Disappointed by AF 50 1.8 wide open

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by steve_phillipps, Feb 8, 2010.

  1. I shot some badminton yesterday with the AF 50 f1.8 and because of the terrible lighting typical of indoor sports events used it wide open. When I looked at the shots I was really surprised at how soft they were, with a sort of halo effect around edges. I know no lens is optimal wide open but this really was poor and I'd always thought of 50s as being among the sharpest of lenses.
    Shots with my 80-200 f2.8 wide open were night and day different, super sharp, but I was needing iso6400 rather than 3200 then.
    I'm sure this is normal behaviour for the 50 1.8 and not a fault, and presumably the advice would be close down to 2.8 - defeating the object of a fast aperture of course!
  2. Here's the pic
  3. Try again!
  4. I agree, my 50 F1.8 AF Nikkor turned out to be a dog wide open on my small sensor Nikons. And, the 75 mm equiv. focal length doesn't do much for me. I now think of it as an expensive body cap that can take pictures. F2.8 ain't bad, but, as you said, what is the point. I'd rather use my old 28-50 mm AIS zoom Nikkor that is a lot sharper, focuses much closer, and looks and feels like a real lens.
  5. Couldn't attach a pic, server error.
    Thanks for the reply Sanford, mine was on a D3 which presumably would show up problems even more.
  6. Interesting.
    I wonder if you have a bad copy.
    The 50mm 1.8 is IMO one of Nikon's best kept secrets, esp considering the price.
    I have absolutely nothing but praise for this lens.
    While not tack sharp wide open (not many lenses are) even at 1.8 I am pleased after a little high pass sharpening. Shooting at longer distances is not the way to see this lens strut its stuff. Shooting a portrait when extreme limited DOF is required; is the way to see this gem rock & roll.
  7. On a D3, you could have gone 'B+W' with a ISO way, way past 6400, but if you needed color, f2.8 and ISO 6400 should have been fairly decent with the AF 50mm 1.8D Nikkor lens. [You had a lens hood on the 50mm lens, right?]
  8. I did have a hood Jerry yes. If I'd wanted to use f2.8 I'd have stuck with the 80-200 though.
  9. Why can't I upload an image?
  10. I use the 50 f/1.8D on my Kodak Pro 14NX. 13.5MP and no AA filter. It really puts a lens to the test. I find it to be a more demanding camera then the D700 I have rented.
    On my camera in my hands the 50 works very well wide open. Tack sharp no but there are no "halo" effects around the edges.
    I am not sure what kind of shooting you where trying to do but it really sounds like more of the wrong place wrong time for that lens then a bad lens. But then it could also be OE
  11. Right, uploaded to my gallery folder here http://www.photo.net/photo/10653012
  12. How much of the problem of any lens being "not tack smart" wide open is the razor-thin depth-of-field inherent in shooting at such a large aperture, though?
  13. Michael, by OE I assume you mean operator error? Not sure what sort of error could be made, or do you mean out of focus? I don't think it was that as they look in focus to me and it's consistent on all images.
    Tack sharp is a difficult thing to quantify and everyone's definition is different - certainly this was not good enough for my taste.
    Peter, this is not a DoF thing though, you'll see that if you look at the image.

  14. Thanks Jose, I tried lots of times, with files as small as 256k, could it be that it was created through Aperture and so has a different kind of jpeg?
  15. The link asks for a max. of 511 pixels in width, but I don`t know if this limit is active.
    BTW, after a second look to your big size image, I think it is very good. I don`t believe you can get more from this lens wide open.
  16. Thanks for the compliment! The problem doesn't show up so much on the smallish jpeg, but if you look in particular around the white handle of the racket you see this "haloing".
  17. I have recently performed a series of test shots through wide open aperture to F8 on 50 1.8, 85 1.8, 105 2.8 and 80-200 2.8. What I found with my lens samples was that at wide open aperture, the 85 and 105 produced excellent sharpness, the 50 was a little softer while my 80-200 was soft at both 80 and 200. The zoom is now at Nikon for an examination even it has always produced excellent sharp prints on film body. Please see the MTF chart on the 50 1.8 lens review:
  18. The "halo" you're seeing is probably chromatic aberation. I shot some pics of the new snow that fell this morning and noticed quite a bit of CA when shooting with my 50mm wide open. CA is usually easily fixed with most post processing programs.
