor 135mm f/2 Wide_Open_TEST

    Comment: While the extreme magnification show deterioration, it is about a 2m wide print…on a 43 cm computer screen. IMO the 135mm f/2 Nikkor is an excellent performer wide open.
    Msmoto, mod
  • tektradertektrader Posts: 58Member
    I have read a few posts where the owners have said the zero defocus point isn't correct and its is in fact some where else on the scale. Have you tried moving the control off centre to see if it improves?

    Could need this tweeked by Nikon to be correct.

    BTW I would love to own one these lenses.... :)
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    I have never used the defocus control… have no idea why one would want to…. but as the enlargements are mega size… I cannot see where it would improve. Going to f/4 or 5.6 would make the lens even sharper.
    Msmoto, mod
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    I have read a few posts where the owners have said the zero defocus point isn't correct and its is in fact some where else on the scale. Have you tried moving the control off centre to see if it improves?

    Could need this tweeked by Nikon to be correct.

    BTW I would love to own one these lenses.... :)
    If this is an issue, trying all the settings will show it. There is a subtle (but obvious if you know what to look for) reduction in sharpness when it is not at "zero".

    MSMOTO, if you shoot a background with lots of various colours (say flowers of different colours) you will see a change in the bokeh that some argue is pleasing. If the bokeh is simple, you won't notice much of a change. It is a subtle effect.
  • ThomasHortonThomasHorton Posts: 323Member


    Here is an interesting article I found.

    http://www.davidpinkertonphotography.com/blog/2012/01/17/the-nikon-defocus-control-lenses/

    Pardon the Noob question

    Defocus control is a specific control on only two Nikon lenses (105 and 135) and has nothing to do with the camera. There are no settings on the camera for this. Is that correct?
    Gear: Camera obscura with an optical device which transmits and refracts light.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    As I understand the process, what happens is to simply move the area within the DOF forward or backward. This was done easily on manual focus lenses, but on AF this is only done via a defocus control….. or focus in AF-S on an area in front or behind the subject, then reframe the image.

    This is why the amount one can defocus changes with the aperture. Stopped down more and the defocus area becomes deeper. Wide open, there is virtually no defocus for the 135mm at least. Look at the Planter's Peanuts label above and you will notice the jar about 2" behind is fuzzy. The DOF wide open at 8 feet is maybe an inch at best.
    Msmoto, mod
  • bigeaterbigeater Posts: 36Member
    edited April 2014
    I've rented this lens a lot and there are definitely good copies and bad copies, sounds like you may have gotten a bad one. But you also may have the wrong expectations. It's a portrait lens and it does seem to have a magical property of reducing the appearance of lines, spots, and rough patches in human skin. It means I have less retouching to do.
    Both from using the lens and from reading about the way it was developed my impression is that the lens and favors shape rendering over edge sharpness.
    To me, photos shot with the lens look like they were done 40 years ago rather than with a contemporary ultra-sharp digital lens of today. Is this because of the Gauss lens design? I have no idea. So, in my opinion, it's a lens that puts its stamp on images and either you love it or you hate it.
    Final thought: I'm a habitual metadata peeker—when I see a photo I like, I do whatever is necessary to look at the EXIF data—and I can reveal to you a secret that horrified me when I started noticing it.... a LOT of photos shot by professional are at f/5.6 or 8. They conceal the fact by moving the background farther from the subject, I imagine. But it's interesting that despite all the hoohah about wide apertures and shallow depth of field, when I look behind the curtains at awesome pictures, there's a lot more middle aperture work out there than you might suspect.
    Post edited by bigeater on
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    As I understand the process, what happens is to simply move the area within the DOF forward or backward. This was done easily on manual focus lenses, but on AF this is only done via a defocus control….. or focus in AF-S on an area in front or behind the subject, then reframe the image.

    This is why the amount one can defocus changes with the aperture. Stopped down more and the defocus area becomes deeper. Wide open, there is virtually no defocus for the 135mm at least. Look at the Planter's Peanuts label above and you will notice the jar about 2" behind is fuzzy. The DOF wide open at 8 feet is maybe an inch at best.
    That is not how it works. Nikon came up with a way of increasing spherical aberration in the out of focus areas while minimizing (though not completely eliminating) the effect in the in focus area. This of course improves the bokeh. This innovation informed the designers of the 85mm lenses. Just like the latest cameras have removed the anti-aliasing filter, portrait lenses after the DC lens have the innovation built in (and likely enhanced).
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    edited April 2014
    I've rented this lens a lot and there are definitely good copies and bad copies, sounds like you may have gotten a bad one. But you also may have the wrong expectations. It's a portrait lens and it does seem to have a magical property of reducing the appearance of lines, spots, and rough patches in human skin. It means I have less retouching to do.
    Both from using the lens and from reading about the way it was developed my impression is that the lens and favors shape rendering over edge sharpness.
    To me, photos shot with the lens look like they were done 40 years ago rather than with a contemporary ultra-sharp digital lens of today. Is this because of the Gauss lens design? I have no idea. So, in my opinion, it's a lens that puts its stamp on images and either you love it or you hate it.
    Final thought: I'm a habitual metadata peeker—when I see a photo I like, I do whatever is necessary to look at the EXIF data—and I can reveal to you a secret that horrified me when I started noticing it.... a LOT of photos shot by professional are at f/5.6 or 8. They conceal the fact by moving the background farther from the subject, I imagine. But it's interesting that despite all the hoohah about wide apertures and shallow depth of field, when I look behind the curtains at awesome pictures, there's a lot more middle aperture work out there than you might suspect.
    Regarding your final thought, the cynic in me wonders how many professionals shooting at f/5.6 or 8 are doing it because they have zooms (which enables them to do the job faster) that are a little soft at 2.8 and harder to focus, meaning more missed shots. This is not my opinion, just an "interesting hypothesis".

