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Lens Tests

(newest tests are last)

Nikon 17-35mm versus Sigma 15-30 (with Fuji S2)

Tamron f2.8 90 (with Fuji S2)

Tamron f2.8 28-75 (with Nikon D200)

Nikon f2.8 105mm VR (with Nikon D200)

Nikon 16-35 f2.8 (with Nikon D700)

Nikon 16-35 f4 verses Nikon 17-35 f2.8 (with Nikon D700)

Nikon 70-300 (with Nikon D80)

Nikon 85mm f1.4G vs Nikon 16-85 VR, 70-300 VR, and 18-105 VR at 85mm

Nikon 70-200 f4 VR

Sigma 35mm f1.4

Nikon 16-80 f2.8-4

Nikon 16-80 f2.8 vs Sony 90mm f2.8, both at f5.6




Nikon 17-35mm versus Sigma 15-30 (with Fuji S2)

I have them both and love them both. However, after 2 days of serious testing on a Fuji S2 Pro  I have arrived at the following conclusions - from a sampling of only one lens each. All test shots were on a tripod, shot at 12 meg raw, and converted with EX. All shots were taken at the same time of day, and in sunlight, by simply switching lenses. Focal lengths were matched perfectly by matching area covered. Because of this, 15mm on the Sigma and 35mm on the Nikon could not be compared. However, sharpness of the Sigma at 15mm was outstanding, especially at f11. The sharpness of the Nikon at 35mm was also outstanding, with f8 being the sharpest.

SHARPNESS: This is going to be hard to take for some. At 17mm the Nikon was sharper from f2.8 through f8. However, the Sigma was shaper at f11 and f16 with f22 being a draw. We are talking small differences here. At 30mm the lenses were pretty much identical from f8 to f22, with Nikon again getting the edge from f2.8 to f5.6. Hmmmm. The stories were true! Sigma has one heck of a lens!
COLOR: The Nikon was more natural with better saturation. The Sigma had a strong warm tone (read yellow).
CONTRAST: The Nikon had considerably more contrast.
VIGNETTING: Nikon had less. Enough to see. Sigma was a little hotter in the center.
FLARE: Whoops. The Nikon was far superior. When any sunlight hits the protruding front element of the Sigma, flare becomes ugly! On the other hand, I was able to include the sun with the Nikon with only two visible and small sun flares.
BOKEH: Nikon was smooth and natural while Sigma was a little stretched.
ASTIGMATISM: Both lenses showed almost none!
DISTORTION: About equal. Amazing. The Sigma favored 17mm while the Nikon slightly favored 30mm.
BUILD: Of course the Nikon wins here. Although physically smaller than the Sigma it weighs more. Probably due to the glass.
PRICE: $560 verses $1,360 roughly.

Recommendations: For the average shooter, the Sigma will probably be an excellent choice (just don't shoot into the sun)! The Nikon, on the other hand, certainly is a pro lens in ALL respects. As it has legendary sharpness it is amazing to see the Sigma do so well. I did make a 24" x 36" print from the Sigma at 15mm at f11. Stunning sharpness. However, the Nikon STAYS on my camera as my first choice! The 15-30 will be used for its extremely sharp 15mm focal length.

Remember, the Fuji S2 has a cropping ratio of 1.5 so only the center 2/3 of both lenses were used. If full frame were used I am sure the Sigma would not have fared as well. In any case, the Sigma makes a good choice for DSLR photographers who can't afford the big bucks for the Nikon.

Sure hope this helps a few folks. It was a good 16 hours work total. I would love to hear from anyone else that has actually done a side by side CRITICAL comparison. Lenses vary within models.

Here is a sample using the 17-35 hand held at 17mm with ISO 200. I have included a blown up small section to show detail and minimal color fringing. The small section is equivalent to a 5 foot wide mural!

sample-3.jpg (159260 bytes)

Sample-2.jpg (168713 bytes)





Tamron 90mm f2.8 Macro

Although versions of this legendary lens have been around for over 15 years, the lens performance is still as good as anything out there. Strong words, I know. Having owned the Nikon 60mm f2.8 and 105mm f2.8 I see very little difference. At one time Camera 35, now defunct, claimed it was the highest resolving lens they had ever tested.  I am not sure I would go that far, but it is an awesome lens for the money. Here is an example of the resolution at 10' and f11. The first shot is full frame, the second is a 100% at 72 dpi which is equal to a 48" high print. Shot taken in studio with Fuji S2, ISO 200. 

