My 18-200 lens a bad copy?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by j_w|13, Feb 17, 2010.

  1. It was soooo frustrating using my Nikon 18-200 lens on my recent trip to Havana. I would say that over 90% of my shots has some softness. And nearly every image above 100mm and below 35mm comes out soft. Granted, I just acquired the lens a couple of weeks before the vacation. My Lumix P&S with a 16x zoom puts my 18-200 to shame. Maybe I had a bad copy. The reviews were glowing and it made Ken Rockwell's Top 10 list. I feel so upset that I feel I have to go back and redo some of the shots with a better lens. Below, one shot was made with a Lumix (1/60, f/4, 4.1mm) and the other a D90 with the 18-200 (ISO 200, 1/320, f/8, 31mm). These were unedited. Guess which one was made with which:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Your focus point appears to be all the way down the building at the keystone of the arch. If you want the building in focus from top to bottom, stop down a little. It's conceivable that your lens may be decentered. Is it always out of focus on the same side?
     
  3. Those little panny's can do some really nice stuff sometimes. (I have a zS3.) For summer, not a once in a lifetime photo moment, I'll leave the bigger guns at home.
     
  4. the second one is the 18-200, right?
    after zooming to 100% on your photobucket page, i wouldnt say it's soft, just less contrasty. but if you were shooting at f/8, it's not going to get much sharper, if at all. don't think you have a bad copy; that's just as good as it gets. KR, btw, is almost single-handedly responsible for the 18-200 being $1k for a while, which led to it being totally overrated. even at $650, it's overpriced IMO.
    interestingly enough, i was just in havana recently too. i had a d300, a tamron 17-50 and tokina 12-24--and a lumix lz8. the lumix wasn't sharper than my other two lenses, but did an okay job for snapshots.
    00VnYZ-221601584.jpg
     
  5. Send the lens to Nikon. The Nikon 18-200 VR is capable of far better performance than that.
     
  6. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The reviews were glowing and it made Ken Rockwell's Top 10 list.​
    Paul, you have been a photo.net member for over 10 years. I would imagine that you know which review to trust. Most serious photographers in this forum understand that a 11x zoom has to be a major compromise. I got to talk to a number of people who actually own the 18-200mm/f3.5-5.6 AF-S VR, and pretty much everybody knows that it is soft on the long end. My personal experience with it is similar to Bjorn Rorslett's: http://www.naturfotograf.com/lens_zoom_02.html#AFS18-200VR
    The 18-200 is a great travel lens when convenience trumps absolute quality. Just don't expect miracles.
     
  7. I hate to say this, but if I was taking an awesome trip like that, the very last lens I would bring is a consumer zoom, especially the 18-200.
    An 35/85 prime set would have served you much better.
     
  8. My 18-200 is iffy in the far corners wide open. But your shot shows at f8 and having no corner detail, it looks not so great. The top of that tower while near the edge isn't really in the "corner" I don't think this lens should perform this badly.
     
  9. I know that the 18-200 mm may be soft at the long end, but it seems to me that it can produce rather acceptable results. Several months ago I made this photo of a neighbor's cat using my 18-200 mm, 1/160 at 5.6, Nikon D 50; I cropped this sample at 100 percent (or so I hope)
    00VnbW-221623584.jpg
     
  10. Some time ago I came into possession (through the generosity of a friend) of a AF-S VR Nikkor ED 70-200mm f/2.8G IF, and when the same cat sat on the same fence, I decided to try the great lens. My 100 percent crop doesn't completely correspond to the previous upload, but you may use if for comparison. The weather was usual Monterey in winter: foggy.
    00VnbZ-221625584.jpg
     
  11. I must add that I did much more post-processing with the first shot
     
  12. I agree with Peter. At 31mm , f8, and 1/320, second shutter speed, results should have been far far better.
     
  13. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    BTW, Paul's test images were captured from near the base of some fairly tall buildings, shooting upward. In those cases the bottom of the building is much closer to the camera than the top of the building. You need a lot of depth of field to get the entire building sharp, from top to bottom. It should not be surprising that you don't get sufficient depth of field at f8.
    Recall that in Paul's previous thread on this lens: http://www.photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00Vdf0
    On January 30, I suggested:
    Paul, if you would like to find out whether your lens and camera are fine, you need to reshoot with a flat subject that is completely parallel to your sensor plane.​
    It is failry meaningless to keep judging this lens or for that matter any lens that is not a tilt/shift with subjects that are not even close to parallel to the sensor plane.
     
