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Very strange lens behavior

SkipperlangeSkipperlange Member
edited August 2012 in news & discussions

Here is a mystery I am wondering if anyone can maybe shed some light on. I have been having sharpness issues with my Nikon 70-200 so, getting ready for a senior portrait shoot tonight, I pulled from near-retirement my Nikon 24-120. I took some test shots this afternoon of colleague at work. To my delight they were nice and sharp. Taken with D700. Ok, I thought, senior portrait shoot is on. I had abandon this lens a while back as I was not happy with results any longer. At one time it gave me stellar results then I soured on it. Photos were not A+ quality re sharpness.

So I used this 24-120 lens for much of the senior portrait shoot and every single one of the photos is soft. Same camera body. Exposure is fine. They are not just soft, there's a strange graininess to them (iso 250). Motion? It's really strange. Soft is not exactly the right word but close. It was an overcast evening at the beach. So tonight I called up the photos of my colleague and they are, like I thought, nice and sharp. (Luckily I also used the 70-200 tonight and they are acceptable.)

I wonder what is going on. I used fill flash with most of the photos. Maybe there's a sync thing going on that is agitating the sharpness. I did use a flash though with colleague's sharp (indoor) photos.


  • what shutter speeds were you using? If not slow shutter, possibly your D700's bayonet mount is worn, allowing for some play of the lens and causing variable distance between the rear lens element and the sensor plane.
  • did u drop the lens? i once dropped an 18-200 and it seemed to work fine after but all the images taken with it were soft
  • Thanks Mgarber. I was using speeds of between 100 and 200. I wonder if it's the mount. Hmmm. That sounds like it would cause the weird look of images. However it was same body as indoor images earlier in day of colleague. I will try this lens on different body. I am thinking that it's the lens tho and this episode might have silver lining. I have been taking video interviews for a client with D5100 and this lens. The videos have been really grainy even tho low iso. I assumed it was something I'm doing wrong re video as I'm new to video. Though video people I asked about the graininess were stumped. I'm eager to take a video with different lens now.

    On another front, I think the IS function of 70-200 stopped working. Not sure. Is there anything I can do short of sending to Nikon? I have rented a 70-200 for some upcoming shoots since I think mine is giving me trouble and did not before. Different body from last night's trouble.

    Thank you.

    Thanks Naftoli. I don't think so. But maybe.
  • Oh I see, I thought you were getting the grain/blur inconsistently with both lenses, which is why I thought it might be the mount. How does the back element on the 24-120 look?

    Separately, if you are starting to enjoy DSLR video, you should frequent Philip Bloom's site. He has lots of tutorials and entertaining camera porn. http://philipbloom.net/category/dslrposts/
  • SkipperlangeSkipperlange Member
    edited August 2012
    Thanks again. The loose mount theory was intriguing since the pix look like it could be something like that. But yes, it's just with the 24-120. So maybe it's a worn 24-120 rather than worn D700. 'Soft' is close but not the right word. 'Weird' is a better word but in the end the bottom line is the pix are soft.

    Thanks for video link and site.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    Any chance of uploading an image here for us to look at?
  • SkipperlangeSkipperlange Member
    edited August 2012
    Thanks for the suggestion Trev.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited August 2012
    One is very soft indeed, but I don't see anything 'weird', just soft.

    To recap.

    1] You were using the 70-200 but images now soft.

    2] You had originally been using the 24-120, but decided it was not performing up to par hence the 70-200 switch.

    3] Tested the 24-120 again, found it excellent on test shots.

    4] Then shot with 24-120 but images now soft, same as the 70-200.

    5] you stated 'different body from last night's trouble' so am now presuming both lenses are causing soft on 2 different bodies?

    6] Can you clarify it both lenses are soft on just 1 body or also on another, it's confusing since you did state you were going to try another body, also you then threw in the IS thingy maybe not working on the 70-200.

    Can you clarify that both lenses are giving some soft images on the *one* body, but not consistently since the test shoot went great with one of them.

    Sounds like 1 of 2 things: Calibration required with both camera body and lense[s] OR contacts not quite up to par.

    Try the following:

    1). The lens is not correctly seated, twist the lens slightly until it clicks into place better or remove and reattach the lens, firmly, by that I mean twist until you feel/hear the click it’s locked properly. Sometimes a simple firm reseat will fix contact.

    When you reseat, try to wriggle the lens on the body, see if any 'play'/movement and if so, mount is certainly not firm.

