The Importance of Having a “Good” Lens

After testing a set of brand new 28mm lenses for my Nikon 28mm f/1.8G Review a couple of weeks ago, I was rather disappointed by the overall performance of the lens. Both samples that I tested exhibited visible focus shift and field curvature issues, which impacted performance in a “wavy” pattern. This weekend, I decided to give another Nikon 28mm f/1.8G a try and see if it has the same optical issues (borrowed from our team member Bob Vishneski).

To my surprise, the third lens sample performed much better in comparison to the first two. Here is the original chart that I published in my review:

And here is an updated chart from a “good” sample:

While the mid-frame stayed about the same, the significant improvement in the center and the corners is clearly visible here. Unfortunately, the third sample also showed some field curvature, which now I am 100% confident is a lens design issue. In fact, if you look at the above chart, you will notice that the corners on the lens are better than the mid-frame, which is an indication of a donut-shaped field curvature (sharp in the center, less sharp in the mid-frame and sharp again in the corner).

What does this all mean? Lenses, just like camera bodies, can vary in performance. Most lenses are excellent out of the box, but some can be weak. Aside from optical design issues, lenses can have different problems – from optical lens element shifting and spacing issues to mechanical and electrical problems. The good news is, there are definitely a lot more good lenses out there than bad, especially when it comes to Nikkor glass. During the last 4 years of lens testing, I rarely had bad lens samples (and I have tried 100+ Nikkor lenses by now). Maybe 3-4 out of 100 were faulty. But as it turned out in this case, I am not that lucky sometimes, having tried two 28mm f/1.8G samples that both had performance issues. Sometimes bad lenses are not even related to quality assurance mishaps – packages get dropped all the time and that alone can damage lenses. Don’t forget, we are dealing with high-precision instruments here; even a slight variance can impact the overall performance.

I am not saying all this to scare you, but to make you aware that sometimes performance data from lens reviews can be rather useless. How does one know that the lens being reviewed is a good sample? When reviewing lenses, I always prioritize my real-life experience with a lens over lab tests. I spend about a month shooting with a lens and leave all lab tests towards the end. Shooting test charts and other targets is very boring, but lab tests are necessary – that’s how you know how one lens compares to another and that’s how you know if a lens has an optical problem. Without these lab tests, I would not have been able to tell you that the newer and cheaper Nikon 50mm f/1.8G is better than the more expensive Nikon 50mm f/1.4G, for example. However, after wasting my entire weekend testing a bunch of lenses (which is a very time-consuming process, due to the complexity of the process), I have been questioning the need to do this kind of detailed analysis. Now I have to update the Nikon 28mm f/1.8G Review with all the new data, change my lens rating and recommendations. All this while I currently have 5 lenses to review, with 3 more on their way! Ouch…

More to come!

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Amir Asyraf
    August 13, 2012 at 3:35 am

    These findings are very concerning and distressing to me, for someone who have a very limited budget to buy lenses. I hope none of mine are one of those ‘bad’ lenses because I don’t want to carry the burden of knowing I’ve paid just as much for a lens that’s inferior quality to others.

  2. 2
    ) Pascal
    August 13, 2012 at 3:38 am

    Hmm, now I’m a bit worried about Nikon’s quality control. Sure it is possible that a bad sample slips trough but you tested two bad samples!
    For example, what are the chances that your test results on the 50 mm f2.8 are incorrect? Say that you also tested a ‘bad’ sample that showed good results due to a manufacturing fault or quality problem?

    • August 13, 2012 at 4:29 am

      Pascal, see my comment #5 below.

      Yes, bad samples happen. Just like they do with any electronics. When you buy a TV from Best Buy, one unit could be perfect while another could have a few bad pixels or burn out in a month. No matter how good QA is, sometimes other factors kick in. Yes, there is a chance that my 50mm lens was bad, but I have tested more than one and all showed similar performance. I always try to obtain a couple of lens samples when I test lenses and this is the first time when the two I got were faulty optically…

  3. August 13, 2012 at 3:45 am

    This is an absolutely new thing to me. Nikon is a Japanese company and Japanese are popular throughout the world for their tight quality control in production, which means every product has to be a replica of all the other products manufactured in the same batch.
    I feel this is a major issue and should be addressed by Nikon because a person saves and plans a lot before buying a lens (specially the costly ones). And at the end, if he gets a bad or ‘not-good’ lens, it is a total heart-break!

    • August 13, 2012 at 4:37 am

      Tarun, see my comment #5 below.

      Yes, Japanese are known for their tight control, but things can slip out occasionally. It does happen and it happens with ANY electronics product out there. I bought 3 iPhones and 2 of them died within the first 6 months. The first replacement iPhone had a screen issue, so it had to be replaced multiple times, brand new. Does this mean that Apple has a bad QA? No, it simply means that like any product, there is always variance. Nothing is perfect.

      Don’t panic – most new products out there are very good. If you happen to get a faulty unit, you can always get it replaced with another one or have it serviced. That’s what the service folks are there for.

      • 35
        ) Mark
        August 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm

        But with a lens its different, its not digital, working or not working. Like in your example with the first two lenses, a normal hobby fotographer would probably just think “dont use this lens wide open” or “I am not so satisfied with this lens” and never get aware that he has a faulty lens which he could have replaced for free. Its unsettling to have that in mind when buying a new lens. How can an average Joe know KNOW if his lens is working at its best – or not?

  4. 4
    ) Mark
    August 13, 2012 at 3:55 am

    I was thinking Nikon is a good and reliable brand. But in the last few monthes I have read on Mansurovs mostly reviews about problems due to a bad Nikon quality control. Thats quite unsettling.

