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Thread: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

  1. #1
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    What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    I'm after the sharpest lens for my D3x.
    Ideally a slight wide angle.
    I've heard that the Voigtlander Ultron 2.0, 40mm SL II is very sharp and the
    20 mm / F3,5 Color Skopar SL II as well.
    I believe the 28 nikkor ais is also very sharp.
    Any idea's here?

    I'm photographing rugs and need as much detail as possible.

    Cheers,
    Willem.

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    Senior Member BSEH's Avatar
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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    try look

    dxomark.com/index.php/Lenses/Camera-Lens-Ratings/Optical-Metric-Scores

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Thanks BSEH!

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    I think I got that lens already.
    It's the Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8 G ED.
    W

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Quote Originally Posted by Rethmeier View Post
    I think I got that lens already.
    It's the Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8 G ED.
    W
    It is a very commonly overlooked lenses that is more deserving and this maybe due to sample variation.

    Although I know you are photographing rugs, and not sure on your applications, sharpest lenses usually come from telephoto form or macro lenses for detail!
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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Just watch your distortion with any zoom for that matter. The 60mm macro was my first thought , well I take that back my first thought was my 200 F2 until you said copy work. LOL
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    I have not seen any lens with greater acuity and sharpness than the 85 PC-E...from Nikon.

    Perhaps Zeiss or Leica 100 Macros....

    Bob

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Actually if you're looking for a lens to use indoor for copy work where flair isn't much of an issue and also a lens which has a relatively flat field....all combined with spectacular high resolution across it's entire image field, it would be the very original and 1st generation Vivitar series 1 90mm f2.5 macro. This lens is very different than succeeding generations of that lens labeled 90mm f2.5 and f2.8, so don't confuse the two. The original 90mm f2.5 (which came in Nikon Ai or Ais versions I believe), consistantly tested at approx 105-109 line pairs/mm by f11 (on axis) and into the corners. It's sharpness is pretty astonishing.

    Unfortunately I've run across a few copies that were less than desirable. At more open apertures such as f5.6 and f8, it still run rings around most current lenses. To get to 1:1, there was an matched optical adapter/tube. I haven't tested one out on recent generations of DSLR's, but suppose under proper lighting, it still will give most currently made lenses a run for their money, including the most recent Nikkor Micro's. There was an early Tamrom 90mm f2.5 macro and a early Tokina 90mm macro, but as good a performer these lenses were, the Vivitar was in a class of its own and even today that class is small if a really good copy is found.

    Dave (D&A)
    Last edited by D&A; 30th June 2012 at 08:54.

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Thanks for all the advise,however nobody read my post properly.
    I need something between 20 to 40mm angle on FX.
    And yes, I do have a 85 PC-E and it's sharp,very sharp.
    The problem is that I shoot these rugs from above and I'm already hovering 30 ft over them.
    Cheers,
    W

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Isn t your most important issue distortion and flatness of field ? You are in essence copying a pattern that fills the frame at 30 feet . You can t tolerate field curvature .

    Sharpness will be good enough on any of the modern lenses ..if you can get the subject in focus edge to edge . This will require that you stop down significantly .

    Also keep in mind that you don t have to fill the frame ....you can center the rug and avoid using the far corners ..if you can get the distance . A D3X has plenty of MP to allow cropping .

    What Nikon lens is the sharpest ......shooting a flat subject at 30 ft at f8 or smaller . The one with the flattest field . Without looking my bet is the 24PC (even recognizing its not tops for generally usage ).

    LensRentals has good tests on all the Nikon lenses and you will see the differences in resolution are often not material except on the edges .

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    You might try to get a copy of the newest Hartblei Super Rotator, it's a Zeiss lens and exceptional. It does shift and tilt too. The copy I got to demo was excellent corner to corner at f5.6 zeroed. Resolution falls off rapidly after about 5 or 6mm of shift however, but by all appearances an excellent lens.

    The other lens I really like is my 35/1.4 AFS G. It is excellent after f4, and probably about equal to the 85 PC-E, little bit of barrel that is easily corrected.

    I have an excellent copy of the 24 PC-E, but they do show sample variation, so you have to shop carefully.
    Jack
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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Jack

    Can the raw convertor really correct for curvature of field as it affects resolution? My impression was that it flattened the image making it look normal but that the edge resolution on a flat target would be less than the lens can deliver on the 3 dimensional target . Or do you think that shooting at F8 provides more than enough DOF to cover it ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack View Post
    You might try to get a copy of the newest Hartblei Super Rotator, it's a Zeiss lens and exceptional. It does shift and tilt too. The copy I got to demo was excellent corner to corner at f5.6 zeroed. Resolution falls off rapidly after about 5 or 6mm of shift however, but by all appearances an excellent lens.

