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Thread: D800E + Nikon 17-35mm f2.8...Observations

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    D800E + Nikon 17-35mm f2.8...Observations

    Hi All,

    It's been observed that the performance of wide/ultra wide angle lenses and especially the wide angle zooms on the Nikon D800/D800E series of cameras has been less than satisfying. This is especially apparent with regards to edge/side and corner performance at most apertures and wider focal lengths. Lenses that had notably excellent performance across the frame on 12MP bodies now often fall short for some, especially landscape shooters.

    Quite a bit has been written about the normally spectacular 14-24mm f2.8 and also the 16-35mm f4 on the higher MP bodies, but less so on the venerable Nikon 17-35mm f2.8, which has always been a particularly good all around pro caliber performer on 12MP bodies..having a good combination of excellent corner to corner sharpness, low distrotion, moderate but not over the top contrast, relatively compact for the range and speed of it's zoom, takes normal 77mm filters and has a wider and often more useful zoom range than the 14-24mm. It's one apparent weakness has been on the wide end of it's zoom range, often having to be stopped down a bit to achieve performance equal to the rest of it's zoom/aperture range.

    Due to it's combination of desirable features and performance, I decided to perform a "1st observation" causal type test on a D800E body. I already had a preconceived notion that like other wide angle lenses and zooms used on the D800E, that small weakness would be magnified and normally glaring weaknesses might be an over-riding concern. This turned out to be the case, yet in many respects may end up being the sleeper all around wide angle zoom to use with the D800E, especially that most seem to make compromises on the these higher MP full frame bodies.

    Lots of variability exists in sample to sample performance, a key trait of the Nikon 17-35mm f2.8, as is it's well known AF-S motor squeak. The sample I tested is one of the best optically I've come across in many years of testing as many samples I could get my hands on....so this may be a best case scenario when this particular lens is used on a D800E.

    At 17mm and f2.8, quite apparent softness across the whole frame is evident, as it most often is when used on 12 MP bodies. At f4, where in the past, most of the central part of the frame would sharpen up considerably with edge/corner performance not all that far behind, on the D800E center sharpness just reached acceptable but considerable edge/corner smearing was quite evident. At f5.6, center sharpness improved to good-very good, and immediately outside this zone, things improved to acceptable. The remaining 10-15% of edge and corner was still soft/smeared, often resembling most of the other wide angle lenses tried on this body. By f8, only a residual amount of softness remained in the last 5-10% of the side/edges of the frame...depending on subject distance.

    Zooming to 20mm showed notable improvement in all areas of the frame by a constant 20% but the areas of edge/corner smearing and softness persisted to much the same percentages as described for use of the zoom at 17mm. In other words, although by f4.5, the lens was eminently useful, one still had to expect a tradeoff of speed and edge/corner performance. By f8, once again the zoom at it's near wide angle setting was exceptionally good.

    By 24mm, things took a dramatic jump in overall image characteristics. At f2.8 center sharpness was good and improved to excellent at f4.5 and beyond. Corner/edge performance still lagged behind with a relatively small amount of softness and a bit of smearing at f2.8 and f4, but by f5.6, near excellent sharpness was seen across approx 95% of the frame. At f8 that last bit of extreme edge softness was gone.

    Finally at the 35mm focal length, good-excellent performance was fairly evident at f2.8 across the entire frame and by f4 near perfect for all intent and purposes.

    Camera to subject distance at all focal lengths didn't really alter these findings.

    A few things should be noted about this lens in general. Unlike the 14-24 f2.8 and especially the newer 16-35mm f4, this older designed lens is of lower contrast, so initial apparent sharpness appears to be somewhat lower. It's resistance to flair is good. A couple of advantages of this lens over the other two are the following:

    1. It's extended zoom range and ability to readily accept filters is often preferable to the 14-24mm f2.8 .

    2. It's excellent low distortion characteristics as compared to the 16-35mm f4, often makes it a more acceptable choice, especially for certain types of shooting although it does not have VR.

    3. It's relative compactness over the other two lenses is also one of the benefits of this lens.

    I briefly shot with the new(er) Tokina wide angle zoom lenses previously on the D3s/D700 and although they are good, they couldn't match the Nikon's, except for their vivid high contrast images. My guess is they might struggle and exhibit many of the image weaknesses as seen with all the Nikon wide and ultra wide angle lenses and zooms when used on the D800/D800E.

    Apparently when it comes to using most of these lenses with the D800E, compromises have to be made and it simply comes down to picking those lenses that have the most desirable and positive traits for ones own particular kind of shooting.