  19. Cory, what sort of CA would that be? Lateral CA is chracterised by colour fringing in high contrast areas, what other CA could it be? Again, I thought the 50 1.8 was supposed to good all round including re aberrations.
  20. Just looked at your pic Cory, I see what you're saying. The thing is though there is colouring around edges on my shots, it's just softness.
    Michael, Photozone is an excellent website, didn't realise you were here! Thanks.
  21. Sorry Steve. I guess i was mistaken based on your descrpition alone. I couldn't see what you're talking about on the jpeg and I didn't want to download it so i could zoom in because I don't like downloading other people's images.
  22. I'm sure you've already thought of this, but just to be sure, were you using any filters?
  23. Look at the hands and feet of the women for the answer. The back woman is in far better focus than the main subject.
  24. Not to my eyes! And as I said it's consistent on all the images, and immediately different on all the 80-200 shots.
    No filters used.
  25. About what I'd expect for the 50/1.8 wide open - in particular considering that at this ISO, the softening effect of the NR of the D3 makes things even worse. The fact that the image is a bit underexposed also works disfavor of the appearance of sharpness.
  26. Tweaked curves a little in photoshop:
  27. Thanks Dieter, but surely if the exposure was any higher you'd burn out the whites even more than they are already and perhaps worsen the problem as it seems most noticeable around bright edges (the "halo" effect). I know it's my picture so am a little defensive but the exposure looks about right to me!
  28. In fact I just looked at my original and I did actually tweak the levels down a bit to ease the softness around the bright edges a bit. Your effort definitely has more liveliness to it though, it's actually close to how the original looks.
  29. Steve
    By OE I meant operator error. But that was before you where able to post a photo. BTW nice shot. Great timing.
    If the shutter speed where not so I high would say just a touch of motion blur. In fact it could be. You are talking about at the end of her arm which is close to full extension. Must be going pretty fast.
    The players face looks better then the hand and racket. Not a lot but enough to suggest the speed of her hand is causing some of the problem. Look at the tip of the racket. It is even softer then her hand.
    I shoot equestrian events for a living. Sometimes we are in arenas that are so dark I have to rent a D700 or D3 and shoot at 12800. There are times that I end up at 12800 using a 105 f/1.8 at f/1.8. You do what you have to to get the shot.
    I would say that if you really need to shoot with a 50 at 1.8 or faster look for a 50 f/1.2 it is sharper at 1.4 and 1.8 then any of the other 50's. Only problem is that it is a MF lens.
  30. hus


    I don't know if you do but if you focus and recompose the images come out soft because you get closer or further from the subject. Espeacially, if you are close to your subject. If you use flash the images might be sharper.
  31. It is just a fact of life that the Nikon 50mm f1.8 is not as sharp wide open as it is stopped down, even one stop. However, that does not mean that your particular sample is performing as it should. The best and easiest way of checking to see if your sample meets Nikon's specifications is to send it in to Nikon so they can check it out on an optical bench. That's what I would do. Don't waste your time taking images of brick walls or newspapers. Let Nikon sort it out. If you are still not satisfied with the lens after it returns from Nikon, you can sell it and explore other options.
    Actually, though I have the latest version of the nikon 50mm f1.8, I found an older AF Nikkor, (non D), version of the 50mm lens in a thrift shop and could not resist the $20 price. The lens, with serial number 2117824, (1987?), has a metal body and was made in Japan. It's just an impression, mind you, but I believe the images I have taken with the older lens are notably sharper at f1.8 than the newer model. In fact, the image quality just looks better across the board, at any aperture, in my opinion. Again, this is just a very subjective observation derived from shooting snap shots with my Nikon D80.
  32. Do you have a recent 50mm 1.8? I have the made in Japan version from about 10-15 years ago and it's tack sharp. I'll get flak for this, however the Nikon stuff made in places other than Japan simply does not have the same quality control. Older is better. IMHO.
