More "Freaky Sharp" lens like the Nikon 70-200 2.8?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by kane_engelbert, Apr 4, 2009.

  1. I don't really know how to explain the level of sharpness my Nikon 70-200 2.8 vr lens performs, so I'll just call it "freaky sharp." There is a big-time "Wow" factor when I view images with this lens. This lens simply blows away my Tokina 11-16 and my 16-85vr, two lens that are supposed to be as sharp as there is. There just isn't any comparison and quite frankly I've already begun to think of upgrading.
    I've already explained to my wife that if I ever have to sell this lens I'll quit taking pictures forever.
    First do any of you feel the same about your 70-200?
    Also, if this lens is in its own world above the rest, what other lens do you feel are right there with this one?
    More specifically, I was wondering about the Nikon 17-55 2.8. I wouldn't have a problem selling the 16-85 and paying the differance to pick up a freaky sharp mid-range zoom. I won't miss the 55-70 range.
  2. Try a prime. Any of the 85mm or 50mm primes should make you say "wow" beyond what the zoom did.
  3. I haven't used the 70-200 VR, but I've experienced the same reaction when using the AF 35mm f/2D, AF 50mm f1.8 and AF 85mm f/1.8D lenses on DSLRs. It's not so much a sharpness thing, but "clean" - for lack of a better word.
  4. 180mm f2.8 af - freaky
    50mm f1.8 af (made in japan) - freaky
  5. Kane,
    I have also experienced the WOW factor of the 70-200mm Nikkor but only on occasions when I have all elements like composition and exposure etc just to my taste - there is a certain clarity to these WOW factor images, sharpness is not the only thing in play from this particular lens, there is a subjective degree of clarity and subtle contrast in which the way the lens renders some images. Without gushing overly about bokeh, the relationship between the subject matter and the way this lens particular lens renders out of focus backdrops is on occasion, at an elevated aethically pleasing level.
    Having used the 17-55mm DX extensively on DX bodies, I can't report the same WOW factor - only consistant edge to edge sharpness with excellent colour reproduction and brilliant contrast representation. It never gave me an emotive WOW feeling in the few years I used it, but is an excellent zoom for closer distance photographic material.
    I've trailed on an all too brief basis the AF-D 85mm f1/4 - it gave me the similar WOW factor as the 70-200mm lens does on occasion. I own the 85mm f/1/8 and it's again a consistant, solid performer but lacks the subjective WOW factor for me.
  6. The 35/1.4 AIS outresolves the D3X at f/4. So does the CoastalOpt 60/4 APO at f/5.6, 85/1 Repro-Nikkor at f/1, and a few other lenses as well. I'd guess one could designate that "freaky" for the lack of a better phrase.
  7. I have the 16-85 and it is every bit as sharp on my D90 as any of the primes mentioned - in fact, it was better than my 50/1.8 and I felt it also had the edge over the 35/2, 50/1.4 and 85/1.8. It is my favorite lens and an abolute knockout when contrast/color qualities are taken into account. So I wonder when I see the 70-200 described as being considerably better than the 16-85, while others describe the primes as better than the 70-200.
    If you look at the few actual tests of these various lenses, the 16-85 holds its own against just about anything on DX, including the 17-55 and the various primes mentioned, while the 70-200 is one of the few superlative lenses that surpasses them all - by a bit. This is for pure sharpness of course, with the emphasis on the resolution tests performed at but also taking into account various more subjective evaluations. Since my own observations, generally, match these tested results, I tend to consider the combination of the two fairly reliable, at least from my own personal perspective.
    I've been trying to get my hands on a 70-200 to try out. I think of this as an "honorary-DX" lens as it has commonly attributed imperfections on FX but has been universally lauded on DX. I have an 80-200/2.8 AF-D and consider it excellent, but if I had to rate it for pure sharpness next to the 16-85 it would probably not come out ahead.
    I would also be rather interested in hearing educated opinions concerning the relative performance qualities of these various lenses, with the caveat that I've noticed that a lot of opinions on the 16-85 seem to come from people who don't own it and "assume" typical consumer-lens image quality. People who've used this lens on the other hand often love it, and I'm among them. It's VERY sharp, has a great range and has significantly better
    VR than other VR lenses I've used.
  8. If you are talking zooms, some would say the 24-70 belongs in that group but for those I know who have used the 14-24, they always seem to call it freaky. The 17-55 seems to fall into the same group as the 17-35....... very excellent lens but not what one would call freaky.
  9. 24-70mm f/2.8AF-S, 85mm f/1.4AF, 105mm f/2 DC, 180mm f/2.8AF ED IF, 105mm f/2.5 AIS, 55mm f/2.8 AIS; and a few more.
    What other lenses have you shot with other than your 70-200VR, 16-85VR, and Tokina 11-16? Nikon's got a pretty big lens inventory...
  10. I got to use a 14-24mm f2.8, and it is stunning. It's on my list as "must have" when I eventually buy a D700 or whatever. I bought a Nikon 70-200mm VR to replace the single focal lenses I had been using and agree it's a huge leap. One thing I'll mention about lenses though. I now have mostly all pro level fast zooms, and they do perform for me. They are sharp, well built, control flare & CA well, and give good images. However, they have a drawback. They are heavy & bulky. While I probably have the bag full of lenses you are wanting, recently I have been looking at buying either a 16-85mm VR or 18-105mm VR from eBay. Wife decided we are going to DisneyWorld (again!) next month, and I just refuse to carry the bulky lenses around. Or, my D300. I'm thinking of just bringing my D80 and an 18-105mm VR or something. When I look at lenses, I consider the JOB that I want them to do, not just the technical performance. Consider keeping the 16-85mm VR.

