D300+70-200VR+Kenko 1.4- How can this combo be so soft?

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by Rui Lopes, Aug 25, 2008.

  1. Since I bought the D300 I've never been really happy with its IQ. To my eyes the 200 delivered much pleaseant and sharper images. Also, when taking long exposured night shots I've started to get much more blown highlights than with the 200.
    This weekend I went to a local zoo to shoot some birds. I used the D300+70-200VR+Kenko 1.4. As I found the results very bad, I decided to run some comparative tests btw the 200 and 300 + 70-200VR, with and without the TC. I'd like to ask your opinions on the following 100% crops. (all shot in RAW, VR on, no pp, only converted to Jpeg):

    D200, f/4, iso160, 1/320 with TC (280mm):
    102166786.gif

    D300, f/4, iso200, 1/320 with TC (280mm):
    View attachment 242947

    D200, f/4, 1/1250s , iso220 with TC (280mm)
    View attachment 242948

    D300, 1/1000s f/4.0 at 280.0mm iso200 with TC:
    View attachment 242949

    D300, 1/1600s f/3.5 at 200.0mm iso200 , no TC:
    View attachment 242950

    D200, 1/3200s f/4.0 at 280.0mm iso200 , with TC:
    View attachment 242951

    D300, 1/4000s f/4.0 at 280.0mm iso220 , with TC:
    View attachment 242952

    D300, 1/5000s f/3.5 at 200.0mm iso200 , no TC:
    View attachment 242953

    D200, 1/400s f/4.0 at 280.0mm iso200 , with TC:
    View attachment 242954

    D300, 1/320s f/4.0 at 280.0mm iso200 , with TC:
    View attachment 242955

    D200, 1/800s f/4.0 at 280.0mm iso220 , with TC:
    View attachment 242956

    D300, 1/640s f/4.0 at 280.0mm iso200 with TC:
    View attachment 242957

    D300, 1/1000s f/3.5 at 200.0mm iso200 , no TC:
    View attachment 242958

    D200, 1/3200s f/4.0 at 280.0mm iso560 , with TC:
    View attachment 242959

    D300, 1/1000s f/4.0 at 280.0mm iso200 , with TC:
    View attachment 242960

    D300, 1/3200s f/3.5 at 200.0mm iso200 , no TC:
    View attachment 242961

    I really donĀ“t like what I see, specially after spending several thousand $ in gear.
    I'm starting to feel very disappointed with my gear but can't understand what is going wrong. Very often, we can see here pics post by folks showing great overall IQ that I can't just match.
    So pls. tell me - do you find the shapness of the above pics acceptable? Could it be a problem with the use of the TC? Don't you find the D200 pics sharper than the D300? Should I send the D300 to Nikon service?
    Thanks for all the help.
    Regards
    Rui

    ________________________________________________
    D300, D200, MB-D10 and MB-200
    Primes: 10,5 2.8 fisheye, 50D 1.4, Tokina 100 AT-X
    Zoom : 12-24 (Nikkor),17-55 2.8, 18-200VR and 70-200VR
    SB-800, TC Kenko Pro300 1.4, Manfrotto 190MF4+804RC Head

    www.pbase.com/ruilopes
     
  2. mood

    mood

    Jun 27, 2007
    suburbia, ny
    IMO, Rui
    the D200 shots with TC are just as bad as the D300

    I think its more a TC problem

    my old 70-200/ TC combo was very sharp, even using my old D80
     
  3. Have you tried fine tuning your glass when used with the D300? Also, fine tune and keep two separate settings for with and without the TC. The number of focus settings available in the D300 is a little bewildering at first and need to be well learnt to be used effectively. At least, that has been my experience.

    Good luck.
     
  4. Thanks. Which TC did you use?

    Not yet. Actually, I need to learn how to do it (how to determine when a given lens is fine tuned). How did you do it?

    Thanks
    Rui

    ________________________________________________
    D300, D200, MB-D10 and MB-200
    Primes: 10,5 2.8 fisheye, 50D 1.4, Tokina 100 AT-X
    Zoom : 12-24 (Nikkor),17-55 2.8, 18-200VR and 70-200VR
    SB-800, TC Kenko Pro300 1.4, Manfrotto 190MF4+804RC Head

    www.pbase.com/ruilopes
     
  5. mood

    mood

    Jun 27, 2007
    suburbia, ny
    same one Rui
    Kenko Pro DG 1.4
     
  6. Wileec

    Wileec Guest

    Shots from tripod with timer or remote trigger?

