Comparing 3 Nikkor 16mm fisheyes


atpaula

I have a special craving for these lenses, especially the older one, the f/3.5.
I compared an old f/3.5 non Ai, a f/2.8 Ais and the latest AF f/2.8D. I just wanted to know which one is the sharpest at center and border to decide once and for all which one will remain in my bag.


I used a Nikon Df on a tripod, with Aperture Priority. This is far from a complete and scientific test.

 

First batch are pictures of a map in my wall, with the camera placed 1m away from it, so focus may not be perfect. 100% crops from the center and upper left side, lens wide open and two other apertures (f/5.6 and f/8).
Second batch are from my window, lens at infinity and 100% crops from center and border (close). Only at f/5.6.

They are all in this sequence (older at the top, newer at bottom).
1- NIKKOR 16mm f/3.5 non AI
2- NIKKOR 16mm f/2.8 Ais
3- AF NIKKOR 16mm f/2.8D

 

WIDE OPEN
1%2016mm%2035%2035%20a_zpsa2audnlv.jpg
4%2016mm%2028%2028%20a_zpsleueblt8.jpg
7%2016mm%20AF%2028%20a_zpssakcykxw.jpg

 

1%2016mm%2035%2035%20b_zpssk9ctm1a.jpg
4%2016mm%2028%2028%20b_zpsz6tq4dge.jpg
7%2016mm%20AF%2028%20b_zpsysfoqmzn.jpg

 

1%2016mm%2035%2035%20c_zps0cl8rcig.jpg
4%2016mm%2028%2028%20c_zps075ht1x3.jpg
7%2016mm%20AF%2028%20c_zpsyax6c7l5.jpg


@f/5.6
2%2016mm%2035%2056%20a_zps4aj4pcyx.jpg
5%2016mm%2028%2056%20a_zps9mtoek3n.jpg
8%2016mm%20AF%2056%20a_zpsauhzhrmg.jpg

 

2%2016mm%2035%2056%20b_zpsaus2r5vv.jpg
5%2016mm%2028%2056%20b_zps1aaxs2us.jpg
8%2016mm%20AF%2056%20b_zpslrqz3mqn.jpg

 

2%2016mm%2035%2056%20c_zpsn154qq8o.jpg
5%2016mm%2028%2056%20c_zpsyrlmgu7v.jpg
8%2016mm%20AF%2056%20c_zpsefg1mrxx.jpg


@f/8
3%2016mm%2035%2080%20a_zpsdgazcv3q.jpg
6%2016mm%2028%2080%20a_zps7tmpwkzl.jpg
9%2016mm%20AF%2080%20a_zpsnelbi5it.jpg

 

3%2016mm%2035%2080%20b_zpsfm2mygaa.jpg
6%2016mm%2028%2080%20b_zpslj9ukpnt.jpg
9%2016mm%20AF%2080%20b_zpsajcbafez.jpg

 

3%2016mm%2035%2080%20c_zpsvolnmt0f.jpg
6%2016mm%2028%2080%20c_zpst8zkqrck.jpg
9%2016mm%20AF%2080%20c_zpshlttbk87.jpg

 

FOCUS AT INFINITY AND @ f/5.6
12%2016mm%2035%2056%20infinity%20a_zpsnu
11%2016mm%2028%2056%20infinity%20a_zpscm
10%2016mm%20AF%2056%20infinity%20a_zpsci

 

12%2016mm%2035%2056%20infinity%20b_zps98
11%2016mm%2028%2056%20infinity%20b_zpsb8
10%2016mm%20AF%2056%20infinity%20b_zpsjr


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I`d say my dearest one, the oldest f/3.5 is the best IMHO, and it is one that will be my companion.
The difference at the corner @f/5.6 is so noticeable. 
I was expecting the AF to have the best performance.

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It's no wonder the old 16/3.5 has such a dedicated following.

I've owned the 10.5/2.8 DX and the 16/2.8 AF-D in the past and was never happy with either of them in performance, both lacking in sharpness and having bad edge colour fringing (which was extensive in both). In fact my current cheap, manual focus Samyang 8/2.8 on my Fuji cameras completely betters those two Nikkors managed in their day, both on DX and FX cameras. For a company that had such a huge reputation for brilliant fisheyes in earlier years, Nikon really seems to have lost the plot with their f2.8 AF fisheye lenses of more recent times.