  33. You could be right Russ. Mine is a newish one the AF1.8D, only bought it a few weeks back just for the extra speed.
  34. hmm at f/1.8 i wonder if the DOF should have the further player significantly more blurred than the near player, and this doesnt seem the case to me, they look fairly equal, so i wonder if the focus is actually about half way between the two. I also have an old 50mm f/1.8, and having just tested it at your shot's settings, mine is sharp at 1.8 on FX, i would expect the racket to be sharper.
  35. This is the lens I obtained at the thrift shop for US $20. It's heavier than its modern counterpart. Again, I must stress that my observation of it being sharper then the latest version is based strictly upon anecdotal observation. I would not make any conclusions about its performance based upon where the lens was made. However, I must say my perception is biased regarding the build quality of the older optic.
  36. What was your focus point? And, what were the focus settings on your camera body?
  37. I varied it a bit. But in general I used continous AF, 51 point, generally focus priority but sometimes release+focus, generally using off-centre focus points. The AF had a lot of trouble keeping up and in focus priority it missed most shots because it couldn't get a good lock on.
  38. Hi - yep, the 50/1.8 is definitely a softie at 1.8. But stopped down a little, even just to f/2 - f/2.8, it sharpens up nicely - and past that point the quality of your light, composition, colours, etc. begin to outweigh lens sharpness as determinants of image quality.. And stopped down to f/8 it can be a tack sharp lens, so for the price you pay, the 50/1.8 is really good...
  39. Hmm, I just took some shots with mine, and they are tack sharp wide open on my D200. If I'm shooting a very dark object against a very bright object, I will see a very small amount of purple fringe on my D200, but not on a D300 or D700.
  40. Have you tried the lens with a more static subject? IMHO, the 50mm is not the fastest focusing lens, and that may possibly be contributing to your issue.
  41. Robert - I think you are lucky to get it for $20. For a new starter like me it will be a blessing to be able to get it at that price.
  42. I made this shot with my AF-D 50 f1.8 at f2.2, 1/100 sec, ISO 200, on a D 50, SB 600 plus quite a bit of help from the lights of a nearby TV crew:) It seems reasonably sharp. But my experience with this lens suggested not to shoot at f 1.8 because it would look soft -- probably because of a shallow DOF. But I am no expert in such things...
  43. Steve, I have been checking some of my pics taken with my 50/1.8AFD... all pics, wide open show that "haloing" in bright edges. I`m not an expert but I`d say it`s somekind of flare issue. Close the diaphragm just one stop and the image quality improves considerably. It calls my attention that many of my "wide open" shots were taken at f2, instead of f1.8 (I stopped using this lens when I bought the 50AFS). Also, it seems to me that it`s performs far better at closer distances.
    The pic below has been taken under good light, medium focus distance, 200ISO, wide open and faster than 1/1000sec:
  44. The histogram is simply perfect. Focus is dead on. No overexposure. Above and below are 100% crops.
    This lens is very good for the money, very sharp at f4-f5.6, but not a magic lens. Magic are the "N" pro zooms... :)
  45. Jose, good to see those shots, that's exactly what I've been seeing. It is very difficult with moving subjects as there are so many variable and people can (quite rightly) question focus, exposure etc.
    Been trying to upload a few more shots but server error still appearing.
    Thanks for all the responses, not used the forum for ages and it's as good as I remember it.
  46. Forget to mention; no sharpening applied in PP, "Neutral" camera settings (D300).
  47. Steve, as others have noted, your shot looks pretty typical for those conditions. After all, you have the very shallow dof when shooting wide open, subject movement, and if you used some noise reduction that would soften the image somewhat too. Most fast lenses shot wide open suffer from some spherical aberration too, which softens the images when used wide open, and disappears when stopped down even a little. I have three 50mm lenses, two 1.4 and one 1.8 and they are all slightly softer wide open. I think you have a great shot there given the lighting and the equipment you were using. I tend to avoid any in camera noise reduction, and prefer to go from raw to tiff for post production and sizing. After final image sizing maybe some selective noise reduction and sharpening is done using Neat Image for noise reduction. I recommend using a tripod and do some test shots with a target at all your f-stops to see the difference under ideal conditions.
