Deliberate Mis-Calibration?

Started Feb 20, 2010 | Discussions
kajat
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Deliberate Mis-Calibration?
Feb 20, 2010

I see so, so many threads on the forums where people ask about upgrading their 'slightly soft' lenses (I have also contributed to this), where they want to ditch their 18-55 or 55-200 or xx-xxx in favour of something sharper, or for a body with 'focus correction' so they can 'self calibrate' the focus on their lenses.

My question is... Why, when we are spending £xxxx/ $xxxx at a time is EVERY lens not tack sharp? To my mind, the only extra we should be paying for is the larger aperture, or the better coatings etc. Surely we should not be paying for sharpness / better focus.

Is it a deliberate ploy on the part of Nikon / Canon / Whoever, mis-calibrating their cheaper lenses, tyring to force us down a never ending upgrade path, each time spending more £££/$$$, until we eventually end up buying the most expensive of their equipment?

With the technology that these companies have, and therefore the ease of calibration, why do so many 'off focus' lenses end up in our hands?

I suspect most people just assume that they 'got what they paid for' and to achieve better results, they should upgrade to a MORE EXPENSIVE lens.

Am I alone in my thoughts?

Ken

 kajat's gear list:kajat's gear list
Nikon D90 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM Tamron AF 28-75mm F/2.8 XR Di LD Aspherical (IF) +2 more
JoKing
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Re: Deliberate Mis-Calibration?
In reply to kajat, Feb 20, 2010
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myzel
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Re: Deliberate Mis-Calibration?
In reply to kajat, Feb 20, 2010

kajat wrote:

My question is... Why, when we are spending £xxxx/ $xxxx at a time is EVERY lens not tack sharp?

Because it's easier to buy new gear than to learn how to use the gear at hand.

I guess that in most cases the main problem is the photographer and not the lens. And buying "pro glass" gives that nice warm feeling of using the same gear as pros - no matter if it's needed or if the photographer is able to use the gear to it's full advantage.

To my mind, the only extra we should be paying for is the larger aperture, or the better coatings etc. Surely we should not be paying for sharpness / better focus.

The higher priced lenses have tighter production tolerances that result in more precise focus and better image quality.

Is it a deliberate ploy on the part of Nikon / Canon / Whoever, mis-calibrating their cheaper lenses, tyring to force us down a never ending upgrade path, each time spending more £££/$$$, until we eventually end up buying the most expensive of their equipment?

No, they try to build the best lenses they can build for the price the customers are willing to pay. Consumer lenses have to be cheap and a way to reduce the price is to lower the production tolerances.

It's not important how much the lens costs, what matters is how much they earn by selling the lenses. The manufacturers earn more money with low priced consumer gear sold in large quantities than they earn with high priced gear.

With the technology that these companies have, and therefore the ease of calibration, why do so many 'off focus' lenses end up in our hands?

The technology costs time and money. It's not easy to build gear with very tight production tolerances and to calibrate every single lens and camera to the same exact specifications.

And doing so would be a complete waste of time and money as most users won't use the gear in a way that will need such precision.

I suspect most people just assume that they 'got what they paid for' and to achieve better results, they should upgrade to a MORE EXPENSIVE lens.

I suspect that most people just want "pro gear" and don't want to try to get the best results possible from the gear they have.

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Brooks P
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There is a lot more involved than just calibration.
In reply to kajat, Feb 20, 2010

Actually, calibration hardly matters at all. Take two similar lenses, the AF-S DX 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED and the AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II, well the price certainly isn’t similar the 17-55mm costs $1370 at B&H and the 18-55mm costs $110.