    • August 13, 2012 at 4:39 am

      Mark, it is. That’s why millions of people love and use their products (including me). Yes, we have published a few negative articles on Nikon’s QA issues, but the purpose is to mostly create awareness and have Nikon acknowledge an existing problem. It is not to bash Nikon or convince people that it is a bad brand to buy. See my responses to some of the comments here…

  5. August 13, 2012 at 4:19 am

    Guys, please don’t misinterpret the message here. The purpose of the article was NOT to blame Nikon for bad quality control of lenses. In fact, I clearly stated that it is very rare for lenses to be bad, I even showed some numbers, which are pretty low. The purpose of the article is to show that sometimes data in lens reviews can be useless if a bad unit is tested, as it happened with my Nikon 28mm f/1.8G review.

    As for Nikon’s QA, I personally consider it to be very good overall. Yes, there are some faulty units shipped occasionally (as we saw with the D800), especially when a new product is announced. But in general, they are well within the norms in most cases. Don’t even get me started on third party lens companies like Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, etc. They are much worse in comparison, although they have also gotten way better during the last couple of years when it comes to tighter QA controls…

  6. 8
    ) Odes Shopen
    August 13, 2012 at 4:30 am

    Hi Nasim,

    How would you recommend testing a lens like the 14-24mm? I just bought one and did some tests based on your sharpness testing guide. Being such an ultra wide lens, getting the test subject to be a third of the image required to place the lens about 40cm from the test chart. The results were not good and I had to calibrate my lens to -20 to achieve similar results as in LV mode.

    However, a Nikon rep told me that this is not a correct test for this lens. He explained that the lens is designed for infinity focusing, and that at that focal length, the lens is spot on and literally “perfect”.

    So now I am confused. Can a 14-24 not achieve optimal results in both standard lengths and infinity?

    • August 13, 2012 at 4:43 am

      Oded, don’t test your 14-24mm with a test chart. The Nikon rep told you right – lenses should not be tested at such close ranges. The best way to test an ultra-wide angle lens (in fact to test any lens) is to get out and take some pictures. For your 14-24mm, find an overlook (like a top of the hill or a bridge) and take a picture of a detailed area with trees, houses, etc. Make sure everything is at least 20-30 feet away from you, so that you don’t have anything at close range. If images come out blurry, try compensating with AF Fine Tune and see if it makes a difference…

      • 13
        ) Odes Shopen
        August 13, 2012 at 4:54 am

        That’s great for landscapes, but the 14-24 is also a great lens for architecture and indoors. Should I test at those lengths as well?

        • August 13, 2012 at 1:18 pm

          Sure, test it at whatever distance you will be working at.

  7. 9
    ) mayank manu
    August 13, 2012 at 4:35 am

    Dear Team
    need your help I just bought man frotto 190XPROB tripod with ball head 498RC2 in order to make possible long shutter release and slow shutter speed photographs.

    But I am little disappointed as the bluriness is still there in the images which I tried to avoid with hand held.

    I am not sure what wrong I am doing , can any one help me ,

    Dear Nasim really need your help here to improve fast before I ruin more important images.

    I have D 5100 + 18-105 and 50 mm 1.8G

    looking for your soonest help

    best regards
    Mayank Manu

    • 15
      ) Martin G
      August 13, 2012 at 5:08 am

      Use the menu system to get the mirror up first. Use a 2 or 3 second delay before the shutter goes off. Use a cable or wireless release. Attach a heavy bag or weight to the hook so that the tripod has more weight down low. I have the same tripod. It is OK if you follow the tips above.

      • 25
        ) Mayank Manu
        August 13, 2012 at 9:59 am

        Dear Martin
        thanks for the suggestion but my tripod don’t have a hook, also this method is make shift thing not a proper solution , it not the right way as if case of doing such methods there a re chances you might unbalance the whole tripos assembly and make loss of camera.

        regards
        Mayank

    • 21
      ) Jim
      August 13, 2012 at 8:19 am

      Also, if your lens has VR, turn it off.

      • 26
        ) Mayank Manu
        August 13, 2012 at 10:01 am

        Dear Jim
        it sound strange to me , as VR is supposed to help in reducing the vibration and blur due to these type of handling.
        still will give it a try

        any one else have better solution to my problem

        regards
        Mayank

    • August 13, 2012 at 10:43 am

      Mayank

      The suggestions Martin and Jim gave you are quite correct, though you do not appear particularly receptive to them. Even the most expensive tripods can have hooks to hang weights off, as described. VR can give up to three stops increased sharpness when hand holding or using a monopod but is likely to be counterproductive when using a tripod or at high shutter speeds, say 1/1000 sec and over.

      Sharpness will also reduce if the lens is wide open or stopped too far down and if the ISO is high – though all of these have their place. It is always a good idea to systematically test your equipment to see what results you get at different apertures and at different ISOs. Also, try different shutter speeds handholding, with a monopod, with a tripod (with and without mirror lock) and with VR on and off. Try multiple exposures at each and record in a spreadsheet how many results were sharp, less sharp and blurred. Some combinations will work better than others and where that happens will be at least in part specific to you and your equipment. This will give you better advice than anyone else can give you.

      Regards,
      Murray

      • 28
        ) mayank manu
        August 13, 2012 at 11:30 am

        Dear Murray
        thanks for the reply here , I am really sorry if I sounded as not receptive, but these suggestion sounded a bit strange to me so did I mentioned there , but I do agreed that I will give it a try.

        well noted you suggestion I will try to make a detailed chart about different setting and analyse the results.

        just to be curious about the hooks see the link here pls advise the two units are the one which martin was talking about.
        https://picasaweb.google.com/105258034389389664302/August132012?authuser=0&feat=directlink

        regards
        MM

        • August 13, 2012 at 5:15 pm

          Dear Mayank

          Sorry if I misread your tone. Martin would have to reply to confirm the identity of your tripod. The only Manfrotto tripod I have is an old studio tripod that weighs half a ton. That doesn’t have a hook either but it’s as solid as a building. There may be a hook accessory for your tripod but I wouldn’t worry too much about that. I’ve seldom used the hook myself though other people do.

