16-85 lacks sharpness

Started Sep 16, 2008 | Discussions
David Mitchell Forum Member • Posts: 99
16-85 lacks sharpness

I've had the 16-85 VR for a few months now and whilst initially impressed, I am now increasingly finding that most pictures taken with it seem to lack real sharpness. Since I'm still pretty new at this, I'd welcome some more opinions on the subject - is there an issue or am I simply being too fussy.

All photos were taken with a D40x & 16-85 and have had no PP. The colours are a bit off because i forgot to set the white balance correctly.

http://gallery.me.com/david.mitchell

mecc Regular Member • Posts: 121
Re: 16-85 lacks sharpness

Your apertures are not noted in exif data, but judging from the high iso's and low shutter speeds, I would guess you had lens stopped way down. My 16-85 is razor sharp @ f4.5-f11 up to about 70mm. Extended to 85mm, I ususally use f8-f11. It can go a bit soft when stopped way down past f16. Try shooting in A mode @ wider aperture & lower iso w/ VR on and see if this helps.

BasilG Veteran Member • Posts: 8,668
Re: 16-85 lacks sharpness

At this size, nobody can tell you much about sharpness. You need to post crops.

Other than that, most, if not all, lenses require some sharpening in PP.

BG

jfk Veteran Member • Posts: 3,068
Re: 16-85 lacks sharpness

I find this lens to be quite sharp!

One thing I noticed on many of your shots is the low aperture setting. Try using a higher setting. f/6.3 to f/8 on many of the outside shots should yield sharper pics.

In PP, you probably need to add some unsharp mask because Nikon seems to be rather conservative with in-camera sharpening.
jk

PhotoGo Senior Member • Posts: 1,688
Re: 16-85 lacks sharpness

Yes, your images look a bit soft.
At what F/stop did you shoot them?
Also can you post 100% crops at their focus points?

If you want a really sharp lens consider the 17-55, the 24-70, the 70-200 or some of Nikon's primes.

Also if you shot these at the smallest aperture number you can get on this lens, largest aperture, you will never be as sharp as you would if you'd dial the f/stops up by a few stops. Try again at something like F/8 if you can and show us 100% crops of those images too.
I wouldn't be surprised if they were much sharper.
This lens is not a professional lens.

The 16-85 I once tried wasn't fully sharp until I had dialed it up to f/8 or there about.
That type of thing isn't unusual for consumer lenses though.

-- hide signature --

PhotoGo

mkryzan Regular Member • Posts: 332
Re: 16-85 lacks sharpness

16-85 is a sharp lens ... it's hard to tell from the pictures but they do seem grainy ,,, I would shoot ISO auto, WB auto and in P mode ,,,, I have same gear as you and no problems with the lens or the D 40 (but of course I have problems with my level of skill) .... I can change aperture combinations in P mode depending on the effect/ result I am trying to get but not have to worry about almost everything else ... the only place this rule does not apply is indoors where WB needs help .... Mark

mecc Regular Member • Posts: 121
also --

David --

Not to seem presumptuous, but you might also have some camera movement and might need to work on your technique. VR is not a cure all. Try S mode @ 1/125 or faster and see if this helps. VR also takes about 1/2 second or so to kick in. Half depress the shutter and wait for image to stabilize in viewfinder, then depress shutter button to activate. Think 'slow squeeze' on the shutter button. VR will not help if you're not waiting for it to engage, and it won't help if you're poking or jabbing at the shutter button.

OP David Mitchell Forum Member • Posts: 99
Re: 16-85 lacks sharpness

OK, sorry didn't realise that that the aperture info wasn't being recorded. I've added the focal length, aperture, shutter speed and ISO as a description to each photo - click the info button and it should be displayed below the file name.

All photos were shot at ISO-400 to ISO-800 and typically middle range apertures were used (nothing smaller than F8, so diffraction shouldn't be an issue). The low shutter speeds were a result of the lack of light.

OP David Mitchell Forum Member • Posts: 99
Re: also --

mecc wrote:

David --

Not to seem presumptuous, but you might also have some camera
movement and might need to work on your technique. VR is not a cure
all. Try S mode @ 1/125 or faster and see if this helps. VR also
takes about 1/2 second or so to kick in. Half depress the shutter
and wait for image to stabilize in viewfinder, then depress shutter
button to activate. Think 'slow squeeze' on the shutter button. VR
will not help if you're not waiting for it to engage, and it won't
help if you're poking or jabbing at the shutter button.