    Dave (D&A)
    Last edited by D&A; 14th June 2012 at 07:51.
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    Re: D800E + Nikon 17-35mm f2.8...Observations

    Thanks Dave. This lens has always been a staple for me, and this is encouraging news for it's future role when the 800E arrives. I generally felt this lens needed to be at 5.6 and better at 8 for it's potential to shine on all my prior cropped and FF nikons, doesn't sound much different on the 800E. best....Peter

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    Re: D800E + Nikon 17-35mm f2.8...Observations

    Thank you Dave, you have just confirmed what I suspected about the 17-35. I think it is a terrific lens for general purpose pro work. The low distortion, the flare resistance and at optimal f/stops remarkable sharpness. The extreme corners mean little to me, I try to keep the subject out of that part of the frame. I have found that (again depending on matching f/stop to intended purpose,) the lens has no real faults, just like any lens, it has design characteristics that one works with. Thank you again for this information. Joe

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    Re: D800E + Nikon 17-35mm f2.8...Observations

    Quote Originally Posted by innerimager View Post
    Thanks Dave. This lens has always been a staple for me, and this is encouraging news for it's future role when the 800E arrives. I generally felt this lens needed to be at 5.6 and better at 8 for it's potential to shine on all my prior cropped and FF nikons, doesn't sound much different on the 800E. best....Peter
    You're most welcome Peter. I too was hoping that this lens was not only useable but performed well enough to be the wide angle zoom of choice for me when shooting with the D800E. To be honest, it's not as strong optically in the open and middle apaerture range on the D800E vs. it's use on 12MP bodies. These differences are apparent but other pro level Nikon wide angle zooms have also shown a precipitous drop in performance when they are used on the D800E. At 17mm if used at at least f8 and and at 24 & 35mm at f5.6 (preferably f6.7)...a good sample of this zoom won't disappoint on the new 36MP bodies.

    Dave (D&A)

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    Re: D800E + Nikon 17-35mm f2.8...Observations

    Quote Originally Posted by jsf View Post
    Thank you Dave, you have just confirmed what I suspected about the 17-35. I think it is a terrific lens for general purpose pro work. The low distortion, the flare resistance and at optimal f/stops remarkable sharpness. The extreme corners mean little to me, I try to keep the subject out of that part of the frame. I have found that (again depending on matching f/stop to intended purpose,) the lens has no real faults, just like any lens, it has design characteristics that one works with. Thank you again for this information. Joe
    Hi Joe,

    Thanks very much for your kind comments. Please read my additonal response to Peter directly above this post. In addition, I completely agreee with your assesment...this general purpose pro level zoom has many advanatges over the other two commonly used f2.8 wide angle zooms by Nikon, when used with the D800E. Low distortion, resistance to flair, ability to use front filters and being relatively compact are just some of its advanatages, not to mention a often times more useful focal length range than the 14-24mm f2.8 zoom. It does give up something in performance but I find its an acceptable tradeoff.

    Dave (D&A)

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    Re: D800E + Nikon 17-35mm f2.8...Observations

    Quote Originally Posted by D&A View Post
    You're most welcome Peter. I too was hoping that this lens was not only useable but performed well enough to be the wide angle zoom of choice for me when shooting with the D800E. To be honest, it's not as strong optically in the open and middle apaerture range on the D800E vs. it's use on 12MP bodies. These differences are apparent but other pro level Nikon wide angle zooms have also shown a precipitous drop in performance when they are used on the D800E. At 17mm if used at at least f8 and and at 24 & 35mm at f5.6 (preferably f6.7)...a good sample of this zoom won't disappoint on the new 36MP bodies.

    Dave (D&A)
    Thanks for the info Dave, how would you say it holds up agenst the 16-35 in that reguard?

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    Subscriber Member TRSmith's Avatar
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    Re: D800E + Nikon 17-35mm f2.8...Observations

    Thanks for your endorsement of this lens. With the 14-24 and 16-35 getting all the buzz, i was beginning to doubt my own enthusiasm for the 17-35 which has become my lens cap on the D700. Since I rarely do any rigorous testing on my own, I really appreciate what you've done. Thanks!

    Best,
    Tim

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    Re: D800E + Nikon 17-35mm f2.8...Observations

    Hi Tim,

    Thank you. As I did with the previous posts I think its important to emphasize that not all is perfect with the 17-35mm f2.8 when used on the D800/D800E but neither has it been with the 14-24 f2.8 nor the 16-35 f4 VR. Each has not performed optimally on the D800 cameras as compared to their use on a 12MP body...but if one is willing to stop down to to an optimal aperture, then each begins to take on it's usual characterics as originally seen on 12MP bodies.

