sharpest prime lenses for D90 on tripod

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by marco_landini, Sep 1, 2010.

  1. Hello. I have a Nikon D90 and almost always I keep a Tamron 17-50 2.8 mounted on it. It's a great combo for street and events, but I would like some suggestions for landscapes , buildings and industrial photography. I' m interested about the highest possible sharpness for these subjects, so I guess I had better to use tripod, remote and Nikkor primes instead the Tamron zoom. I' m thinking about the 50 1.8 ( ai-ais-af ? ), 28 2.8 ais, 55 2.8 micro at their optimal aperture. What do you think about them in comparison to Tamron 17-50 on tripod ? Any other lens suggested ? Thanks, bye. Marco
  2. Any of the Nikkor f/2.8 zoom lenses will perform as well with a D90 as the Nikkor primes in the same focal length range. While some of the prime lenses may be sharper (most are not), the overall resolution is limited by the sensor when the lens is capable of 200+ lp/mm.
    The 55/2.8 AIS "Micro" is very useful for landscapes and, of course, moderate closeups (1:2 without extension tubes). It is a relatively simple lens, deeply recessed in the lens housing. These factors make it highly resistant to flare, so you can shoot with a strong backlight and get good contrast. Needless to say, it is also very sharp.
  3. Remote is good, but not needed. Use mirror lockup mode and allow the vibrations from the mirror to die before shooting the image.
    That said, of the lenses listed, the 50mm 1.8 would be my choice for sharpest.
    But, I would look at a 35mm PC if you get a chance. This would allow corrections for converging lines, which would greatly aid in shooting any of the subjects mentioned.
  4. I don't think you can mount the 35PC on a D90 (not enough clearance from the housing for the pop-up strobe ... you have to go to a D300/700/3 for that). And ... the D90 does not have a mirror lockup mode. Have to move up for that, as well. The solid tripod is indeed critical. If you don't use a remote, use the self timer - at least that way you're not touching the camera.
  5. optimum aperture? for most lenses, just select f8 on a sturdy tripod. There is no mirror lockup on the D90, but there's an exposure delay mode that works just as well.
    How big do you print? My experience is that at f8 my worst lens is as sharp as my best at about 8 x 10 and smaller.
    If you need to shoot wider open, the 50 f1.8 is very nice. My 55mm f3.5 is probably my sharpest lens. My 35mm f1.8 is indistinguishable in my own unscientific tests from either of those, too. (edit... at f8 it is).
  6. I meant indistinguishable at f8...
  7. What, no mirror lockup on a D90?! Wow, I would have considered that as such a mundane feature that it would be on everything but the lowest tier. I really had no clue.
  8. Zach, it doesn't have mirror lockup but it does have an "exposure delay" you can turn on and off in the menu - mine is set up to easily find in the customizable "My Menu". It basically delays the shutter for approximately 0.5 seconds after the mirror flips up to help with the vibration. Seems to work pretty good IMO.
  9. Oh, I thought exposure delay was just another name for "time delay". See, I should just stick to my D200 and shut up.
    So, the best results for Marco should be using a lens such as the 50mm f1.8, 55mm f2.8, or other such lens, on a tripod and using this exposure delay feature. A remote/cable release would be nice, but not 100% needed. Can you set the exposure delay to work with timer mode? If you can, then you can set the timer for 5 sec or more, and that would kill any vibration from hitting the button on the camera, and the exposure delay should take care of the mirror shake/slap.
  10. exposure delay works just fine thanks. It does what you're basically doing with MLU anyway. Works great for me.
  11. -D90 mirro lock-up : we could shoot in live view mode, I guess it would be similar to mirror lockup. Print size : I usualy print at the native resolution of the camera without intepolation, it means about 10x14 at 300 dpi. Focus Magic capture sharpening after nef to tiff conversion, then a bit of HiRaLoAm, and at the end a bit of output sharpening by Photokit. Would this sharpening workflow minimize the differences between those lenses in therms of apparent sharpness ?
  12. You aren't going to see enough difference in sharpness from the lenses to make a difference, especially at that print size.