The zoom range is very similar 17-55 and 18-55 and that is about where the similarity ends. The 17-55mm lens has 14 lens elements in 10 groups, while the 18-55mm lens has 7 elements in 5 groups. The 17-55mm lens has 9 Diaphragm blades and the 18-55mm lens 7. The 17-55mm lens has 3 ED glass elements to the 18-55mm lens’ 1. The 17-55mm lens has 3 Aspherical elements and the 18-55mm lens 1. The 17-55mm lens has Internal focusing and the 18-55mm lens does not. The Filter size on the 17-55mm lens is 77mm and the 18-55mm lens has a 52mm Filter size; this is indicative of the difference in lens diameters between the two lenses. The 17-55mm lens needs much larger lens elements in able to achieve f/2.8. The weight of the 17-55mm lens is 26.6 ounces ( approx 1.7 pounds) compared to the 18-55mm lens’ 7.2 ounces (just under half a pound). A lot of that weight comes from the larger lens elements, and the larger the lens element the more difficult it is to produce without flaws; plus optical glass is more expensive than most glass that we are familiar with.

The two lenses in my eye-glasses cost a little over $100 through my HMO. That’s two elements, ten elements would cost $500. That is just for plain lens elements, not lens groups and certainly not Aspherical elements, and certainly no metallic coatings.

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While amateurs change the camera’s settings; many Pro’s prefer to change the light.

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lac111
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Re: Deliberate Mis-Calibration?
In reply to kajat, Feb 20, 2010

As least with regard to lenses, it's called "mass production" and there are potential QC issues on all levels from all the manufacturers IMO. You need to test out your equipment when you first get it to find out if it is as it's supposed to be. That being said, I don't believe all the complaints of softness are QC related, most are user error related, like using the wrong settings i.e. too slow shutter speed or trying to shoot closer than the min. focus distance of the lens, camera shake, the list goes on and on. Focus issues ( back or front), decentering, etc are real, but not nearly as rampant as one might believe IMO. It's easier to blame the equipment than admit you are wrong and need to learn how to use it correctly.
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I've been on Dpreview since June 2006. Unfortunately, some posting history has been lost along the way...

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pschatz100
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Problems always seem exaggerated on these forums
In reply to kajat, Feb 20, 2010

It is far more common for posters to write about problems than to write about "no problems", and I think this can give the impression that something is worse than it really is. How many times have you read a post titled 'I bought a new lens and it worked OK.'

I'm not suggesting that people should not report problems - they should. You just need to remember that the vast majority of gear is reliable and works within specification.
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pschatz100
It's not how many pixels you have... but how you use them.

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Brooks P
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Well then . . .
In reply to pschatz100, Feb 20, 2010

I have the following Nikon items, a D50, D90, AF 50mm f/1.8D, AF-S 18-55mm, AF 70-300mm G, AF-S 70-300mm VR, AF-S 18-105mm VR, and a SB-600, and all have worked flawlessly. I wish I could say the same about the photographer using this equipment.
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While amateurs change the camera’s settings; many Pro’s prefer to change the light.

Brooks
http://bmiddleton.smugmug.com/

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RAL
RAL
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so we should get the best for the least?
In reply to kajat, Feb 20, 2010

So we should get the best glass and sharpest lenses for the lowest cost, right? That isn't how it has worked for all the years I have been involved in photography. And a Sanyo should be as good as a Leica I suppose then.

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spbStan
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Re: Deliberate Mis-Calibration?
In reply to kajat, Feb 20, 2010

Complaints of soft focusing are in direct inverse proportion with experience and knowledge of the fundamentals of photography.

Any lens takes better photos when the user is more skilled and experienced. Funny how a lens or camera get better with use;> )
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MIPAT
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Re: Deliberate Mis-Calibration?
In reply to kajat, Feb 22, 2010

kajat wrote:

why do so many 'off focus' lenses end up in our hands?

I suspect most people just assume that they 'got what they paid for' and to achieve better results, they should upgrade to a MORE EXPENSIVE lens.

Am I alone in my thoughts?

Ken

I had an off focus problem. I checked for front focus and back focus. I played with the focus mode. I changed the focus points. Still off focus. By chance I needed a longer focal length than my kit lens had and picked up an 80-200mm f2.8. With a "pro" lens surely my off focus would be solved...so I thought.

Then I started reading about how auto focus actually works. I started paying attention to what the camera was picking. I gave more attention to what I was visualizing. Focus problem went away.

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