Softness of Lens?

calengorcalengor Posts: 277Member
edited November 2014 in Nikon DSLR cameras
I went out today and shot with my 55-200mm f/5-5.6 VR lens and when I came home and looked at the pictures noticed that they all seem to have a 'glamour glow' softness going on. This is highly disappointing, as I got within 10 yards of a deer during my hike and wanted the pictures to come out nice. At full zoom, I see a softness and a glow to all of them. Is it the lens? I don't see this problem with my 35mm f/1.8 or the 18-55mm kit lens I have. Camera is a D7100. I had seen similar results from the 55-200 previously (about a year ago) but I don't use the lens all that often. Pictures below:

image
f/5.6 | ISO 100 | 200mm | 1/500 sec

image
f/6.3 | ISO 100 | 180mm | 1/160 sec | VR On

image
f/6.3 | ISO 100 | 75mm | 1/160 sec


Even this picture which seems OK, when zoomed in 1:1 isn't as sharp as I'd like
image
f/5 | ISO 100 | 62mm | 1/500 sec
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Comments

  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    Have you fine-tuned the lens?
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    I can't tell at this picture size but it wouldn't surprise me with that lens. Especially at the long end. I never hahas problem with my 18-200 but it seems like most of the super zooms struggle a bit at their longest end with softness and have some distortion at the wide end.
    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)
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,327Member
    It shouldn't be your lens. That lens should be sufficiently sharp. 1. Try shooting at F8. Some variable zooms sharpen up considerably when stopped down one or two f-stops below the maximum. 2. When zoomed out to 200mm try shooting at 2x the focal length: which means using a shutter speed of 1/400th of a second at 200mm. 3. Use variable ISO. You have your ISO set to 100 which forces you to use too large an f-stop and too slow a shutter speed. You should be able to let the ISO float between 100 and 400 or even 800 with little, if any, loss of image quality. So set your ISO to variable (either 100 to 400 or 100 to 800) and try to keep in the range from f8 to 1/400th of a second. See if that helps. Let us know your results.
  • PistnbrokePistnbroke Posts: 2,000Member
    Well you dont tell us the three critical things ... did you set the back focus? are you shooting JPEG and if you are did you set the sharpnes to +9 .....without that in place it will be soft ...end of .
  • calengorcalengor Posts: 277Member
    @Ironheart I have not fine tuned the lens

    @tcole1983 It doesn't seem to matter what focal length it's set to

    @donaldejose the sample shots I posted are all close to wide open, but you see the same thing from shots I took at f/9 through f/22

    @Pistnbroke I am shooting RAW and doing my post in Lighroom 5.6, changing the sharpness in post doesn't help it at all
  • PhotobugPhotobug Posts: 4,775Member
    Well you dont tell us the three critical things ... did you set the back focus? are you shooting JPEG and if you are did you set the sharpnes to +9 .....without that in place it will be soft ...end of .
    Where is the article and test that says the sharpness must be set to +9?
    D750 & D7100 | 24-70 F2.8 G AF-S ED, 70-200 F2.8 AF VR, TC-14E III, TC-1.7EII, 35 F2 AF D, 50mm F1.8G, 105mm G AF-S VR | Backup & Wife's Gear: D5500 & Sony HX50V | 18-140 AF-S ED VR DX, 55-300 AF-S G VR DX |
    |SB-800, Amaran Halo LED Ring light | MB-D16 grip| Gitzo GT3541 + RRS BH-55LR, Gitzo GM2942 + Sirui L-10 | RRS gear | Lowepro, ThinkTank, & Hoodman gear | BosStrap | Vello Freewave Plus wireless Remote, Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth |
  • PistnbrokePistnbroke Posts: 2,000Member
    edited November 2014
    There is no article just 45000 pics on my website all at +9...though I must say many recomend at least +7 though of course rockwell is an idiot ...the proof is in the pudding ..
    I would suggest the op shoots JPEG at +9 and sets his back focus before doing is own RAW adjustments .Then he can compare ...but what do I know only been at it 40 years ..I am as stupid as rockwell.
    Its nothing to do with RAW v JPEG you just wont get if right if the focus adjust is out ..I never had a lens that was cock on at "0"

    there are none so blind as those who cannot see..
    Post edited by Pistnbroke on
  • SquamishPhotoSquamishPhoto Posts: 608Member
    edited November 2014
    ^^^ Your song is really getting tired. No one cares about your 450,000,000 wedding pictures shot at basic jpeg with a kit lens. Seriously, nobody wants to hear you brag about how smart you believe you are.