    The other two things to note about the 17-35mm f2.8 lens for those who haven't shot with one, (and which is nothing new to it's previous use)...is that it has lower microcontrast when compared to the other two wide angle lenses and thus appears to lack a some of "punch" and clarity. This can be addressed to a degree in post processing but its worth noting, especially if one is used to the look of the other two zooms. Whether this is due to the lack of nano coating, I just don't know. The other well known optical issue is a wide variation in sample to sample performance, especially in the early runs of production. Other than that, as those who use this lens know, it's relative low distortion, speed (when corner softness is not paramount to the image), easy handling, focal length range and relative compactness along with it's ability to use standard 77mm front filters...is often the prefered choice over both other wide angle zooms.

    It seems when it comes to the ultra wide angle focal length (especially in zooms), no lens has been been ideal when used on the D800, if one desires to shoot at or near wide open and expects edge to edge shapness across the frame and/or with low distortion.

    Dave (D&A)

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    Re: D800E + Nikon 17-35mm f2.8...Observations

    Quote Originally Posted by Moreorless View Post
    Thanks for the info Dave, how would you say it holds up agenst the 16-35 in that reguard?
    Hi Moreorless,

    Although I've shot quite a bit with the 16-35 f4 VR on a D3s and D700, I haven't tested it yet on a D800. Based on what I've experienced with the 16-35 f4, I much prefer the 17-35 f2.8 assuming a good sample can be obtained. The primarily reason being that the excessive distortion found on the wide end of the 16-35 f4 is simply un-usable for my particular uses and was not easily correctable for the given types of images I required.

    The 16-35 does exhibit more microcontrast and punch in it's images and possibly better central sharpness at the wider apertures, but it's been reported that edge and corner performance isn't much improved over that seen with the 17-35mm f2.8. Combine this with it's slower lens speed (although it does have VR), a larger more unyielding size lens and excessive distortion at the wide end, has me personally choosing the 17-35mm f2.8 over the 16-35 f4 for use on the D800. I think though 17-35mm f2.8 images will require some additional post processing in order to bring some additonal clarity to it's images as compared to other more recent wide angle zooms, but this isn't too hard nor time consuming to do and worth it for the many benifits the 17-35 f2.8 provides.

    Dave (D&A)
    Last edited by D&A; 15th June 2012 at 08:55.

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    Re: D800E + Nikon 17-35mm f2.8...Observations

    On my d700, I have found that all of my lenses lack that middle tone crispness and "micro-contrast" that I used to get on film. (with 4x5, and 2 1/4 gear, I didn't shoot 35mm except for slides, and then I had way too much contrast) However, a little bit of PP seems to cure everything. I prefer ACR, but between the clarity slider and tone curve I find that I can punch everything up quite satisfactorily. My settings however are nuetral and exposed hard to the right, so they always look a little flat and wimpy straight out of the camera. I have always thought that was just normal Nikon digital. However I have all of these old primes, so I am hoping that they will be optimal (reasonably) on the d800e that I am waiting for. I am curious, anybody with a d800/e have you had a chance or opportunity to use either: 55mm f/2.8 micro, 105mm f/2.5, 200mm f/4 or a 300mm f/4 ED IF? Joe

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    Re: D800E + Nikon 17-35mm f2.8...Observations

    Quote Originally Posted by D&A View Post
    Hi Moreorless,

    Although I've shot quite a bit with the 16-35 f4 VR on a D3s and D700, I haven't tested it yet on a D800. Based on what I've experienced with the 16-35 f4, I much prefer the 17-35 f2.8 assuming a good sample can be obtained. The primarily reason being that the excessive distortion found on the wide end of the 16-35 f4 is simply un-usable for my particular uses and was not easily correctable for the given types of images I required.

    The 16-35 does exhibit more microcontrast and punch in it's images and possibly better central sharpness at the wider apertures, but it's been reported that edge and corner performance isn't much improved over that seen with the 17-35mm f2.8. Combine this with it's slower lens speed (although it does have VR), a larger more unyielding size lens and excessive distortion at the wide end, has me personally choosing the 17-35mm f2.8 over the 16-35 f4 for use on the D800. I think though 17-35mm f2.8 images will require some additional post processing in order to bring some additonal clarity to it's images as compared to other more recent wide angle zooms, but this isn't too hard nor time consuming to do and worth it for the many benifits the 17-35 f2.8 provides.

    Dave (D&A)
    Thanks Dave, distortion isnt an issue with most of the landscapes I shoot but its something worth considering, sharpness across the frame at f/8 is really going to be my main concern.

    Interesting that you say the 17-35mm gets stronger towards the long end as that seems the opposite of what I'v heard about the 16-35mm.

    Alot is I'd guess going to depend on whether I bother with a mid range zoom or not, my first thoughtout was a 16-35mm and a 24-70mm but a 17-35mm and 50/85mm 1.8 G's is tempting if the 17-35mm can perform well at f/2.8 at the long end.