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Great post, Aguinaldo! I think this deserves to be made an article, so I will work on doing that this morning. 

 

I used to have the 16/2.8 AIS which I never got to use on digital because I sold it before Nikon brought out their FX cameras. I truly regretted that because as you guys will have seen from my event work, I love fisheyes! 

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This is the beloved fisheye Nikkor 16mm f/3.5.
Note that it has four built in filters.
The second picture shows the last version, with a different rubber grip.

 

16mmf35_zpsauanpkzi.jpg

 

DSC_2966s_zpsgms1ogsm.jpg

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I concur the f3.5 version is the best. I have the 2.8 AiS version and don't like it much. Truth be told, the fisheye I love is the 8mm Samyang. Sharpness in the corners almost equals that of the center starting at f4. But more importantly, it has an near stereographic projection, as compared to the equidistant projection of the Nikkors (and almost all the others except the Nikkor 10mm circular.)

What that means practically is much less pronounced barrel distortion than with equidistant projection, but still covering 180 degrees diagonally. It it a DX lens (OK with my D800). Practically speaking, it is like having a 12mm FF fisheye. That means that the size of the center objects is the same as it would be with a 12mm rectilinear lens instead of a 16--that is a huge amount less "ballooning" of the center portion of the image as compared to the edges.

For the low price of this lens, I definitely recommend it. You might end up leaving all three of your Nikkors at home ;)

 

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First, thank you for doing this interesting and useful exercise and posting it with your findings.

 

Mongo is surprised by these results but the pictures speak a thousand words (each !) and Mongo agrees with your findings.

 

It is a shame Mongo is not after one of these lenses. He will probably buy a Tamron 15-30mm for his wide angle purposes. However, your article does make Mongo give some healthy respect where it is due to the lenses you tested.

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Interesting test, thanks a lot for the effort. I no longer shoot with a Nikon dslr but I became infected by the fish-eye virus since I bought my excellent performing Samyang 7.5mm for MicroFourThirds. 

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Thanks atpaula for your findings

 

Indeed they are the same of mine.

 

Yes... I've been a fisheye addicted... and for almost 25 years I widely used -and abused- a beloved SMC Takumar 17mm f4 -screw attachment- modified for Nikon by a great professional.

 

It is a really outstanding lens, currently still one of the best I ever used among my Nikon gear (among them... noct 58 f1,2 -for the bokeh- 180 2.8, dc 135 f2, afs 85 1.8, afs 24 1.4, 55 3.5, and some more).

 

I've been forced to change it because of the wearing of the front lens and some haze on the inside lenses that was impossible to clean.

 

So I bought thru ebay an almost mint Nikkor ais 16mm f2.8, but I immediately discovered that: while with the Takumar 17mm I was able to count the leaves in the corner of the frame (even with the haze in the lenses), with the Nikkor 16mm I was only able to count the trees (this is not a joke)

 

So, I sold it right away and one year later I've been luck to find an excellent Nikkor 16mm f3,5 (AI modified). Before to buy it I did some comparison with the Takumar 17mm where it showed it's really good sharpness and contrast.

 

So, I'm now the lucky owner of a Nikkor 16mm f3,5 but... if somebody would find an old Takumar 17mm f4 I do suggest him to modify it as I did, as it's rendition, contrast and minimal CA  -even at full wide aperture- can be set among the best lenses ever conceived.

 

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Had a 16/3.5 Nikkor and sold it in the early days of digital.  Really wish I hadn't.  The 10.5 for DX seems quite good, but I had the impression the 16 AF was not quite as sharp, now confirmed.  Just have to shoot stopped down when possible I guess. 

 

I also shoot Micro 4/3 and have had a wonderful time with the Olympus body cap fisheye; it really is astonishingly good (particularly since I usually shoot in 2:3 aspect ratio, so I lose the extreme corners) and I can carry that, a Panasonic GM5 with its standard 24-64 equivalent zoom, a spare battery, and a closeup filter in a tiny case meant for a point-and-shoot.  Nice as a travel kit.  A couple of examples, both from a trip to New Orleans, one the full frame still in fisheye the other partially defished and corrected for convergence.

P1010527_ACR_1.jpg

P1010526_defished_and_deslanted.jpg

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Welcome Ross! Nice to have a new participant on our site. :) 

 

I also shoot m43 in 3:2 aspect ratio, but because I shoot RAW getting the missing bits recovered is as simple as clicking the crop tool in Lightroom. I can't tell you how many times that little feature on its own has saved an image for me by allowing me to reincorporate what I might have missed while shooting. 