    The other lens I really like is my 35/1.4 AFS G. It is excellent after f4, and probably about equal to the 85 PC-E, little bit of barrel that is easily corrected.

    I have an excellent copy of the 24 PC-E, but they do show sample variation, so you have to shop carefully.

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    If it were me I'd consider the 45 PC-E, assuming it's wide enough.

    If you can use DxO Optics Pro, then it has excellent module-based lens corrections that include higher-order complex distortion that takes focusing distance into account. This opens up for a lot of lenses that otherwise would have difficulty reproducing straight lines as such. Most other converters can only correct first-order distortions (pincushion/barrel).

    Unfortunately, flat field and wide angle don't go hand in hand.

    For a wide angle I'd look into the 28/1.8G, 24/1.4G, or 35/1.4G and stop them down to f/8. But the ones with the flattest fields will also have complex higher-order distortion. The 24-70 might work too, although I'd avoid the widest focal lengths.

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    These are the lenses I currently have.
    All 3 PC-E lenses, the 14-24 and the 24-70.
    I have been stopping the 24-70 down to F11, maybe I should go to F9.
    Don't get me wrong,I'm sure it's sharp enough,the client is always happy, it's just me.
    W

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    In that case, maybe what you really need is a D800E.

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Willem,

    the Ultron is indeed a 'sharp' lens, but one has to like its 'clinical' rendering. And it has quite a lot barrel distortion at close distances.

    The 20mm Skopar is a nice travel lens for its size, but has its compromises, i.e. very weak corners, which aren't getting that much better when stopping down. In this focal length range I'd consider the Carl Zeiss Zf 21 f2.8.

    On the other end of the range there is the Nikkor 45 f2.8 Ai-P (Tessar type) lens, which is a bit overlooked. Stopped down it delivers a very even corner to corner resolving power and it is almost free from aberrations. Distortion is almost non existent. Good micro contrast.

    Cheers,
    Udo

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Thanks for all the info guys,
    I might do some test with my lenses at F9 instead.
    The D800 E would be no good, imagine shooting rugs, moire hell!
    W

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    Workshop Member ptomsu's Avatar
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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    I have shot around 500 images with the D800E, some containing fabrics which should show moire - not a single issue with it so far!

    I cannot understand why so many people are over-nervous about moire - this is FAR too much hype!

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    I don't want or need a D800 D800E
    And Peter, how many rugs have you shot?
    The only camera that will replace my D3x is a D4x or something.
    W

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    Senior Member Swissblad's Avatar
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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    I would go with the Nikkor PC-E 45mm.

    Review Nikon PC-E Nikkor 45mm 1:2.8 ED N
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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Hi Willem
    Since I own some of the mentioned lenses (and a D3x), here's a brief rundown:
    Nikkor G 1,4/35: very sharp in the center, but has considerable curvature of field and some CA, particullarly near the edges.
    Nikkor G 1,8/28: Pretty much same comments as above, but possibly too much COF for your usage.
    Nikkor Ais 2,8/28: Showing its age, will not do justice to the D3x.
    Zeiss ZF II 2/35: Sharp and contrasty in the center, but too much CA near edges.
    Zeiss ZF II 1,4/35: Best of the lot. Modest COF, practically no CA, sharp to the edges stopped down a bit. Big, heavy, expensive and MF, but superlative IQ.
    These are of course results from my samples of the lenses, YMMV.

    Cheers

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    I am totally lost in this thread . Can t see how resolution could be the issue . IMHO we are solving the wrong problem . Rugs have texture,color and most important pattern. The last thing I would want to do is be correcting for lens distortion . (please let me know if you figured out to correct for wave distortion on the zeiss 21....serious question).

    This is copy work just larger in scale ..the goal should be flat field ,minimum distortion and edge sharpness ..exactly like the 60/2.8 macro only with a larger fOV to minimize camera to subject distance .

    Let me guess these images are used primarily for printed brochures . My wife s a designer ..I ve seen hundreds of these for all types of rugs . When you look at the images you need to be able to judge the quality of the rug ...as much is possible without having a sample .

    The question should be which lens has the characteristics of a macro lens only a wider FOV.

    Want better IQ than the D3X go to MF ...the other opportunity is color separation in the mid tones . Go out Architectural Digest and take a look ....lots of stuff is still large format film .

    This is an example where top quality photography can directly impact the attractiveness and sales of the product .