  14. Which model Lumix? If it's a P&S model with a tiny sensor, sure, you'll get very satisfactory DOF and apparent sharpness stopped down to as little as f/4 with a 4.1mm focal length. The hyperfocal setting is practically irrelevant. With the D90 and any 31mm focal length at f/8, you'd need to carefully estimate the hyperfocal setting to ensure satisfactory results.
    And then you'd need to take into account the in camera processing for each. P&S cameras typically are optimized to produce JPEGs that will satisfy most casual viewers. A dSLR like the D90 would offer many options ranging from near-point-and-shoot ease to the more difficult settings in raw that would demand careful editing to produce optimal results.
    And Photobucket is too slow and awkward to navigate to bother with trying to figure out which shot was taken with which camera, or the EXIF data for each. Of the hosts that offer freebie accounts, Flickr is much better for this sort of use for photo hobbyists.
     
  15. In this previous thread, the OP never provided any info on what are his D90's AF settings:
    http://www.photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00Vdf0
    A piece of equipment's optimal performance can only be achieved when the operator knows how to use it *well*. Without realizing that, he will continue to spin his wheels and blame the equipment.
     
  16. that it can produce rather acceptable results​
    To me that statement is highly (subjective.)
    I bought the 18-200mm VR within months of it's release. I finally got around to selling it recently. The good news is that I only lost 150 bucks in the sale compared to what I paid for it.
    The results for (me) were far from acceptable.
    I probably had the lottery mentality (hope springs eternal) when I made the purchase.
    I don't like changing lenses often, nor do I enjoy 2 camera bodies strapped to my body with pro lenses, so had the 18-200 produced better results, I would have been thrilled.
    What do I do now?...I change lenses.
    As for Mr. Rockwell..well; he seems to like what ever is selling at the moment.
     
  17. If this lens were such a dog, I doubt that Nikon would keep it in their lens line-up. Therefore, I have to believe that the difficulty some people are having with this lens is due to shooting technique. If the OP has been having problems with this or any lens, he should send it back to Nikon to have it examined. If he still can't get acceptable images after it returns, he should sell it or learn how to use it. It may not be the lens for him. To get the most out of the Nikon18-200mm one should have some knowledge of basic photography technique. I'm not trying to say anything pejorative about the OP, but it's time to send the Nikon 18-200 VR in to Nikon to determine if the lens is at fault or the photographer.
     
  18. That lens is known to be somewhat soft at it's best. I had one too. I no longer have it. I replaced mine with the Nikon 16-85. It it much sharper than the 18-200 it replaced.
     
  19. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Robert, the 18-200 is not a "dog," but any 11x zoom has to be seriously compromised optically; there is no way around it. This lens is very popular mainly because of its convenience, not because of its optical quality. I have tested multiple samples; at 200mm, the 18-200 is clearly soft and inferior to the 70-200mm/f2.8 version 1, which itself is not the best 200mm lens to begin with. Chromatic aberration is also a problem throughout its zoom range.
    In two threads, the OP has still not shown even one test sample where the subject is a large flat item that is parallel to the sensor plane. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that there is anything wrong with his lens. I see no point to send it back to Nikon; doing so is merely wasting everybody's time and shipping cost.
     
  20. I agree completely with your assessment of the lens Shun. I wish I had stated it as well.
    However, for the edification of Paul, I would send the lens to Nikon and have it checked out just to eliminate that variable. Subsequent to the return of the lens, the truth of the matter should become all too apparent.
     
  21. http://www.photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00VbcU
    Providing you stop down to f/8 it is not that soft at all.
     
  22. "..a dog"
    Another subjective term.
    To the average photo enthusiast who shoots in program mode, it's fine.
    To the advanced amateur...maybe ok.
    To a working professional?....No way. Ya..a dog in this use.
    If Robert really needs to know, I suggest he rents a pro quality wide angle and compare results.
     
  23. I think the result is quite right with this lens. I agree with the others that said that for shooting a large subject like a building so close, you should have stopped down more, or even focus a little further (the tower maybe? ).
    Edit: Also, Ken Rockwell is not a benchmark, IMHO.
    Edit2: Your Lumix is excused to produce larger depth of field, due to smaller absolute focal length(s).
     
  24. maybe the OP just needs an excuse to go back to Cuba. lol.
    seriously, i think one has to lower one's expectations with the 18-200 VR. if you're expecting prime-like sharpness from an 11x consumer lens and relying on Ren Kockwell's recommendation, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
    OTOH, if you just want to take average pics without the hassle of changing lenses or carrying a lot of kit, the 18-200 is fine.
    not much more that can be said, except that the OP was shooting at f/8, and his results are consistent with most everyone else's experiences with that lens.
     