This sort of resolution pretty much carries from f4 to f16. There is some corner and edge softness at f2.8 and a little less resolution at f22 and f32 (yes, it goes to f32 but bumps into some diffraction limiting on resolution).

DSCF0735-small.jpg (151383 bytes)

Full frame

    DSCF0735-100%.jpg (105032 bytes)

100% crop at 72 dpi 





Tamron f2.8 28-75mm

Here is a sample taken with the Tamron f2.8 28-75 taken at ISO 100 using the Nikon D200.  (75mm at f11 and 1/60 second with fill flash) Click on for a 100% version.The Tamron 28-75 has proven to ne an outstanding performer. At f2.8 it is a little soft, especially in the corners, but by f4 things greatly improve and by f5.6 the lens is very, very sharp, rivaling the sharpness of the outstanding Nikon f2.8 24-70. This version of the lens used the D200 in-camera focusing motor so focusing was only a little slower than my Nikon f2.8 24-70.

An interesting side note is that at f11 (the aperture for this photo) the lens is actually experiencing some diffraction limiting on the smaller pixels of the D200. And yet, it is almost impossible to detect.


PRO - Excellent sharpness from f5.6 to f11. Very good at f4 and acceptable at f2.8. Light weight and small. Very good flare control. Great value!

CON - Not as solid as the f2.8 Nikon 24-70. Some air pumping on zooming which might limit its use in an unfriendly environment (dust, rain). Not as sharp as the Nikon f2.8 at f2.8 and f4. Focuses a little slower than the Nikon f2.8 24-70.





Nikon F2.8 105mm

This portrait was taken with the Nikon f2.8 105mm VR at ISO 100 with the Nikon D200.  (105mm at f11 and 1/60 second with fill flash). This lens was tested on the Nikon D200 body so it's cropped field of view would be equal to a 158mm lens.  I found this lens to be exceptionally sharp and very well built. The VR is very helpful when used with a DX body (like the Nikon D200 or D300). I found that instead of having to hand hold at 1/160 of a second I was able to easily use 1/40 with consistently good results. Heck, I was even getting a 50% success rate with 1/20. The bad part about this VR is that it loses effectiveness as you move into the macro or micro mode. In fact at 1:1 magnification it is totally useless.

PRO -  The newest Nikon f2.8 105mm is all it claims to be. Excellent resolution from f2.8 to f16 (although when used with the DX Nikon bodies there is some diffraction limiting starting at f11 - although it would be hard to detect in this photo.) It is solidly built and focuses rapidly for a macro 105. It does have an option to limit the focus range to prevent excessive focusing time.

CON - This is a heavy lens! Solid, but heavy. The VR becomes less and less effective the closer you get. That's too bad, because hand held macro photography is almost impossible anyway.






Nikon f4 16-35mm

(coming 1st week in March 2010)

Well, this is a preliminary report as I think I might have a bad copy. This wall is one continuous color but is rendered in a very weird way by this lens. I just finished testing this lens and generally agree that it is very sharp - up to a point (more on that later). However, my sample had a serious problem. Shooting a medium tan/brown building side in direct sun I was amazed at the corner color shift at f4 on 35mm and less so on 16mm. Using the Info tool in PS CS4 I went from 194-192-188 at f11 to 184-194-205 at f4 (same identical area). That's a very noticeable color shift!!! This was on the left side mostly, but also on the right side. Then testing 16mm I got the same weird results. There was some vignetting, as would be expected, but not this color shift! I will call Nikon and then try another sample.



35mm at f4                                         35mm at f8                                        16mm at f4                                      16mm at f16

The second sample pretty much had the identical problems, except slightly less so.  Frustrated, I opted for the Nikon 14-24. What a huge difference.


Nikon 70-300 worse case for sharpness

This squirrel shot was made to test a worse case scenario for the Nikon 70-300. Most tests give the 70-300 high praise for sharpness in the 70-200 range so I decided to test for worst case sharpness:

1- 300mm.

2- Wide open - f5.6 at 300mm in this case.

3- ISO 500 using an older D80 which is NOT noted for low noise. Just the opposite - and noise destroys resolution.

