What's going on with my 24-70 2.8E VR?

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Robbo338 Regular Member • Posts: 155
What's going on with my 24-70 2.8E VR?

Hi, I have owned this lens for a while, and have never found it that sharp. Kinda soft at f/2.8, sharpens up at f/5.6, at least in the center. I have always just put this down to the lens' reputation as being slightly softer than the old version.

However, recently I have been doing some more cityscape and landscape type stuff rather than what I tend to shoot (portraits) and have noticed some rather soft areas off-center, usually towards the top of the frame, at 70mm. Stopping down doesn't seem to remove it completely (f/11 is better, but still not outstanding). Shooting on a D850 btw.

This seems to contradict what all the reviews are saying, which is that the lens is sharp across the frame, with a slight loss in performance in the center compared to the older version, and also that 70mm is the lens' strong point (for me it's the weakest point).

I first contacted Nikon UK repair center, and they got me to send in example picture after example picture, eventually insisting I take brick wall shots on a tripod, and came back saying that they couldn't draw any conclusions from the images. To me though, every image showed the problem quite clearly.

I then sent it to Fixation with a description of the fault and a sample image, and they also got back to me saying they couldn't find a problem, and it's possibly a problem with the camera body (???). I shoot a D850 btw - all my other Nikon lenses are very sharp, this is the only one I'm not that happy with.

I don't think I'm being unreasonable in my expectations. I can see the softness even when viewing fully zoomed out, and at 1:1 the blur is very obvious. This is a gold ring lens after all, and yet it's softer in areas than my partner's 18-55mm kit lens. Am I expecting too much? And more importantly, what else can I do? Is it possible that it really is a problem with the camera body (I doubt it, I haven't noticed anything similar with my other lenses). Or perhaps my technique?

Here's a sample image. Levelled on a tripod, 3 second timer, VR off, distortion control on (as required by Nikon's service center for some reason), silent shutter, focused in live view with AF-S center single point, 70mm, f/5.6, 1/750, ISO-64. Notice the very sharp middle and lower frame, but the upper third or so is fairly blurred:

Here's a "real world" shot showing the same problem. Nice and sharp in the middle and lower frame, a bit soft towards the corners, and quite blurry at the top right (the tower). I believe VR-Normal was on for this shot, and it was handheld:

Here's another shot where I was first trying to isolate the issue, and this one's a bit puzzling as it shows inconsistency. Now it's soft at the bottom left and sharp towards the top right (???). Took one with VR on, one with VR off, they both looked the same:

This is not just some tiny bit of softness only visible when pixel peeping - I'm noticing it on all of these images just when viewed normally on my monitor. Again I've heard some reviewers complain that this lens was a bit softer than the last version, but I didn't think a pro lens at this price point would be this bad.

For anyone else have this lens, and how does it compare for similar shots? Do you think mine's decentered, despite Nikon etc suggesting there's no problem?

 Robbo338's gear list:Robbo338's gear list
Nikon D850 Nikon 24-70mm F2.8E ED VR Nikon AF-S 70-200mm F2.8E FL ED VR Sigma 105mm F1.4 DG HSM Art Nikon 500mm F5.6E PF
Nikon D850
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