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How much sharper will Pro Glass be? Can I expect more?

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by TMR Design, Jul 6, 2008.

  1. Ok, here I am again scrutinizing over sharpness and what comes out of the camera as a RAW image without Nikon in-camera sharpening applied by means of Picture Controls.

    I have no problem adding a little sharpening but at times I'm adding more than I think is 'safe' in terms of retaining detail without artifacts or noise. I know that for some the answer is to then run the image through some noise reduction software and I'm even ok with that at times, but I'm trying to figure out whether higher quality glass will change this or if it is the camera and sensor, with glass making little to no difference.

    Here are 2 images. They are the same image, both opened and converted in NX. One with sharpening in picture controls applied, another with sharpening set to 0. The image was shot using the STD picture control in the D300 and sharpening was raised to +7.

    Shooting information is as follows.

    70-300mm VR (VR off), f/8, 1/250s, ISO 200, 300mm, tripod mounted, remote shutter release, focal plane is 8 feet from subject.

    Being the sharpness junkie that I am, I'm wondering how much sharper things will get when I shoot RAW with sharpening on 0.

    Also, I have no point of reference and I would seriously appreciate if someone could post an image that was shot RAW, sharpening at 0 (or changed to 0 in NX), 100% crop, with a lens that you know is sharp and considered to be 'pro' glass. Perhaps an 24-70mm f/2.8 or a 70-200mm f/2.8 or any lens that is considered to be sharp by most people's standards.

    STD Picture Control with Sharpening at +7 (100% crop)

    STD Picture Control with Sharpening at 0 (100% crop)

    This is the same image at 300%. Noise gets pretty bad (yes I realize I'm looking at 300%) with sharpening, so it's not only about sharpness but about getting noise as low as possible for the cleanest possible images.

    STD Picture Control with Sharpening at +7 (300% crop)

    STD Picture Control with Sharpening at 0 (300% crop)
  2. The 70-300 VR is soft at 300mm as you can see.

    The answer isn't USM which can't put sharpness back that wasn't captured - its just a contrast enhancement that fools (some) eyes and brains into thinking things are sharper than they actually are.

    If you want a sharp lens at 300mm, look at the 300mm f/4 AF-S or 300mm f/2.8 VR, both of those lenses are sharper without any sharpening then what you have posted there.
  3. Thanks. I had a feeling that this would be seen as me looking for sharpness at 300mm. It's really sharpness in general. I understand that everyone says the 70-300mm is soft at 300mm but that is often just heresay.

    Here are the same images, same exact shot but at 70mm on the 70-300mm.

    I don't see a difference between the short end and long end personally.

    70mm, Sharpening at +7

    70mm, Sharpness at 0
  4. I understand that everyone says the 70-300mm is soft at 300mm but that is often just heresay.

    Its not heresay. It just that some people have more of a tolerance for softness, or if they just post websized images it covers it up.

    The softness isn't up for debate. Compare the lens at 200mm, then step back a few yards and take the same shot at 300mm with equal framing.

    Its much softer.
  5. Robert, I think that a lot of "unsharp" images are actually out of focus. This can be caused by a few things. From what I have learned over the years, camera/lens support is the biggest culprit when it comes to OOF shots. As you know, even the slightest movement will cause OOF shots, especially at longer focal distances. Even with a remote release, if the tripod isn't sturdy, the vibration of the sutter will cause blur. Have you tried mirror lock up? I'd be interested to see the differences.

    Is "pro-glass" sharper? IMO, yes. However, usually pro glass is usually much heavier. So camera/lens support becomes even more of an issue.

    Most lenses have a "sweet spot" as far as sharpness goes. I don't own a 70-300, so I am not sure where that lens performs its best. I am sure someone who owns the lens can give an opinion. You can also set up the camera and take shots from minimum to maximum apertures of the lens. I'd be interested with those reults as well.
  6. Al I'm saying is that if I compare my image at 70mm to 300mm they are equally soft. To my eyes that is obvious.
  7. To my eyes that is obvious.

    Then you have a problem, either with your eyes, or your lens.

    There is no way that the 70-300 VR is equally sharp throughout the range. It shines between 70 to just over 200mm, then drops off.
  8. Thanks man. I've owned the lens for a while and have taken many beautiful shots with it. Keep in mind, I am pixel peeping. At most normal viewing or print sizes the softness is acceptable or the sharpness is acceptable, whichever is more appealing.

