Nikkor 300/4 PF VR firmware fix: sample image comparisons to pre-firmware fix version

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by alan_wilder|1, May 5, 2015.

  1. Having returned my first 300/4 PF VR for refund that demonstrated insufficient VR compensation at speeds like 1/160 sec, I recently took delivery on a later version with the firmware fix (after ser. # after 205101). The problem has improved by about 50% but not completely corrected. In fairness to Nikon, they stated: "Depending upon the way the camera is held when shooting, or the shooting conditions, images may be blurred even after this lens firmware is updated". As with the first lens, VR was a better performer at speeds like 1/25 or 1/40 than say 1/100-1/180. Sample VR images as follows. Here is the first lens @1/100 before the "firmware fix".
    00dHA6-556639584.jpg
     
  2. Post firmware fix @1/100
    00dHA7-556639684.jpg
     
  3. Pre-firmware fix @1/160
    00dHA9-556639784.JPG
     
  4. Post firmware fix @1/160
    00dHAA-556639884.jpg
     
  5. Pre-firmware fix @ 1/200
    00dHAD-556640084.jpg
     
  6. Post-firmware fix @ 1/200
    00dHAF-556640184.jpg
     
  7. Lastly, no VR at 1/100
    00dHAG-556640284.JPG
     
  8. Could you remind me which body you're using this on?
    Out of curiosity, if you took the with Fixed VR @ 1/160 a couple of times do the movement 'smears' have the same angle, ie your movement, or is there a more even 'fuzz' of VR prism shake? I'm wondering if it goes smear, smear, fuzz, fuzz, smear, smear as you pass through the danger zone speed-wise? Kinda if the vibration harmonic is body weight/lens weight dependant. Not brilliantly explained, but I hope you get what I mean!
     
  9. Shot with a D750 and camera was held horizontally on all shots. Fairly consistent vertical double image effect rather than random movement blur as when the VR is turned off. More shooting down the road will determine if the same occurs when the camera is held vertically.
     
  10. thank you for this.
    does not look good, at all...
     
  11. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Alan, thanks for the samples. So the firmware update affects the D750 also, not only the D800/D810 as Nikon suggests. Are your images pixel-level crops, or what percentage of the frames are they?

    My typical application for that lens would be birds in flight or outdoor sports. Shutter speed is probably 1/1000 sec or
    faster with VR off. 300mm maybe a bit short for those purposes. For indoors, f4 is on the slow side.
     
  12. Now I have a headache. This is not impressive at all. Honestly, I get better results using my old MF 300/4.5. I have found VR to be helpful at times with slower shutter speeds and shorter lenses but it isn't my favorite feature.

    Rick H.
     