          Perhaps also try manual focus and live view, even just for a particular aperture and low ISO, just to separate out any autofocus issues from lens sharpness and technique – though Nikon’s live view isn’t as well specified as Canon’s because the mirror goes up and down when you make the exposure.

          Regards,
          Murray

          • 41
            ) Martin G
            August 14, 2012 at 12:32 am

            Yes that little piece that sticks out can be used to hang a weight from. On the other side there is a similar item which can accept a clip. I have used the first one to hang a weight (use a cord so it is low down) It adds stability. I noticed that using the mirror lock up produced better results. I always use mirror up first when doing long exposures at night. I have also used a Gitzo tripod at night but it is still important to make sure that you delay the exposure so it happens a few seconds after the mirror is moved up. The Manfrotto is good value for money.

          • 42
            ) mayank manu
            August 14, 2012 at 2:35 am

            Dear Martin
            Thanks for your suggestion ,

            Regards
            MM

          • August 15, 2012 at 11:58 pm

            Mayank

            I might just add two more suggestions about using tripods.

            One is to avoid using the centre column if you can, especially cranking it way up. Some of the top tripods actually do away with the centre column in the interests of stability.

            Another is to be aware of wind when using a tripod outside. A tripod setup that is stable in still conditions can become unstable in wind. It may help to stand close to the tripod and upwind when you are taking the image.

            Regards,
            Murray

  8. 14
    ) Martin G
    August 13, 2012 at 5:03 am

    As I understand it lenses are precision optical devices built to a tolerance of micro-millimetres. The key word is “tolerance”. It is entirely possible with the improvements in resolution tiny variations are becoming much more significant.
    I have been very happy with the quality of all the Nikon lenses I have owned and used to date. I have always known that it is possible to get a dud lens. For that reason I have decided to only buy from local shops and suppliers who know me.
    I sold off my collection of DX lenses. I do have a 50mm 1.8 D which was quite good as a DX lens. On the D800 it is way too soft everywhere except the centre. I now find myself looking for a range of lenses.
    I plan to test each lens, but one of my concerns is how to tell if a lens is under-performing. Is there a recommended procedure which can allow us to see that an individual lens is Ok if we suspect that the images it produces seem soft or distorted?

  9. 16
    ) Carmelo
    August 13, 2012 at 5:30 am

    Hi Nasim

    One problem is the transport. Nobody knows how good or how bad the lens has been treated during the very long travel from the lens factory to our home. Another point is that all new lenses should be first tested by us because of the weak quality control. One easy test is to make a picture of a wall (aperture wide open), another test is to make a picture of objects at infinity (aperture wide open and stopped down) and another test is to make pictures of near objects at 1 or 2 metres of distance with different apertures (check for backfocus or frontfocus issues).

    I suggest you that you write a check list with some details about how to test a new lens.

    Thank you very much for all the interesting things that we can read on your websites!

  10. 17
    ) avishai
    August 13, 2012 at 5:47 am

    great post!

    i have a question, how do i choose lens filters? is there such a thing as a good filter or bad one? (and i do know all of how lenses work and which kind to buy). i am just not so sure if a 25$ is good or only 100$ ones are good… how do you know?

    thanks!

  11. 19
    ) Mark Payne
    August 13, 2012 at 6:16 am

    I use Canon, and the QA problem is a lesser issue wtih them. I’m not advocating Canon over Nikon or any othe company, but would like to state that *every* manufacturer has slight +/- tolerences when it comes to their products. Canon leave room for error by using a feature on some bodies call MicroAF Adjust, which allows the end customer to fine-tune the lens to the specific body in most cases.

    What this means is that if the lens auto focus is slightly out (but within specification) and the camera body is also out a little bit, then the two combined can add up to a larger issue. The micro adjustment can help remove this mismatch. I beleive this phenomena can lead people to believe that there are “good” and “bad” copies of lenses, when they can actually be perfect QA passes, but are slightly out of whack on a particular body.

    Before anyone returns a lens, it’s a good idea to see how it performs on anothe body if you have that option.

    Thanks for this post :)

    • 23
      ) Martin G
      August 13, 2012 at 8:54 am

      In Nikon lingo = setup menu AF> fine tune.

      • 49
        ) Mark Payne
        August 15, 2012 at 7:04 am

        Ah, thanks Martin! My colleague shoots Nikon and said it had an equivalent that they had brought to the market as well. Good to know what it’s called!

    • August 13, 2012 at 1:43 pm

      Mark, I disagree with you – Canon has very similar issues and in some cases even has worse QA problems with their cheaper lenses (ex: 50mm f/1.4 and f/1.8 primes). I have tested quite a few of those and I can tell you that many had to be sent back to Canon for readjustment. Canon is also getting better, but I would not say they are ahead of Nikon in terms of QA. Both suffer about the same overall.

      And Micro AF Adjust is a standard feature in all Nikon DSLRs above entry-level models – it is just called differently: “Af Fine Tune”.

      • 50
        ) Mark Payne
        August 15, 2012 at 7:11 am

        No, you actually agree with me, as that’s what I was saying too. To restate, the same type of QA issue is pretty much experienced by both but tolerences can be adjusted using Autofocus adjustemts which can make it a lesser issue.

        I don’t usually bother with consumer lenses, but I can imagine that the QA would need to be less rigorous for cost reasons. I don’t think either Canon or Nikon is ahead of each other, find that kind of brand tribalism a bit pointless.

