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Is This Acceptable Sharpness ? - 300/2.8 VR + TC-14E III

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by ijm5012, Oct 23, 2018.

  1. I own a 300/2.8 VR, and have been extremely impressed with its sharpness. I also own a TC-14E III, and have been very impressed with it on my 70-200 VR II. However, I am less impressed with its performance on the 300/2.8 VR. Note that I have gone through and performed a manual AF fine tune with all of these combos on my D500.

    I had the combo at a recent race that I was attending and shooting, and when I was reviewing the results I couldn't help but be disappointed with what I was seeing from the 300 + 1.4x TC. The 300 by itself was excellent.

    I've uploaded a few images below to showcase what I'm seeing. The crops in order are:
    • 300/2.8 SOOC
    • 300/2.8 + 1.4x SOOC
    • 300/2.8 Edited in DXO PhotoLab
    • 300/2.8 + 1.4x Edited in DXO PhotoLab (using the same edits as applied above)
    • 1:1 Comparison of SOOC images
    • 1:1 Comparison of Edited images
    Based on what you see, is this performance typical? I am simply expecting too much from the combo, or is this type of performance not typical of this combination? I'd appreciate any input people could share. Thank you in advance!

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    Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 8.20.25 PM.png
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    Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 8.21.05 PM.png
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  2. That looks pretty bad. The 300mm 2.8 VR should easily be able to handle the 1.4 TC even on an APS-C body. I'd try the TC on another body to see if it's the teleconverter that's the problem or try another 1.4 TC. Short term fix would be trying to AF adjust for both the 300mm and 1.4 teleconverter and saving it as a separate lens (420mm). Though I'm not sure if that's doable in-camera?
  3. I have two D500’s, and have gone through the AFFT process for both cameras with the lens by itself, as well as with the lens + TC (and yes, it does allow you to save it as a separate).

    I do use the TC on the 70-200 VR II, and it’s fantastic on that lens which leads me to believe that the TC is perfectly ok.

    The only thing I could think may be affecting the results are that I was shooting from a low angle across a sand pit, so possibly thermal distortion? But even in that case, the bare lens sharpens up very nicely while the lens + TC is just “meh” IMO, even with sharpening applied.
  4. Looking at the pavement on the shots with the TC it looks like it's focusing behind the car.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  5. If everything checks out, there's a good chance the D500 AF just doesn't have the precision to focus in these conditions with the teleconverter. You might be better off switching to manual and focusing on a fixed location on the track. Nikon claims their prosumer cameras have the same AF as their flagship bodies, but that's just BS. The flagship bodies like the D4/D5 just have that extra oomp/torque/precision to focus super telephoto glass that the prosumer cameras lack. It's always been like that even back in the D1/D2 days.
  6. I highly doubt that's the case. I haven't come across many reviews of the D500 where the AF system is criticized. In fact, most reviews state it as one of the camera's biggest strengths.

    I posted this same thread over on FM, and have gotten more interaction over there. Users of long telephotos all seem to be in agreement that it is likely atmospheric/thermal effects causing this, which is where my initial thought was as well.

    On one hand, that's good since it points to the issue not being with the lens/TC. On the other hand, it's frustrating because the majority of races are run starting in the early afternoon, and the lower the angle you shoot from, the more prevalent this effect will be, and there's not much that can be done to escape it.
  7. Commodorefirst

    Commodorefirst Admin/Moderator Administrator

    May 1, 2005
    Yep, atmospheric haze and shimmer. Sometimes longer length lenses are greatly affected at longer shooting distances depending on the environmental conditions.

    Shoot some license plates at a similar distance on a cool day over a cool surface to check for sharpness. The different text sizes allows good fine tuning.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  8. What were your AF fine tune tests like? Have you shot some static tests with this combo and checked the sharpness? So many factors at play when analyzing shots of a race car for sharpness (technique, heat, haze, etc...).
    My 300mm, f2.8 is very sharp with 1.3 and 1.7TCs on a D500.
  9. I remember back in the day on this site doing a similar comparison with the D300 and D2X, both APS-C bodies at 12mp sensors. At these further distances, flagship bodies like the D2X and up just do better at catching focus even with atmospheric/thermal haze. I've shot everything from 200mm f2 glass to 800mm 5.6 lenses on Nikon bodies, there's a difference at these long extremities.
  10. West


    Jan 2, 2012
    Vancouver BC
    The TC may have run out of talent at 420mm. The cure is get longer glass or get closer.
  11. Yep, this is what I had planned on doing. Setting my car up in a parking lot in the morning and shooting it with a similar framing, and then repeating that test in the afternoon when the asphalt has had a while to heat up in the sun.