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    The Leica Vario-Elmar-R 35-70/4 ROM is sharper than the Ultron 40. It has some distortion at the wide end though.

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Quote Originally Posted by glenerrolrd View Post
    I am totally lost in this thread . Can t see how resolution could be the issue .
    Not sure how familiar you are with rugs, but if we are dealing with Persian ( or similar quality) carpets, (which I assume Willem is concerned about,(if not, any P&S will show the general pattern and colour)) the number of knots per square meter is an important measure of quality. To make this reasonably visible, the resolution of the image is certainly a major consideration.

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Contax/Zeiss 35/2.8 and 28/2.8 (the latter preferably MM version), and Leica R 35/2.8 and 28/2.8 are also excellent. You need to switch mounts on the lens though, see Leica & Pentax & Nikon | Leitax

    The old PC-Nikkor 35mm is supposedly very good also. Have never tried one though.

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Quote Originally Posted by Arne Hvaring View Post
    Not sure how familiar you are with rugs, but if we are dealing with Persian ( or similar quality) carpets, (which I assume Willem is concerned about,(if not, any P&S will show the general pattern and colour)) the number of knots per square meter is an important measure of quality. To make this reasonably visible, the resolution of the image is certainly a major consideration.
    Arne

    I understand exactly what he is doing . I have looked at hundreds of rug catalogs and displays .

    My point is that the DIFFERENCES in resolution between most of the available Nikon mount wide angles isn t a factor shooting at 30ft set to F8 . The differences in distortion and flatness of field however are still important . Further he needs to be able to show the subtle tone separation that is present in any quality rug,fabric etc. which can be best obtained with a larger sensor and good lighting technique.

    We aren t talking about comparing a p&s we are debating the performance of lenses like the Nikkor 24/1.4,24PC,21ZF ,28/1.8,35/1.4 ...at F8 they are all produce great rendering of fine detail. Now lets bring up the sample variation (which can be greater than the differences between lenses). It was my POV that this isn t the most relevant aspect of his shooting situation .

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    I do copywork for mostly flat artwork and if the pieces are over a certain length it gets harder and harder to effectively light, not only that but you run out of room real quick in artist studios. My solution for pieces of this size is to use a longer focal length and shoot the larger object in sections, moving the artwork not the camera. If you are 30ft up, I imagine you are shooting in a environment that could be rigged with a rolling platform for the rugs. Simply light the shortest dimension and shoot in sections.

    Working this way you get better lighting, little to no distortion, and a lot more resolution for fine detail.

    Just curious why you must use a wide-angle, for far less money you could build a moving platform for the work and 100mm macro and be set. For stitching use PTgui and use these settings:

    "5.6. How can I stitch mosaics, like partial scans from a flatbad scanner of a large image?
    PTGui was designed for stitching panoramas, from photographs taken from a single camera viewpoint. When stitching a panorama, images are warped to correct for perspective distortion so that a seamless overlap is achieved. For mosaic-style stitching on the other hand the images should only be shifted and rotated; any perspective warping is undesirable. PTGui can be tricked to do no warping by setting the field of view of the source images to a very small value, which corresponds to a tele lens with a long focal length.

    To stitch mosaics, proceed as follows: •Start a new project and load your source images
    •Switch PTGui to Advanced mode using the Advanced... button on the Project Assistant
    •Go to the Lens Settings tab and set the Lens type to Rectilinear. Set the Horizontal Field of View to 1 degree.
    •In the Control Points menu choose 'Generate Control Points'
    •Go to the Optimizer tab. Deselect the 'Optimize lens Field of View' checkbox. At 'Minimize lens distortion', choose 'Heavy'.
    •Press the Run Optimizer button (at the bottom)
    •Now go to the Panorama Editor window by pressing Ctrl+E (Windows) or Command+E (Mac). First press the Center Panorama button, then press the Fit Panorama button.
    Your mosaic is now ready to be stitched at the Create Panorama tab."

    So long as you don't try to use a shorter focal length this technique works really well.

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    Senior Member Arne Hvaring's Avatar
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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Quote Originally Posted by glenerrolrd View Post
    Arne

    My point is that the DIFFERENCES in resolution between most of the available Nikon mount wide angles isn t a factor shooting at 30ft set to F8 .
    Agreed, not quite clear (to me) in your previous post.

    I also agree that sample variations can play a significant role. For instance I am on my second copy of the ZF II 1,4/35, the first beeing soft on the right hand side at all distances. Rare for a Zeiss lens.