 

If you want a really cool little fisheye for your GM5 you should get the Samyang 7.5/3.5. One of my favourite lenses. 

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    • By Michael Erlewine
      The Nikon industrial Printing Nikkors are exemplary and highly corrected lenses, but for whom? Who wants to use them because, for the most part, they are restricted to a particular narrow field of view. There not only is no infinity available, but in general they are highly restricted as far as view. 
       
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      Since I don’t usually do macro, but rather close-up photography, that tells me that the PC 95 is going to be the most useful (all around) for me. It does not mean that the others (or the 95mm) don’t go higher in f/stops, but that they don’t go higher at their sharpest. 
       
      What’s the point of having a $3K lens if I am not going to be able to shoot at the range I want to shoot at and get top IQ? Unless I want to stack focus, I am kind of limited to “arty” photos, ones with just a hint of field depth. It’s nice, but for only once in a while.
       
      The 95mm PN can be used mounted directly to my Nikon D850, provided that camera is mounted on a focus fail. I could also add a very small helicoid to the lens, but the moment I do that I immediately lose some of what I most need, range. This lens is designed for something like 1:2 magnification. I find the 95mm very sharp, easy to use, and probably gives me the best bang for the buck, so to speak.
       
      The PN 95mm has 45mm outer threads. The lens mount M45 x 0.75 and there are 12 blades.
       
      The 105mm PN pretty much has to be on a bellows or view camera and, even then, the range is limited to about one view and (for my work) that is not even at its sharpest.
       
      The PN 105mm has 43mm filter threads and the lens mount is M45 x 0.75. There are 12 blades.
       
      There are two PN 150s (actually three), but the one not mentioned here follows the lead of the PN 150, 2nd version, and I don’t have it.
       
      The 150mm PNs are advertised for 1X magnification range, but it will work wider, but of course at a loss in IQ I would imagine.
       
      The PN 150mm (first version) has front and rear threads of 62mm. I’m not an expert, but this earlier version of the 150mm has an additional ring that compensates for the magnification, insuring sharper images over a wider range of magnification. This is perhaps what makes this version the most useful to me. It actually works and is kind of amazing to watch. You just dial it in and it is sharper.
       
      And the PN 150 (version 2) has a filter thread of 58mm and 12 blades. It can’t go much above f/4.5 and not lose quality. It does not have the extra ring to compensate for magnification.
      As far as mounting the Printing Nikkors to the Nikon-F mount, it is not difficult, but you do have to match up adapters. I have enough laying around here to mix and match until they all are ready to go. 
       
      I post here two stacked photos for each of the four Printing Nikkors I have. These photos give you a rough idea of the kind of reproduction-ratio that I can get with these lenses. I am sure if you want to go 1:1 and above, you would with some get better results. However, I do the best I can with what I have.
      Below are shown two sets of four images, the first four are simple stacks of 2 layers, one each focused around the center of each flower. This lets you see each lens with little stacking.
      The second four images are all stacked liberally. They will show you what a stacked image looks like with each lens.
       
      I’m not sure what you will get out of these, but you can take a look. Meanwhile, I continue checking out these interesting (to me) lenses, the Printing Nikkors.
       




       
       
       
       




    • By Michael Erlewine
      I’m sure this will interest few, but any is better than none. If we are looking into apochromatic (APO) lenses, then the Printing Nikkors can’t be avoided as candidates because they were designed to copy motion-picture film at the highest resolutions. To do this, they had to be highly corrected or our movies would all be fringe-tainted. We can’t have that.
       
      These are largish, somewhat heavy (the 150mm), lenses that require special mounts, which are not too hard to find. Yes, these lenses are a pain in many ways, but they produce great photos, some of the best if you are looking for lenses that have really been corrected. The term APO is not a standard and has been used to label lenses that are hardly apochromatic, but the Printing Nikkors are highly corrected and they are expensive too!
       
      One problem with obtaining the Printing Nikkors is their prices, which have been coming down as film companies abandon them in favor of all-digital projection. Still, they are said to have originally cost something like $12,000 apiece, so I have been told. Today, they sell on Ebay for much less, but still enough for my pocketbook. Anyway, we might want to know which of the Printing Nikkors (there are at least five varieties) does the most for us, so to speak, if we only buy one.