    If I were doing this kind of testing I would not hand hold and would turn VR off, to minimize as many variables as possible. Problem may be technique, camera, or glass, or a bit of all. I would expect anything, with decent light, shot in the f/4 to f/8 range should be tack sharp with that lens.

    One other variable that's not clear from the shots - you need to be sure your subjects are beyond the minimum focus distance (MFD) of the lens. I understand it is one of Nikon's best lenses, but it's MFD is pretty far out there, compared to many. I have the 80-200mm f/2.8 (no VR) and I bump my head on that rock occasionally. I don't have a TC, so not sure how it would impact MFD.

    Nikon isn't perfect - it's possible there is an issue with either the camera, or the lens.

    Last thought - do you have another lens, like a 50mm f/1.8, etc. that you could test the camera with. If you get soft shots (tripod mounted) from two different lenses known to be sharp - I'd wonder about the camera.
     
  7. Rui, are you using a UV/Protector filter by any chance? I've seen similar AF issues with zooms.
     
  8. Actually the shots were taken handheld, VR on and as you can see from the exifs using more than enough SSpeeds. According with your suggestion, I'll try it again using a 50 1.4 but on tripod.

    Thank you again.

    No, any filter and furthermore, the glass was perfectly clean at the time.

    Rui

    ________________________________________________
    D300, D200, MB-D10 and MB-200
    Primes: 10,5 2.8 fisheye, 50D 1.4, Tokina 100 AT-X
    Zoom : 12-24 (Nikkor),17-55 2.8, 18-200VR and 70-200VR
    SB-800, TC Kenko Pro300 1.4, Manfrotto 190MF4+804RC Head

    www.pbase.com/ruilopes
     
  9. Hi Rui,

    Since I went through an incredible journey myself to get my D300 working as it should, let me offer this for starters.

    From what I'm seeing, your D200 images are different but not any better than the D300. Neither are representative of what a Nikon DSLR can do.

    So, I would start by eliminating the TC and shoot some images with the D300 with any lens, pro or consumer, stop down to about f/8, get rid of any or all in camera NR and use something like the Standard Picture control if shooting JPG or just shoot RAW. Try several lenses and just go through the process to make sure it is the body and not a lens or TC.

    I disagree with many people that would have you use a tripod and get your shutter speeds very fast because the reality is you don't have to do those things to get sharp images. Sure, they will help to tighten things up a bit but you should be able to hand hold your camera and get shots that are sharp. Sharpness will vary and yes, it is subjective but the images you're producing are no where near sharp so the subjective sharpness doesn't even come in to play.

    You mentioned to me in PM that you read my thread and you see how there were many good suggestions but as I just said, none of it mattered because even in a controlled situation, using a tripod, my images flat out s*cked, and at times I got lucky with a somewhat sharp image.

    I'm fortunate enough to have Nikon close to me and I can tell you from my dealings with Nikon that they will, like anyone else want to look for any and all reasons for it to be operator error. But they don't do it in a way to make you feel stupid. They are simply trying to point out from their experience, that many users just don't know how to use a DSLR.

    OK, assuming you do know how to operate your camera and your technique is correct then the next step is to send the camera to Nikon. Do not just send it in with a description of the problem. What you need to do is to shoot some images and then copy them to a CD, unedited, unprocessed, uncropped, nothing. Give them either RAW images straight from the camera. The first thing they will do is to transfer them to their server and evaluate what they see. They will also perform all the Level 1 testing to determine if AF is working as it should, clean the sensor and AF system, connect the camera to their computer and check to make sure the lens mount is tight and that the mount is the correct distance from the sensor.

    As in my case, they may very well determine that all is well and return it to you. Again, don't get peeved at them if that is the case because if the camera meets spec in those areas then that's good. However, if they do not find a problem in that level 1 testing then you need to once again create a CD with images demonstrating that the problem is still there and now you need to be insistent that they perform additional testing and they will move it to level 2 testing. This is where they caught my problem.

    According to Jim (head tech at Nikon, Melville) one very critical part of AF is the angle and alignment of the main and sub mirrors. Sometimes it may be out of alignment from the factory and sometimes it an move out of alignment due to all the slapping and impact from releasing the shutter. My camera was apparently out of alignment since day one and some cameras will shift alignment from extended use over the course of thousands of shots, and some cameras never budge. It's the luck of the draw.