    Kent in SD
  11. Be careful how you compare sharpness of different focal length lenses. I suspect your reactions to the 85/1.4 and 200/2 would be "freaky" squared!
  12. I think the AF-S 60 micro and the 105 VR micro should both be sharper than the zoom(s). They're sharper than my 24-70 f/2.8, which's already very sharp. The lowly Chinese made 50 f/1.8 is also extremely sharp at f/4 to f/8: definitely worth its price.
  13. Get some good macro lenses. Or a 85/2.8 PC Nikkor (or any of the more modern 85 mm Nikkors for that matter). Or a Zeiss macro. I hear the Zeiss 21/2.8 is pretty awesome, but haven't seen it myself.
  14. Kane, part of your impression of the 70-200/2.8 VR may be influenced by the ability of any good, sharp, fast telephoto lens to separate the main subject from an out-of-focus background. There are several teles and tele-zooms that can provide that impression.
    It's tougher with shorter focal lengths and midrange or wide angle zooms. To get a comparable separation between subject and out-of-focus background you'd need to concentrate on closeups and be sure the background has enough distance to be out of focus at the desired aperture for the main subject.
  15. I have the same wow feeling like you. The only drawback is that it's heavy and bulky. The only lenses I have used with the same feeling are 50/1,8 (better than 50/1,4) and 24-70/2,8. Unfortunately there is a back focus problem with 24-70 in every DX body so I changed it with 17-55/2,8.

    17-55 is a very good lens but not so tack sharp like the others. There is also the drawback of no VR.

    Finally I use 18-200VR for common photography, together with Tokina 12-24 and Nikon 50/1,8.

    When I need the extra quality I use 17-55 and 70-200.
    The 55-70 gap is not at all a problem.