  25. ...and it made Ken Rockwell's Top 10 list.​
    Hehe *chuckling*, was that the icing on the cake for you? Reading KR can make you feel better about yourself if you shoot film, but that's about the extent of the value. You can use his reviews as just one more point of reference, but everything he says is highly subjective. He doesn't do any real testing, and if he does, he never shows his results. He only says, "I've looked at both examples under the 40x loupe, and I'm telling you, it's sharper." I doubt he actually bothers to inspect samples anymore. He just shoots for a while and then sits in his armchair wearing a red smoker's jacket, with a bourbon in one hand and a cigar in the other, silently reflecting and inventing words to describe his emotion. This gets spewed onto his blog in no discernible order. Most of his reviews are regurgitated from press releases before the product release, anyway.
    Also, you have to be aware of the date of Ken's reviews. He goes through "phases" wherein he will rave about a certain concept while berating all others for a time (i.e. film, cheap glass, expensive glass, all-in-one zooms, primes, pocket flash, Leica, MF SLR's, or the most recent: Canon P&S! Before that it was Casio P&S). I think he likes to focus on one aspect of photography that he feels is being neglected by the commercial market, and push it until he feels he's proven its worth to the world.
     
  26. Granted, I just acquired the lens a couple of weeks before the vacation.​
    1. It's never a good idea to take brand new gear on an important trip.
    2. Did you use VR?
    3. How careful were you about focusing accurately?
    4. Did you expose accurately? Underexposed shots can look "noisy."
    5. How did you sharpen the D90 photos?
    6. DID you sharpen the D90 photos?
    I'm not even going to comment on the Top Ten List that you referenced.
     
  27. Ken Rockwell does show his testing. He's done side by side comparisons of 100% shots of various camera bodies and high ISO, 180-200mm range comparisons, pro midrange zooms, etc.
    The 18-200 VR is perfectly capable of capturing sharp, great looking images if the photographer is knowledgeable enough to be able to use it to its strengths and not try to make it do things it isn't designed to do. If the OP wants to know what the problem here is, he needs to come back and be willing to check a few things. The images he posted could very well be his fault, not the lens.
     
  28. I have the D90 and used to have the 18-200 'till I sold/traded it.
    I'm not a pro photographer, and knew that getting the 18-200 was only for the sake of convenience during travel. Having lowered my expectations for it's performance, I was satisfied with the results. I did, at the same time have a 50mm 1.4D prime, which was just amazing compared to the 18-200...
    Keep in mind though, that as opposed to a regular P&S, you have much more 'control' over your camera settings - which puts more responsibility on you...
     
  29. I feel like I have really not expressed myself very well in this thread.
    Shun,
    I am a fan of the Nikon 18-200mm VR and do not think it is a dog. That's not what I said.
    Kevin,
    If Robert really needs to know, I suggest he rents a pro quality wide angle and compare results.​
    I don't need to rent a lens. I do know the difference, and probably more so than you do.
     
  30. This was my mom's lens. I believe this lens along with her camera fell off the car when backing out of the driveway. Maybe this has something to do with the sub-par performance.
    Yes the second picture was taken with the 18-200.
     
  31. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Shun,
    I am a fan of the Nikon 18-200mm VR and do not think it is a dog. That's not what I said.​
    Robert, I understood exactly what you said. I also would not classify the 18-200 as a "dog."
     
  32. "I believe this lens along with her camera fell off the car when backing out of the driveway. Maybe this has something to do with the sub-par performance."​
    If the lens was dropped it's very likely that optical elements and/or the lens mount were knocked out of alignment. But you would need to conduct a more appropriate test to determine this. It's almost impossible to reach any useful conclusions regarding apparent sharpness from these upward angled photos of buildings.
     
  33. Do you use a tripod for any of your shots?
     
  34. Ummm big factor/Important information you should have disclosed in your post "lens fell off my moms car before trip" Really and you fail to mention this before shaking up the bee hive with your lens assesment?
    That like saying this damn Porshe just doesnt run right, must be a lemon oh by the way I put oil in the gas tank could that affect the way the car runs. Stupid off handed comments are sometimes the basis of unfair condemnation of products and companys who work hard to gain the publics trust.
     