    • 78
      ) Haringpinoy
      April 29, 2014 at 7:49 am

      Mark, I also respectfully disagree. I have both Canon and Nikon since film days. I can see from even professional photos that results from Canon are less sharp than results from Nikon. That is why I moved to Nikon side. Of Course that is my humble opinion. I also understand that it is not the equipment but the photographer :-).

  12. 20
    ) Neville Sarkari
    August 13, 2012 at 6:50 am

    Any plans for a Nikon D3200 review soon, Nasim?

    Thank you for your website, very useful for new/casual users like me.

    -NS

    • August 13, 2012 at 1:44 pm

      Neville, time is my biggest problem :) I am hoping to get a review up soon, but I have to finish some lens reviews first…

  13. 22
    ) DavidW
    August 13, 2012 at 8:53 am

    Thanks for the update. I KNEW there must be a reason for your earlier results. I’ve had my 28mm for quite a while now and think very highly of it so when your review first aired I was taken back. In fact, I may have suggested you defied the odds and got your hands on 2 bad copies, a suggestion that even I doubted could be true. In fact, I went back and retested my copy just to convince myself it’s as nice as I originally thought it was. Granted, my testing is nothing close to the rigorous testing you do. So this morning when I read this update it all made sense and I’m glad to hear I’m not completely off my rocker. Maybe receiving a great copy of the 28mm is my karmic re-balancing for my problematic D800?

    Thanks again for your hard work, I don’t know how you do it but I’m sure glad you do!!
    Dave

  14. 24
    ) Gil
    August 13, 2012 at 8:56 am

    What scares me a little bit is that unless one know how to deeply test his lenses, he could never know its weaker than normal. I own the 16-35 f/4, the 24-70 2.8 and the 70-200 2.8 VRII, those cost me a lot of money and sacrifices, I’d not be happy that one of those is weak and I wouldn’t know unless I send them all to Nikon services for checking.

    Thanks Nasim, I’m not going to sleep well tonight ;) (just kidding)

  15. 29
    ) Francois
    August 13, 2012 at 11:34 am

    You really have to be careful with Imatest scores. When comparing lens, the first thing one has to do is to compare one lens against itself. If you find that the lens is better than itself, you just find that there are error bars in your measurement. And these error bars are very tricky to get.

    Lloyd chambers has a nice article about the autofocus precision (How far two attempts at focusing at the same point with the same autofocus point are apart) of the D800. It is something that is really important to understand and experience before testing the accuracy of the autofocus point.

    Testing a lens “the scientific way” is extremely difficult because there are too many parameters in the game that you don’t take into account: sample difference, distance of focus, field curvature, etc.

    If you really want to avoid sample variation, buy Zeiss lens. They are tested before going out of the factory, and that’s why they are so expensive. I don’t think you can expect lenses without sample variation at the price range of the 28 1.8.

    • August 13, 2012 at 3:00 pm

      Francois, I really could not understand what you meant by “compare one lens against itself”, please elaborate more on that.

      As for the article from Lloyd Chambers, I just read it, where he is basically stating that all Nikon DSLR bodies have a “precision issue”. Throw that to a forum with pros that shoot for a living and see what happens. Is focusing a fast f/1.4 prime a challenge? Of course it is. People that own fast primes know this quite well. However, that’s what you get with ultra fast glass, you need to know how to properly use them. Don’t tell me Canon has no problems with their fast primes – try a 50mm f/1.2L and see how precise focus on that lens is. Talk to wedding photographers that shoot with Canon gear for a living – they will tell you all about focusing problems. And why would you want to shoot a subject at 80 feet with an 85mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4? That’s not what I use that lens for. How many times in your life have you shot something that far with a portrait lens? I am not here to debate Lloyd Chambers or his testing methodology. I respect him for what he does. However, I do not agree with his statement on autofocus precision of Nikon bodies. Yes, some D800 units were not calibrated properly at the factory, but it does not mean that the whole AF system of the D800 is junk. I test lenses in a controlled lab environment, where lots of attention is paid to proper focusing before lens data is published.

      As for Zeiss lenses, I have tried a few and I can tell you that they are NOT error free. There is definitely sample variation among Zeiss lenses too. I tested two identical 50mm Zeiss lenses for the Sony mount and both showed different optical problems. Also, all Nikon-mount Zeiss lenses are manual focus, so AF issues would not apply to those.

      • 37
        ) François Fayard
        August 13, 2012 at 5:28 pm

        Hi Nasim,

        – Test a lens against itself: What I mean by that is test a lens (like shooting a brick wall) and test it again with a variation that is not usually done in a lens test. For instance, you can change the body, change the lighting condition, change the focusing distance, change the way you deal with focus shift and field curvature. You will find some variation, and these variations will give you some error bars. The question is how big is the error bar compared to error bars in between 2 samples?
        – Testing a 85mm 1.4 wide open at a focusing distance of 20m: I agree, it sounds stupid. But even at f8, focusing at the right point does matter if you want to get absolute sharpness. So shooting at 1.4 makes the focus error more obvious. I agreee that it is useless as a picture.
        – Focusing accuracy: It seems that all DSLR have this limit. You just have to deal with it.

        All I want to say is that you have to be really careful with MTF charts because it gives too much importance to “sharpness” in ideal (or not) condition (flat target, close distance). There are other things much more important that affect sharpness is real life pictures and that’s why I’ve always loved your blog and I am a little bit disapointed that you go for these MTF charts.

        François

  16. 33
    ) Jason
    August 13, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    This is an eye opener at the same time appalling on Nikon QC, this means that my Nikon 70-200 VRII may not be as good with the others, and I fear this might be true as I feel a little disappointed with some of my shots and in comparison to my classic push-pull 80-200 f/2.8 ED which produces much clearer contrast and sharpness overall. Disappointing indeed.