      Thanks to the website CoinImaging.com, the coin-photo folks have been kind enough to compare some of these lenses and graph out the results. What I present here are some of those graphs and results, for which I thank them very much! I failed to find the name of whoever is doing all this testing, but I thank him or her. This site uses IMATEST to test out lenses, which gives us a base.
       
      I am not going to spend time here on the history of the Printing Nikkors or their resale value, etc. You can find that on the web, if you look hard. The point of this article is to drill down on which of these lenses does what and the enclosed graphs will very much help with that. If you don’t like reading graphs, here is a shortcut to the best of the points, but you really have to study the graphs. This is just the tip of the top, so to speak, a generalization.
       
      Compared here are:
       
      Printing Nikkor 95mm f/2.8
      Printing Nikkor 105mm f/2.8
      Printing Nikkor 150mm f/2.8 (150-1)
      Printing Nikkor 150mm f/2.8 (150-2) [later]
       
      [There is a 75mm Printing Nikkor, but I have never seen one, even for sale. And there is a 3rd version of the Printing Nikkor 150mm, but I don’t have one, but it is a later version and I am told is similar to the later version of the 150mm, titled here “150mm-2.”
       
      QUICK RESULTS
       
      Chromatic Aberration vs. Aperture
      Note: All good, minimal, aberration, but the 95mm PN is best.
       
      Chromatic Aberration vs. Magnification
      Note: 95mm best at 0.5, 105mm best at 0.75-1.50
      150-1 not so good.
       
      Corner Resolution vs. Aperture
      Note: All very good, but 95mm is outstanding.
       
      Corner Resolution vs. Magnification
      All fairly good, but the 95mm is outstanding at about 0.50
       
      Corner Sharpness vs. Aperture
      Note: All very good, but the 105 is best.
       
      Corner Sharpness vs. Magnification
      Note: The 95mm best at 0.50, but the 105mm best at around 1.0 to 1.25.
       
      Resolving Power vs. Magnification
      Note: The 150-2 mm is way better than the rest at 0.50.
       
      Resolution vs. Aperture
      Note: All good, but the 95mm is best.
       
      Resolution vs. Effective Aperture
      Note: The 150-1 is the best at f/5 to f/8. Rest also very good, with the 150-2mm only good at around f/5.6.
       
      Resolution vs. Magnification
      Note: All pretty good, but the 150-1mm is the best of the lot from 0.50 to beyond 1.5.
       
      Sharpness vs. Aperture
      Note: The 95mm is hands-down the best. All pretty good, with the 105mm the worst.
       
      Sharpness vs. Effective Aperture
      Note: All good within a particular range, with the 150-1mm the best of the lot from f/5 to f/8.
       
      Sharpness vs. Magnification
      Note: All good within their best range, but the 150-1mm the best of the lot from 0.50 through 1.25.
       
      Working Distance and Magnification
      Note: The 150.1 is the best of the lot.
       
      TOTALS of “Bests”
       
      095mm = 7
      150-1mm = 5
      105mm = 3
      150-2= 1
       
      What this says is the 95mm is the best as an “all-around” lens, followed by the 150-1mm. Of course, this could depend on what you are doing. For example, the 150-1mm is best for close-up work, but the 150-2 is best for macro, etc.
       
      I hope this interests at least one other person! LOL.



    • By Dallas
      I discovered a feature of the software I didn't know existed before and have implemented it in the page footer of all posts where tags are in use. So, for example, having tagged this post with Nikon and Olympus, readers should see shortcut links to several posts with the same tags in the footer. 
       
      Enjoy! 
    • By Luc de Schepper
      This post is kind of a mixed bag, it's about the quality of images with a cheap kit lens and about the shooting experience.
       
      It's a tradition for me to visit and photograph the annual Christmas Market at our local garden centre.
       
      In the past I took my Nikon Df and Olympus E-M10 cameras with fast lenses, useful because the event is indoor and quite dark.
      This time I took my D5500 with the El Cheapo (only € 69 for a white box version in Holland) variable/slow aperture Nikon 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 AF-P lens.
      I also planned to use the Jpeg images and apply minimal post processing.
       
      The end result imo is quite ok but the shooting experience was less of a pleasure.
       
      The D5500 has a tiny dark viewfinder, viewing the focus point was very difficult if not impossible and after a while I had a headache from tunnel vision.
      I also had to correct exposure quite a lot (due to Jpeg + minimal post processing) and I dearly missed the live view of the exposure in the EVF of a mirrorless camera. For some shots I switched to live view on the D5500 but the camera then is more prone to camera shake so this was not ideal.
       
