My 70-200 VR bokeh story.

Started Nov 13, 2007 | Discussions thread
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jp Senior Member • Posts: 1,151
My 70-200 VR bokeh story.

When I switched to nikon about 3 years ago, I wanted high quality lenses for wildlife photography

After reading al the raving reviews, I just HAD to have that gorgeous new 70-200 2.8 VR and because some argued that the TC14E2 did hardly reduce IQ, I bought that too.

It perfectly suited my needs offering high IQ, and very low light capability with its 2.8 aperture and VR

Of course, for wildlife you often nead longer reach and not being able to afford those extremly expensive 500mm and beyond primes, I also bought a sigma 50-500

Now there is one thing I have to confess first: I am cursed. Honestly. I am a big technology maniac but with almost everything I buy, there is a defect in it. Whether it is a car, a TV, a camera or sat reciever., the defected ones for some unknown reason always end up in my basket, but that is just a side note.

After doing Namibia, > 3000 shots of wildlife and gorgeous landscapes I was not very happy with the results

First: my D70 severly backfoussed with the 70-200, many shots came out with focus plane clearly behind the AF point (sent the D70 back to Nikon and thy solved it) I was able to recover some shots with deconvolution SW and the prints came out great

Second: the autofocus of my bigma hampered around 70 mm. Sent in twice without getting the problem solved, new lens same problem, they finaly gave me back my money. Good: the aperture of this lens drops way to fast and it sucks up more dust than a vacuum cleaner.

Third and worst of all: Despite all the ravings about the 70-200 bokeh, it sometimes looked horrible to me especially withn the TC, much worse than my 50-500. No in all pictures though, some of them had gorgeous bokeh, others were simply terrible.

So I started experimenting, shooting hundreds of OOF things studying circles of confusion en tried everything: large apertures, small apertures, combinations of short versus long shutter speeds, with or without VR and/or TC etc.

Indeed: with the TC the circles of confuction seemed to become hollow a certain recipy for ugly bokeh

I then read from Bjørn Rørslett that VR impacts bokeh and after some more experimenting, I (falsely) concluded that VR and short shutterpeeds do not mix very well, probably due to the fact that VR decenters the negative VR elements to stabilize he image. (Thom even claims that VR improves bokeh)

Applying the strategy of not mixing short shutter speeds with VR and avoiding the use of the TC I had pretty good results with the lens until...

I started shooting wildlife again. This time it did not seem to matter wheter I used the TC or not, bokeh was almost always bad.

Then I was able to borrow another 70-200 and shoot with it. The bokeh seemed much nicer, especially with TC and indeed, the circles of confucsion were totally different, like jellyfish instead of peanuts, but the results from this lens seemed less sharp than mine.

I was really getting desperate and concluded that not the TC but the lens had to be faulty, at least as far as bokeh goes, IQ was perfect
Then I read this link

So there seemed indeed to be some copies of this lens that had bad bokeh but otherwise worked perfectly.

Then I discovered that the bokeh was only bad when a busy background was only slightly out of focus.

I concluded that this was the reason why I always got the problem shooting wildlife in or near bushes

Since I already sold my D200 I decided to sell the lens and I borrowed a 100-400 for use on my 40D (my old sigma 70-210 locks up my Canon)

Unfortunately, this lens is not nearly as sharp as the 70-200, and since I had a D300 on order, I decided to buy a new 70-200 VR again, meanwhile my lady was getting a bit unconfortable: she already thought I was crazy looking at all these unsharp pictures and trying to point out a problem that she was totally unable to observe herself.

Borrowed a D70 to test my new lens. Tried some shots. Bokeh seemed nice, much better. Then tried some slightly OOF branches. Oh My God same problem, less pronounced but still there.

I tried to show it to my lady again but she said that now she was sure that I am crazy. I was already planning on selling the lens one more time, cancling my D300 order and keep my 40D.

Then I started looking at the Canon variant of this lens. I shot a few pics with one of my friend and besides of the fact that it feels like a big salami compared to the sleek nikon, its shaprness is awful combined with TC.

So I was considering the F4 version which many say is clearly better than the F2.8 and while browsing through the tests of both variants, I came across the picture shown in my original post.
This had exactely the same funky background structure as in my Nikon pictures.

Now I was getting worried, maybe this is normal? Fortunately I did not sell my new 70-200 yet.

Which is why I posted this picture with the question what people thing of the background.

Meanwhile I have learnt that no lens on earth seems to be able to produce perfect background OOF immediately behind the shapness plane.

So I will adapt my technique and use larger apertures when required and in those cases where I can not avoid this situation, I will blur the background in PP.

This lens tack sharp from F3.5 so I think it will not be a problem shooting larger apertures, but maybe I will miss the ISO100 on my new D300.
Thanks for reading ad for all your advice


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