4- Hand held on a wild critter.

EXIF is intact. f5.8 at 1/350, ISO 500

Generally speaking, viewing at 25% approximates a 13 x 19 enlargement. This photo opens at 100% so you might want to view a little smaller. Feel free to download and print at any size.


Here is a 72 dpi version for looking at what a 13 x 19 print would look like.




Nikon 85mm f1.4G vs Nikon 16-85 VR, 70-300 VR, and 18-105 VR at 85mm


A few weeks ago I decided to test four lenses at their 85mm focal length. As I own the incredibly sharp Nikon 85mm f1.4G I was anxious to see how my other lens stacked up against it. Of course the f1.4G was superior but there were some serious surprises! I used MU and a very sturdy tripod and head on cement. All shots were in raw and converted in ACR and later in DXO and Nikon View. DXO handled the moiré slightly better, but it was still there. As resolution was superior to the old ISO 122233 chart, I needed three copies in order to properly test resolution. They were spread out horizontally and shot from the same distance - maybe 4-5 meters or so. The images basically went from edge to edge on the three charts. Originally I was mainly concerned about concentricity of all the lens to weed out a possible bad copy. They basically were all perfect in this regard. Amazing quality control by Nikon. The 16-85 was a little short on the 85mm, maybe only 82mm. That was a surprise, although this is a fault of many lens models.


Here are the lenses:

Nikon 85mm f1.4G

Nikon 16-85 VR (VR off)

Nikon 70-300 VR (VR off)

Nikon 18-105 VR (VR off)


First the good news. At f5.6 all four lenses appear to be out resolving the sensor in the center. That is, moiré and the maze effect hit before I lost detail. In the corners and severe edge only the 18-105 had noticeable CA . . . which was easily corrected by ACR and DXO. I would need Nikon Capture for this feature as View is pretty simple. Remember that 85mm is probably a sweet spot the 70-300 and 18-105.



I would feel very comfortable using any of these lenses at 85mm and f5.6 through f11. Even f16 would be acceptable for anything but huge print sizes. The winners, based on ALL factors including resolution are listed in the order above. The amazing thing was all four out resolved the 16mp sensor on the D7000. This is good news for many, especially those considering the new Nikon D400 and D800. Of course only the 85 and 70-200 would work for FX.


Huge File. FULL size image used for all measurements for all lenses. Please note that 3 targets are included in the tests. This was necessary in order to resolve very tiny detail. You can use this to see the entire area covered by all lenses at 85mm. There will be some loss in detail due to jpg compression necessary to publish on this page. Please use smaller cropped images for actual comparisons. Please click on each thumbnail to enlarge. Then click again for a 100% image.

Full resolution, no cropping. Nikon 85mm f1.4G at f1.4

A few comments.

1- Every f stop was tested but not included here.

2- CA on this lens is basically non-existent.

3- Vignetting was minor by f4.

4- Clarity and micro contrast was exceptional.

5- Bokeh was as good as it gets.

6- Maximum resolution was reached by f4 but was
limited by moiré and maze effect on the D7000 sensor -
even with its low level AA filter. That is, the lens out-resolves the sensor - at all f stops from edge to edge.

Nikon 85mm f1.4G


Left edge at f1.4

Center at f1.4

Right edge at f1.4

Left edge at f2.8

Center at f2.8

Right edge at f2.8

Left edge at f5.6

Center at f5.6

Right edge at f5.6

Left edge at f11

Center at f11

Right edge at f11

Nikon 70-200 f4 VR

In a word. Awesome. The sample I tested is as follows:

Camera body: Nikon D7000

I used an ISO 12233 chart (16" x 24") Then I used 3 spaced end to end to test corners as this lens/body out-resolved the corners of the chart.

1- 200mm at f4. I struggled to see any difference in resolution between the center and corners. Incredible.

2- 200mm at f5.6, f8, and f11. Same as above. I was really surprised how well f11 worked!

3- 70mm at f4. I struggled to see any difference in resolution between the center and corners. Incredible.

4- 70mm at f5.6, f8. and f11. F11 a little weaker than at 200mm but extremely useful. It took some serious 100% pixel peeping to see a resolution difference - barely.

The CA looked incredibly well controled, especially at the long end. PS CS6 with ACR was easily able to correct it, however, not automatically.( Need a lens profile.)