    2). Dirty contacts. Clean the contacts. Use a clean white rubber eraser [as in rubbing out a pencil mark] to clean the contacts, make sure nothing drops into the camera body opening when you do so, do that on each lens first, then body and try that.

    3). None of the above!!! it's calibration trouble, time for a visit to the Nikon doctor.

    Regarding the IS issue, are you hand-holding or tripod. If using IS and you have it on a tripod, it will causes issues, you must turn off IS to get it to focus properly since the lenses tries to compensate for actual movement, not when stationary.

  • Thanks Trev. Yes, I agree it just looks soft. However, I do think there is something different about these beyond mere softness.

    1. Not exactly. I had been using 70-200 but am wondering whether the IS has gone on it as I was not getting consistently the stellar sharpness I had become used to. So I decided to use the 24-120 and did test shots earlier in the day inside that were nice.

    2. Yes, but way back, long ago. This was a great lens. Then something happened, not sure what, wasn't getting great results. Either something happened or my standards got tighter. Either way I stopped using it. Now I use 70-200 and 24-70.

    3. Yes, it was excellent on the indoor test shots earlier in the day. This is a mystery since these at the beach suck.

    4. Yes, 24-120 images soft. But not like the 70-200. The concern with the 70-200 is the inconsistency of the sharp images. Sometimes fabulous, sometimes not. But never like these with the 24-120. The first image here was taken with the 70-200.

    5. Not sure. But body choice does seem irrelevant. Don't think it's a bad body.

    6. The bodies don't matter I don't think. When it's sharp, the 70-200 is sharp on both bodies. I am not sure I've tried the 24-120 on the second body. The body it was on with the sharp indoor images was same body as bad beach shots.

    All of your suggestions should great. I do 'click' the lenses into place but could try that a few times and see if tightness any different. I hope the mount isn't loose, that there is not any 'play' as I'm not sure how you'd fix that. It would be great if it was just dirty connections or something. But could be calibration. Saw great article once on how misunderstood and underestimated calibration is re softness.....

    I do hand hold most of the time, even the heavy 70-200. Inside I use tripod and I do take off IS. I try to use monopod outside by you can't really shoot vertical with that, not easily.

    I wonder why the 24-120 pix inside earlier in the day were sharp and then outside I got soft images. I wonder if the thing had gotten loose or something in between. I probably did take it off to blow some air around (not canned) in prep for the shoot.

    Thank you very much!
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    okie, you need to just keep tabs on when it happens, but more than likely there is definitely something, obviously, going on with the lenses, and it seems very strange both lenses play up, so I think a visit to Nikon, with the lenses also would be the way to go, after you try reseats and cleaning the contacts on the lenses and body.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    oh, cleaning, I found a you-tube clip, good advice, and using Isopropyl solution, quick drying with no residue which I also use.

    Turn down the damn awful music though, why do these clowns insist on putting grotty loud music over clips is beyond me. :(

  • Thanks for the tutorial. Nice and thorough. The only thing is though, after all the warnings about keeping the camera facing DOWN, it looked like the camera was facing up. Oh well.

    It's worth a try. And thanks for the tip on turning down music. Made it much better.
  • FYI to anyone reading this thread: The sample photos have been removed. Only because I wasn't comfortable posting photos of someone who hadn't given me permission to do so. But one was soft and one was sharp.
  • Why don't you test the lenses again in a controlled situation and upload those? Try to compensate for every variable, like using the central auto focus point to shoot one, then manual focusing on the same target. Or something like that.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    Actually that's a good idea re focussing points Mgarber, center, top, bottom, side points and of course manual; and make sure you do one lens thoroughly first, camera on a tripod so it's fixed and locked on same composition, then swap out lens.
  • i was going to say the same, i didnt c ur sample images but u should try some shots of textured surfaces such as tree trunks outdoors on a sunny day with a fast shutterspeed to rule out camera movment
  • That's a good idea. Thank you. I do think I need to send lens to Nikon. So.... big revelation today. Remember that I'd said I had a lightbulb moment that maybe this lens was why my video interviews for client were so bad, grainy and messy? Well, I watched the video today that I took for first time with different lens 24-70. And it's a hundred percent better than the others. Night and day. OK it's not fantastic. I am not videographer. But holy cow what a difference. Kicking myself that I did not think sooner that lousy vids were due to the lens. If this lens were not so pricey it would be in the trash.
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