    And if the hypothesis turned out to be true, these particular professionals may get away with a zoom because their customers are not discerning enough to demand a prime. I would be curious what Squamishphoto and Pitchblack think of this idea.

    I was out shooting my wife with my 85mm 1.4G today and ran across two professionals shooting an about to be wed couple with 2.8 zooms. It got me thinking.
    Post edited by WestEndBoy on
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member

    Regarding your final thought, the cynic in me wonders how many professionals shooting at f/5.6 or 8 are doing it because they have zooms (which enables them to do the job faster) that are a little soft at 2.8 and harder to focus, meaning more missed shots. This is not my opinion, just an "interesting hypothesis".

    And if the hypothesis turned out to be true, these particular professionals may get away with a zoom because their customers are not discerning enough to demand a prime. I would be curious what Squamishphoto and Pitchblack think of this idea.

    I was out shooting my wife with my 85mm 1.4G today and ran across two professionals shooting an about to be wed couple with 2.8 zooms. It got me thinking.
    I am no pro, but I think you are confusing portrait work with a wedding...which isn't the same. The only way I would be shooting a prime during a wedding would be if I had another camera with a zoom also with me. It just isn't going to happen...it is too dynamic with different views and moving. There is nothing to gain using the fast prime unless you are in really low light or you absolutely need the bokeh. I still think you could muster acceptable bokeh out of say the 70-200 at 85 F2.8. Also you don't always need portrait pictures to be razor sharp.

    As for sharpness I constantly shoot my lenses with open and I never have a problem with the sharpness, but then again I don't pixel peep...I just take pictures and if they look nice then they do and if they don't it isn't because I shot it wide open...it is because I made some other dumb mistake or can't hold my camera steady ;)
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    As for the OP...if it isn't sharp and you have tried everything...which it sounds like you have. Then there isn't any help anyone on here can give you. It is possibly not a good copy. Send it in or return it if you can. You can't make a lens be sharper. I have heard great things about the lens so I can't imagine it isn't sharp.
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member


    I am no pro, but I think you are confusing portrait work with a wedding...which isn't the same. The only way I would be shooting a prime during a wedding would be if I had another camera with a zoom also with me. It just isn't going to happen...it is too dynamic with different views and moving. There is nothing to gain using the fast prime unless you are in really low light or you absolutely need the bokeh. I still think you could muster acceptable bokeh out of say the 70-200 at 85 F2.8. Also you don't always need portrait pictures to be razor sharp.

    As for sharpness I constantly shoot my lenses with open and I never have a problem with the sharpness, but then again I don't pixel peep...I just take pictures and if they look nice then they do and if they don't it isn't because I shot it wide open...it is because I made some other dumb mistake or can't hold my camera steady ;)
    Yes, that is a fair comment. Many parts of a wedding are very dynamic. However, weddings have a very significant portrait component. Just look at my Flickr account. Alas, I would have liked to have some of my pictures shot with my 85 or 135 instead of a 2.8 zoom because as a customer I WANT the bokeh. One of my staff showed me their wedding photos and they were amazing with lots of creamy bokeh - they must have been shot with a fast prime.
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    edited April 2014
    @WestEndBoy I am not saying you can't or don't shoot a prime at a wedding, but I would be very surprised at anyone only shooting primes. Obviously a 85+ mm prime is ideal and when it came to portraits after the ceremony I would use a prime. I am tempted to take some shots with my 300 f4 at a wedding later this year...I love the smooth bokeh of it, but it isn't practical. It will only happen if it is a relaxed time and I can mess around some. The primes just aren't flexible. During posed shots or even non posed candid type portrait session, but you can always have redos in those situations. Not having the right lens on and missing a shot in a wedding is a different beast.

    You can get good bokeh out of fast zooms though...I can get it out of my 17-55 and I have no doubt it can be had with the 70-200.
    Post edited by tcole1983 on
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • SquamishPhotoSquamishPhoto Posts: 608Member
    I specifically bought my 70-200mm this past summer for a wedding I was shooting. Fast primes are great for certain set up shots and close ups, etc, but they are rarely the tool for the ceremony and most of the important moments. Its important to remember how nicely a 24-70mm zoom can look at 70mm when the subject is placed appropriate to their background and foreground and the same is true to the subject/background separation achieved using a 70-200mm lens racked all the way out to 200mm. At that point aperture means a lot less than you're imagining. Its also worth noting that a lot of PitchBlacks work is done with an f4 zoom, albeit a tele monster, the point still rings true however.
    Mike
    D3 • D750 • 14-24mm f2.8 • 35mm f1.4A • PC-E 45mm f2.8 • 50mm f1.8G • AF-D 85mm f1.4 • ZF.2 100mm f2 • 200mm f2 VR2
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    edited April 2014
    Yes, the 70-200 2.8 will have good bokeh at 200mm. What are your thoughts of shooting this zoom compared to your 200mm F2 SquamishPhoto?
    Post edited by WestEndBoy on
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,363Member
    edited April 2014
    That's not really comparing apples to apples. The 200mm F2 is a bokeh beast, and has a wider maximum aperture.

    While I have not shot at many weddings, and the one I did anything more than backup work at was a few years ago. I used four lenses, and the ones used where the, 20-35mm F2.8D, 50mm F1.8D, 60mm F2.8G, 70-200mm F2.8G VRI. Usage? 60mm F2.8G and 70-200mm VRII got the most use, while the 20-35mm was only used for group shots, and the 50mm? I didn't much like the 50mm F1.8D, so it didn't get out of the bag much.

    Not sure how we got into this, since the topic is the 135mm F2D DC...
    Post edited by PB_PM on
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
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