I learned a little more about the VR on this lens. It can be an iffy thing because of its extreme resolution and length, and depends a little on luck, and certainly is not 100%. For serious shooting I would recommend a monopod to get CONSISTENTLY close to the tripod (and timer) resolution. I had to shoot at 1/500 at 200mm and 1/125 at 70mm to get close to tripod resolution. Would the hand-held formula of 1/focal length x 1.5 work.? Sure, but leave the VR on. Even with VR this lens is not easy to hand hold - pretty long.

Although I used to shoot rifles competitively I would not consider my self super steady because of my age. Youmight be able to do better. The point being, there IS a difference when you use a solid tripod - and I hate the things! My monopod produced much better results than hand held, even with VR on.

Conclusion: One of the sharpest lenses I have ever used on a DX body - which would include my Nikon 105 VR macro. I was impressed.

Note: I tested with my DX body, the D7000. I am sure with a FX body the corners won't be so unbelievably sharp. I mean, I was flat amazed!!! I won't hesitate to use f4 to f11 with this lens.

I will post the full rez ISO 12233 results on on this web page when time permits.

For starters - caution, huge file.






Sigma 35mm f1.4

1- Camera Body is the Nikon D600

2- Lens tested at all apertures from f1.4 to f16

3- At f4 to f11 the lens had amazing resolution - right into the corners. It was quite usable even at f16 with very little loss in sharpness.

4- Flare was very well controlled at all f stops. I was pleasantly surprised. Much better than my old 35mm!!!

5- This lens is simply the best lens in terms of resolution I have ever owned (which would include most ot the Nikon pro glass).

Here is a photo taken WITHOUT a tripod at Arches National Park. f11 at 1/200, ISO 100. With a little resampling in PS CS6 this photo easily printed to 50" wide.

CAUTION - HUGE FILE (copyright protected AND registered)




Nikon 16-80 f2.8-4

Still testing. However, this lens, so far, is nothing but amazing. I would say it might be one of the best DX lens Nikon has made to date - at least at the long end. At 10' the 80mm covers 2' x 3'. Some very slight pincushion distortion. Very slight. Easily corrected when ACR comes out with this particular lens correction data. There was a little CA in the corners, but ACR took care of it all. The resolution was stunning - right into the corners. From f5.6 to f11 it is almost impossible to separate center resolution from corner resolution. Even wide open at f4 the resolution was excellent. The sweet spot at 80mm? F5.6 and f11 . . . just as you would expect.

I would rate resolution right up there with my Sony/Zeiss 55 f1.8 and the new Sony 90mm macro - maybe better! (yes, I had both and tested them both)

Now I need to test 16mm and then distance landscapes. Quality control on my sample was excellent. The resolution was perfectly concentric - at least perfect enough that I couldn't determine a difference in my sample. Expensive? You bet! But, finally the DX gets some new pro glass! Best of all, we get a very useable range zoom that only weight 1 pound. And all this with VR and 4 elements of ED glass!

Here is a shot taken at 16mm and f8. The body is a Nikon D7200. Caution! This is a huge file at 100% jpg and a 24mp camera. Click to enlarge. Nothing was done to this photo in post. ACR added a little unsharp mask on conversion.

I was amazed at how sharp this lens was, even into the corners.



Nikon 16-80 f2.8 vs Sony 90mm f2.8, both at f5.6

Well first off, this is a very incomplete test. Seeing I had tested both lenses under similar conditions, and with the same chart, it seemed a good idea to compare the two. Well, for starters, the Sony a7ii is a 24 mp FX (FULL frame) camera body where the Nikon D7200 is a 24 mp DX (cropped frame). The Sony a7II uses an AA filter (although small) and the Nikon D7200 uses none. This can be easily detected by zooming in to 200% on each. Nyquist is clearly visible on the Sony. Although the Sony prime is very likely a superior lens, it is amazing how close these two are in resolution!

A 5x zoom lens producing this sort of resolution is highly unusual - if not totally unique. Seeing as DXOmark has tested the Sony 90mm and come up with its highest sharpness ever, it seemed to be an excellent choice, (being as I had tested both).

Here are the comparison samples.


Nikon 16-80 f2.8-4 at 80mm and f5.6                       Sony 90mm f5.6



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