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Old Feb 11, 2007, 2:19 PM   #1
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1[suP]st[/suP] impressions of my D80 with a combo of 18-135 and 70-300 VR.

On my first outing, I put the 70-300 on the body and went to a local wildlife park. I was disappointed with my results. I have owned the D50 and my pictures from that camera were sharp and vibrant at default. However, my D80 shots looked flat and soft.

Thanks to some advice on the forum. I ventured out for a second day's shooting and I better appreciate the nuances of the camera and kit as follows.

Day one was very overcast and dull, day two was much brighter - which helped my zooms.

For day two, I changed my settings to sharp +1, colour IIIa, tone -1 and saturation to enhanced. I downloaded the latest firmware, set the files to Fine / Large and put ISO auto to off. I kept the camera meter to 3D Matrix.

I now think that the tone should go back to normal. I ran my pictures through Elements 4 and Nikon Picture and used auto enhance to see where the computer found fault. I noticed that quite a few of the pictures had their dark tones enhanced (levels) and so I assume my tone was too low (I am only guessing here, my technical knowledge is lacking in these things).

I took more care in taking steady shots, this did help.

I found the 70-300 lens to be quite soft. I was surprised, I was hoping for something much sharper. I imagine at the long end, natural softness and some camera shake combine to exaggerate this effect. The VR clearly works, I was amazed to actually see this working through the viewfinder - the subject jerks in the viewfinder without VR and then when the VR is switched on, the subject becomes noticeably static. With VR on and a better steadying posture, I think the image I was left with gives a good indication of the level of softness in the lens.

Also, when you later zoom into a picture, it starts getting less than pretty at around 66% enlargement, I thought the resolution of the 10 MP sensor would have given me more resolution - but perhaps it is and it is in effect highlighting the softness.

I thought colour reproduction was good and bokeh (sp) was also good. I did not observe CA in my real life shots. I did get lens flare when shooting from one particular position, the suns was to my right and I had not attached the lens hood.

I got a good picture of a side door (in shade) at a focal length of 95mm and shutter speed of 1/15 handheld, so VR is clearly effective.

By comparison, the 18-135 lens was very sharp, even over the lower focal length of the 70-300 (ie 70 - 135), the 18-135 was noticeably sharper - though its bokeh was less pleasing.

I was surprised that in the same conditions at the same focal length, the 18-135 gave better detail even without VR. Also the 18-135 pictures looked better when zoomed into, even at 100% (ie the D80 resolution could be better observed in this lens).

An example of the two lenses - on my neighbours chimney, his TV aerial is strapped on by twisted metal wire (ie twisted like strands of rope). The 18-135 shows the twists fairly clearly, the 70 - 300 does not. I was shooting upwards at a range of about 30 feet.

The 70-300 VR did do a much better job when RAW was used, I don't have RAW software yet, but viewing RAW pictures in the Nikon Picture software clearly showed an improvement in sharpness and was much closer to what I expected the lens to deliver. I only took 3 RAW pictures, so I need to explore this further.

I thought the 3D matrix kept skies looking nice in landscape photo's.

For Un Sharp Mask, I use the settings 150 - 1 - 0

Basically, at F5.6 handheld, my 18-135 is much sharper than the 70 - 300 VR. RAW will probably close the gap, but I need to check this out some more. The 70 - 300 looks like it has better resolution at the wide end.

The settings on my camera and some PP (enhance shadow and lightly sharpen) is now giving me images that I am much happier with. I am disappointed at the lack of sharpness of my 70 -300 VR, it seems to be working Ok but please someone tell me if it sounds like it is underperforming compared to your own copy.

I will update once I have become more proficient with this setup.

Thanks for reading
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Old Feb 11, 2007, 3:41 PM   #2
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The 70-300VR lens should be very sharp. I've had the 70-300VR for 2 months now, and the 18-135 for about 6. Both of them are very sharp IMO. At least my copies...even at F5.6.

Another thing...I don't think the 70-300 will benefit more from RAW compared to the 18-135. If your 70-300 is losing detail, RAW may help, but RAW will help the 18-135 detail just as much. Imagine running a sharpening filter over an image (via Photoshop)...it doesn't matter what lens you took the picture with, the sharpening filter works on the image regardless.

Here's a 100% crop imagefrom my 70-300 @ 300mm(no resizing), no editing, straight from the camera JPG mode...
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Old Feb 12, 2007, 1:46 AM   #3
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I also got the feeling my 70-300VR is also on the soft side, using the D80's default sharpness setting.

This is an example (100% crop, no editing)

This was shot against a very bright sky, so I'm happy CA is well controlled.


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Old Feb 12, 2007, 2:12 PM   #4
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Nikon's tend to shoot soft pictures out of the camera if left on it's default setting. Raising the in-camera sharpness to "medium high" (+1) would help. Take a look at the sample photos for the D80/D200 review here on Steves Digicam site. Makes a difference. But of course the best solution would be to run the photos through PP.

On another topic...have any of you experienced overexposure issues while on matrix metering mode? I've read about some complaints from other D80 owners in other forums. Curious...

That and I was considering the D80. Sort of. My first choice being the D200 or the upcoming D200s.

