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A very unscientific, subjective and visual comparison of a few lenses at 70mm

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by TMR Design, Aug 29, 2008.

  1. As the subject states, I did a somewhat casual and unscientific visual comparison of 3 AF lenses I have at 70mm for the heck of it.

    I shot images with my D300. I shot in RAW and opened the images directly in to Photoshop so any in-camera settings or picture controls were not applied. I had AF Fine Tune OFF.

    The 3 lenses I compared were the 35-70mm f/2.8 AF-D, 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-S and the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR AF-S (VR off). The camera's focal plane was approximately 10 feet from my test subject, which was the rear panel of an Elinchrom strobe, which had black lettering of different sizes and buttons with black borders. I selected something that had plenty of contrast and I used strobes to properly light the subject for correct exposure. I also had more than enough ambient room lighting to ensure that AF would work well.

    Obviously, 70mm on the 35-70 and 18-70 is at the long end of those lenses and the short end of the 70-300, but again, I was just comparing 70mm and not doing any extensive evaluations or scientific comparisons. I didn't test 1/3 stop increments and only used whole stops that were common to the 3 lenses. So my tests were done comparing each lens at f/5.6, f/8 and f/11.

    I viewed the images at 100% with no adjustments, sharpening or anything that would distort or skew what I was seeing.

    The results were as follows:

    At f/5.6 the 35-70mm was the clear winner, with the 18-70mm next and the 70-300mm coming in last.

    At f/8 the 35-70mm was again the winner, but the 18-70mm and 70-300mm reversed positions, with the 70-300mm having a slight edge over the 18-70mm.

    At f/11 I found the 70-300mm to be the best, with the 35-70mm next and 18-70mm last.

    These are subjective tests and I'm not trying to prove, disprove or demonstrate anything. I'm just posting my findings given the parameters I've described.

    One last thing to note that I have noticed in the past.... if you establish a custom white balance, regardless of the lens mounted, the 35-70mm is slightly cooler than the other 2 lenses, the 18-70mm is somewhat neutral and consistently the 70-300mm has a slight magenta tint that absolutely needs to be corrected. If you're not comparing or shooting subjects where the magenta isn't noticed then it's all good, but if you're shooting in the studio, for instance, against a gray or white background, it is very obvious and you either need to establish a custom white balance for the lens or have a gray frame for correction in post.

    There you have it. :biggrin:
  2. Robert

    I have all three lenses and love them all. The 18-70 is mounted the most for parties and close shooting and I usually mount the 35-70 for car shows where I have the time to compose and manually tweak the focus. After reading your thread yesterday about the 24-70 2.8 I'm seriously considering one as my next purchase. If you need a change of shorts after examining the stunning image quality that's good enough for me.:biggrin:


  3. Hi Ted,

    After seeing the blatantly obvious difference between consumer and pro glass I've decided to start tucking away funds for a 24-70mm f/2.8. I'm so blown away by all aspects that I have serious lust for that lens. Some are bothered by the size and weight but I'm not and my main concern is having the best possible tools for the job... or for play :cool: 

    The 28-70mm is nice and I know they can be had for less but after looking at and understanding how 4 mm actually translates to a fairly significant change in the field of view I'm convinced that I want a 24-70mm.
  4. onemorelens


    Jul 3, 2007
    Interesting but not unexpected. I once owned a 35-70 and it was extremely sharp @5.6 and 8. For the other 2 lenses f/5.6 is almost wide open they are clearly at a disadvantage against a stellar performer stopped down. Just curious did you really see much of a difference a f11? I would have guessed they are all excellent stopped down like that with very minimal differences.
    My current 24-70 is clearly sharper than my old 35-70/2.8 @ f/2.8. By f/5.6 I dont think there is much of a difference.
  5. Hi John,

    None of the differences were drastic but they were noticeable. Like most lenses and images, if you're not looking at 100% and view them at the size we would see images on the web or an 8 x 12 print I'm not even sure you would see it.

    What I noticed in the 24-70mm f/2.8 that made me fall in love with it was a clear and obvious difference in the way it renders color and the contrast between shadow and highlight. It really floored me and I just don't see that with the 35-70mm f/2.8.
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