    As soon as I got my camera back the second time I could see my problem was fixed. Even the crappiest lens was producing quality images and at that time I could judge sharpness or buy in to the concept of sharpness being subjective because the camera had actually acquired focus correctly.

    Unfortunately it's hard to have this discussion over the phone with Nikon and they will just tell you to send it in but if you can include a note with your images and indicate that you spoke to someone else that had this problem and it was resolved by that level 2 secondary testing you may get them to look at the problem and dig deeper upon the initial 'examination'. Ordinarily they don't do that and it takes more time and can't be done only using a computer. They'll actually take the camera and take test shots in their controlled environment so there is actually a person that can demonstrate and see the problem even if the computer gives it a clean bull of health.

    Another thing Nikon will ask for, regardless of the fact that you may determine the lens(es) are fine, will be to see the lens with the body. It helps them because if they can first eliminate your lens from the equation then it points back to the body.

    That's about all I can offer at this time and even though it may be a royal pain in the arse you may find you have a similar problem to mine and then you can start loving your D300.

    I was a Canon shooter and you can only imagine my frustration and disappointment after selling my Canon gear, buying a more expensive camera and lenses from Nikon, only to feel like I just bough crap. I hung in there and didn't throw in the towel because I knew something was wrong and knew that all the Nikon owners here and around the world were not only pleased, but ecstatic over the quality.

    One final point. As I said initially, your D200 images are far from what they should be so sort out as much as you can first and find out why you're getting these results with both bodies. I can't convince myself that both cameras have the same problem so you may have something else going on and finding that out first could also save you time, shipping costs and the loss of a body for what might be a few weeks.

    Keep me posted please.
     
  10. vinman

    vinman

    Nov 15, 2006
    Upstate SC
    This is very intriguing to me. Like others here have mentioned, the images from both cameras appear lacking the sharpness one should expect from a DSLR. I have the exact same problem with my D200. My image files from all my lenses have a very similar look to yours, Rui. I am guilty of shooting less as a result. In fact, I was in a bit of a hurry to get my D700 I think, in part to convince myself I could actually take a sharp picture! Now that I have the D700, and I can see that my lenses appear just fine, my D200 is going in for a thorough work-over.

    Robert, I suspect the info you posted above will prove invaluable in getting Rui's cameras (and mine) fixed in a more timely manner - hopefully the first time!

    This has been a VERY frustrating experience for me, as well. I have all but given up shooting birds, as using the D200 has proven to let me down with image sharpness over and over. I have a few usable files, but out of maybe 500 bird images, none have that "edge" that really make them stand out.

    Also, and maybe it's just my perception, but this problem appears to get worse proportional to magnification. I can get decent looking shots with the 10-17, 14-24, 28-80, and 50; but when I put on the 80-200 or the 500, the image quality drops significantly. I've completely stopped using my TC14E II.

    Thanks again for posting this!
     
  11. Thank you very much for all your suggestions, Robert.
    Actually, I also found weird both the 200 and the 300 performing so badly. That's why I'll do some further tests without the TC attached.
    However, even the images taken without it are not as sharp as they should.
    I bought my first DSLR (D70) five years ago, which undoubtly delivered much more pleaseant and sharper images than those produced by this 300.
    May be me but when I bought the 300 I immediately felt that "I lost" something from the D200.
    I agree when you say that "real world" tests should not include tripods and super-fast speeds. However, in this case, I was dealing with one of the most acclaimed lens (the 70-200VR), using the VR feature and some high SSpeeds, good light and so on... Anyone regardless of his skills should be able to get better pictures than these...
    Also, I'm convinced that it is not due to my fault. Along the years, I took thousands of pictures, tried to learn all the "good procedures", improved my skills and nowadays I always shoot RAW, everything manual, etc.
    Therefore, I'll do some further tests using other lenses and as you suggested, I'll create a CD to send to Nikon.
    I'll keep you uptdated on this subject.
    Thanks again.
    Rui

    ________________________________________________
    D300, D200, MB-D10 and MB-200
    Primes: 10,5 2.8 fisheye, 50D 1.4, Tokina 100 AT-X
    Zoom : 12-24 (Nikkor),17-55 2.8, 18-200VR and 70-200VR
    SB-800, TC Kenko Pro300 1.4, Manfrotto 190MF4+804RC Head

    www.pbase.com/ruilopes
     
  12. You mentioned something that I also suspect - the problem is proportional with the focal lenght! I have the feeling that when using the 12-24 or even the fish the problem is not so evident.
    I'll have to check all of this.
    Rui
     
  13. Hi Rui,

    What is troubling me about your specific problem that must be looked at slightly differently is that you have 2 DSLR bodies performing roughly the same, and badly. In this case I am having a great deal of trouble believing that both cameras are suffering from the same problem or different problems giving you the same results.