  13. Thanks for posting these images. It seems the improvement due to the firmware fix is clearly visible, though from such a small number of images it is not possible to get a complete picture as hand-held shots with or without VR tend to vary in sharpness from shot to shot. I assume you posted "typical" results that you've observed.
    With VR the goal of the designers was to reduce vibration due to hand shake to allow slower speeds to be used hand-held than otherwise possible. However, the lens VR performance is evaluated with CIPA standard tests, which involve evaluation of fairly low resolution images.
    http://www.cipa.jp/image-stabilization/documents_e/DC-X011-2012_E.pdf
    If the circle of confusion used to determine acceptable sharpness in testing the performance of the VR system is set to 63 um as in the CIPA draft, that's about 10 pixels in a D750 image. Thus an image that has blur circle of confusion smaller than 10 pixels is regarded as acceptable in terms of its sharpness for the purposes of the CIPA testing of VR performance. With this in mind, it is not surprising why a lot of photographers report less benefit from the VR system than the CIPA rating in the lens specifications, as they expect the images to be sharp to the level of individual pixels, which may not necessarily be the goal of the VR system designers, or at least the standard that was devised to evaluate VR performance. (If someone is intimately familiar with the testing method please comment. I just had a quick look at the document.) I think the actual designers of the lenses do aim to make the vibration reduction as effective as possible, but measurement of acceleration / angular velocity has finite precision and compensation is imperfect as well, so in practice VR is closer to achieving the "good enough for small prints" goal than "get the very best sharpness out of a given lens". Personally I can accept that, and use VR where it contributes positively, but otherwise I typically keep it off.
    For me, most of the applications for a 300mm lens call for the use of shutter speeds in the ball park of 1/500s or faster (in case the subject is clearly active, such as a walking person) or for relatively stationary, but still living subjects (e.g. someone playing or performing at a concert) in which case 1/320s or 1/250s should still give a good results with some consistency, and occasionally 1/200s may be needed because of low light conditions, but 1/125s or 1/160s are clearly within the range where the subject movement will blur the images with a high probability, and VR can't really cure that. With the AF-S 300mm f/4D, I typically hand hold at 1/1000s or faster, as even 1/500s would result in clearly reduced sharpness in the case of human subjects walking; they don't even have to be running. Thus if I'm able to hand hold at 1/500s and 1/250s and get good results, as I can with the 300mm PF, with VR on, VR does increase the practical usefulness of the lens, even without the firmware fix. However, of course, if I buy the lens, I want it to have the latest firmware so that it performs as well as it can, if only for those occasional 1/200s shots.
    I'm wondering if any of the forum contributors here have the 300mm PF along with the TC-14E (any version)? I think in many outdoor stage situations the 300/4D by itself was easy enough to use, but with the TC-14E II, I could not get good results as there was simply not enough light in the stage that is in shade, especially towards the evening, and with the TC it was better to stop down to f/8 which was the final nail in the coffin. I believe from e.g. the cameralabs.com tests, that the PF version should give quite good center sharpness with the TC-14E III (which is what I currently use with other lenses, though not with the 300mm f/4D since they're not really compatible), but how is the VR performance with the TC attached? Does the presence of the TC shift the window of shutter speeds where the VR works well? With the 200/2 + TC-20E III, I got good results at f/5.6, 400mm, using shutter speeds of about 1/320s with VR on, and that setup is usable, but after 20 min of shooting that rig hand-held, my hands will shake like crazy. ;-) (Yes, I know it screams for a monopod, but I need to do it hand-held in some situations). Even though I felt the results at 1/320s were acceptable, the sharpness did visibly improve when the setup was mounted on a tripod, so there is clearly room for improvement, and hand-holding a heavy 400mm setup is not the way to get the best possible sharpness. At 200mm and 280mm it is much easier to use that lens hand-held, and nowadays I've had enough practice with it that the bare lens is easy enough. Now, what the 300mm PF brings to the table for me, is that it is likely to give better image quality at 420mm, and 300mm, and is extremely portable and easy to travel with. However, I don't expect hand-held results at medium speeds to be "tripod sharp" at these focal lengths, no matter what the lens is and however good its VR system is. It just isn't a realistic expectation, especially at 400mm.
    My recommendation is not to judge the 300mm PF based on its VR performance alone, but consider the whole package.
     
  14. Thanks for posting Alan. I agree with Norbert, this doesn't look good at all. You don't have a single shot up there that looks acceptable. Glad I held on to my AFS 300 f4.
     
  15. It may look bad to some because cropping was around 100% on a subject about 50' away on single shot mode in order to demonstrate image detail with VR engaged. This is what you'd likely at 100% with the camera's LCD screen on playback. Uncropped, the image is far more acceptable especially if making a print. I don't know if shooting vertical camera orientation reduces the effect or more importantly for me, when shooting at continuous high for BIF. I wonder how their 300/2.8 VR does under similar circumstances, i.e. at 100% crop? Are these images rock steady as if mounted on a tripod or is the a little image degradation handheld on VR? All things considered, I'd certainly take this lens over my previous 300/4 AFS for size reduction alone. The VR feature would be invaluable shooting a concert handheld at speeds like 1/50 sec. because it delivers tack sharp images at these low shutter speeds.
     
  16. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    To properly evaluate VR, you need to shoot a series of images, at least 10 but perhaps 20, 50 ... to see how well VR performs overall. Here we are focusing on a few shutter speeds that are known to cause ineffective VR.
    As I said, to me, VR on a 300mm/f4 is not a critical issue. For action photography, the main issue is subject motion, where you are going to use a much higher shutter speed anyway. f4 is too small an aperture for serious indoor photography.
    To me, the main "problem" for the 300mm/f4 PF is that it is difficult to justify its cost. Clearly it is small and light for a long tele, but even the old 300mm/f4 AF-S is very easy to hand hold and optically excellent. The main drawback for the old version is slow AF and a poor tripod collar, but at half the cost, it is far more cost effective.
    If you want to use a 300mm under dim light, most likely you'll need a 300mm/f2.8 AF-S on a monopod or tripod. Otherwise, a 400mm/f4 PF lens similar to the DO lens Canon makes will really show the size and weight reduction of DO/PF, but the price is likely going to be drastically higher than $2000, also similar to the Canon lens.
     