  48. Robert - I think you are lucky to get it for $20. For a new starter like me it will be a blessing to be able to get it at that price.​
    Hi Vikas,
    I have to thank my wife for all my thrift shop finds. She is addicted to searching for thrift shop treasures and I drive her around to the various shops on Oahu about once a week. While she looks for Ferragamo, Hermes or Bally, I do a quick search for photography related things. I usually sell my finds at a used camera gear store here in Honolulu, but sometimes I find something I want to keep, like the Nikon 50mm f1.8. I've actually found nice Leica lenses for less than $10, but mostly it's camera bags, tripods or odd accessories. It's all a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
  49. @steve phillipps: if i undestand correctly, you use a 90 $ lens on a 4000 $ camera ? Seriously, what were your expectations when shooting a lens like that wide open ?. I previously owned a 1.8. It was fine a f/2.5-f/2.8. It was fine wide open, at 40 cm. from the subject. Other than that, coma and spherical aberation, plus chromatic aberation are really things you should consider when shooting wide open. Basic understanding of price related optics is neccesary.
    I sold it after a while and got a 1.4, al least i can safely shoot at f/2, and happily shoot at f/2.8 and up.
    I never used a sigma 50 1.4, but it seems it is even better than the nikkor 50 1.4D i own (and is soft and has coma, CA, etc. at f/1.4), so that is what i would recomend instead.
  50. Wow, all those images with "halo" and chromatic aberrations look really bad. The lens may be damaged (elements not calibrated correctly) or dirty. I cannot imagine to shoot with that lens.
    Nicolaie said it; It's not smart to use expensive camera with cheap lens...
    Chromatic aberration is a big problem for digital cameras also because of a sensor which is shiny glass element. Film is excellent in this case that's why I'm staying away from digital cameras until I win a lottery ;)
  51. If this was the Leica forum and it was an old Summicron, it would be called "Leica glow".
  52. It being a snowbound day, I got out my "Japan" 50mm 1.8 AF and made some shots of a Frankenstein figure. All were shot at f1.8 on manual focus and exposure. Shutter speed around 1/80. I can see a bit of halo, but nothing like some of the other shots posted. I used an LED desk lamp for the lightng and a small tungsten "Nightlight" for the background. This is about a 50% crop.
    Far from a scientific test, so you be the judge.
  53. Nicolaie,
    Yes it's a cheap(ish) lens but in case you didn't know it's also regarded as one of the best performers. 50mm lenses were always also cheap for reasons other than it might not be any good, 1 the economies of scale because it sells in large numbers, 2 it's a simple optical design, 3 the 1.8 is not pushing things too far in terms of optical complexity.
    I think your statement is flawed, there is simply nothing wrong with putting Nikon's own 50mm f1.8 onto any of their cameras.
  54. Shot some tests but again get a "server error" message when trying to upload.
    At 1.8 it soft and blurry, at f2 it's not much better, f2.8 much better, f4 spot on.
    But I want f1.8!!!!!
  55. I think the haloing may be due to dust or light grease film on the rear lens surface. Perhaps carefully cleaning the lens surfaces to see if the haloing effect goes away...
  56. If you want F 1.8 you need to spend more than $100 for it. The 1.4 is pretty decent by F2. The 1.8 as you've noticed comes around at F4.
  57. All suggestions welcomed - just cleaned it and it's made no difference.
    I think the other name for this is "bloom" - sure that's what it is. Wonder if I'd get better results with the new 1.4G. Possibly the sam results at 1.4, ie wide open, but better at 1.8 and certainly by f2? I'd be semi-happy if it was near 100% by f2, at least I'd still be gaining a full stop over the 80-200 f2.8.
  58. Thanks Michael, your reply came in as I typing in my thoughts about an f1.4.
    I had an f1.4 AI-S but sold it. Was going to get the 1.4G but heard that the 1.8 was as good or even better according to some. Also considering the 85 1.4, but wouldn't want to spend that much and still find it soft at 1.4.
    I also have a 17-35 f2.8 but it's just too short.