    By my opinion 50/1,8 is the best of the bests.
    PS. I tried a week to fine tune 24-70, on my D300, with no result. I always use D80 as a spare body and sometimes as my first option during holidays (weight).
  16. I can attest to the 50mm f/1.8 (China made) and the 135mm f/2
    Even at f/2something, the 50mm is very nice, with great boke.
    Then there's the 135mm f/2, which is... well, the sharpest lens i've ever used.
    It's incredible.
  17. Thanks to all of you for the excellent feedback. In all, I got my answer (and more) to my 17-55 question. I'll keep my 16-85. That will save me 500.00.
  18. Before Nikon introduced the FX platform, all of my zoom lenses were for the DX platform. Among the wide zooms, I can say that the 17-55mm/2.8G is the sharpest lens. That's a bread+butter mid-range for the pros. To say the least, Nikon did not withhold any of the latest technologies in that lens.
  19. This is comparing them on a Non full frame DSLR like the (D300).
    The thing about the 70-200VR for me was the color/contrast. The sharpness of my copy stopped down to around f4 is very good with excellent bokeh. I wouldn't classify it as freaky sharp, but it's sharp. Could be my copy?
    As others have said, the inexpensive 50 1.8 is a freaky sharp lens and IMO the cost of it makes it even more freaky:). Though the Bokeh isn't as good as the 50 1:4 it's still an amazing lens.
    I went through 3 copies of the 17-55 f2.8 lenses before I found one I wanted. Yes, it's a freaky sharp lens even wideopen and good to f11 or thereabouts on the D300. Center of frame is pretty darn freeky and not to bad at the edges stopped down a bit.
    The 24-70 f2.8 backfocused and after it returned from Nikon El Segundo it was freaky sharp throughout the frame. I like this lens a lot and it put the 17-55 on my wifes camera.
    My 300VR f2.8 isn't razor sharp wideopen. Stopped down one stop it's very sharp but not freeky sharp. For the price is should be.
    On my D3 the 24-70 and 300VR are super freeky and freaky sharp:). The 70-200VR, as for sharpness on the D3 is better, but still doesn't hit the freaky level.
  20. Kane, part of your impression of the 70-200/2.8 VR may be influenced by the ability of any good, sharp, fast telephoto lens to separate the main subject from an out-of-focus background. There are several teles and tele-zooms that can provide that impression.​
    This is a very good point is one of the reasons why I like using medium format for getting a better separation between subject and background.
  21. I'm betting that the "wow factor" has more to do with the way the focal length affects the perspective and focus depth than the sharpness. The 11-16 is a super sharp lens. If you aren't getting great results from it, something is wrong. Try composing with something in the extreme foreground for a contrast in perspective. That should do the trick. Ultra wides aren't good when everything is equally far away.
  22. I have to go along with Kane. But the 70-210 F4 is even sharper.
    One thing to bear in mind in buying used Nikon your research first. Also appreciate that from time to time the older production processes were capable of delivering a dud. Amongst Nikonians, the outstanding lenses are well known and documented. The prices are stable and firm. If you see a bargain, then be careful.
  23. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Kane, when you have a chance, try out the 200mm/f2 AF-S VR or 300mm/f2.8 AF-S, or perhaps just the 300mm/f4 AF-S on a sturdy tripod. Once you have tried those, your impression of the 70-200mm/2.8 may change, perhaps a lot.
    I happen to think the 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR is a fine lens and I use it a lot, and even the corner issues on FX don't bother me much. However, in terms of sharpness, it is nowhere among the best.
  24. Yes "Freaky Sharp" , I have one it's sharp sharp sharp !
  25. The 14-24mm is indeed frighteningly sharp corner to corner wide open.
    The 180mm f/2.8d is also scary sharp and has bokeh to match.
  26. The Nikon 16-85mm VR is wonderful, as are the new 35mm 1.8, and the 105mm VR makro.
    I like your wording: Freaky Sharp. This is just a wonderful phrase!
  27. The 50mm F1.8 makes a great walking around lens... On my D700 it makes it feel actually light... On my D50 it makes it feel like a feather...
  28. Kane, do you have some samples? I have both the 80-200 AF-D (two-ring) and the 70-200 and I wonder if post like yours are not causing me to have unrealistic expectations. I came to the zooms after years of shooting very nice primes, and I have to say that my impressions of the 70-200 are closer to Shun's; it's sharp, but not at blow-me-away levels.
    Here are some of my samples:
    I wonder if the novelty factor is at play? For example, I consider the 17-35 to be extremely impressive, more so than the 70-200, but then I've never shot at those focal lengths until I went to FX.
  29. Tuyen Tran ,
    I shoot landscape, so that's what I know. Here's a few images from the past few weeks that hopefully speak to the resolution of the 70-200 lens. I may be setting myself up for a flaming but to me these shots show detail I've never had before with my past zooms.
    First, I have never shot the 80-200, so I don't know what that looks like. Second, I upgraded from the 18-200vr to 55-200vr to 70-300vr to 70-200 vr. These lens are what I know and what I can compare to. The following images are all stitch's but will show the 'freaky' detail I'm not used to.
    All images are scaled down for internet. Have a look at the trees in these images. #1 shows intricate rock and tree detail. #3 shows black and white, look close at the trees and the tree shadows. #4 shows the brilliant color.
  30. I upgraded from the 18-200vr to 55-200vr to 70-300vr to 70-200 vr​
    Kane, far be it for me to bust your 'freaky' bubble but of course the 70-200VR will look freaky sharp compared to a handful of consumer zooms. After all, it costs 3-4 times as much. For that kind of money, it sure should be a whole lot better in many areas.
    Indeed, there are dozens of lenses out there much sharper than those you mentioned and some are less expensive than your previous zooms. But hey, enjoy your freaky lens. That's what this is all about.
  31. Kane, thank you for the samples. I think you have a freaky sharp lens AND great pano technique. The detail in those shots are quite amazing. (If you click on Kane's samples, be sure to zoom in -- I'm using Safari so YMMV.)
  32. The sharpest Nikkor I've used is the 135mm f2.8 AIS. Small, light, built-in hood in a great mechanical pkg. I bought it as part of a camera pkg and didn't think much of it nor did I plan on using it that much. After using Color/contrast is wonderful.
  33. Kane, I like your pano landscapes very much. (Having a place to stand is part of that isn't it?) Can you tell us something about the stitches that resulted in the photos? Vertical shots? How much overlap? Camera support?
    Dave Ralph
  34. I do feel the same way about my 70-200 2.8 VR it has been extremly sharp on my D700. I love that lens along with my Sigma 105 macro which is extremely sharp as well.

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