  17. I certainly agree with Shun that a 300/2.8 VR II would be preferable in low light to minimize blur due to subject motion as obviously VR does nothing to mitigate this issue. Additionally the f/2.8 version's VR goes down to 4 stops compared to the f/4 version of 4.5 stop gain so in this issue, the f/2.8 is still slightly ahead. I'm curious if the 300/2.8 images at for example 1/160 show a similar slight "double image" phenomenon as the f/4 version.
     
  18. Interestingly, some users are now reporting on other forums that at least some of the VR PF 300/4E's require a printed circuit board to be replaced in addition to the firmware install, and this is all part of the service.
    I think the VR 300/2.8 II would give a bit better results at medium speeds (i.e. 1/60s to 1/200s) because it is a much heavier lens and as such the rig is stabilized by the mass. As long as the photographer can handle the lens comfortably and don't start shaking a lot because of the weight. :) However, I think most of the time with a 300/2.8 you'd want to use a monopod or tripod to hold the weight of the lens. This in turn imposes some limitations on how the lens can be used.
     
  19. I'm surprised that firmware can affect the VR capabilities of a lens at all. That implies that there's some CPU control in the servo loop between motion sensing and prism activation. That, to me, ain't good. By the time the motion sensor output has been digitised and a small CPU has calculated the feedback needed, via some lookup table or whatever, then turned it back into a sequence of stepper signals, it's all too late and never going to be as good as a real-time analogue servo-loop. Or even a non-electronic gimbal system.
    I also agree that a small sample of handheld shots is no true test of VR efficacy. By its very nature the shake produced by handholding is random in direction and variable in intensity, so there's naturally going to be a difference from shot to shot if the VR isn't 100% effective. Without a repeatable mechanical "shake rig" of some sort it's difficult to tell if this so-called firmware fix has been effective, and by how much.
     
  20. It's not (in all cases) just firmware, several users have reported that Nikon told them that a PCB inside the lens was exchanged as well. A microcontroller or -computer runs the VR algorithm. The measured acceleration data has noise and the control feedback needs to filter this noise and estimate a (statistically) optimal value for the adjustment of the VR lens group position. Stepper motors are not used in VR systems, rather they are voice coil motors. Since it is digital, adjustments can be made to the algorithm by changing parameters of the filter and control system. There are also different algorithms used for the viewing / composition, and during the actual exposure. I think this kind of a system would be difficult to implement using analog electronics and it would be sensitive to slight variations in component parameters, temperature, etc. With an analog control system, every lens would be different in its behaviour, which is probably what the manufacturers try to avoid like the plague. My experience with an analog PID control circuit was very discouraging; it is much easier to adjust and optimize the functioning of a digital system and get it stable. If it uses an optimal filter, the control system algorithm does compensate for the lag between the measurement and control operations, to avoid systematically being "behind" in the control operations, but it cannot do this perfectly since the movement of the rig in the immediate future is impossible to predict with certainty (it can be estimated based on prior acceleration data and some statistical criteria).
    VR systems have finite precision and they do introduce some slight blur of their own, but on the spatial scale of the corrected vibrations at slow shutter speeds, the effect is small. For sharpness on the spatial scale of individual pixels, use a tripod and/or fast shutter speed and turn VR off.
     
  21. firmware.
    it got better, alright.
    with all that in consonsideration.
    yesterday i was out taking photos of a grey heron at dusk.
    let me check my stats.
    iso 2.5k, f2.8, 1/100, -2.3 EV.
    switching to f4 would give me 1/60

    half an hour before that i am at 1/160..
    so basically for one hour a day you are in the sweet spot of this lens. ha ha ha.
    considering the entire package would mean to me, as it is now, this lens is not a worth consideration...at all!
    sorry..
    a used 200-400, which might have its issues too and comming at a higher price and weight is a different topic,it however still seems to be a better choice overall. at least to me.
    and no, i am not saying what lens it was as it is not mine and i now got reallllly long teeth...really...jeez.
     