    I'm not trying to point the finger back at you or your technique but it does make you wonder what other factors are contributing to the problem. Seeing the images from the D200 also makes me wonder what you consider a sharp or clean image. Meaning absolutely no disrespect whatsoever, none of the D200 images are acceptable. They are noisy and VERY unsharp. If this is present in the D200 and carrying over to the D300 then the problem has to lie somewhere other than the bodies.

    I don't have an answer but that would be the most incredible coincidence if it were in fact 2 bodies with the same problem.

    Can you produce a clean, sharp image from the D300? The problem may be magnified with focal length but without sounding like a broken record, it's affecting both cameras.
     
  14. Commodorefirst

    Commodorefirst Admin/Moderator Administrator

    May 1, 2005
    Missouri
    Rui, as mentioned above in some nice detailed posts, you really need to eliminate the lens as the problem. To do that you need to take a static shot with the 70-200 without TC on both cameras and compare and see if a 100% crop is pretty good,

    It won't be perfect, but it should be better than what you posted with your TC. Then and only then you move on to the TC combo and or a camera.

    I agree too, the shots above are not acceptable. Also, in testing try for a medium distance within 10-15 yds, not to close, but not at infinity either.

    Try to find a railing along a road, or fence something that has good contrasty edges yet extends forward and beyond your focus point. That way you can see if your lens is front or backfocusing.

    good luck, any further questions we are here to help you.
     
  15. Robert,
    I didn't take it as a negative comment on my technique at all! I justed felt the need to explain that given the test conditions it could not be due to any human fault.
    Actually I am starting to believe that the use of the TC might be the main problem with both cameras.
    I'll keep you informed on the tests I'll perform soon with other lenses.

    Thanks Wade. I know that everybody here is always ready to help. That's why I love the Cafe!:smile:
    I'll share here soon the results of my further tests.
    Thanks to all of you
    Rui


    ________________________________________________
    D300, D200, MB-D10 and MB-200
    Primes: 10,5 2.8 fisheye, 50D 1.4, Tokina 100 AT-X
    Zoom : 12-24 (Nikkor),17-55 2.8, 18-200VR and 70-200VR
    SB-800, TC Kenko Pro300 1.4, Manfrotto 190MF4+804RC Head

    www.pbase.com/ruilopes
     
  16. That's cool Rui. If it is in fact the TC then I'd trash it right away. Maybe I missed it but which TC are you using?

    I've never seen images deteriorate that much from the use of a TC but anything that is a common factor to both bodies/images then get it out of the equation and lets look at the cameras and lenses, starting with one at a time.
    Keep it simple and follow the suggestions Wade made regarding contrast and good lighting.

    EDIT: ok I see, it's the Kenko Pro300 1.4x
     
  17. I'm betting on a bad lens. It looks to me like the TC is merely making the lens problem (whatever it is) more obvious. Judging from the high quality images you've posted in the past, I don't think it's you. FWIW, the 2 or 3 problematic lenses I've been blessed with in my lifetime produced results like what you've posted in this thread.
     
  18. Yes, Dennis but as you can see from the pic of the car taken without the TC, the noise artifacts and softness are less evident than at the same exact pics taken with the TC.... That's why I believe that the TC has something to do with it.
    Rui

    ________________________________________________
    D300, D200, MB-D10 and MB-200
    Primes: 10,5 2.8 fisheye, 50D 1.4, Tokina 100 AT-X
    Zoom : 12-24 (Nikkor),17-55 2.8, 18-200VR and 70-200VR
    SB-800, TC Kenko Pro300 1.4, Manfrotto 190MF4+804RC Head

    www.pbase.com/ruilopes
     
  19. I'd take the lens and TC out of the equation and try the 17-55mm f/2.8 mounted right to the body.