    Just stop.
    Post edited by SquamishPhoto on
    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
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,199Moderator
    Looking at the grass at the feet of the Whitetail, it looks like it is focussing in front of the subject so do a lens focus fine adjust and try again.
    Always learning.
  • PapermanPaperman Posts: 469Member
    edited November 2014
    Maybe it is just that the focus is on the grass ... AF points wander a lot if one is shooting AF-C. Have you checked the actual AF point using your software ?

    @pistnbroke

    I say the biggest mistake one can make ( if shooting only JPEG ) is too set in-camera picture settings like sharpness/saturation/contrast etc too high. It will end in blown colors, visible noise. Don't know weddings or portraits but one can not get away with it in landscapes.

    One can always add sharpness/saturation in post-process but can not bring back what is lost...
    Post edited by Paperman on
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,327Member
    I support pistenbroke's suggestions and PitchBlack's. While pistenborke's practice is not the norm for those usually posting here, his practical experience is interesting and helpful. I was surprised how much difference it makes when you crank up the sharpness when shooting JPEGs. pistenbroke is right about that. Not everyone is going to shoot RAW with $2000 lenses so giving advice which requires such equipment sometimes isn't relevant to the person asking for advice. You have to limit your suggestions to the equipment being used to help the OP improve the sharpness he can obtain with the equipment at hand. Since the OP states he is shooting RAW and the same softness appears at higher f stops it seems the most likely problem is that the lens needs focus fine tune adjustment. Another possible issue could be poor technique. The OP doesn't have a softness problem with the 35mm f1.8. Technique becomes more important when using telephotos. The OP could try shooting off a tripod to see if sharpness increases. Once all efforts have been made and sharpness is still not satisfactory for the needs or desires of the OP then it will be time to purchase a better lens.
  • PistnbrokePistnbroke Posts: 2,000Member
    edited November 2014
    thanks for the nice words donaldejose.. As for +9 "test dont guess"
    On soft lenses ..when I got my D800 I consulted the users on web and put sharpness to about +3 and purchased various lenses inc Samyang 14mm. I was very disapointed . Not as good as the sigma 10-20 on DX . Even sent the 14mm back. Then got hold of two sigma 17-35 non HSM with fungus and built one from the two (cost $60)
    Upped the sharpness to +9 and total perfection. Similar story with my new Nikon 28-300..without it set at focus adjust +5 its just out about 6 inches at 60 ft and 300mm so the pictures were mush.
    I read the other day that the Nikon in camera conversion to JPEG is as good as someone with 5 years experience in lightroom.....
    Photography to some is the joy of post processing to others fiddleing with the equipment .To me its speed and profit with the right equipment tuned to do the job every time like an M16 rifle
    Post edited by Pistnbroke on
  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,176Member
    edited November 2014
    lol yup we are all different .. and we of course think we are absolutely right or else why would we be still doing it ! @pist just add "for me" works well for me. ;-)

    @Pitchblack "An application of a +9 global sharpening just makes me wince." you must have sharp glass ... :-) I do post process and add sharpening for most of my pictures. that is until I got my 70-200 F4. sharpening used much much less now.

    @op .. listen to all. Every one is right in their own way.. see what works for you .. :-)
    Post edited by heartyfisher on
    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 0
    edited November 2014
    I see exactly the same on my photo's with my nikon 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 VR, when I go beyond 200mm. Between 70mm and about 150mm photo's are sharp (as your last photo). Sometimes switching off VR can help a little bit. For me it is this type of lenses and this FF lens on the D600 does the same.
    Post edited by [Deleted User] on
    Those who say it can't be done, should not interrupt those doing it!
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    I don't know how to break this to you, but the 55-200 is not at all a sharp lens. If you want sharpness, you're probably going to have to stop down, or pay for it.

    http://www.dxomark.com/Lenses/Nikon/AF-S-DX-Zoom-Nikkor-55-200mm-f-4-5.6G-ED-mounted-on-Nikon-D7100__865
    +1
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,176Member
    edited November 2014
    Hmm that looked bad but .. I noticed its not the VR version of the test ..

    just looked at the VR version .. Its a bit better ... maybe.
    Post edited by heartyfisher on
    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