  22. so basically for one hour a day you are in the sweet spot of this lens.
    I never could understand what the purpose of limiting photography to some specific time of day is. Direct midday sun can be harsh, but if there are clouds / fog / tree cover / building shade / rain / snow, the light is no longer harsh. If you do it to get sunset / sunrise colours, what about some variety? I think there can be such a thing as "too much of a sweet thing". Maybe there is some location specific factor which I'm unaware of. ;-)
    sorry..
    I don't see how anyone could be offended by another photographer's lens choices. ;-)
     
  23. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    yesterday i was out taking photos of a grey heron at dusk.
    let me check my stats.
    iso 2.5k, f2.8, 1/100, -2.3 EV.
    switching to f4 would give me 1/60

    half an hour before that i am at 1/160..
    so basically for one hour a day you are in the sweet spot of this lens. ha ha ha.​
    ISO 2500?
    Sunny 16 tells us that at ISO 2500, you can shoot @ f16 and 1/2500 sec under the full sun. f4 is 4 stops brighter than f16, and 1/160 sec is another 4 stops slower than 1/2500 sec. 4+4 you are talking about 8 to 9 stops darker than sunny 16. I wouldn't bother to shoot when it is so dim unless you are shooting nocturnal animals, because the quality of light is simply too poor, or I would add some external flash. Needless to say, when you are down to 1/160 sec and 1/60 sec, you'll have all sorts of issues with animal subject motions, for one full hour. It is not a realistic setting I would use.
    I captured the attached image last Sunday (May 3) at 7:15pm (19:15). We had early dinner that evening at 6pm, and we went back out to shoot after dinner. As the sun was setting, I managed to use auto ISO with the shutter speed limited to no slower than 1/1600 sec to freeze any motion, and it was still f4.5 and 1/1600 sec.
    And my lens was a much longer 500mm/f4 AF-S version 1. There is no VR, which wouldn't be necessary anyway @ 1/1600 sec, and the lens on a big tripod.
    00dHIL-556658284.jpg
     
  24. dark trees, swampy water, white grey bird, after sunset, blue hour.
    i am not talking sun.
    my setting was forced by light.
    period.
    if you have to go to iso 2.5k to get 1/100@-2.3EV @ f2.8 @ 400mm what do you do.
    animal stands still and barley moves...and yes..it is dark in between dark trees and there is a white bird.
    expose for the bright parts, lose all the detail there is to the dark ones...well..go somewhere in between and go for -2.3 EV instead of -4, which would have been good rendering of the white feathers, as the historgam suggested.
    i do know what i am doing...
    and i do know about the sunny 16 rule, too
    i do not like to shoot full out sun because usually it just does render stuff deifferently and therefore does not look
    good enough...i am looking for moody stuff. of course i do shoot fullout sun..i shoot everything..

    quality of light..blablabla whatever.
    in any case...with the 300 f3 pf df whatever thingy the vr probably would have f-ed up the imaged.
    awesome.
    considering a 70-200 instead would be my advice.get a 1.4 and images will be better.
    almost
    ..sharper
     
  25. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Norbert, do you use tripods?
    And if the animal is standing so still and you have time to prepare, do you have to use 1/60 sec while you know very well that VR on that lens actually works better at 1/30 sec? Somehow you just have to use between 1/60 and 1/160 so that VR gives you maximum problems (and you have something to complain about) but never 1/30 sec or 1/250 sec. And you also cannot adjust your ISO higher or lower to stay away from that "sweet spot" shutter speed range??
    When I tested the 70-200mm/f4 AF-S VR and 80-400mm AF-S VR, I was amazed how well VR works at 1/20 sec on those lenses. (And now I own both of those lenses but not the 300mm/f4 PF.) Unfortunately, to me such great VR capability is not particularly useful as my subjects are rarely so still, especially my typical subjects for the 80-400.
    In any case, Nikon does provide an optional tripod collar on the three lenses I mention here for good reasons. When you can use a tripod, it usually beats VR. Sometimes the environment doesn't allow tripods or monopods; sometimes we are just too lazy to use one.
     