    Honestly, worry less about the gear, after establishing a few key workflow ideas, and more about the content of your images. It is the content that sells the image, not your skills (assuming decent competency) in the technical area.
  13. The D90 doesn't have mirror lockup but you can use Live View and get the same result. The mirror is locked up in the Live View mode.
  14. The mirror is locked up in the Live View mode.​
    Yes, it us up. But when you go to actually capture the image, the mirror drops/raises/drops in a complete cycle, thus introducing vibration anyway.
  15. Marco, I use the 17-50 Tamron as my walk-around lens and find it is pretty sharp, rivalling my primes at times (maybe I have a good copy???). On the tripod, do you turn off the VR, VC or whatever they call it? That might make it a bit sharper. The exposure delay mode others mention is also a must on the tripod. I'll also throw in a vote for the 50mm 1.8 as a experience with the 50mm 1.4 version.
  16. when you go to actually capture the image, the mirror drops/raises/drops in a complete cycle, thus introducing vibration anyway.​
    I don't have a D90, but on the D700 that's only true if Live View is in Handheld mode (so that the usual phase-detection autofocus sensor can do its thing). In Tripod mode, it doesn't drop the mirror when you capture, using contrast detection instead. Does the D90 have the two Live View modes? On the D700 it's in the Shooting menu.
  17. That's not true of the D90 or the D300, Mark.
  18. Not true of the D700 either, unless Nikon has replaced the original version of the D700 I tested back in 2008. Even in tripod mode, you get the stupid mirror flapping which totally defeats the purpose of LiveView (LV) for vibration-free photography.
    Same story with D3, D3S, and D3X, if anyone hoped Nikon would get their act together on the LV issue.
  19. So, would be the "delayed mode" more like mirror lock-up wise than "live view" mode ? Anyway, these features would increase actual sharpness as I got my camera well held on my manfrotto 055 ? By the way, I got some captures of my contax t2 camera handheld that are quiet comparable in sharpness to my shoots by rollei 6006 and planar on tripod, velvia film. Same enlargement , 10x14 to 14x14
  20. Sharp lens? Old MF 105 mm f/2.5.
    My D300 will meter with it, but not the D90. Still, the histogram will help you to zero in.
  21. My apologies, I misremembered. The D700 does indeed flap the mirror when you take the shot even in tripod mode. How goofy!
  22. Think of Live View as more of a focusing aid (it really is helpful on macro stuff, for example). The delayed mode (on the D90) is as close as you'll get to proper mirror lock-up, but it will definitely help.
  23. The last small-format camera I had with mirror lockup was a Nikon F5. Modern SLRs have highly effective damping for the rising mirror. Most of the noise you hear during the exposure is the shutter itself, and most of the mirror noise (and shake) occurs when the mirror is lowered again.
    Frankly, I seldom used this feature because it really isn't necessary. I'm convinced Nikon omitted the mirror lockup and removeable prisms from subsequent cameras is because they weren't often used and added unnecessary cost and complications. I do, however, use mirror lockup (pre-release) on my Hasselblad because it does make a noticeable difference at slow (<1/30) shutter speeds. The mechanism is far less sophisticated than on my Nikons, nearly 4x larger larger and heavier.
  24. According to Imatest results, the maximum resolution of the Nikon D90 sensor is 81 lp/mm.
    I belive you may notice the difference when using of these prime lenses like: AI/AIS 28/2, 28/2.8, 35/1.4, 50/1.8, 55/2.8 micro, 50/1.4, 105/2.5, 105/2.8 micro etc. Latest 50 mm version - AF-S 50mm/1.4G - is said to be extremely sharp between f/5.6 and f/8 but I can´t confirm that.
    Esa Kivivuori
  25. Edward, someone on here (was it Shun?) did a test with mirror lockup vs. not mirror lockup. Mirror lockup was noticebly better in all situations. I have personally started using it and do notice sharper images when I use it. The only issue is, it is harder to use in certain situations. This delay might actually be a great alternative.