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    • By Luc de Schepper
      Two images shot (handheld, shutter speed 1/8sec) with a Samyang fisheye lens of the new Delft railway station.
      The ceiling is a reference to the world-famous Delfts Blauw pottery. With some imagination it's visible in these images.
       
      1.

       
      2.

       
       
       
    • By Andrew L (gryphon1911)
      Here is a little quick tip for you this holiday season. The bonus gift is that you'll get something that is useful all year long as well.

      If you've ever shot with a Nikon camera before, you'll know that it is very easy to blow out the red channel in your images (overly bright and saturated). It gives you what you see below:
       

       
      Lovely image of this little boy telling Santa what he wants for Christmas, but Santa's suit is a not right in the red sections. A quick way to rectify this in either Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW or other post processing software is explained within.
       
      Shoot in RAW if you can. You'll have more latitude in processing. If not, you may still be able to get this to work quite well with your JPG files.
       
      Your RAW image should look something like this when you first begin:
       

       
      The colors are muted and the image is low contrast(nothing strange here for an unprocessed RAW). So the first thing you'll want to do is start bumping up the contrast, exposure if necessary (hopefully you got the flashes at the proper power to make this a non-issue), vibrance, sharpening, etc.
       
      Problem is, if you use the TONE controls, they work on an image in an overall way, affecting everything. So in order to get the boys shirt/jeans and the background to a level you like, you end up having the blown out reds like you see in the first image
       
      Here is the fix.
       
      Scroll down to the section HSL/Color/B&W. Select the word Color. You'll see a box like the one below.
       

       
      After I got all the other colors the way I wanted them, I can now use this to fix Santa's red suit color.
       
      Each one of the colored boxes isolates the color properties in the image. It no longer will affect every color in the image. Click the far left box, which is the Red. Bump the Saturation down to -10 and the Luminance down to -40. The real game changer here is Luminance. Once you start sliding that down, you'll see the reds immediately start to lose that blown out look, the detail will return. Those values worked for this image, yours will be different. The take away is that you are just reducing the Luminance of the red colors.
       
      That gives us our finished image below:
       

       
      There are other methods of dealing with this, but I found this one to be one of the quicker ways to do it.
       
      My setup was 2 strobes (Alien Bee B400) one to camera right and above the subjects, and a fill/hair light to camera left parallel the where Santa was sitting. Power on main light was 1/4, fill light was 1/16 power.
       
      Nikon D700 and Nikkor 24-70/2.8G lens was used. Settings were 1/60 @ f/5.6 ISO 200 WB set to flash in camera.
       
      Here are the other settings I used in Lightroom.
       

       

       