  26. I think I'll stick with my Tamron SP 70-300mm VC zoom thanks, even though it's only f/5.6 at maximum FL. If the VR is, say, two stops worse on an f/4 lens, then you gain nothing by having that extra stop of aperture - provided the subject is fairly static of course.
    Below is a handheld shot at over 50' (according to the lens distance scale) using the Tamron. The shutter speed was 1/160th, and despite the weather being dull and overcast I was able to use an aperture of f/8 at 200 ISO on my D800. The RAW file was processed and re-sized to the equivalent of a D750 before being 100% cropped. The complete frame is inset. All that's been done to the image is some tone-curve and WB adjustment and a small amount of USM applied in NX2 before resizing in IrfanView.
    I've noticed that my handholding is getting quite shaky lately as well. Much worse than it used to be. Tempus fugit!
    FWIW, I didn't even notice that a fly had crawled onto the top-left of the alarm box until I was viewing the image on my laptop. It was far too small to see in the camera viewfinder anyway.
    00dHNv-556676184.jpg
     
  27. My recommendation is not to judge the 300mm PF based on its VR performance alone, but consider the whole package.
    As I said, to me, VR on a 300mm/f4 is not a critical issue.​
    Whether VR is a critical issue or not (that's a personal preference and not everyone is concerned with shutter speeds fast enough to freeze motion) - Nikon advertises up to 4.5 stops gain through the use of VR on the 300 - so it damn well better delivers on that promise (and yes, I am well aware that under certain circumstances, even with VR images can be blurry (not talking subject motion here)). After all, the price includes the VR and I haven't heard Nikon giving discounts because a lens features doesn't work as advertised. I haven't even seen the lens yet - so I can't comment based on my own experience - but the images that Alan shows are unacceptable and I would return the lens instantly.
    I had considered the 300 mainly because of its compact size and light weight - but as Shun correctly points out (though for other reasons), it is hard to justify the cost for a 300/4 lens. Whether I cannot or will not use a tripod in some situations shouldn't distract from the fact that in a rather broad shutter speed range, the lens' VR does not perform. Somewhat lower optical quality and even slower aperture aside - but in the situations I have in mind, the 70-300 VR might well be a viable alternative.
    I tried yesterday with both my 70-200/4 and AF-S 80-400 and had no issues getting sharp images in the shutter speed range that the 300 fails miserably in (and well below as well). In fact, using my non-VR AF-S 300/4, I managed to get better results in the range discussed here than what the OP's images show. Doing so consistently would prove something of a challenge though.
     
  28. Nikon advertises up to 4.5 stops gain through the use of VR on the 300 - so it damn well better delivers on that promise
    The improvement in stops is evaluated according to the CIPA standard which is based on assessing the acceptable sharpness of 4x6 prints at a viewing distance of roughly 2-3 feet. I think most people would be hard pressed to see the kind of unsharpness shown in this thread (in 100% crops) when viewing a small print (made of the entire image, not a subsection) at that distance. The acceptable circle of confusion is set at about 63 micrometers in the sensor plane (for FX). The pixel spacing on the D750 is about 6 micrometers. To contribute to the test result the blur has to be 10 pixels in diameter, or greater, assuming I understood the details right (according to a draft of the CIPA document that I found online). I suspect Nikon is covered where it comes to the accuracy of its claim regarding VR performance of the 300mm PF measured according to the CIPA standard.
     
  29. CIPA need a Kipper round the face!
     
  30. CIPA is being progressive. They understand that now photographs are primarily viewed on mobile phone screens (soon watch displays?) and posted on facebook at 0.2MP size instead of displayed as large prints.
     
  31. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    One thing we need to keep in mind is that vibration reduction has always been a percentage game. When I use the 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR shooting a wedding inside a church without a tripod, I may end up using 1/50 sec, and VR is going to help stabilizing my hand holding and will increase my number of keepers. If I capture a static subject at 200mm, 1/50 sec with VR, in 10 consecutive frames, some will have more camera shake than the others. Obviously we have some limitations on this thread and we shouldn't post 10, 20 consecutive samples, but we really cannot judge the effectiveness of the 300mm/f4 PF's VR based on a few samples on this thread, one sample for each shutter speed.
    For example, I may hand hold the old 300mm/f4 AF-S, without VR, at 1/50 sec and capture 100 images of a static subject. Maybe 3 out of the 100 could be very sharp, and I can just post one very sharp image and then brag about my ability to hand hold, but I would never show you the 97 very shaky ones. Doing so would lead to some highly misleading arguments.
    Another thing we need to keep in mind is that any piece of equipment is going to have its limitations. As far as I can tell, the 300mm/f4 PF's VR issue seems to be related to the fact that it is small and light but with the magnification of 300mm. Sometimes you cannot have it both way. As we know:
    • It is well known that the 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR version 1 has terrible corners at 200mm on FX.
    • The 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR version 2 has focus breathing issues when focused to 2, 3 meters.
    • The D800E and D810 (and D7100, D7200) are more prone to moire issues due to the lack of the AA filter.
    And the list goes on and on. The fact of the matter is that in real-life photography, I probably wouldn't use the 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR version 1 for landscape photography at 200mm, otherwise, I wouldn't worry about any one of these "issues" at all. I have used the D800E, D7100 and now D7200 extensively, and I have used the D810 a bit also. Moire is extremely rare. I had a hard time getting it when I was trying to induce it on purpose with the D800E.
    As advanced photographers, we need to be familiar with our equipment and know their limitations. The problem with web forums and bloggers is that frequently people only focus on the limitations to show their expertise, even though in real life some of those are rare and minor issues.
     