  26. The resolution you achieve with any camera is a composite of the resolution of the sensor (or medium) and the lens, and is always less than either one measured separately. The net resolution roughly follows the root-sum-square method (q.v., sum of variances). If the lens has more than about three times the resolution of the sensor (e.g., 240 lp/mm), the net resolution is degraded only about 5%. The net resolution drops off rapidly if the lens achieves less than this value, but increases very gradually as the resolution improves. If the lens has only twice the resolution of the sensor, you lose nearly 20% of the theoretical value.
    The resolution of lenses can be measured by the aerial method, wherein the image is measured directly using a microphotometer. It is not unusual for a small-format lens to approach 400 lp/mm. Film can be tested using a metal-deposited glass standard in a contact print - not feasible with a small-format DSLR.
  27. It isn't a problem of resolution (i.e. most of those lenses should out resolve your sensor), but of vibration in the camera. That is the point of mirror lock up, or the point of the mythical superior advantage of the Leica. Vibration in camera will make images, especially on longer shutter speeds look less sharp and not allow your lenses to reach their full potential.
  28. I thought the "delay" just waits for the subject to be composed but the triggering sequence is the same as with no "delay". I'm speaking of the D90.
  29. The "delay" is a real delay between the time the mirror "slaps" up and the time the shutter trips. It makes a very real and noticeable difference at certain shutter speeds, all other things being perfect of course.
    1/60 or so or faster, no diff.
    1 or 2 seconds or longer, probably not any difference either. I use it for stuff at the 1/30, 1/15/ 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1 range.
  30. Whenever I do landscape photography, I always use the exposure delay. It definitely makes a difference, especially in low light, long exposures. However, always remember to turn it off after using it. Otherwise it makes for interesting photos of moving targets.
  31. marco, have you tried the 17-50 for landscapes at f/8-11?
    it's actually pretty sharp edge to edge. except for the distortion at 17mm, but then i dont see a prime in that range on your list.
    you might be nit-picking a bit. btw, i've compared the 17-50 to the 50/1.8 AF-D and sharpness is about the same at comparable apertures. the 50 is contrastier, but with worse bokeh.
  32. Besides Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF-D I'd recommend the Nikon 35mm f/2. It's very sharp and after I've got it it's always mounted on my camera. If you want to shoot landscapes/architecture/industrial, you'd need a wider prime, say a 24mm. I have no experience with the Nikon 24 f/2.8, but I heard some good things about it. Perhaps there are sharper alternatives, I don't know.
  33. I' ve found PT Lens software very good to fix lens distortion, so no problem to shoot even at 17mm with tamron 17-50. About wider lenses, I' ve seen great reviews of tokina 11-16 and 12-24, and sigma 10-20. But I dont' want to spend more than $200 for a dx lens. Anyway, the fantastic nikon 14-24 fx is actually very very beyond my budget limit.
  34. Marco, do you rely on built in metering or autofocus? If so, don't listen to the following, if not, then listen in. (Or can the D90 meter with AI lenses?)
    I have found the 20mm Voigtlander lens to be absolutely beautiful. And if you don't mind buying used, you can get lots of great wide angle primes from KEH at a decent price. Just a thought.
  35. Marco,
    You don't want to spend more than 200 for a DX lens? Well, you wont' get much then. I guess you don't really want the "sharpest" lens after all, just the cheapest.
  36. I not so clear? Of course I will not spend more than $200 for a DX lens, but I would spend more for sure for a FX lens ! As Zach said, Voigtlander 20 2.8 is a great lens and FX too. I would be happy to spend more than 200$ for this lens without regrets...
  37. Marco, no doubt the voigtlander 20 is great, but 20 isn't the same on DX.
    I still say buy DX lenses for DX (especially at the wide end) and FX for FX.
  38. The Zeiss 21mm is supposed to be an astonishing performer - would be about 30mm on the D90. Pricey though.
    I think if you're shooting with tripod at f8 any halfway decent Nikon lens is going to look more than good enough (so any of the 24, 28, 35, 50 or 85mm primes for instance, or as mentioned any of the f2.8 zooms like the 24-70 and 14-24). Depends how much money you want to spend and whether you want zoom and AF or MF.

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