    I can't remember what the AFFT result was for the bare lens, but I know that with the TC it was a +10. That was shot of a static test chart in ideal conditions (cool morning air, over shaded grass that hadn't been warmed by the sun).

    I agree that attempting to perform an AFFT on a subject like this would be crazy, which is why I did the testing at home in a more controlled environment. However, I was disappointed when reviewing the results (but the AFFT was spot-on). I did notice that the lens + TC combo performed better in other situations (either shooting from a higher position, lessening the effect of heat coming off the ground, or shooting earlier/later in the day before the ground had the chance to heat up).

    I'll recheck the combo, but I'm expecting the AFFT to be spot on like it was before. I'll likely just need to be more conscious of my shooting position and time of the day.
  12. Interesting read so far, as I have the Nikon 300 f2.8 VR1 lens which is very sharp, but when connected to a Nikon 1.4TC ver2 the images are soft (I get better results without the TC and just cropping in). Although I have not done any fine tuning yet so maybe this will fix my problem.
  13. justLuke


    Apr 11, 2018
    TCs always lose some sharpness. I'm thinking I would stop the lens down a stop or two might gain you some sharpness....especially since you have plenty of light....shooting at ISO 100....going to ISO 400 is no big sacrifice
  14. AndreasH


    Aug 21, 2018
    I would also say the problem is atmospheric haze.

    When you fine tune the af, I would recommend you to do it a dozen times and note every value selected by the camera. Discard any outliers before you calculate the average value, which you then set manually.

    I have the same lenses as you and would never hesitate to use the TC-14E III on either lens. I also have the TC-20E III, which I was not really that impresed with on my D800/E bodies. It worked fine on my D610 and somehow it does a much better job again on the D850 with the 300.

    Another thought is to consider which af mode you use. As you get closer, it matters more where the camera places focus. While I do like the D25/72 modes, I prefer Group Area AF for subjects that move predictably. It allows for more control over where on a moving subject I want to place focus.
  15. Honestly I don't believe atmospheric haze exist in this instance. I believe the fault lies with the camera and lens+tc combination. I think if shot with something like a D4/D5, results will be different. I remember back in the day I was nailing shots at distance with the D2X, that the D300 with the same lens couldn't accurately focus. Prosumer bodies just don't have the AF accuracy to lock into further subjects with super telephoto lenses like the flagship bodies.

    Also I'd comeback and try this same test with a Z6 since that combo eliminates the focus errors of DSLR PDAF focusing. Might not track as well, but on AF-S, it should be more accurate.
  16. Yes, but have you shot over long distances (~275 ft.), from a low-angle, over heat absorbing material (in this case, sand and asphalt), in conditions where that material has seen exposure to the sun for ~6 hours?

    If it were truly an AF inaccuracy issue, there would be some part of the image that was sharp, but looking at the images, that's not the case. Everything is slightly soft.

    I posted this same thread over on FM, and got some feedback (along with examples) from people who shoot motorsports and have experienced the same thing. It's due to the heat being given off by the ground, and how it affects the optical path. Had I shot this earlier in the day from this same vantage point, it wouldn't have looked like this (note that this wasn't possible, because the cars weren't on track earlier in the day).

    Sometimes you've just gotta play the hand you're dealt, and learn from the past. Fortunately, I still managed to get a few good photos at the track from this weekend.
  17. I spent a good 14 years shooting Nikon super telephoto lenses starting with the original Nikon D1 using almost every Nikon super telephoto lens all the way to MF 800mm 5.6. My go-to lenses were the 400mm 2.8 VR and 600mm f4 VR, never was a fan of the 500mm. For the work I was doing, we were shooting long distances all the time. Go rent a D5 and try using the same combination again, I'm pretty sure the results will differ. Also using TCs on Nikon aren't as good as they are Canon, probably due to the wider and all-electronic EF mount.

    Strangely enough the best TC combination I've tried is the Sigma 120-300mm 2.8 S + the Sigma 1.4 TC. That's one setup that will be sharp with or without the teleconverter and shooting at distance.
  18. AndreasH


    Aug 21, 2018
    ijm5012, you do not have to reply to Jonathan F/2’s rants about the inferioir autofocus of the prosumer bodies. It is clear where he stands on the matter, and more input is always useful. I am not saying you want to follow his advice and get a D2X as a primary camera for the next race.

    Perhaps Jonathan F/2 should rent a D850 or D500 and see why many wildlife photographers use them with the super telephoto Nikkors. He might even like them. :) 
    • Like Like x 1
  19. Okay @AndreasH@AndreasH, 12 post member who signed up back in August? I've been on this forum since 2005 living and breathing Nikon cameras and making money on this gear. I've discussed, bought/sold and pushed Nikon equipment to the very edge. I've been associated with members on here alive and now dead. Ignore me, IDGAF!
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