  32. I suspect Nikon is covered where it comes to the accuracy of its claim regarding VR performance of the 300mm PF measured according to the CIPA standard.​
    I am sure they are - the lawyers will see to that. But we know that there are a lot of VR lenses that can do better than the CIPA standard demands - so there should not be any need for Nikon to fall back on the cop-out that the lens performs within the CIPA specs.
    Also, we aren't talking about 4.5 stops in the images above - we are talking about around 1-2 stop(s) down from the 1/focal length guideline for shutter speed selection when hand-holding. If one accepts that one can hand hold a 300mm lens at 1/300s shutter speed and expect "decent" results - then one can surely expect that VR that claims as much as 4.5 stops improvement at least can manage 1 stop or even 2? Without blurring the image over a 10-pixel diameter?
    Shun is correct - using VR is a numbers game - everyone needs to find out what to expect when using ever slower shutter speeds and relying on VR to save the bacon. And the slower the speed, the higher the percentage of "unacceptable" shots even wit VR. Shun mentioned testing the 80-400's VR capability at 1/20s - I can make that work too but certainly not 100% of the time (more like 5-10%). At 1/160-1/200s, I expect to do a lot better though - with not more than one out of ten failure rate. Without VR, that ratio stays at 1 out of 10 - success rate in that case.
    As far as I can tell, the 300mm/f4 PF's VR issue seems to be related to the fact that it is small and light but with the magnification of 300mm​
    Then why does the 70-300 VR not have the same issue: it's also 300mm and their weights differ by 10 grams? And according to Nikon, the D750 shouldn't even show the VR issue...
     
  33. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Dieter, I don't think the 70-300mm AF-S VR @ 300mm is as short as the 300mm/f4 PF. I haven't even used the 300mm/f4 PF, but according to some detailed discussions, adding the grip (i.e. weight) to the D800/D810 will improve VR performance. Holding the camera horizontally vs. vertically can also make a difference. Different bodies (heavier vs. lighter) will make a difference ....
    Eventually it boils down to a lot of personal factors. If I am forced to depend on VR at slower shutter speeds, I would shoot more samples to improve my odds for getting a few good images, especially when I am concerned that VR doesn't work particularly well or there is a lot of subject movement.
    While I really appreciate Alan Wilder taking the trouble to post some samples, it is a major mistake to assume that every image captured with the 300mm/f4 PF at the same shutter speed as Alan's will yield the same amount of camera/lens vibration. The fact of the matter is that each image could be better or worse. Fortunately, most of us are no longer bounded by film and processing cost so that we are free to shoot more samples to improve our odds.
     
  34. For perspective of the crop size to "see the forest from the trees", I'm attaching the full frame image.
    00dHQT-556681884.jpg
     
  35. Lastly, the same shot at 1/20 sec with VR switched on. As stated earlier, VR works great at these slow speeds.
    00dHQW-556681984.jpg
     
