24mm 1.4 G: New copy, same AF problems, 500+ crops for you to download.

Started May 8, 2010 | Discussions thread
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em_dee_aitch
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24mm 1.4 G: New copy, same AF problems, 500+ crops for you to download.
May 8, 2010

I got a second copy of the 24mm 1.4G yesterday morning. So far, I've found that 40 percent of images (212 of 528) were at least somewhat flawed, while over 10 percent (55 of 528) were unacceptable focus failures. But back to the numbers in a minute... I'm also about to give you a link to see center crops of all 528 images in which I have marked the position of the AF point, so you can decide if I'm being fair or not.

I went out and took over 500 shots of common things a camera might see in real life: trees, a fire hydrant, various signs, various buildings, brick, stucco, stone, a door knob, water fountain, flower petals, foliage, flags, lights, a TV aerial antenna, and a truck. I took 6 to 10 shots of each subject (10 on most subjects), manually defocusing between each so that new focus had to be obtained each time. Shot in AF-S with focus priority. Everything at f/1.4 so I could see every bit of glorious error. For extremely close subjects, I took measures to ensure that I was not moving the camera closer/further at time of depressing shutter (namely, I shot prone on the ground, as there wasn't really time to tripod all these).

After two copies of this lens, I have some distinct impressions about the AF, and they are not happy impressions. But let me get the good news out of the way: If you are willing to put up with some of the least consistent AF that Nikon has ever shipped, then the optical qualities of this lens are totally outstanding, and therein lies the rub. It's kind of an insult to be given a very expensive prime that only focuses to its full capability less than half the time...

My impression so far:

  • This lens does not like low contrast textures, like tree bark and flower petals

  • It hates backlit subjects

  • It doesn't like foliage too much

  • It doesn't like fine detail in general, and seems a bit myopic at focusing, except when it actually hits, at which point you'll scratch your head and wonder how on earth something so sharp could be so myopic so often.

  • It frequently focuses on empty airspace between you and your target, so that nothing in the frame is in focus.

  • It does not like stuff that is far away

  • It likes to front-focus front-lit targets and back focus backlit targets, though it may shift gears and do either randomly.

  • Compared to the 14-24@24mm, the 24/1.4G focuses very inconsistently; everything that this lens fails at, I have gotten my 14-24 to do without a problem, and just about every other Nikkor I own with exception of 50/1.4G, which displays a similar affliction.

  • It does not like low contrast scenes indoors (major shame for a 1.4 lens!)

  • The AF is slow. I really notice it as it focuses in the viewfinder. The AF speed seems cheap, so if Nikon has a legit reason for having done this (other than saving money), they should volunteer it to their public. If it were slow and accurate, I wouldn't mention it, but it happens to be slow and inaccurate.

  • If your subject is composed only of bold, high contrast, widely spaced lines with sharp edges (in my test, a message painted on the side of a truck), then the lens will focus to its maximal capability about 90 percent of the time in that scenario, but never 100 percent.

My second copy seems somewhat more consistent than the first, possibly consistent enough to go ahead with an AF Fine Tune attempt, but this additional consistency may also be the result of the fact that we have better weather this week than we did two weeks ago. Despite this perception of somewhat better consistency, it still misses some really stupid things and misses them badly. All of todays shots were done with AF fine tune set to zero on a body that tends to work at zero.

A key point about my criticism of this lens: Do I expect too much, just because the other Nikkors I use are so amazingly accurate as to blow this one out of the water? Is it really that bad that Nikon's new prime is about as consistent at AF as Canon's notorious 24-70/2.8, or actually worse? Maybe I do expect too much, but all I can say to that is that Nikon made their own bed by making the rest of their product too excessively excellent with regards to AF performance. I see some bad writing on the wall with regard to the fact that multiple people on this forum, in addition to Lloyd Chambers, have copies of this lens that are slow and inaccurate. It bothers me that both this and the 50/1.4G represent a new generation of primes that are slow and inaccurate. Will the 85/1.4G when it arrives be this inaccurate? Furthermore, Nikon does not (nor Canon for that matter) do anything to convey to professionals and other more discriminating users what the realistic performance and consistency expectations of the system are.

I would GLADLY take some of these concerns to Nikon directly, if only they had the foundation of semi-transparent communication that would be necessary to talk about complicated issues like these; but they don't have that, and neither does Canon, which kinda sucks. (Part of the issue is that Nikon tech support has become 100 percent useless to high end users like me, who inevitably know about 10x more Nikon product than the overseas phone agents; NPS has humans in America, but their job is to administrate aspects of the program other than tech support, and they will actually tell you to call tech support overseas; they (NPS, or tech support for that matter) may attempt to escalate a complicated question, but there is no real expectation that a complicated answer will ever get back to the user.

Continued....

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David Hill
http://www.sfbayweddingphotographer.com
San Francisco, CA | Austin, TX
Certified Wedding Photography Junky™

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