  59. Steve, You may be right and 50mm 1.8 may be a good-enough lens for an expensive camera.
    But this one (and Jose Angel's lens) may be a lemon or may have fingerprints.
    Again, it don't perform like good cheap lens, more like a bad cheap lens...
    Minolta MD 50mm 1.7 is not expensive but Boy, it's sharp as hell...
    And here is something:
    We all know that zoom lenses never as good as good prime. Here is a small crop from the P&S 35-105mm zoom camera that most of us would call ,,crappy".
    Ma' I don't see any chromatic aberrations :)
  60. And here is the camera...
  61. I posted this picture because I believe that after professional CLA that Canon 1.8 lens will perform much better and may outperform small zoom camera in terms of aberrations and flare. It's worth it if You are not planning to buy brand new lens. Good luck!
  62. "Wonder if I'd get better results with the new 1.4G... I had an f1.4 AI-S but sold it... "
    In my own tests, the 50/1.4AiS is pretty much the same as the 50AFS... I found on my pics that sharpness, bokeh, etc. are almost indistinguishable between them. Only the shape of the aperture blades (7 on the AiS or 9 on the AFS) helped me to know which is which on that pics.
    BTW, I don`t know if my 50/1.8AFS is defective... it could be. It is certainly a very used, ramshackled unit, but extremely sharp at certain apertures and/or distances (I`d say sharper than my 50AFS!).
  63. So Jose, what aperture does the 50 1.4G get really sharp. Is it good enough at f2? And do you have samples to post?
  64. Not a scientifically based statement, but I can tell you my own "scheme for aperture selection":
    f1.4 if I want absolute softness. Shallow DoF usually is usually very important but secondary,
    f2 when I want very shallow DoF and not extreme softness,
    f2.8 when I want sharpness and shallow DoF, the acceptable compromise,
    f4-f5.6 when I want the sharpest image, mostly portraits, with some background blur,
    f8 if I`m looking for deeper DoF and sharpest results,
    f11 on, only for maximum Dof, sharpness is not important.
    I can live with this soft apertures... I like to use them for aesthetic purposes. I almost never use them because there isn`t enough light.
  65. Not the best pic to illustrate this issue, the only I have available here: D700 @ 800ISO, 1/125 sec. - f2, "Neutral" setting, RAW converted in NX2, no PP.
  66. steve phillipps: as i previously stated, i also used to own a 50 1.8, i also read the commending reviews (mostly wrote by enthusiast begginers stepping out of the kit lens), but when i used the lens at 1.8, focused past 1 meter, the results were very similar to yours.
    i used about 4 of them, including mine, and all except one performed the same. that veiling is a natural phenomena when using large aperture lenses at maximum aperture, that were not corrected to be used at maximum aperture.
    the same can be said about the 35 f/2, 50 1.4, 1.8, 85 1.8, even the 105 micro VR sometimes (especially when focus is difficult to achieve). and these are only a handfull of lenses i used.
    users report similar behaviour on the ai-s 35 1.4, 50 1.2, even 28 1.4. they say (i have no actual experience with it) that the noct-nikkor (58/1.2) was specifically designed to be used wide-open, thus the prohibitive sale price for a mint copy.
    there are some exceptions, like fast telephotos or some macro lenses:
    135 f2, 200 f2, and so on.
    the general rule is that maximum aperture is always a compromise, and a lens should be used closed, even if just a little bit, and tested by focusing at a medium distance.
    if you want f.2, please follow my previous advice, and buy a 1.4 lens.
    Another factor to consider is focus precission tolerance. The 50 1.8 is a plastic thingy driven by a metal screw. There might be just enough backlash in the focus system, so that the desired focus target could by missed by little, just enough to make the whole thing look blurry.
    +1 for the better built 1.4 lens. And if you are shooting sports, please be aware that the 1.4G is not a fast focusing lens. I tried a friend's copy and found it slow and misfocused alot.
  67. 100% crop:
  68. Steve,
    Bjørn Rørslett has some great observations regarding the lenses being discussed here. These reviews might be helpful if or when you decide to replace your Nikon 50mm f1.8 AF-D.
  69. I found this recent discussion on pnet about fast lenses and sharpness when used wide open.
    It seems the universal agreement is that no fast lens is as sharp when used wide open as when stopped down some.