  36. At 1/160-1/200s, I expect to do a lot better though - with not more than one out of ten failure rate. Without VR, that ratio stays at 1 out of 10 - success rate in that case.
    I think you're much more optimistic than I am. I don't expect any shot made with VR ON to match the results obtained with VR OFF using a tripod (assuming the tripod, head, and tripod collar are good), and I expect any image that I make to be as good as it can be, which means that I shoot almost all my static subjects using a tripod, and generally stick to 1/(3*FL) or faster as a guideline for minimum shutter speed for hand-held photography. With a 300mm lens (sans VR) I use 1/1000s as a general starting point; with the VR PF I lower that to maybe 1/500s (typical) and in situations of need, 1/250s. This worked well when I tested the PF. 1/200s didn't work at all; so no question about it that there was a problem, however the firmware/PCB swap appears to address this adequately. Even if I buy the 300/4 PF, I expect my shutter speed to be in the 1/500s to 1/1250s range most of the time, and when I shoot a landscape subject I mount the camera on tripod.
    The primary benefits of the PF version to me are the smooth, silent, jitter-free AF tracking, and its compactness which leads to many opportunities to use it when traveling. I can just throw in a 24-70, 70-200/4, and 300/4 PF in a small shoulder bag and go walk about whereas with a conventional 300mm prime, I would definitely need a significantly larger bag. Also at some sports events, the size of the gear that regular ticketholders can bring and use is regulated and I think the 300/4 PF has a good chance of being let in because it doesn't obstruct other spectators' views in the same way as a 300/2.8 would. And yet it tracks moving subjects excellently. However, I still want to see the behaviour of the lens under stage lights before committing to a purchase.
    I think the 1/100s to 1/200s shutter speed range is probably showing reduced VR effectiveness using a lot of lenses. I tested 1/160s with the 70-200/2.8G II and hand-held shots with VR ON were clearly less sharp than those made with a tripod with VR OFF. Thus even with a 200mm lens I don't expect miracles from VR.
     
  37. But who, in real life, shoots a 300mm lens handheld at 1/20th of a second? Any live subject is going to have moved in that time - even if it's only wind stirring leaves. The "problem" shutter speeds shown are in the very region where VR should be coming into its own, and where I suspect this lens will mostly be used handheld.
    I'll certainly be in no hurry to purchase this lens until Nikon have completely re-engineered the VR system.
    "CIPA is being progressive. They understand that now photographs are primarily viewed on mobile phone screens (soon watch displays?) and posted on facebook at 0.2MP size instead of displayed as large prints."​
    I hope that was meant ironically Ilkka. Because this lens won't fit on a phone camera. And I get much better image stabilisation from my little Coolpix 100 at the equivalent to a 300mm zoom setting than that shown from this expensive lens.
     
  38. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    A 300mm is a super telephoto lens. Of course it makes no sense to hand hold it at 1/20 sec, regardless of how great VR may be at such shutter speed. That is exactly what I pointed out when I reviewed the 70-200mm/f4 VR and 80-400mm VR. Most people use super teles for sports and wildlife, where 1/250 to 1/500 is not at all fast enough to freeze any action. This is a lens that is normally used wide open @ f4 and 1/1000 to 1/2000 sec, which can now be achieved easily even under overcast situations due to the much improved high ISO results from current DSLRs. While I am glad that Nikon's fix to the 300mm/f4 PF has improved things (although most likely not completely), unfortunately, the subsequent discussion is about essentially nothing in real-life photography.
    People pay $2000 for a 300mm/f4 PF mainly for its reduced size and weight. 20 years ago when carbon fiber tripods first appeared, a small Gitzo 1228 cost $550, while a bigger, studier and much heavier mid size Gitzo was around $300. You pay a lot extra to get rid of weight. The problem is that even a traditional 300mm/f4 AF-S is not that big such that it is difficult to justify the cost.
    I consider the 300mm/f4 PF is more like a trial balloon. With experience from it, if Nikon can introduce a 400mm/f4 PF or 500mm/f4 PF, the weight and size reduction will be significant because those traditional superteles (with matching tripod and head) are big and difficult to carry for long distances. Another important development is E, which will likely be the future for all F-mount lenses.
    On the other hand, if you need to take pictures of some street signs @ 300mm, f8 as some of the samples here, by all means get a 70-300mm/f5.6 zoom and stop it down. (The Tamron version is surprisingly great optically, although marginal mechanically.) You'll save a lot of money. Reducing the weight of your wallet is not the objective here. :)
     