      View full article
    • By nfoto
      In terms of size, the use of a Fresnel principle has indeed dwarfed this 300 compared to other lenses of the same speed and focal length. Without its beefy sunshade, the PF Nikkor is just a tad longer to say an ED 180 mm f/2.8. It's lighter as well. Filter is the by now ubiquitous 77 mm size. Build and workmanship follow the current slick yet curiously anonymous fashion of modern Nikkors. The lens is slim enough to share the removable tripod collar of the 70-200 mm f/4 Nikkor. In common with that lens, the tripod collar is an optional extra. My review sample had no collar so I haven't been able to assess its qualities, perhaps owners of the 70-200/4 can pitch in here.
      The flight control deck on the left-hand side has settings for A/M, M/A, and M focusing modes. Apart from the pretty obvious implication of 'M' mode, one really has to consult the paperwork to decide upon the difference between A/M and M/A modes. Apparently M/A allows faster override on the AF functionality, but the information provided by Nikon here is terse and slightly confusing. Perhaps I need to become a hard-core AF enthusiast to appreciate the true difference. There is also a range switch to limit the lens to focus within infinity to 3 m. The near limit is approx. 1.4m, which does allow for some pretty tightly framed close-ups. AF speed is decent, but no more, on my Df. Accuracy was excellent so no need for any fine tuning here.
      Nikon follows the practice of some recent lenses by giving the 300 PF an electronic aperture. This means some of the older Nikons, say from the D2 series or earlier, cannot control the lens aperture. It's quite clear Nikon wants to introduce 'E' aperture to every new Nikkor, but thankfully they have commenced this make-over with specialised high-end products first. Despite the operational advantages of 'E' envisioned by Nikon, I still much prefer the fail-safe and time-tested manual aperture control directly on the lens. My Df simply calls for lenses with aperture rings to yield the perfect handling of the camera/lens combination. However, the 300 PF isn't that badly functional on the Df if you close your eyes to the lack of an aperture ring.
      VR is implemented via a three-way slider control to give 'Off, 'Normal' and 'Sport' settings. There is the usual confusion as to what really controls VR; the shutter release or the AF-ON button. Or perhaps both, at least in 'Sports' mode.
      The Fresnel lens construction shortens the optical path significantly. At the same time, new kinds of optical issues are introduced. It's obvious Nikon has mulled over this design for quite a long time until they finally decided to give it a go. Thus, expectations of high performance are natural and the rather stiff pricing point adds to this as well.
      Now, to the business end of this Nikkor.
      The main properties are as follows;
      The image is very sharply rendered corner to corner.
      Vignetting (corner light fall-off) is present at the widest apertures.
      Bokeh and blurring of background is nice. However, mechanical vignetting ("cat's eyes" blur circles) can be seen towards the image periphery at the widest aperture settings. Blur circles are kept quite circular up to f/6.3 and some edginess can be seen at f/7.1.
      As expected from a telephoto design, there is some geometric distortion of the pincushion type. However, the levels are low, thus even architecture could be depicted with only occasional need of any post-processing correction.
      There is a surprisingly high amount of chromatic aberration given its ED design. Most if not all of this is of the lateral kind, though, so removal in a decent RAW conversion programme is quite easy. It is worth noting that the preview shown in camera is based upon a jpg and accordingly, the lateral chromatic aberration is almost impossible to detect there. Open up a NEF however and you'll see LCA in spades.
      Image contrast is slightly lower than what we see with ordinary telephoto designs. Thus most captures benefit from a slight tweaking of contrast later in the work flow.
      Bleeding of highlights apparently is kept under excellent control.

      Time perhaps to put up some real sample images?
      This is a snapshot across the valley where I live, in the northern parts of Oslo. The depth of the scene is about 1 km. shot at f/5, 1/1000 sec, 250 ISO, with my Df and the 300 PF hand-held. No VR.
      The entire frame is presented, no adjustments other than a small detail increase in PhotoNinja to counteract the slightly low contrast of the PF lens. LCA reduction is applied as well.
      Please view large.

      Here is an example of the detectable, yet very low pincushion distortion exhibited by the 300 PF.

      Entire frame scaled to 2000x1333 pix, 1/1000 sec at f/7.1, 160 ISO, hand-held, on Df.
      The rendition of the out-of-focus areas is quite pleasing and you can stop down a bit a still keep the background sufficiently smooth.
      This is f/7.1 at which point the blur circles from specular highlights start to lose their perfectly circular shape. With the PF (Phase Fresnel) optics goes a propensity for forming 'onion rings' with these blur circles. They indeed do occur, but not as distinct as say exhibited by the new AFS 20 mm f/1.8 Nikkor.

      OK, so we know the new lens works. Let's look more at some details of its behaviour.
      The Fresnel principle may introduce issues by flare and lowered micro contrast. It's evident Nikon has addressed these areas: although an overall lowered contrast is a hallmark of the 300 PF, it handles scene contrast surprisingly well.
      Here, I tried to provoke severe flare by shooting sun reflecting off a window frame. According to the light meter, and the in-camera preview, the capture should be well and thoroughly overexposed. However, thanks to the dynamic latitude of the Df's sensor, and some internal wizardry of PhotoNinja, only a very small part of the image is actually blown out. This is the entire frame,

      The 100% crop of the overexposed area clearly shows how well the PF lens handled the immense contrast. The transition from blown to parts with some details intact is very smooth and gradual and flare entering the darker brick wall is controlled. Most telephoto lenses of conventional construction could be hard pressed to render these details any better.

      I've alluded to chromatic nasties a few times already, so time to scrutinise this potential problematic area.
      On subjects with inherent high contrast, such as snow on branches or trees seen against the sky, the 300 PF shows significant amounts of lateral chromatic aberration. As usual for this kind of colour issue, the fringing increases in intensity towards the peripheral parts of the frame. Here is an example, taken under low contrast light during a morning snow fall (the crop is the lower left corner and the branches are not in the plane of best focus).