Not at all. I am aware that VR takes time to kick in, and yes I realise that camera movement may be contributing to the lack of sharpness but I've had similar results even when using higher shutter speeds.

RussellG
RussellG Contributing Member • Posts: 535
My copy seems soft as well...

This thread really interests me because I'm having the feeling that my recently purchased 16-85mm is not as sharp as it could be either. I also picked up a Sigma 10-20 which is a wonderful, fun lens to use. It is noticeably sharper than the 16-85mm, but I don't know if that should be expected (it's my first Sigma lens).

I'll get some test photos together and post them shortly to see what you think.

-- hide signature --

Kind Regards,

Rusty
D60 + 16-85mm VR + Sigma 10-20 + SB-400

 RussellG's gear list:RussellG's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 Olympus 14-150 F4-5.6 II Panasonic Lumix G 25mm F1.7 ASPH FastStone Image Viewer +4 more
myzel Senior Member • Posts: 2,075
Re: 16-85 lacks sharpness

David Mitchell wrote:

I've had the 16-85 VR for a few months now and whilst initially
impressed, I am now increasingly finding that most pictures taken
with it seem to lack real sharpness. Since I'm still pretty new at
this, I'd welcome some more opinions on the subject - is there an
issue or am I simply being too fussy.

While it’s hard to judge the sharpness of the pictures at such a small size, I don’t think that the problem is the lens.

From what I’m seeing I guess, that the main problem is the camera setting and the selection of the focus point.

If you don’t want to do post processing you should raise the in camera sharpening a bit. Nikon dSLRs tend to produce softer JPEGs as those are easier to post process.

Load the images into ViewNX, there you can see if the focus point is where you wanted it to be.

In some of your pictures I get the impression, that the focus point isn’t at the best place - take the image of the railroad station, it looks like the focus point is in the centre of the image where only a wall is.

In the image of the cars at the cottage the focal point seems to be at the fence at the bottom of the frame.

The lens itself is best at f/5.6 - f/11, some of the images seem to be at f/3.5 where the lens isn’t at its optimal sharpness.

 myzel's gear list:myzel's gear list
Nikon 1 V1 Nikon 1 Nikkor 10mm f/2.8 Nikon 1 Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8 Nikon 1 Nikkor 32mm f/1.2
sno1man Regular Member • Posts: 205
also are you using iphoto?

I'm guessing that you are and perhaps shooting in raw?

The default processing for raw files in iphoto sucks. Sharpness is set to none (try .8 to start) and it seems to have problems with shadow detail.

Aperture is much better. I would not use iphoto for anything but point and shoot jpegs and to post them on mobile me.

My 16-85 is quite sharp. The only thing that bugs me is the slight bit of distortion at 16 mm

PhotoGo Senior Member • Posts: 1,688
Re: 16-85 lacks sharpness

OK, I see now that most of those photos were shot at the lowest numerical aperture value you can get from your lens.

This would be a major reason for their softness.

Stop it up to f/8 and see what happens.

-- hide signature --

PhotoGo

Mike Neary Veteran Member • Posts: 3,355
Re: My copy seems soft as well...

RussellG wrote:

This thread really interests me because I'm having the feeling that
my recently purchased 16-85mm is not as sharp as it could be either.
I also picked up a Sigma 10-20 which is a wonderful, fun lens to use.
It is noticeably sharper than the 16-85mm, but I don't know if that
should be expected (it's my first Sigma lens).

No, that's not my experience. My 16-85 is very sharp and at least as sharp as my Sigma 10-20!

I'll get some test photos together and post them shortly to see what
you think.

Put both lenses on a tripod, turn VR off on the 16-85, and use a good, high contrast test target for the test. Use a cable release or self timer. Make sure your AF point completely covers the target, and try using MF (and Live View, if possible), too. If there is a big difference in performance between these 2 lenses, something is amiss.

Cheers

Mike

OP David Mitchell Forum Member • Posts: 99
Re: also are you using iphoto?

No, using iPhoto - shooting jpeg out of camera.