  39. I hope that was meant ironically Ilkka.
    Yes, in part. The reality is that (popular) applications of photographs are moving towards smaller, lower resolution displays and at the same time cameras become higher and higher resolution, in a time when fewer and fewer people even consider making a print. I find that quite ironic. Personally I use an A2 printer but most of the time the prints are smaller (A5 size is typical); for framed prints on walls I do make large ones, but there is only so much wall space. However, it seems I'm an exception in that I like to see images in print before I even decide if I like them and what needs to be done to them in terms of improvements and post work. I lay a number of printed images on a table and decide which images are essential to the story and fit together visually, as a part of the process. Since I consider the print the final result, my criteria for what is acceptable image quality are based on that.
    I don't think there will be a second recall of the 300/4 PF. There may be a completely new 300/4 after some 13 years. I think there are a lot of options in Nikon's telephoto lineup at the moment; lenses that I'm interested in but don't exist yet include a 135/2 AF-S. Without doubt some additional fluorine coated and PF or fluoride element based versions of the other supertelephoto primes are in the works, but who will be able to afford them is a big question. If the price of e.g. FL 300/2.8, FL 600/4 increases as much as it did with the FL 400/2.8, I think a lot of people will be gasping their breath. At least with the PF 300/4, many people can afford it. So in terms of return of investment, I think starting with a PF version of the 300/4 was reasonable. For me, 400/4 would be useful as well, but being able to afford one is a different matter entirely.
     
  40. Leaving aside all the discussion about potential use and what shutter speed people ought to be using with a 300mm VR lens. The underlying question for me is: Does Nikon actually test any of their newly-developed equipment before releasing it for sale nowadays? Do they have any real photographers on their staff? I mean technically competent people who know what to look for in a piece of photo equipment and are capable of beta testing it properly? Because a computer simulation or design spec is simply proving inadequate.
    We've now had about half-a-dozen recalls on Nikon gear within the last 2 years. That's not a good track record, and I would be very wary of buying anything new from Nikon within 6 months of its introduction.
    Surely there's no excuse for this sort of thing, now that prototyping should be as easy as generating a 3D printer sample and actually using it. Early adopters shouldn't be unpaid beta testers or QC inspectors.
     
  41. The cropped shot at 1/20 second was simply to demonstrate the VR effectiveness at around 4 stops. Though ridiculously slow for a 300 if any subject movement occurs, I can see it's usefulness for non moving subject or landscapes shot under poor lighting when a tripod isn't handy or permitted.
     
  42. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    My local camera store has a sale this weekend, with many representatives from various camera brands showing off their latest gear. I got to handle a 300mm/f4 PF. That lens is surprisingly small and light. I took about 18 test shots to check how well VR works at various shutter speeds from 1/20 sec to 1/200 sec.
    Both of the images below were captured at 1/80 sec, wide open at f4, ISO 800 (or ISO 1600) on a D800E. I was a customer inside a store, so it was not a carefully set up test situation. I hand held the camera, focused to the center of the frame, and used the various shutter speeds that are supposed to cause VR issues. As far as I can tell, there is no VR problem at all on that particular lens.
    I asked the rep about the firmware on the lens, and he had no idea. But since it is a Nikon test sample, I assume any issues from the early samples have already been fixed. Overall, I see no VR issue at all. Optically the lens seems excellent (as it should be at that kind of price), but it could do better if I were able to line up totally parallel to the sales sign. The 300mm/f4 PF AF-S VR is surprisingly light and small for a 300mm/f4 lens. The $2000 price tag is, of course, not cheap for this type of lens. The older 300mm/f4 AF-S, which is optically sound as well, only costs about half as much.
    00dJoc-556987684.jpg
     
  43. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Second image
    00dJoe-556987784.jpg
     
  44. Your sample shots at 1/80 demonstrates results similar to my own experiences where VR does a very good job in suppressing blur from shake with possibly only a trace amount evident in the vertical direction on your first example. I found it quite helpful for speeds of 1/20-1/80 with close to tripod supported sharpness. Speeds of 1/100-1/200 were not quite as vibration free but on average better than no VR.
     
  45. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Alan, while I only managed to use the 300mm PF for a few minutes inside a camera store, I found VR works very well. Among 17, 18 images, I have none that shows the kind of vibration your earlier "Security Associate" signs are showing.
    Obviously a brief test like that is not totally conclusive, but I think anyone who has a 300mm/f4 PF AF-S VR that doesn't show great VR capability at all shutter speeds should consider sending it back to Nikon for (warranty) repair/adjustment. I would expect VR not to work well in some occasional images, but most of them should be excellent. The 300mm PF should show great VR capability that we/I have accustomed to with the 80-400mm AF-S VR and 70-200mm/f4 AF-S VR.
     

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