  35. Many factors will effect sharp focus, is this lens going to be as critically sharp as a fixed focus lens probably not. It would really be unrealistic to expect that it would. Is this lens a capable performer yes indeed. Are there better lenses for your Nikon, no question. In the 18-200 range? perhaps, but his lens does wide range quite well. I have over a dozen Nikkors and think the quality of sharpness is quite good.
    Stop down your lens, use a tripod for long shutter speeds it looks like a dark day maybe bumping up the iso was in order and make sure your IS Image Stabilization is switched on when not using a tripod, conversely you must make sure to turn off your IS if the camera is mounted on a tripod. Oh yah one more thing, remember to take the camera off the car before driving.
     
  36. Nothing wrong with the 18-200 shot. Just DOF. remember that, as has been pointed out, the P&S DOF is far greater at any aperture than the DX DOF. Also the set up on most P&S cameras is sharper than the default setting Nikon typically uses.
    I think the problem boils down to technique
     
  37. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Here is a direct A/B comparison between the 18-200 and 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR, Version 1. Everything was captured with a D300S on a Gitzo 1325 tripod with 1-second exposure delay. In the case of the 70-200, I mounted the lens on the tripod.
    The 18-200 I used was a loaner from Nikon; I used that for over a month. That 18-200 is a Version 2, but optically there is no difference between Version 1 and 2. I have used Version 1 also in the past with similar results.
    It is very obvious that the 18-200 is fairly soft at 200mm, and stopping down to f8 does not help much. I also treid it at f11 and it remains soft at f11, but for such as long lens (300mm FX equivalent), even f5.6 is on the slow side. Pay attention to the dark-to-white transition on the vent frame; there is very obvious chromatic aberration for the 18-200.
    The 70-200 is a bit soft at f2.8 but improves a lot by f5.6. Chromatic aberration is much better controlled. Keep in mind that at the time I only had Version 1 of the 70-200. Version 2 is even sharper.
    For more casual photography during travel, it is hard to beat the convenience of the 18-200.
    [​IMG]
    00VoIT-221989584.jpg
     
  38. Thank you for doing this comparison Shun. I'm surprised there is not an improvement in performance of your sample of the Nikon 18-200mm between f5.6 and f8. When using my 18-200mm at 200mm, I get my sharpest images at f11. I set my camera to Aperture priority, use f11 and auto ISO.
    If you have time, what do the results look like at the center of the image?
    At f5.6 the two lenses are not that far apart in performance, in my opinion.
     
  39. Shun , thanks for your test sample. The 18-200 certainly is a little soft.

    A. Dirk , I simply forgot to put that info in my original post. There was no physical damage on the lens itself. In fact, I couldn't figure out if the lens was giving me soft image issues until well after I started shooting with it. I thought it was me, but the more I shot, the more I realized that something didn't seem right. I figured it's either the nature of the lens itself or perhaps a result of some accident.
     
  40. I don't think there's any doubt that a pro grade lens is going to be sharper than the 18-200 at 100%. The real question is "is it sharp enough". Except for the most demanding technical application the performance of the 18-200 at 200mm is certainly good enough.
     
  41. You should find out for sure if Mom dropped the lens and if she did I would suggest you send it in for a checkup. As Shun's super-magnified copyrighted test shots show there isn't enough of a difference between the 18-200 and the expensive f2.8 that would show up in most pictures at regular size. You're Cuba pics should have been better.
     
  42. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Here is the exact same lens and camera at 28mm.
    I have sitting in a Zodiac inflatable boat, hand holding with VR on. There was plenty of light with snow all over. I used 1/1600 sec at f8, ISO 200 on the D300S. I also had a UV filter on to protect the lens since I was at sea.
    On the wide end, I think overall sharpness is quite good, although still not quite the same as high-end lenses. What bothers me most is the chromatic aberration.
    00VoYb-222149684.jpg
     
  43. Paul,
    If your Nikon 18-200 VR fell off your mother's car to the ground, it could and probably did sustain damage, even if not visible on the outside. The Nikon 18-200 VR is an extremely complicated optical design and an impact to the lens could have knocked one or more lens elements out of alignment, at the least. You really should send the lens to Nikon to have it checked out. You might as well send the camera, too as that may have sustained damage as well.
     
  44. Shun,
    Another positive aspect about having the Nikon 18-200mm VR is that it transports you to beautiful exotic places.
    On a more serious note, I think this example shows how the Nikon 18-200 f3.5-5.6 can shine as a all-around, walk-around or float-around lens.
    The below snapshot was taken with a Nikon D70, Nikon 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 VR, 40mm, f4.5@ 1/20sec (VR on).
    00VoZx-222153584.jpg
     
  45. This week, I will entertain myself and all of you with some sample shots comparing my ancient 200/4 AI and my 18-200. Any bets?
     