OP David Mitchell Forum Member • Posts: 99
Re: 16-85 lacks sharpness

PhotoGo wrote:

OK, I see now that most of those photos were shot at the lowest
numerical aperture value you can get from your lens.

This would be a major reason for their softness.

They weren't, I think you are looking at the maximum aperture field. The aperture used isn't present where it should be in the shooting info, but I have added it to the description of each photo.

A. Westreich Senior Member • Posts: 1,195
Re: 16-85 lacks sharpness

I have similar concerns but am beginning to wonder if part of this is my expectations, shooting technique and photo content. With some very limited photographs I was beginning to wonder if my 16-85 was not up to the standards some others have suggested. I took a short trip out of town and got to a rise overlooking some fields with our downtown in the distance - nice scenic shot with green fields in the front and white buildings waaaay in the distance. Shot it at f9, 1/500, 200 ASA 85mm.

I didn't think it looked that sharp . . . but put it into Capture, tweaked the contrast just a bit, put in normal sharpening then upped the unsharp mask to 49 and 5 . . . You can see the individual windows on buildings 6-8 miles away - I can literally count the floors. Is the lense sharp? Probably. Why did my other shots look soft? Probably poor technique, poor focus, low contrast scenes or some/all of the above. For me, I don't think it is the lense.

My point it don't give up on the lense. Work in Raw format. Shoot some scenes in good light with lots of finely delineated details and process them carefully.

 A. Westreich's gear list:A. Westreich's gear list
Nikon D7100 Nikon AF Nikkor 35mm f/2D Nikon AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 40mm F2.8 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR
Capricorny Regular Member • Posts: 388
Re: 16-85 lacks sharpness

Good copies of this lens are sharp! Mine is. But it seems to be quite a bit of sample variation, and there may also be mechanical problems: I have had the VR unit repaired after only 2-3 months of use. You must shoot at high shutter speeds, or on a tripod, and low ISO to be able to judge sharpness, and you must post 100% crops.

SteveM7i Senior Member • Posts: 2,222
If you're serious about testing your lens...

1. Shoot in raw mode
2. Use 100 ISO
3. Use a tripod and turn VR off
4. Use manual focus (this is essential if your aim is to test sharpness)

5. Shoot studio-type shots with a flash or other controlled lighting (e.g., still life/static subjects) in addition to outdoor daylight scenes

6. Test a range of apertures from wide open to the the smallest judged as being generally useful for this lens (e.g., see http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1177/cat/13 )

IMO, the sample images you've linked to can't be used to judge the quality of your lens.

Good luck.

Steve

David Mitchell wrote:

I've had the 16-85 VR for a few months now and whilst initially
impressed, I am now increasingly finding that most pictures taken
with it seem to lack real sharpness. Since I'm still pretty new at
this, I'd welcome some more opinions on the subject - is there an
issue or am I simply being too fussy.

All photos were taken with a D40x & 16-85 and have had no PP. The
colours are a bit off because i forgot to set the white balance
correctly.

http://gallery.me.com/david.mitchell

 SteveM7i's gear list:SteveM7i's gear list
Nikon Coolpix P330
SteveM7i Senior Member • Posts: 2,222
...& 3b. Use a shutter release cable or wireless remote control (nt)

SteveM7i wrote:

1. Shoot in raw mode
2. Use 100 ISO
3. Use a tripod and turn VR off

3b. Use a shutter release cable or wireless remote control

4. Use manual focus (this is essential if your aim is to test sharpness)
5. Shoot studio-type shots with a flash or other controlled lighting
(e.g., still life/static subjects) in addition to outdoor daylight
scenes
6. Test a range of apertures from wide open to the the smallest
judged as being generally useful for this lens (e.g., see
http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1177/cat/13 )

IMO, the sample images you've linked to can't be used to judge the
quality of your lens.

Good luck.

Steve

David Mitchell wrote:

I've had the 16-85 VR for a few months now and whilst initially
impressed, I am now increasingly finding that most pictures taken
with it seem to lack real sharpness. Since I'm still pretty new at
this, I'd welcome some more opinions on the subject - is there an
issue or am I simply being too fussy.

All photos were taken with a D40x & 16-85 and have had no PP. The
colours are a bit off because i forgot to set the white balance
correctly.

http://gallery.me.com/david.mitchell

 SteveM7i's gear list:SteveM7i's gear list
Nikon Coolpix P330
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