Thanks.
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Old Feb 12, 2007, 3:00 PM   #5
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Swgod98 - nice shot, can you describe how you got it a little, ie light levels, range,tripod/handheld, VR modeand camera settings. I take this is one of your best shots and you have thrown loads away - I hope so, or I am in trouble:lol:

Jotajota - thanks, at least I am insome good company. By time I get home from work, it is too dark for me to test the lens, but the next chance i have, i will try manual on a tripod, just to see if I have focus calibration issue, the chances are my lens is working within factory parameters, so impoving technique may be necessary.

darkDTSHD - I have set sharpening to +1. I have downloaded the latest firmware and i have not found exposure levels to be an issue. In fact in some of my shots, I tried +/- EV and they were clearly out, indicating the exposure was pretty good. My software does detect that in most photo's I need to be brighter and increase shadow but this might be because I had tone set to -1, I have now returned it to normal, ready for my next shoot. I just think there is a learning curve with the camera and perhaps the D40 / D80 compliment each other well in terms of user experience.
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Old Feb 12, 2007, 5:10 PM   #6
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norm smith wrote:
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darkDTSHD - I have set sharpening to +1. I have downloaded the latest firmware and i have not found exposure levels to be an issue. In fact in some of my shots, I tried +/- EV and they were clearly out, indicating the exposure was pretty good. My software does detect that in most photo's I need to be brighter and increase shadow but this might be because I had tone set to -1, I have now returned it to normal, ready for my next shoot. I just think there is a learning curve with the camera and perhaps the D40 / D80 compliment each other well in terms of user experience.
Hello Norm,

Do you notice a difference since you've set the sharpening to +1? I have in the many pictures I've seen using the D80/D200. Even if most people will be doing some PP any how.

But as for the "latest firmware" it doesn't address exposure issues. Assuming there really are "issues". It's just that, as I said, I read complaints from other users in another Nikon forum. Which was why I asked.

Have you shot some pics in high contrast scenes? You've never encountered overexposed shots? If so that's good news. In that maybe there were isolated incidents. As in the 3 reviews of the D80 I've read there were no mentions of overexposer problems. So go figure.

Love to hear from other D80/D200 owners as well.

Thanks.
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Old Feb 12, 2007, 6:41 PM   #7
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My +1 sharpening makes a noticable difference

My 18-135 lens is superb, very sharp

I'm not so sure about the firmware, i have heard that companies actual fix more than they announce, so who knows, maybe there is an exposure tweek, but I find mine generally fine. I was quite impressed at the way 3D matrix can cope with buildings against a sky, the sky is preserved rather than being blown out, which has been a problem with my other cams.

re my 70-300 VR, I am getting a sharper image by manual focusing - does this mean my lens needs re-calibrating to correct the auto focus?
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Old Feb 12, 2007, 7:22 PM   #8
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norm smith wrote:
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Swgod98 - nice shot, can you describe how you got it a little, ie light levels, range,tripod/handheld, VR modeand camera settings. I take this is one of your best shots and you have thrown loads away - I hope so, or I am in trouble:lol:
It was outdoors (plenty of light!) midday. This guy was probably standing 30 or so feet away (if I'm remembering correctly - it was my first outing with the lens in Dec). It was handheld with VR on, set to normal mode. I don't recall camera settings, but my exif data should still exist on the image...

Most of my images have come out pretty good, as long as I'm not moving. You see, shooting birds can be a PIA. I'm still not used to it. And I have nearly 0 knack for panning shots. I've gotten unsharp images, mostly because of my sloppy posture in composing pictures.

If you are interested in seeing some more pictures, you can see them on my flickr account @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/swgod98/

For the person asking about overexposure...yes, I do get it a bit on occasion. I don't notice it often with my 70-300, but I just put my 50mm on this weekend for some shots, and I had all sorts of overexposed images :?

As you can see in this picture, it's a bit overxposed. I did some PP'ing, but the overexposed areas couldn't be fixed...

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/174/3...69c2f2e3ce.jpg

Kind of bugged me...I figured I just had something set wrong, but didn't bother to figure it out. I'll probably play with the camera/50mm more later this week. But, I do keep the camera on -1/3EV...I wonder if I should keep it at -2/3EV...?

*shrug*

Oh, final note: I do keep the camera at the sharpen +1 mode.
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Old Feb 12, 2007, 9:06 PM   #9
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norm smith wrote:
Quote:
My +1 sharpening makes a noticable difference

My 18-135 lens is superb, very sharp

I'm not so sure about the firmware, i have heard that companies actual fix more than they announce, so who knows, maybe there is an exposure tweek, but I find mine generally fine. I was quite impressed at the way 3D matrix can cope with buildings against a sky, the sky is preserved rather than being blown out, which has been a problem with my other cams.

re my 70-300 VR, I am getting a sharper image by manual focusing - does this mean my lens needs re-calibrating to correct the auto focus?
Hey Norm,

Thanks for commenting. But as for companies fixing more than they mention...I'm sure they do. As with most firmware updates for most electronics. But I'm pretty sure most companies will tell you about all the major fixes. And being that the overexposure issue is a very important fix I doubt Nikon would neglect to mention it if they dealt with it. Perhaps they will address it in the next fix.

In any case, I'm glad you're enjoying your D80 and have not run into overexposure issues. But at least swgod98 just confirmed that it does exist with the D80. So, it seems it is a quirk of the D80. And something I have to consider in making my choice. Even if this only happens intermitently. The D200 is still on the top of my list.

Thanks again for your words!
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Old Feb 13, 2007, 2:20 AM   #10
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Hello Norm,

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"Is the recalibration ofa lens covered by the Nikon warranty ??

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"And how would one be absolutelysure that the lens is not focusing correctly ??
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