  46. As long as you shoot your ancient 200mm f4 AI at between 18-150mm. Oh, that's right, it can't do that. ;-)
     
  47. The 18-200 is worst at 200, so this will be an easy contest in favor of the 200mm AI.
     
  48. This lens will be fine for those who post pics on the internet or don't enlarge more than 8x10, but anything larger & the image quality really suffers. I typically print to approx 12x18 & sometimes much larger & found this lens to be soft in comparison to either my 16-85 VR or 70-300 VRll, both of which are satisfactory. I shoot for competition, & good image quality is mandatory. I owned my 18-200 for only a few weeks when I found it just didn't measure up to what I needed. I replaced it with the 16-85 which provides MUCH better results. I always have my camera mounted on a heavy tripod. mirror locked up & shutter released with a cable release. If you only plan on hand holding the camera while shooting, this lens will be fine.
     
  49. When looking at the side by side images provided by Shun Cheung, look at the stucco wall at f8. That softness is there throughout the entire image, just better seen because it's a texture. To me, that softness is totally unexceptable. That is one of the factors that separates a great image from an ok image. You decide what's important to you.
     
  50. The biggest factors that separate a great image from an OK one are lighting and composition. The way textures look blown up bigger than an 11x14 print can render are way down the list.
     
  51. I repeat,"one of the factors in a great image is the picture quality". Lighting & composition are not factors in the case of a soft lens. I don't disagree with Stephen Worth, however the original posters question was in regards to image quality based on a particular lens. Lighting & composition is another subject that the original poster was not seeking advice on.
     
  52. Ron,
    I suspect there is something amiss with the lens sample that Shun has. Sharpness, seems to me to be worse at f8 than at f5.6. At 200mm, my sample of the Nikon 18-200mm steadily improves in sharpness from wide open to f11, where sharpness peaks. Beyond f11, diffraction is a factor with my lens.
     
  53. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Robert, it is very well known among owners of the 18-200 that it is weak on the long end. My test results is consistent with Bjorn Rorslett's. If you have different experience with yours, it would be nice for you to post some test results yourself.
     
  54. Hi Shun,
    I have just read Bjorn Rorslett's review and I totally agree with his assessment. I also stipulate that the 200mm end of my Nikon 18-200mm is the weakest part of the focal range, performance wise.
     
  55. "This lens will be fine for those who post pics on the internet or don't enlarge more than 8x10, but anything larger & the image quality really suffers. ..."
    BAAAloney! The 18-200 may not be a "pro" lens but it certainly can do better than "internet" quality photos and print larger than 8 x 10. Often it seems like critics of the lower end Nikkors feel a need to justify what they spend on the much more expensive glass.
    The fact that the lens was dropped prior to the trip tends to queer and results and should have been mentioned in the initial post.
     
  56. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    it certainly can do better than "internet" quality photos and print larger than 8 x 10​
    Wayne, this type of description is largely meaningless anyway. Once I printed an 8x10 from a friend's JPEG captured with some 6M digicam a few years ago, and that 8x10 looks ok.
    As I demonstrated earlier, the 18-200 is a decent lens on the wide end. Its serious problem is near 200mm. Any good review should immediately point out such differences as Bjorn Rorslett does. You can make some nice large prints with images from this lens at 24mm, but that says nothing about 200mm.
     
  57. I must have had ANOTHER one of Nikons "spotty" lenses. My sample provided "nice" pictures beyond 8x10 enlargements, but was FAR from what I'd call sharp. Every pic can be improved in sharpness in Photoshop & I do, however that is NOT a substitute for poor lens performance. My sample lens never came near to being as sharp at even 70mm@f11 as my Nikon 35-70/2.8 AFD, Nikon 70-300 4.5-5.6 VRll or Nikon 16-85/3.5-5.6 VR at 70mm/f11. I always shoot using a Manfrotto 3051 tripod (center column NOT extended), Kirk medium ball head, mirror locked up & a cable release. Mine was purchased new & was never dropped or banged. Mine must have been just ANOTHER poor sample.
     
  58. You know, it took me the longest time to figure it out and I feel dumb. But it was my D90 that was defective. After doing tests with different cameras and different lens, sure enough it was the camera. I purchased it off eBay last October used and thought I got a deal.
     

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