  17. 38
    ) Randall
    August 13, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Nasim,

    With the d600 on its way an article discussing your thoughts on full frame vs crop sensor would be awesome. I want to upgrade to full frame because I am scared that Nikon can’t push the crops much further (24mp in the 3200 is a bit much I can’t imagine what mp the 3300 would have). I personally think that Nikon is going to shuffle dx buyers into the j2 market and the newer “dslrs” will climb into the Medium format market. Therfore I don’t want to buy any more dx gear and sell what I have while it’s worth something. I mean these days the crop mode on a full frame is 15mp!!! With full frame coming down in price and the rise of the J series how much longer does dx have to live?????

    • 39
      ) Randall
      August 13, 2012 at 6:18 pm

      To clarify I know you have wrote articles with your thoughts on most of this so I guess the last part is what I want I really to know. Im looking for more of an article of “When will DX die…?” Im guessing it is a few years at MOST but they keep making silly DX zooms which confuses me.

  18. 40
    ) Frank
    August 14, 2012 at 12:12 am

    Hi Nasim:

    Does the new copy also have the focus-shift problem?

    Thanks,
    Frank

  19. 43
    ) Martin
    August 14, 2012 at 10:00 am

    What a fascinating thread. I began reading about lens issues and, by the end of the thread, had picked up some really useful tripod tips. Mansurovs has solidly become my first point of reference on the internet. Thanks, once again, Nasim and all (including such well-informed and helpful posters).

  20. 44
    ) FF
    August 14, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Nasim, please do yourself, and other photographers, a HUGE favour.
    Stop making statements which are plainly wrong.

    I’m referring to your statements:
    “I clearly stated that it is very rare for lenses to be bad…”
    “As for Nikon’s QA, I personally consider it to be very good overall….”
    “Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, etc. They are much worse in comparison…”.

    The 800 E batteries recall (and subsequent shipping of faulty batteries to replace defective returns) and warranty repairs (which is a silent recall) of the D800/E to deal with AF problem illustrate the situation. If Nikon has any QC personnel they are either sleeping or incompetent.

    The situation with lenses is different.
    Majority of the Nikon lenses are brand-new lemons. This includes primes, but especially zooms with substantial production variability. A user of DX sensor format camera may not find optical problems (many don’t know what to look for and how to test), unless he gets a super-lemon, but any FX user will see various issues and optical problems will be more pronounced with the high pixel density sensors.

    Comparing 3rd party lens manufacturers to the native lenses makes a false comparison.
    The camera makers do not provide the 3rd party lens makers with information.
    The Sigma, Cosina and others have to often guess, and hope for the best, when designing their lens complex electronics. The results are sometimes bad.
    E.g. Sigma 120-500 zoom AF fails regularly on D7000 body, the Zeiss ZE lenses consistently underexpose on Canons etc.

    I’m glad you like your Nikon. In the end by trying to justify the Nikon terrible QC everybody will suffer including your credibility.

    • August 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm

      (Sigh).

      Nikon severely mishandled the D800 left-sensor focus issue but there were probably only a small minority of all D800s affected and as Thom Hogan says “it appears to be a problem with initial units”. The main problem is the way they covered it up which has created many people thinking they have the problem who actually don’t.

      Most Nikon lenses are lemons and any FX user will see this? I have sixteen, eight bought new and none are or were lemons though I did return a lens once under warranty. I might add that I am an FX user and I do extensively test my equipment. I have owned some poor quality lenses in my time but they haven’t been Nikons.

      LensRental dropped several Sigma lenses a while ago because of appalling failure rates. You can probably find the post on their site if you search for it. Nothing to do with problems of back-engineering electronics, just very inferior standards of construction. Sometimes, when you try to do things on the cheap, something has to give.

      I don’t recall Lloyd Chambers ever commenting on Zeiss exposure problems with Canon but even if it were true what would it matter? They’re manual lenses and easy to adjust after checking images and histograms. For that matter, the only camera likely to give truly correct exposure is the Leica Monochrom because it’s the only one where the histogram is based on the RAW file rather than the sRGB preview.

      Credibility? It’s not Nasim who has the problem, FF.

    • 46
      ) François Fayard
      August 14, 2012 at 3:20 pm

      I agree on the fact that all lenses are not born equal, but you have to live with the fact that there is no make that’s going to give a very good quality control with lenses at that price.

      With a D800 everybody can easily detect any misalignment on lenses. I’ve tested two 24-120 VR lately and they both had alignment issues. I am sending the second lens back because I was hoping for a better quality for such a lens. I am sure I can find a better sample than the one I had, but the main issue with this optic is that it is fine in the 24-70 range and weaker in the 85-120 range. And all samples will show the same behavior.

      Gear has limitations. You just have to leave with it. And I think the fact that Nasim came back with new charts gives him a lot of credibility.

    • August 15, 2012 at 12:24 am

      How many Nikon lenses have you handled so far to state that all are “brand-new lemons”. I gave you a number and I own many lenses (which were all bought brand new) to prove my statement.

      And your statement about a DX user not finding a problem vs FX simply means that you have very little knowledge of how lenses perform on different sensors. DX sensors typically have a higher pixel pitch than FX sensors (example is Nikon D3200), so optical flaws are actually more visible on DX than FX. The only thing a DX user is not going to see is the extreme corners, which get chopped off by the sensor.

      I am not going to bother replying to the rest of the comment, because it is not worth my time.

  21. 48
    ) Martin G
    August 15, 2012 at 6:30 am

    Well said Nasim. It is not worth replying to such baseless absolutes.

    • August 15, 2012 at 1:42 pm

      Martin, thank you. I won’t waste any more time on this, I would rather go back and finish up some pending reviews :) Thank you guys for your support, I really appreciate it.