      However, due to the lateral nature of these fringes, a quick fix in PhotoNinja clears up the rendition remarkably well. The crop below is the same frame run through PhotoNinja's automatic Chromatic aberration Tool so basically is a one-click affair.

      The readiness by which LCA is cleared in the software conversion is an indirect sign of low longitudinal chromatic aberration ('axial colour'). This detail of a snow-covered chair, taken at 45 degrees of incidence at the near limit, shows axial colour indeed is almost perfectly gone;

      Thus, one can expect crisp and clear colour rendition for close-ups. A most welcome departure from the stock Micro lenses (Nikon and other brands the names of which shall not be mentioned) with all their murky colour fringing around the focused plane.
      Now, to the VR performance. It's no secret I'm not in general too keen on having VR incorporated in a lens as the optics become more complex, and you do lose some control over detail rendition and the manner in which the image blurs appear. Nothing beats a well-designed (not necessarily heavy) tripod for getting the sharpest shots. However, it cannot be denied the stabilising feature can save your day -or make you get the picture - once in a while, so I'll accept it grudgingly as long as it can be switched off easily.
      The 300 PF Nikkor has three setings for VR: Off (should be in the default position but isn't), Normal (which occupies the middle default location), and Sport. The paperwork accompanying the lens isn't very clear what the decisive differences between Normal and Sport really are. I assume the Sport mode allows a little more movement of the camera say for panning, but haven't seen much of a difference during my tests. Both VR modes apparently get into action when the shutter release is pushed halfway down, whether or not AF is initiated by the release, and deactivate if you use AF-ON to focus. A configuration that really does not make much sense to me and it defeats the purpose of the dedicated AF-ON control found on the better Nikon models.
      Notwithstanding these niggles, VR really works quite well on the 300/4 PF Nikkor and you can, with some luck, shoot at 3 stops slower than the normal recommended shutter speed.
      I shot some VR test shots using an Olympus DSLR as subject, to hearten Dallas' mind perhaps. Thee setting were ISO 250, f/4.5, and 1/40 sec with the lens hand-held on the Df. The entire frame is here,

      and the 100% crop of the frame with VR off clearly shows I cannot get a sharp image at that speed with a hand-held 300 mm lens. No big surprise. Let this be the reference to assess the efficacy of VR.

      Here is the same subject , now with VR in Normal mode;

      The improvement in image clarity is quite significant to my eyes.
      Using Sports mode for VR produces more or less the same result as Normal, but there is a tendency to a slightly harsher background rendition. Could be a fluke under the current abysmal shooting conditions, so take this observation with at least a pinch of salt. I'll try to repeat later.

      If weather improves I might venture into the field to shoot more interesting scenery. All in due time.
      Aargh, still inclement weather. Thus the Moth Orchids in the window of my girl friend's home had to serve as test subjects for the close-up performance of the 300 PF. Nikon's data sheet specifies a reproduction ratio of 0.24x (approx. 1:4), which were the 300 a zoom lens would have netted it a 'Macro' designation.
      However, one-fourth life-size is in no way true 'macro', so the 300 PF was saved from such disgrace. In common with most telephoto lenses, its performance drops at near range, as plainly seen in this capture of Phalaenopsis flowers. Shot at f/4, 1/250 sec ISO 400, with VR Normal activated. I tried this, and other flowers, using VR Sport mode, and had severe trouble getting focus accuracy because VR kicked in as soon as I touched the shutter release and jilted the focus off target. Besides, many of the shots (at 1/125 sec) had double contours to indicate VR-induced movement.

      Thus, the 300 mm f/4 PF Nikkor is no substitute for a Micro-Nikkor or equivalent lens. But it can deliver the image in a pinch.
      I repeated close-up tests with a tripod support to eliminate the potential adverse influence from hand-holding the lens. Using my AF 200 mm f/4 ED-IF Micro-Nikkor as a reference, the 300 PF Nikkor now delivered much better results. Not entirely up to a genuine Micro-Nikkor, but close enough for for most situations. However, it again proved imperative that VR should be turned off and you also should employ proper technique such as combining mirror lock-up and a cable release to capture the shot. For long exposures with a tripod-mounted lens, VR is likely to degrade the image by making blurs in one ('Normal' mode or two dimensions ('Sport' mode). For these tests, shutter speeds ranged from a 'fast' 1/8 sec to a 'slow' 0.8 sec.

      View full article
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