    Bob Atkins sums it up:when used wide open: "I suspect that you are doomed to be disappointed. All the fast lenses are somewhat "creative" wide open, meaning they are softer and lower in contrast then when stopped down. It's a consequence of spherical aberration which goes up with the square of the aperture (for longitudinal SA) or the cube of the aperture (for transverse SA)."
    He mentions spherical aberration, which I stated above is the issue here. For me, wide open is a creative choice when I want a soft, gauzy look and extreme out of focus background. Sometimes sharpness isn't always what you want anyway. I'm including a B&W shot from the 60's done on Plus-X wide open with a Nikkor 50mm f 1.4 lens.
  70. I have the 50mm 1.8 and have used it on my D200 and D300. Mine is tack sharp except for the short depth of field and I have never gotten results like the ones posted. I think you might have got a bad lens
  71. Nicolaie, some of the reviews I'd seen were not by beginners but people like Bjorn Rorslett (thanks Robert, I'm a regular on his site) and Ken Rockwell who had said that the 1.8 was amazing. And it is, when stopped down to f4-8, I just expected the wide open performance to be better than it was - not as good but almost.
    I just sold a 105 2.5 and 180 2.8 both MF and both briliant even wide open. My MF 50 1.4 was never terrific, just decent, but never really remember using it wide open - I hardly used it at all as I also had the incredible 55mm 2.8 micro.
    I'm still making the transition to AF, in the past I've always used manual as being a TV wildlife cameraman I'm using to MF. I've got the 17-35 2.8, 80-200 2.8 and 400 2.8VR, and am happy with them all, it's just the 50 that's disappointing. To be honest on the D3 the 50 is a bit short for sports so I'm thinking of the 85 1.4 (and possibly the 200 f2) but the 85 seems less than perfect despite the price tag too (ie not AFS, CA problems, probably also needs stopping down a bit although you'd probably be OK at f2 I assume). Any thoughts on the 85 1.4?
  72. I had this issue with a used 80-200 2-touch I bought. I took it as a fault and returned the lens. It's replacement is fine. I'd say test another sample, even just from the camera shop doorway...
  73. are you surprised that a $100 lens is not sharp wide open? that lens cost just a little bit more than a holga! if you want wide open sharpness, then you're going to have to pony up with the $$ and get something like a carl zeiss, but i hear that the sigma 1.4/50 is also not bad.
  74. Ty, yes I am a bit surprised that it's as bad as it is. Basically as it stands there is no point having f2 or above available at all, as it's basically useless.
    I'm not averse to spending money on lenses, and if there was a 50mm f1.2 that was near perfect wide open I'd buy it even if it cost £1000, but it seems that the f1.4s are far from perfect too. As for Zeiss, according to Photozone the 50 1.4 is not so hot, but the Sigma might be worth a look.
  75. On Thom's site though the test shots from the Sigma at 1.4 look as bad as my 1.8. http://www.bythom.com/Sigma-50-HSM-lensreview.htm
  76. You might want to have a look at the Leica offerings for 50mm - the 2/50 Summicron-R and the 1.4/50 Summilux-R; both can be adapted to Nikon via the leitax F-mount (leitax.com). Stop-down metering only (which wouldn't be a problem if you shoot wide open anyway), and of course MF. If those don't perform well wide open, then I guess none will.
  77. "... I am a bit surprised that it's as bad as it is. Basically as it stands there is no point having f2 or above available at all, as it's basically useless... "

    I`m not at home and I don`t have my Photo HDDs to take some samples, but for sure many people have very good pics taken with this lenses, at every aperture. Of course they are not extremely sharp wide open (like at f4-f8), but technically very few lenses (if so) are capable of this, and we as photogs should have resources to obtain what we are looking for (flash, PP). I suspect Terry Richardson use almost exclusively a Nikkor AF 50/1.4 for the P*rell* calendar (well, I think it is in the worst taste, but that`s another topic).
    A much bigger drawback to me is the stressing bokeh of some lenses, here the f1.4s are not as "busy" as the f1.8, and the Sigma is clearly superior.