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Quote Originally Posted by glenerrolrd View Post
    Jack

    Can the raw convertor really correct for curvature of field as it affects resolution?
    Hi Roger,

    I am pretty sure I said barrel distortion which is not curvature of field. I know of no software correcting for curvature other than excessive sharpening applied via a feathered mask which is not a correction per se. My 35 does not exhibit significant curvature once stopped down to f8. My 24 PC retains a little, but again f8 diminishes it pretty significantly, probably good enough for the type of work Rethmeier is doing -- he's not operating in the macro range

    Rethmeier, if your current 24 PC-E is not cutting it, you might want to try another copy.

    Then:
    The question should be which lens has the characteristics of a macro lens only a wider FOV.
    Here I agree with the 45 pancake assessment as near ideal -- a tessar design which by default will be very flat field, low distortion and generally high contrast because of having relatively few elements. Its only downside in modern terms is they are generally slower optically than more elaborate designs.
    Jack
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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    If you need wider than the 60 macro than I would go for the 35 1.4G which is damn sharp has some distortion that is of simple correction but about the only one or two lenses that perform very very well at even 5.6 to the corners. No matter how you slice the cheese any lens wider than 50mm your going to get some distortion, so pick one that is easy to correct out of the gate. In this situation outside the 60 macro or the 45mm PC lens which would be the better choices but being stuck with a wide than i would grab my 35 1.4 or stitch the 45 PC lens. Which i am about 10 seconds away from ordering myself. LOL
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    - If you are considering a manual focus 35mm lens (that is if you use live view), the Samyang/Rokinon f1.4 lens has almost identical 1.65% barrel distortion as the Nikon, but better resolution and chromatic aberration control - at least according to Photozone. Vignetting wider open is also better with the Samyang. You can get three of this lens for the price of one Nikon. It is chipped and focusses to 0.3m.

    - Does anybody here have practical experience with the Samyang/Rokinon 35mm?

    - I have had both Voigtlanders, the 20mm and the 40mm, and neither convinced in the periphery. A new Voigtlander 28mm Aspherical is coming, perhaps that will be better.

    - Regarding your existing 24-70mm, there may be a focal length between 24mm and 40mm with zero distortion. It is 3% barrel at 24mm and 1% pincushion at 40mm.

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Point to remember here, is that I am shooting from 15ft above,hence a wide-angle needed.

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack View Post
    You might try to get a copy of the newest Hartblei Super Rotator, it's a Zeiss lens and exceptional. It does shift and tilt too. The copy I got to demo was excellent corner to corner at f5.6 zeroed. Resolution falls off rapidly after about 5 or 6mm of shift however, but by all appearances an excellent lens.

    The other lens I really like is my 35/1.4 AFS G. It is excellent after f4, and probably about equal to the 85 PC-E, little bit of barrel that is easily corrected.

    I have an excellent copy of the 24 PC-E, but they do show sample variation, so you have to shop carefully.
    Which Hartblei were you trying (40mm, 80mm, or 120mm)? Did resolution on shifting past 6mm hold up better when it was stopped down past 5.6?

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    drb:

    I demoed all three. The 40 and the 80 both fell off after 6mm of shift, but the 40 fell off to pretty mushy, beyond what I would say is usable. The 80 fell off notably, but possibly still usable for some. Neither cleaned up by stopping down -- I would say for all intents and purposes they were limited to 6mm shift. The 120 was pretty impressive corner to corner and remained very good fully shifted.
    Jack
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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack View Post
    drb:

    I demoed all three. The 40 and the 80 both fell off after 6mm of shift, but the 40 fell off to pretty mushy, beyond what I would say is usable. The 80 fell off notably, but possibly still usable for some. Neither cleaned up by stopping down -- I would say for all intents and purposes they were limited to 6mm shift. The 120 was pretty impressive corner to corner and remained very good fully shifted.
    Where could I aquire any of these lenses?

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Hartblei Home The euro is so low right now...

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack View Post
    Rethmeier, if your current 24 PC-E is not cutting it, you might want to try another copy.
    What were the problems you had with the less than good copies? I'm wondering if it's something demonstrable (like one side softer than the other) that Nikon will fix under warranty.

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    Re: What is the sharpest lens for Nikon

    Quote Originally Posted by Rethmeier View Post
    Point to remember here, is that I am shooting from 15ft above,hence a wide-angle needed.
    This means a 50mm lens will cover a rug that's 15ft in diagonal, a 35mm lens will cover one that's 15ft long, and a 24mm lens will cover one that's 15ft wide. Even 15ft long is pretty sizeable, and 15ft wide is huge.

    What's the size of your subject? In general, a lens closer to 50 will perform best in terms of flatness of field, absence of complex distortion, and lack of coma in the corners.

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