    I also understand about camera support, and my test is not anything scientific but what I'm getting at is if I'm just out shooting, using shutter speeds that are fast enough so that you know you're not getting motion blur or camera shake and I'm handholding then I should be able to get sharp images. I know I can 'tighten' things up with an amazing tripod. I want to be able to get crisp shots when I hand hold the camera normally. I don't think that is unreasonable.

    So that is what prompted me to wonder about other glass.
  9. OK so you are looking at he images I posted and you think that the images at 70mm is sharper than at 300mm?

    Please, my eyes are fine. There is no reason to be that way. I'm just telling you what I see, and I can see the difference between soft and sharp.

    You are making comments as if you're not even looking at the images.

    I have asked, and I ask again, to see some images from other people as a point of reference. If you think it is my eyes, my lens or both then show me images that I can compare to see the difference. Otherwise this is all relative and subjective and nothing is being proven or demonstrated.
  10. jfrancis


    May 8, 2005
    Orlando, FL
    Well, my eyes aren't up to much, but your images do show a lack of sharpness at both ends of the focal range. Whether that's typical of this lens I cannot say, but to address your original post, yes, for the most part, 'pro' glass will be sharper.

    I got rid of my 18-200 because I couldn't stand the lack of critical sharpness, compared to my 28-70, 70-200 etc. My partner was satisfied with her copy until I had her try a 17-55 for event work. Now she knows.

    The camera matters too. My D2x (a great camera in many respects) always requires sharpening in PP to achieve the level of sharpness that I like. My D3 requires virtually none if I nail the focus.
  11. Thanks John. Appreciate it.
  12. jfrancis


    May 8, 2005
    Orlando, FL
    Here's an image shot (100% crop) with pro glass (200 mm VR at f/2.4). I'm not convinced that the small JPG does it justice, but the original looks very sharp on my 30" Apple Cinema Display.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
  13. Thanks John. Is that a JPG comversion from a RAW file with 0 sharpening?
  14. jfrancis


    May 8, 2005
    Orlando, FL
    Yes it is.
  15. Of course it's up for debate. Everything on the forum is.

    Shooting data: D200 handheld 1/200s f/6.3 at 300.0mm iso250

    100% crop.
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
  16. archangel


    Apr 15, 2008
    hey, how about taking a few shots of the same subject like that screw but with some of the "pro" type glass u own TMRDesign? that 105 2.5 MF, 70-300mm and compare them both at 105(MF shouldnt matter if u got it correctly focues right?). Then use ur 35-70 againt ur 70-300 at 70mm. Do this with all the settings off and on.

    Am i wrong in saying that the 105mm 2.5 and 35-70 is pro glass? if so, then which ones qualify and whats the cut off?
  17. Thanks Frank. I assume that's shot with your 70-300mm VR? Also, is that a JPG converted from the RAW file with no sharpening applied?
  18. That is exactly what I'm about to do this afternoon. I'll post back. Initially I posted just because of what I was seeing from the 70-300mm. Again, I do want to emphasize that I haven't complained and I'm not dissatisfied with the results I've been getting. Normally, when not pixel peeping I can only see a slight softness which is easily remedied, and that has not been a problem.

    I'll post images once I've shot them.
  19. archangel


    Apr 15, 2008
    do you own a 50mm 1.8 perhaps? that is probly universly sharp at f4 and could be a very good one to compare at 50mm and then cropped in to match the zoom at 70mm?
  20. Okay, I would never do this, except it's muggy, rainy, I ain't leaving my house, you get hot models, and you're a friend of Rich's.

    It also ain't exactly scientific, as I did horrible in science and gravitated to becoming large and mean for a living. But all were shot with the D300, on a 5540 LS tripod with Wimberley Sidekick (except the 85mm because I don't yet have a RRS body plate for the D300, so it was hand-held), remote shutter-release cable, all at f/5.6 in AP (SS were between 1/250 and 1/500), ISO 200.

    Used the "pro" lenses I have, the 85 f/1.4, 70-200 f/2.8 VR, the 200 f/2, and 400 f/2.8 AFS-II.

    All were opened in Camera Raw in Adobe Bridge, opened in CS3. enlarged to 100%, and cropped from there.

    85 f/1.4 No Sharpening/No adjustments of any kind


    85 f/1.4 Sharpened


    70-200 Straight


    70-200 Sharpened


    200 f/2 Straight


    200 f/2 Sharpened


    400 f/2.8 Straight


    400 f/2.8 Sharpened


    I hope the DSLR gods don't smite me for wasting these pixels LOL. :eek: 
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