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Major frustrations with a new D800 – Focus seems soft


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#1 DocTock

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Posted 25 December 2013 - 04:42 PM

I’ve been practicing with various lenses while trying to learn my new D800 (purchased late 2013 with up to date firmware). 

While I remain amazingly impressed at the level of detail that can be captured, I’ve become increasingly frustrated on lack of sharp focus.

 

To date, I’ve tried multiple lenses including Nikon 105VR, Nikon 50 f1.8, Nikon 24-85VR, Sigma 15 FE, Tokina 17 f3.5.

I’ve shot through wide ranges of apertures and shutter speeds on all the lenses both hand-holding and tripod mounted.

Consistently all images lack sharp focus. Not surprisingly the zoom was the worst of the bunch.

The most frustrating aspect is that while on the tripod I manually focused the 105VR & “know” that a series of images were in sharp focus as seen through the viewfinder – yet these images appear just as soft as all the others when viewed in LightRoom4.

Exposure has also been a big issue, but there is no improvement in overall image when changing from Matrix metering to center-weighted.

 

In addition to an absolutely miniscule/ non-existant DOF, I come away with the feeling that the camera is fixing on a point behind the chosen focal point. I can only somewhat see this in some 50mm 1.8 images where I focused on the forward part of a flower, only to have elements behind the focus point appear in slightly sharper focus.

 

While the 50mm is the only new lens, purchased as new, & is the “best” of the lot in producing sharper images, it still does not demonstrate the level of sharpness I would expect. This leads me to wonder if the lenses are “off” and/or may need service. I have read (in on-line rants) that lens calibration is a necessary “evil” associated with the D800.

I’m aware of the semi-automatic home version, FoCal. I’m also aware that I have virtually NO idea what I would be doing using it.

Another option would be to send camera and all lenses to Nikon Service in Los Angeles (or personally deliver) for service/ calibration. (Anyone know if they service and calibrate non-Nikon gear?)

 

A looming issue is that I have a dive-photo-trip coming up in Feb 2014 and need this focus issue resolved before then.

 

 

I am willing and interested to hear anyone’s thoughts?

 

 

[I recognize that posting some images would be helpful, however I have no idea where or how to host 34.8MB NEF images. It seems pointless to show images that have been compressed to web-sized JPG.]

 

 

 


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#2 PeteAtkinson

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Posted 25 December 2013 - 06:11 PM

At the very least you need something like Lens Align to calibrate every lens to that particular body. The amount of AF fine tune you need will vary for each lens, with zooms you will need to choose a compromise as the amount of AF fine tune required varies with focal length usually. I think we only have one lens that requires no AF fine tune, but some require as much as -18.

There's no shortcut to doing this yourself and you can learn from Google how to do it.  We also use Focus Tune, but for most purposes I think Lens Align is enough.



#3 Deep6

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Posted 25 December 2013 - 08:14 PM

Try focusing in the LCD with live view.  Your sensor may not be aligned properly.  Have a qualified Nikon tech. check this out.  There have been some sensor alignment problems with the D800.

Bob 


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#4 Aquapaul

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Posted 25 December 2013 - 08:33 PM

Here is a good source.

 

http://www.lensrenta...-to-test-a-lens


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#5 Gary.Makai

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Posted 26 December 2013 - 02:16 AM

There is a lot of variability in the D800/D800E sensor performance that appears to be a combination of alignment and sensor manufacturing issues. You can test your sensor with reiken focal which will give you a map of all 51 sensor points. I went through 4 bodies before I found one with good sensor performance. What you want is good IQ with minimal change across the sensors.

A quick way to check your fine tuning is to use a tripod and target, focus with live view (AFon only, disable shutter focus) then when in af fine tune, adjust the settings till you get focus confirmation. for the full description of this technique see dot tune. http://www.fredmiran...m/topic/1187638

 

Usually you have 10 days to evaluate the camera with a refund/exchange possibility.



#6 DocTock

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Posted 29 December 2013 - 10:16 AM

Update:

I've been trying to shoot some really exciting pictures of fake fish and a ruler @ 45 degrees to test the lenses.

 

First thing I found was my 105VR would not open to f/2.8 - to not waste any more time this lens is already on it's way to Nikon in LA for repair.

 

The next I have found is a consistent difference between viewfinder and LiveView and what appears to me to be a slight back-focus.

 

 

The following images shot on tripod, camera sensor ~45cm from 10.0 mark on ruler, CFL lighting.

 

1/320 f/2.8 ISO 200 50mm 1.8G, center-weighted exposure mode, center focus on central line where it crosses between the 0 at 10.0

 

FIrst image = Viewfinder  Second = Live View

 

 


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#7 Aquapaul

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Posted 29 December 2013 - 12:10 PM

There was probably nothing wrong with your 105. At close focus it will not open up to 2.8.


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#8 DocTock

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Posted 29 December 2013 - 12:51 PM

There was probably nothing wrong with your 105. At close focus it will not open up to 2.8.

 

At no point in the focal length would the lens open greater than f/3.3.


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#9 Poliwog

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Posted 30 December 2013 - 06:46 AM

At no point in the focal length would the lens open greater than f/3.3.

 

 

There is nothing wrong with the lens, as far as actual exposure data reporting is considered. The Nikon macro lenses (and probably all the others they make) report the effective aperture information to the camera exposure system as opposed to the physical aperture in actual use.

 

You can find out more about this feature by reading the lens literature that came with the lens and/or camera body, as well as doing a google search on "effective aperture".


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#10 Rui_Guerra

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Posted 02 January 2014 - 05:11 AM

 

 

At no point in the focal length would the lens open greater than f/3.3.

With a simple test you can verify if the lens is good or not: open it all the way, put it in manual focus and turn the focus ring all the way from one extreme to the other: you should see the effective aperture changing from 2.8 (far away focus distance) to  4.8 (closest focus distance).


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#11 CamelToad

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 07:20 AM

Have you resolved the focus issue on the D800?

 

I bought the Datacolor Spyder lens calibration kit, used a tripod and cable release, and VR off (if the lens has VR). One of my D7000 focuses spot on, the other needs adjustment of -17 to -20 (and could use more) on all 8 lenses I have. I have the MAC warranty on it, so I plan to send it in to be cleaned/adjusted/etc. 

 

Here's some good info on the Nikon micro lens aperture...I thought mine was bad too, at first:

http://www.nikonians..._id=13313&page=

 

 

Best,


-James
 

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#12 DocTock

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 02:42 PM

I appreciate all the input and suggestions.

 

Here's what I have learned so far:

Nikon 105VR required service for aperture and focus issues. 

Tokina 17mm proved, per Tokina, to "not work on the most modern Nikon bodies" - which would explain why it tried (and failed) to AF in MF mode, and would not focus at all in AF mode.

Nikon 24-85 was an early,  poor quality lens - since dumped on eBay and replaced with a modern 24-85VR.

 

I used FoCal to fine-tune a Nikon 50mm, and Sigma 15mm. (Both are +4)

Along with higher shutter speeds & higher ISO (up to 3200) to get to those shutter speeds, I'm finally seeing some razor sharp images.

 

I will be interested to see if the AF-fine tune is consistent through other lenses.


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