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    Re: D800E + Nikon 17-35mm f2.8...Observations

    Quote Originally Posted by Moreorless View Post
    .

    Alot is I'd guess going to depend on whether I bother with a mid range zoom or not, my first thoughtout was a 16-35mm and a 24-70mm but a 17-35mm and 50/85mm 1.8 G's is tempting if the 17-35mm can perform well at f/2.8 at the long end.
    As discussed, the 17-35mm is strongest at it's long end, but whether it's sufficently sharp at 35mm and f2.8 on a D800, is hard to say. For most uses, all the wide angle lenses and zooms need to be stopped down to at least f4.5 or more, to achieve acceptabably good across the frame sharpness for most uses. It's one of those situations, where one has to try it, in order to see for themselves, if it's good enough.

    Dave (D&A)

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    Re: D800E + Nikon 17-35mm f2.8...Observations

    At f/2.8 or faster it would really be central sharpness I'd be concerned with. Basically a landscape lens that performs well thoughout the range at f/8 that can do double duty as an action lens in the 24-35mm range.

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    Re: D800E + Nikon 17-35mm f2.8...Observations

    the 17-35mm ED is a classic, we have also used this on the HCam recently and starting from 22mm it even fills a large chip (P45+) from 24mm upwards even the IQ180. Sharpness on the large frame is really good and usable even in the corners with 8,5 and up, I would recommend 11 or 11,5.

    A friend of mine has used this lens for years on the sinarcam already with multishot and real large filesizes for Car interiors and motocycles- actually this lens was one of the reasons we built the HCam.

    Regards
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    Re: D800E + Nikon 17-35mm f2.8...Observations

    Hi Moreorless

    As I indicated in my observations at the beginning of this thread, the focal lengths between 24mm-35mm had good central sharpness at f2.8. Of course "good" is relative, depending on intended use of the file. There is a big difference between web use, 8.5x11" print use and 24x36" prints or larger. There is also a difference as to whether the shot is a static one or action and what the subject matter is, if 24-35mm at f2.8 is centrally sharp enough. It's quite capable at these settings as I noted as opposed to shooting with the lens at 17mm at f2.8, where clearly it is not suitable for most applications except maybe getting away with certain types of smaller web images. Again when we're speaking about performance of a lens wide open where central shapness is simply "good", with softening on edge/sides clearly evident....what is acceptable for one for their particualar use of images at this setting, may not be acceptable to another. Quite subjective.

    Dave (D&A)

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    Re: D800E + Nikon 17-35mm f2.8...Observations

    Quote Originally Posted by Stefan Steib View Post
    the 17-35mm ED is a classic, we have also used this on the HCam recently and starting from 22mm it even fills a large chip (P45+) from 24mm upwards even the IQ180. Sharpness on the large frame is really good and usable even in the corners with 8,5 and up, I would recommend 11 or 11,5.

    A friend of mine has used this lens for years on the sinarcam already with multishot and real large filesizes for Car interiors and motocycles- actually this lens was one of the reasons we built the HCam.

    Regards
    Stefan
    Stefan, thanks for posting this. Your observations and performance of this lens for your application almost mirrors my observations (as posted at the top of this thread) when the lens is used on the D800E at various focal length/aperture settings. Almost the same recommendations would apply to D800/D800E use.

    Dave (D&A)

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    Re: D800E + Nikon 17-35mm f2.8...Observations

    After two weeks with d800 I concluded the "test session" with all my lenses, (mostly leica r primes). Last one was the 17-35 2,8 which performed very well at all focal lengths. Here are a pair shots at 17 of my standard test interior and exterior scenes, at 6,3 just before the set up of diffraction. Full sizes jpg available on flickr. Dave's findings are confirmed, and I would say that he has been a severe examiner...


    _DSC0391a by sergio lovisolo, on Flickr


    Sergio

    _DSC0384 by sergio lovisolo, on Flickr

    Interior photo is a long exposure (3") taken in very low light.

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    Re: D800E + Nikon 17-35mm f2.8...Observations

    Hi Sergio,

    Really nice test shots! As both your images demonstrate, shooting at f6.3 is the sweet spot for this lens set to 17mm....approx the same findings I found in testing the lens. Amoung the wide angle zooms available for shooting on the D800, I believe the 17-35 f2.8 is somewhat underated for use on the D800, simply due to it being somewhat of an older developed optically designed lens. Yet when all factors are taken into consideration, both pluses and minuses, it more than holds its own against the other wide angle zooms it goes up against when they are considered fro use on the D800. On ol;der 12 MP bodies, the outcome is somewhat different.

    Dave (D&A)

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