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Nikon D3 vs D800 lens tests

So I noticed something that bothered me tremendously while shooting with my D800. My trusty 24 – 70mm f2.8 lens was doing something funny. It was sharp in the middle and very soft at the edges with yellow and blue finging. My heart stopped, I fainted and awoke in the ER. After several hours of bypass surgery and nanosurgery on my brain it was discovered that I merely fainted from gross disappointment. now I have to walk around assisted by a bionic implant and my left eye sees everything in inverted colors, either that or the pain medication is quite something.

I know that I am spewing senseless nonsensical garbage now but I it really conveys my sadness at the situation. My most favorite and used lens, not to mention third most expensive (especially for a poor third world rated photographer). So I decided to test it against my D3 and find out if maybe it was only a D800 resolution problem. Not being able to find anything suitable to test it on and still no models showing up at my door to test with I decided to create my own test chart, you can download it from here.

Setup was to shoot at ISO 100 (been longing to do that with a Nikon for years now! thanks) unfortunately the D3 still sucks at anything below ISO 200 so I stuck to that setting. Shooting at the widest aperture first. All at a parallel plane to the lens, directly in the centre. All is not lost though, the lens does retain some form sharpness but only at f8 and upwards and it seems at it’s sharpest around f11 to f16. Not too bad for landscape shots but not very sharp at the edges. Definitely less color aberration than at f2.8 and f5.6 Not really as sharp all the way through as the 70 – 200mm f2.8 VRII lens, that thing is obsidianly sharp at f2.8 through to f5.6 from the centre to the edge of the image, yummy! (“Obsidianly” is a word of my invention, after the obsidian blades that were used by early man, created from shards of splintered volcanic glass/rock that are 1000x times sharper than surgical scalpels)

Back to the 24-70mm lens. I did a full range of focal length tests (from 24mm to 70mm) as well and saw that the lens was worst, the wider the focal range so I decided for this blog post to keep it at 70mm and some at 50mm as that would be the lens’s best optical range and any errors there would translate worse the wider you went. Wow that was a mouthful. Wunderbar. The most interesting thing I noticed which also delighted me was that the lens sharpness was the same on both cameras. I am so very relieved about that discovery. All the lenses did pretty much the same thing on both cameras so I am not going to waste my bandwidth limitations by posting samples from both cameras, just from the Nikon D800.

I will now provide you with full res downloads if you really want to see it for yourself (files are between 4mb and 6mb in size)
Shot with at the following settings: 24-70mm f2.8 160th at 70mm, 24-70mm f5.6 160th at 70mm, 24-70mm f8 160th at 70mm and 24-70mm f16 160th at 70mm
Here is a sample from the 70 – 200m f2.8 lens for comparison.

The results were the same when I did the test with my D3 and as you can see for yourself, the lens is much sharper at f16 but still not as sharp as the 70 – 200mm VRII at f2.8! The results were even sharper at f5.6 With the 24 – 70mm, the closer to the edge of the frame you get, the more visible the blue and yellow fringing is and this was the same when tested on the Nikon D3 so the D800 can not be at fault here for having a resolution that the 24 – 70mm lens cant handle.

While we are on the subject of resolution, some of you might think: Well if the lenses perform the same, why not just upscale a D3 image to the same size as a D800 image? So I tested that as well, and yes I was astonished at first. When upscaled, the D3 (this should be the same even with a Nikon D700 camera) image looks pretty darn close to that of the D800. But let’s take it further, let’s upscale them both even more, by 200% to a whopping 144MB image

This is the full image and below is a cropped version. The D3 file was first up-scaled to match the D800, then both of them were up-scaled another 200% and this is a cropped and resized version to show the detail.

There is a definite amount of detail superiority as shown by the D800. I hope this was informative. Cheers! Have a look here at my review of the D800

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