    If you absolutely need the higest resolution at f2 (at f2.8 and above there are many options), probably the best performer for Nikon is the ZF Makro Planar. But I wonder if the expense is worth it, I`d look for other solutions.
  78. Anyway, I think your badminton pic is pretty usable. I`ve found one taken at f1.4 (50AFS), ISO400 on a D700 (from the wed pics); I love this kind of softness:
    Below, a 100% crop from the original NEF. Again, not so sharp but certainly usable to my liking. Some like to use Softars, others use stockings, etc... But I understand that if you`re looking for sharpness this lenses are not designed to fit for your needs (wide open).
  79. Ok
    Here is a shot from my 50 f/1.8 AFD on my Kodak Pro14NX Focus is on thecenter of the barb wire
  80. Server error on the upload of the image. I will give it another try
  81. Ok less see if it works this time
  82. Here is a 100% crop.
    At least my copy of the lens is sharp enough wide open.
  83. Steve, your experience fits with what I'm seeing so far. I just got into digital with a D3 series body, and I've been using all my 90s film lenses that were considered extremely sharp with film. Almost universally I'm finding that my lenses are useless wide open on the D3x I'm using. I first noticed it in careful field images, so I did some testing at home to see what was going on, and the results were a shock. My 500/4 P is literally unusable at f/4 and even f/5.6 is crap. It doesn't begin to produce sharp images until f/8, and that smear effect you describe, sounds very similar to what I'm seeing at f/4. It actually looks about the same at min and max aperture! Same results with my first gen 300/4 AF. I haven't tested my 20/2.8 AF yet, but overall the IQ looks bad.
    I'm seeing many reports like this around the web. Over at slrgear.com, they have actually found in some tests that a lens was substantially sharper in the center when tested on FX vs on a DX body, which they couldn't explain. The common thread seems to be that lenses from the film era aren't translating over to the digital FX era very well. And, I believe Nikon's actions so far show that they believe this as well, since they are clearly in the process of re-issuing everything for FX (and with fantastic results based on all the web test data I've seen so far).
    My conclusion (and my suggestion to you) - I'm astounded by what my sensor can do with the right lens, so I'm going to modernize. So far Nikon has only issued 10 pro-quality lenses for FX (plus the 2 this week, making 12). I'd stick to those. And, your 50/1.8 is not one of them.
  84. Steve your problem is that of focus shift as the lens is stopped down prior to exposure. Film is a lot thicker than the digital sensor and therefore is not as sensitive to focus issues. Your problem is a combination of digital and the slr system. your lenses are no less sharper obviously, they didn't just magically change properties. film has a much higher resolution than digital, and if you were to put your lens on an f4, throw some adox cms 25 in and develop in some adotech, you will see that the lens will be as sharp as it is on your digicam.
    edge sharpness when shooting is rarely important, as Michael's images illustrate above. i shot many weddings and commercial jobs with the nikon d3 prior to upgrading to film, and apart from vignetting on the 70-200, I found the results acceptable. my favourite lens on the d3 was the nikon 1.8/50 af-d.
  85. Thanks for the responses guys.
    Steve, I had the same problem with the 500 f4P when I got a D200. It was brilliant on my F5, rich colours, super sharp, but on the D200 it was mediocre at best.
    I think you're right about modernising.
  86. um...you say it was great on your F5, so why not just use your F5, reap all the benefits of film, and not have to worry about modernising (in other words, spending more money). if you're a pro and need super fast turnaround time, and have clients looking over your shoulder, then stick with a digicam, otherwise film is likely a better option.
  87. Russ,
    If what you are looking for is chromatic aberrations, using a LED lamp as the main source of light won't help. LEDs are (almost) monochromatic, and, thus, won't suffer chromatic aberrations by definition.
  88. Why don't you try the AF fine tune function if your body has it? It makes a huge difference.
  89. Right, it isn't that sharp at f/1.8 but by f/2.5 it's already excellent and given the size, weight, and price of the thing, can you really complain? Of course, if you compare the 50/1.8 at f/2.8 it will most likely produce a significantly better defined image than the 80-200/2.8 though they don't have a common focal length. An f/1.8 lens isn't just for shooting at f/1.8, but for all situations where it works better than another lens, and just as a lightweight handy general purpose normal lens.