  22. 51
    ) FF
    August 15, 2012 at 7:53 am

    # 47

    I test many lensees over the last 30 years from various companies.
    There is also an article the “A brand-new blur” on http://www.diglloyd.com regarding these problems.
    You may want to read it to understand why most DX users will not see these problems. A little more education never hurts. Trust me.

    To conclude I’ll say that unless you have expertise in electronics, optical and software engineering in addition to access to the proprietary solutions of camera makes your opinions are worth as much as of those self-appointed “experts” who publish tons of usless comments on the Internet.

    • 52
      ) Martin
      August 15, 2012 at 11:28 am

      One of the most uplifting features of this blog is the courtesy and consideration always shown by Nasim, which is usually returned by appreciative posters. I would suggest that some attempt at developing these virtues might render your input more worthy of reading. All that I can detect from your contribution is a succession of brash, all-encompassing statements, abrasively expressed, and supported largely by your relentless assumption of innate expertise.

      I am constantly amazed by Nasim’s real expertise; by his ability to explain, and recommend, in lucid detail; by the huge volume of his meticulous research; and by the impressive quality of his photographs.

      Conversely, I am underwhelmed by your downright rudeness.

    • August 15, 2012 at 11:49 am

      Well said, Martin.

      FF, if you’re not aware of the minimum standards of politeness for participating in a web community, or not capable of meeting them, I think it would be better that you said nothing at all.

    • August 15, 2012 at 1:41 pm

      FF, I would love to see your test data from the lenses you have been testing over the last 30 years. Have you published the data anywhere? So in your experience of 30 years of testing, your conclusion is that every single new Nikon lens is a lemon?

      I read the “brand new blur” article by Lloyd (can’t believe I am wasting my time doing this) and I could not find ANY reference on why “DX users will not see these problems”. And according to the article, Canon seems to be even worse in terms of QA than Nikon. So if every single Nikon lens is a lemon, is it fair to say that Canon is complete garbage? Is that your conclusion?

      I already stated quite clearly that DX users in fact will see more lens problems, especially anything related to calibration/AF issues, simply because DX sensors typically have a higher pixel pitch than FX. You will see more lens problems on the D7000 than on the D700 and that’s a fact. Yes, corners will be chopped off, but we are talking about resolution and AF issues here, which will be more visible on a higher density imaging sensor. If you have a different argument and you can prove me wrong, please bring it up and let’s discuss.

      “To conclude I’ll say that unless you have expertise in electronics, optical and software engineering in addition to access to the proprietary solutions of camera makes your opinions are worth as much as of those self-appointed “experts” who publish tons of usless comments on the Internet.”

      Thanks. Since when does one need to be an engineer to evaluate a camera and a lens? Are manufacturers selling their gear to engineers or photographers?

  23. 57
    ) FF
    August 16, 2012 at 8:48 am

    # 54
    I do not publish test records. I tested Nikon lenses from different dealers over six months period and ALL were brand new lemons – each and every one! My personal suspicion is that they were all returned by unhappy customers. Never less, this is a truly amazing statistic. Looking for other people experiences I found Lloyd’s blog where he stated that MAJORITY of Nikon production is defective. This would support my experience and my final conclusion that indeed it is a fact. Hence I wrote: “MAJORITY of the Nikon lenses are brand-new lemons”. Please read carefully and quote me correctly.

    Your tests of the 50/1.4 vs. 1.8 and the 28/1.8 confirm bad Nikon QC. If you get good 50 mm samples, both will be optically similar. What I found especially troubling about Nikon is their Customer Support uncaring attitude and incompetence.

    Where did you get a notion that it is brand X vs.Y argument? Are you trying to make it into one?
    I had bad lenses from other makers, but they were never ALL bad and their Customer Support was good.

    I wrote: “A user of DX sensor format camera may not find optical problems (many don’t know what to look for and how to test), unless he gets a super-lemon, but any FX user will see various issues and optical problems will be more pronounced with the high pixel density sensors.”

    Again, please read carefully and quote me correctly.
    Your article refers to the FX format lenses and I referred to the DX camera owners testing the FX lenses. The pitch is irrelevant if the sensor gets only the centre part of the FX lens projected image. You may disagree but: DX camera user may not see the FX lens defects (especially the asymmetrical margin blur and mushy corners), but it is a fact. I’ll repeat – these optical problems are visible even on 12MP FX bodies and cameras with higher pixel density sensor will amplify them.

    Quote: “If you have a different argument and you can prove me wrong, please bring it up and let’s discuss”

    I expressed opinion based on years of experience in hope to save some people time, money and frustration. I don’t really care if anyone believes what I wrote and I don’t intend to sound smug.

    Quote: “Thanks. Since when does one need to be an engineer to evaluate a camera and a lens? Are manufacturers selling their gear to engineers or photographers?”

    I wasn’t to be unkind. Anyone can test, but if one is trying to inform general public or educate, then there are someone obligations.
    Digital camera are complex and require multidisciplinary engineering expertise to understand their operation (especially problem “analysis” and test methods). Without such expertise all discussions are only speculations.

    • August 16, 2012 at 9:36 am

      Interesting.

      You state though that you suspect that the lenses were returned by unhappy customers in which case it’s not a random sample of new lenses so I don’t think you can claim with any empirical certainty from that that the majority of new Nikon lenses are defective. Perhaps it might even be that Nikon users were more accurate at returning defective lenses whereas some users of other brands returned lenses which were not satisfactory to them even though the lens was not actually faulty. It would be more telling if you had been able to test a selection of lenses which were definitely new and unsold.

      What kind or errors did you encounter and in what proportion? Were they all consumer-grade lenses?

