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Old Feb 11, 2007, 2:22 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, 3:49 PM   #2
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Post some 100% crop pics so people can judge for themselves...might help.
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Old Feb 26, 2007, 2:35 PM   #3
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Just a quick post to properly close down this thread. Nikon replaced my 70-300 VR lens and -WOW- what a difference. Everything is sharp and remains so, even in low light. Obviously, my original 70-300 VR lens was way out. The difference is like night and day.

Being without the 70-300 for a couple of weeks has forced me to explore my 18-135 and I really like the versitility and results from that lens.

The D80 with 18-135 / 70 - 300 VR combo is an awesome package.
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Old Mar 24, 2007, 5:41 PM   #4
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You described my dilemma perfectly. I also have a D80, 70-300 VR and 18-135. I have also tested both in duplicate shots because of a lack of sharpness of the 70-300 VR. I have shot probably a thousand shots with the 70-300 and not one shot has had the "WOW' of sharpness. I have shot hundreds in RAW, which was no better than JPEG. I have explored every setting combination possible and decided that it is indeed a very lackluster lens. The 18-135 is very sharp.

Guess I will have to contact Nikon and see if they can help.
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