    A bit better results can be obtained at f/1.8-f/2.2 by using the f/1.4 G AF-S but it's more expensive.
  90. Ty, I don't have the F5 any more, and much though I'd love to use film the drawbacks are just too problematic. I resisted going digital for ages, but in film days I was never even happy with ISO200 slide film, whereas now we can shoot 1600ISO with no worries. And you can fire away with virtually no cost and choose the best shots. For sport and for wildlife in particular there is just absolutely no contest at all. Shame, but there you have it.
    Ilkka, interesting though about the 50 1.8 at f2.8 vs the 80-200 at f2.8. I wonder how they would compare actually - must make time to try it.
  91. Ty, yes I thought about focus as a possible issue with my lens results. I did some testing to try and account for it, and my test suggested no impact of focusing. However, I may try to test it again.
    Overall, however, the totality of the data, both my own and what's been shared on the web, seems to point to some fundamental differences in lens performance when sitting on film vs current sensors. I'm not an optical engineer, but my background is in science, and I can imagine real reasons for these differences. Plenty of dSLR books also speak to this, and the suggestion is that the optical filters atop the sensor, and the sensor itself, are going to interact differently with the light path than a chemical emulsion. And again, Nikon's (and all the manufacturer's) deathly silence on this point tends to further the theory that there are major issues here. Anyone with a few decades of experience in the corporate world will recognize that distinct attorney-driven corporate style of (non- or mis-) communication with the world. I'm fairly confident that Nikon knows exactly how every lens of theirs works with every body, but they aren't sharing, except indirectly, reflected in their roll out schedule of new lenses. Gotta read those tea leaves.
    I'm actually very interested in the theory and the physics behind this transition from film to digital, so I'll keep my eyes open for more hard data. I agree its lacking at this moment.
    The bottom line seems to be that its remarkably variable across DSLR bodies, so a lens that works on one may not work on another. My 105/2.8 AF micro from the early 90s is producing fantastic results on my D3x so far based on my tests, as is my series E 75-150 (but AF becomes critical for real sharpness), and 35-70/3.3-4.5 AF from the early 90s. All the more strange then that the pro lenses from that era are not.
  92. I bought the new version and it works fine. I've tested it against the 28-80 kit lens which is decent but the 50mm is still sharper even at 2.8. I also tested it against my 28-80 sigma. It still clearly beats the sigma also. All my lenses are decent, but the 50 is still better than what I have had. I only use it for portraits or special shots that I need shallow DOF. Other than that, I have noticed some softness. But that being said, I've made some really good clear and sharp images with it and my D50. I don't shoot fine art, mostly events, so even my kit lens is o.k. for me. The 50 is a plus for that matter. I guess for me, it's not a lemon. Not a jewel as I expected, but it is a brighter view in my view finder. That is also a plus for me since I'm used to a darker viewfinder most of the time with my other lenses.
  93. Sonja, the 50 1.8 is a decent lens, and no surprise whatever that it beats most things at f2.8, it's just the wide open performance that disappointed me. Mine's fine from f2.8 onwards as well.
  94. 50mm1.8 @ F2 shot on d80 100% crop
  95. Hmm... My experience is different... My 50 f/1.8 at f/2 is quite good on D300. Shooting a test chart it's only a bit less resolution at f/2 than at f/4. It's better than my 50 f/1.4 D at f/2. Images, in my assessment, support this. The 50 f/1.8 and 35mm f/2 D are my go-to lenses for wide-open shooting.
    Lens to lens variation? Steve, can you try another 50 f/1.8?
  96. It looks to me that the pixel peeping here is being taken to an extreme...Sharpness isn't the only quality to consider in a lens. Most of these photos, when viewed at the proper viewing distance, are more than acceptable...
  97. Agreed, thanks Scott D.
  98. Scott, Sonja, I wasn't pixel-peeping, I could see straight away on the screen that the shots were a bit blurry round the edges.
  99. I only use 1.8 wide open for extreme isolation, not that I use that much, but 2.8 is the sweet spot for me.

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