      Your experience with Nikon Service is either in the US or Europe, I presume. My limited experience of support with them in Australia has been good.

    • 59
      ) Martin G
      August 17, 2012 at 8:56 am

      I am seriously unimpressed. There is no point discussing this with you. You are your own ‘self appointed expert’. Replying to posts with hair splitting points about whether you were quoted correctly about the use of the word “most” as opposed to “majority” is more than a little pointless.

      A discussion should be a discussion not point scoring and disputation.

      In summary, the article is about the fact that some lenses of the same type can be slightly different and it is therefore worth checking to see how well it works reasonably carefully.

      I have the Nikkor 70-200 F2.8 VR II, it is an impressive lens. I have used it enough to know it is not a lemon.

      When stock of the Nikkor 16-35 f4 becomes available I will buy one and take a close look at how it performs. As a result of this article I will also make sure I compare it with another Nikkor 16-35 F4. I have a relative who has one.

      I am confident that the lens will be perfectly fine.

  24. 60
    ) seth
    August 19, 2012 at 5:08 am

    This thread is now poisoned … Way to go!

  25. 61
    ) Martin G
    August 19, 2012 at 8:56 am

    I agree it has been completely usurped. See comment 52.

  26. 62
    ) Klaus Salkola
    August 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    From ships it is known how much temperature affects the shape and dimensions of the hull. Having the sun from one side warming the hull, the ship will bend like a banana and so on. In the winter and frosty weather, the inside decks are buckling and in summertime the decks are flat and plane as the outer skin dimensions vary.
    How much does temperature and temperature differences affect the performance of lenses? Is this phenomena generally considered and taken care of when testing lenses – and especially, when using lenses?

    • August 20, 2012 at 11:44 pm

      I doubt that this is addressed in any conventional lens test, which is usually done indoors under controlled mild conditions. Probably, the performance of a lens is not affected by temperature but the autofocus microadjustment values may be.

      Roger Clark has an interesting article that addresses this in the context of adjusting the autofocus of lenses on the fly. http://www.clarkvision.com/articles/microadjustment/index.html. He has an example graph at the end showing tested values for a lens at different temperatures. The lens he is using is 500mm + 2xTC. Perhaps the effect would be smaller at lower focal lengths.

  27. August 24, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Hey Nasim,

    I was hoping to get a little advice/constructive criticism. I’ve been shooting for a couple years now and was wondering what is holding me back from breaking through. I often feel like it’s clarity/sharpness of my images… I’ve definitely improved but wanted to know how much of a factor having the right equipment plays? I shoot with my D7000 and 3 prime lenses (35, 50 and 85mm all f/1.8). I often feel like my results aren’t as good as some of my friends or other photographers. Would you suggest my equipment is the problem or is it more of a user issue or both? I thought about upgrading my body and considered getting a couple more lenses but don’t know where best to spend my money. Would a D700 or 800 and a few different lens really change the quality of my picture? What lenses would you suggest? One other thing, everyone I know shoots Canon. I’ve got this in my head that my equipment just isn’t as good as Canon, and therefore my pictures aren’t as sharp. Any advice/feedback you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

    • August 24, 2012 at 11:28 am

      Daniel, looks like you asked the same question twice – I replied to your comment under “Our Gear” section.

      I completely agree with Murray. Also, see my article on how to take sharp pictures and check out other articles that we have written on photography and post-processing so far. There is plenty of information :)

  28. August 24, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Your camera and lenses should be fine and capable of giving sharp results and I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by moving to Canon. Possibly you might benefit from a longer telephoto or a wider wide angle, depending on your style of photography, but you won’t get sharper images from them or better image quality as such.

    So consider shot-taking technique. Lower ISOs give sharper results. Shutter speed needs to be high enough to take care of camera movement and subject movement (eg moving people). The sharpest aperture is usually about two stops down but you will often want to shoot wide open for low light or subject isolation or stop down for greater depth of field (though not all the way down unless you have to because of diffraction). In many situations a tripod or a monopod will make a big difference in sharpness and when using a tripod it also makes a big difference to raise the mirror first. Test your equipment at different shutter speeds, handholding and using a monopod or tripod to see what shutter speeds are sharp in different cases.

    Post-processing. All images benefit from post-processing and probably all you need is Lightroom. Even basic optimisation of colour and sharpness and appropriate sharpening can make a big difference.

    Vision. The most important thing in photography. Move around to find the right angle. Zoom with your feet. If you can clearly see what you want your final image to be before you take it and analyse what you get to see how to improve, that’s the most important thing.

  29. 67
    ) FF
    August 27, 2012 at 9:32 am

    # 58
    Sorry for late reply. My time limitations. I’ve found some of your comments amusing.

    Quote: “You state though that you suspect that the lenses were returned by unhappy customers in which case it’s not a random sample of new lenses so I don’t think you can claim with any empirical certainty from that that the majority of new Nikon lenses are defective.

    If you purchase a new product from the Nikon authorized dealer, do you consider it new or not?
    The stores consider returns as brand new and will re-sell to the next customer (unless the item was damaged), and this is the way it should be.

    Quote: “Perhaps it might even be that Nikon users were more accurate at returning defective lenses whereas some users of other brands returned lenses which were not satisfactory to them even though the lens was not actually faulty.”

    Yes, perhaps : -))) But, I’m taking about my experience and I love your not so subtle suggestion about incompetence of “other brand” users : -)))

    Quote: “It would be more telling if you had been able to test a selection of lenses which were definitely new and unsold.”