  • BigDogBigDog Posts: 17Member
    edited November 2014
    I experienced similar results after switching to FX two years ago (re: soft focus). After much frustration with a 24-85 (Variable aperture, non-VR... purchased used) Nikkor, it was only after I removed the cheap 'included free' filter that suitable results could be obtained. Frankly, the results were more than worse - awful in fact - but it took be a while to realize it was causing the issue. My original assessment was a faulty lens. Now that I've obtained 1.8, 2.8 and 4.0 glass I rarely use filters but when I do it is B+W only. Bottom line, IF you are using a cheap filter, it could be a contributing factor.
    Post edited by BigDog on
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,327Member
    I have found two things make a dramatic effect in sharpness with kit zooms. 1. Shoot at f8, not wide open. 2. Increase in camera sharping to +7 or higher when shooting JPEGs. I have also found a dramatic increase in sharpness when shooting "pro" glass. At still other times I have found a dramatic increase in sharpness when I performed a focus fine tuning on a lens. Finally, I do use DxOMark test results to help identify inherently sharp lenses. My quest for sharpness has caused considerable conflict with my wife because she prefers the soft blurry look of a cellphone which shows no wrinkles! I tried using Gaussian blur in post processing to please her but she wasn't happy until the image turned to mush and I couldn't stand it. So I have been looking through old lenses trying to find the least sharp ones I have to see if I can please her. The point is that each lens is an individual and each person has different criteria for sharpness. The OP should try each of the suggestions offered here to see what might work for him to obtain his desired level of sharpness balanced with his desired cost.

    And I understand pistnebrok's reference to a tuned rifle. I have many that are capable of putting all bullets into 1/4 of an inch at 100 yards but that takes a lot of fine tuning and technique.
  • haroldpharoldp Posts: 984Member
    Slightly softening face detail is why we use F1.4 and F2 lenses wide open. Even if the lens is sharp wide open, the DOF is paper thin. Focus on the near eye and everything else slighty softens, without the impression of unsharpness.

    My 70-300VR is acceptably sharp at 300mm at F8 or smaller but not at F5.6.

    Focus tuning matters.

    The 80-400G is in a totally different league, and the 400/2.8 is not even on the same planet.

    .... H
    D810, D3x, 14-24/2.8, 50/1.4D, 24-70/2.8, 24-120/4 VR, 70-200/2.8 VR1, 80-400 G, 200-400/4 VR1, 400/2.8 ED VR G, 105/2 DC, 17-55/2.8.
    Nikon N90s, F100, F, lots of Leica M digital and film stuff.

  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,327Member
    PitchBlack: Great video and technique. Thanks for posting.
  • Parke1953Parke1953 Posts: 456Member
    @PitchBlack Thanks for the great tip. I will try this as I have the same problem as donaldejose has with his wife.
  • calengorcalengor Posts: 277Member
    I'm not going to switch my workflow to shoot in JPEG, because I like the flexibility I get from the RAW files.

    I am not using any filters on any of my lenses.

    @pitchblack I know it's not a particularly sharp lens but what I'm seeing seems excessive.

    Here are some closeups, a different shot of the ossage orange at f/9:
    image
    f/9 | ISO 100 | 1/200 sec | 200mm

    image
    closeup of the deer's head

    image
    closeup of the neck and body, still not sharp

    image
    closeup of the feet, none of the grass is particularly sharp


    I am shooting AF-C using back button focus with a single AF point, so the camera isn't choosing the focus point, I am. Focus was on the deer's head and on the body of the ossage orange. Similar results from f/5 through f/32. The DOF calculator I'm using which accounts for the crop sensor tells me that at 10 meters (approx. distance to deer), 180mm, f/6.3 I will have a DOF of about 60 cm, which should, in theory, encompass the entire width of the deer's body.
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    edited November 2014
    @calengor: On your next shoot, do what is required in order to have a shutter speed at or above 1/500; then turn off the VR to see if it will yield you more favorable results. If you have a monopod, try mounting on it as well. My objective is to see if the VR is causing the problem. If you find that this is not the case, then your best option is to send the lens in and have it service for lack of sharpness.
    Post edited by Golf007sd on
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • PapermanPaperman Posts: 469Member
    I know you said the focus was on the deer's head but is that the same when you check it with the software you are using ?

    I also don't think what we are seeing is the lens softness. It may be front/back focus , it may be missed focus or it may be caused by the VR ( as it looks more like a blur rather than softness ) as Golf has suggested. Check the frames before & after to see how they are, as VR may get it wrong sometimes.
  • calengorcalengor Posts: 277Member
    @Paperman All the frames I shot yesterday have similar results

    @Golf007sd I went out this afternoon, set the camera to Auto-ISO, set the shutter speed to 1/500 and tried a bunch of different shots at different focal lengths and apertures.

    Conclusions are as follows: the lens at its sharpest is not very sharp. That I knew going into it. Any focal length over ˜105mm or so just goes to crap and you get the blur/glow, and VR hurts it rather than helps. Wide open, the lens is softer than a stop or so in, and f/9 actually looks worse than f/6.3 at some focal lengths.

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