    Not really. It was a random sample, unless you imply that these returns were damaged by the first purchaser which wasn’t the case. This would also imply that each item sold by the store is a suspect since all reputable stores offer 2 wks. return policy.
    Are you sure your delear sells you a “virgin” gear and how do you verify that? : -)))

    I’m talking about optical centering defects on: the 12-24, 50 (2 samples), 85 (2 samples), 24-70 (3 samples) and 16-85 DX lenses which I tested and which all had manufacturing problems. My experience with Nikon awful service concerns US and Canada. FYI, in case you didn’t know, Nikon doesn’t have an International Warranty. They only service equipment bought in the same country. If your gear dies during the trip out of the country you have to pay for repair.
    I’m glad that “down under” the service is good, but it is a different world : -(((

    • 71
      ) John Adams
      September 4, 2012 at 7:54 pm

      FF. We all get the point. You are the undisputed expert on everything and have an absolute need to have the last word. Your last word has been duly noted. Now please go away and let the rest of us mere mortals enjoy this blog.
      John Adams

      • 72
        ) Martin G
        September 5, 2012 at 7:44 am

        John, I have come to the conclusion that The only way to deal with troll like people like FF is not to make any response to anything they may say. Freedom of expression includes the right to choose to ignore.

        • 74
          ) John Adams
          September 5, 2012 at 9:47 am

          I understand your point, Martin, and usually subscribe to your approach of dealing with unpleasant people by ignoring them. It just boths me to see Mr. Mansurov attacked when he is devoting all of his time and energy to maintaing a website that helps photographers of all levels. He always conducts himself like a gentleman and shouldn’t be subjected to this sort of harsh and unwarranted attack. If someone doesn’t agree with his point of view, they should simply sign off and go to a website more in tune with their thinking. The tone of this website should always follow the positive and polite tone set by Mr. Mansurov. Thanks for sharing your point of view.

          John Adams

        • 75
          ) John Adams
          September 5, 2012 at 10:48 am

          Hi Martin

          Thanks for your response. My feelings are that Mr. Mansurov has put a great deal of time, effort and energy into developing a website where he shares his knowledge, experience and research as a professional photographer. His website is truly unique in that he also takes the time to respond to individual questions raised by his readers. This makes his website truly unique and special.

          I have never read anything by Mr. Mansurov where he presents his information as anything but his own opinion based on his own experience and research. He shares his findings with all of us to aid in the decision making process we all go through when purchasing new equipment. Mr. Mansurov also presents his findings in a positive and polite manner.

          I’ve read most of the information on Mr. Mansurov’s website and find that his readers are much like him in that they also like to share their knowledge and experience in order to help others. The fans of this website also seem to follow the same positive and polite tone established from the start by Mr. Mansurov. It’s one of the many reasons why I only go to this website for help.

          It upsets me to see someone like FF change the overall purpose and tone of this website. If FF doesn’t like or agree with Mr. Mansurov’s point of view, he should simply log out and seek a website more in alignment with his own thinking. This website is all about sharing and caring and really isn’t the place for negative and rude attacks on Mr. Mansurov or his views.

          I don’t think that ignoring people like FF is always the best policy. It leaves the forum entirely to them and creates the impression that nobody responded so everyone must be in agreement. I respect his right to disagree but strongly object to the disagreeable fashion is which he choose to do so. I think we all have a responsibility to express our thoughts to create a more balanced view.

          John Adams

          PS. I often see your comments to various issues on this website and always enjoy what you have to say and the way in which you say it.

          • September 5, 2012 at 11:50 am

            Gentlemen, all this is not worthy of your time, so please do not waste your energy. I ran a public forum for over 10 years with tens of thousands of participants. Trust me, it is better to just move on with some people :) All that time you spend debating with them is typically a waste (unfortunately)…I am sure you would rather go out and take some beautiful pictures instead! :)

            Colorado is already starting to change colors. It is getting beautiful outside and I cannot wait to go out and shoot during the next few weeks.

            Have a wonderful week and I hope this stuff is not upsetting your mood!

  30. 68
    ) Nguyen
    September 2, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Hi . this 28mm looks good to me. I have a 50mm and 70-200 and i need a wide lens. I have 3 options 16-35 F4 , 24-120 F4 and this 28mm. Could you tell me which is better choice ?

  31. 69
    ) Martin G
    September 2, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    It depends on your photographic interests and preferences. I have the 16-35 on order (currently out of stock here) I think it is the best option for me, see the review on this site. I have used it briefly on loan and it is a wonderful lens. It is sharp, flexible and great for wide angle work. You would opt for the 24-120 if you wanted a good walk around lens, but for wide angle, especially landscape, architecture and night time(with VR), the flexibility and quality of the 16-35 is hard to beat.

    • 70
      ) Nguyen
      September 3, 2012 at 10:05 am

      I forgot to say that money is a problem to me so the 28mm maybe my choice. My interests are wedding , night walkaround. travel and sometime fashion .

      • 73
        ) Martin G
        September 5, 2012 at 8:03 am

        That makes sense. Money is always a factor. You don’t say which camera body. I think 28 is OK but for my money not as useful as 24 or wider. It depends how much use you will get out of the 28 compared with the others. Will you find yourself wishing you had an even wider lens or not?

  32. 77
    ) Lord Beau
    May 27, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Well, this is nothing new. My 50mm 1.4G knocks spots off my 1.8G which is hardly usable in comparison, and that’s after Nikon serviced it to bring up to “Nikon standard”. Both my copies of the 16-35mm VR were poor though the first one markedly worse than the next one. My 24-120mm f/4 was poor compared to one I tested at a demo and Nikon returned it as “within spec”. It seems that if you have a poor lens, there is little they can do to improve it in service. I have good copies of 35mm f/2 and 50mm 1.4G so I worry less about reviews now and more about whether I actually have a good copy of a lens. I am pleased to say, though, that my D800 seems to be fine with no left AF issues, no LCD colour cast, and perfect AF. Mind you, waited till a year after launch to buy it.

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