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 Post subject: Nikon D3X - errr..mm
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 3:28 am 
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Devastated. Should have come back with valuable, saleable pix from Edinburgh today. D3X suffered almost total focusing failure in conditions I would never have the slightest worry about with the A900 (or A700). For one scene, I found the camera unable - totally unable - to focus with the 24-120mm at 120mm in low light (1/40th at f5.6, ISO 800). I thought the camera had locked up or developed a fault. But, it would focus on other subjects (it just refused to focus at all on skaters on an ice rink, really clear almost pure black and white target). I had to use manual focus to get the shots.

On return, I found that many locked-on AF shots were completely wrong. Clear, prominent foreground subjects which were definitely targeted with the centre focus point were blurred and focus was on background detail. Shot after shot. Then, a street performer speeds around 1/25th to 1/40th at 120mm. I would expect absolutely sharp images from the A900. The VR lens produced smear and blur from every single shot (when it did not insult by focusing completely wrongly).

I have never had such a bad set of pix from any camera. At 24mm, it was fine. The subjects demanded the extremes - 24mm or 120mm. At 120mm, nothing at all worked. All are 'delete' shots.

I've got used to putting older lenses on the A900 - not all f2.8 stuff - and getting first rate results, effectively 100 per cent with my shooting style. I tested the D3 and the D700 with f2.8 lenses or faster, and they worked brilliantly. I requested a more modest kit lens with the D3X just to see whether it was up to it. Not only does it seem to have very poor image stabilisation, it's not sharp wide open, and it appears not to be able to focus reliably at f5.6/120mm.

On the one hand, I'm happy that I have an A900 which is free from any of these problems. But I'm very annoyed to have lost shots of Edinburgh's massed Santa run - especially a pipe band all dressed in Santa outfits, and all completely out of focus. I did not take the A900 with me.

David


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 Post subject: Re: Nikon D3X - errr..mm
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 7:57 am 
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David, as much as I love my A700.... I can't imagine a Nikon D3X failing so miserably! Could it be something wrong with the unit you received? I can't imagine Nikon making a camera that is this bad. And this is supposed to be based on the flagship Nikon D3 pro-level camera!?

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 Post subject: Re: Nikon D3X - errr..mm
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 10:43 am 
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That doesn't sound like Nikon professional diligence David, damn shame losing those images, I wonder if it's bad communications between the body and lens, or even a bad channel/connector pin....?
Greg


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 Post subject: Re: Nikon D3X - errr..mm
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 11:11 am 
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Everything appeared to be working normally. The camera will not fire unless focus is confirmed.

I got six frames all more or less like this and no clues from the camera that anything was wrong - it did not even look to be misfocusing through the finder:

Attachment:
o-o-ofd3x.jpg
o-o-ofd3x.jpg [ 222.84 KiB | Viewed 2569 times ]


(Please note - some comments made elsewhere describe this as marching Santas - actually, they were not marching, but dispersing after standing in formation - the bit I was just too late to arrive for... although movement blur spoils most of the people, the point being shown was that the focus is sharp on the background - see further example, with slightly more static Santas, added below).

Attachment:
24-120-120mm-5p6-40th-VR-ISO100.jpg
24-120-120mm-5p6-40th-VR-ISO100.jpg [ 193.64 KiB | Viewed 1762 times ]


Edited Dec 16 to add this further example - here, the centre focus spot was selected (not dynamic tracking) with C focus mode but Focus Priority for release which should ensure the camera does not fire unless focus confirmation; the spot was on the girl moving towards me, as you would expect from the centered composition; 1/40th was not necessarily expected to freeze all movement, but with a subject approaching rather than moving across the frame, will normally give a usable result. What I see here is that the focus target is not the point of focus, which lies well behind.

I'll admit that during other tests, the 24-120mm at longer lengths appeared to be slightly backfocusing, though using the micro AF adjustment did not help. The degree of backfocusing in this would be more than any BF I have ever seen.

I had already been warned that the 24-120mm was not a good lens. But, since the Canon 5D MkII was sent with a 24-105mm and I was briefed to write a comparison review, this was the closest Nikon equivalent. If it really is down to the lens I would be surprised. I think it may be a matter of Nikon AF performance with a lens at f5.6. When testing the D3, I did not use ANY lens of less than f2.8 - same with the D700. This is the first time I have even tried the Nikon 51-point AF module with a limited aperture lens. Same applies to all other reviews. The AF has never been assessed with ordinary, slow lenses.

But - I tested the D300 with 16-85mm, which is a similar aperture range lens, and it was consistently perfect in light conditions just like this.

David


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 Post subject: Re: Nikon D3X - errr..mm
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 11:20 am 
Tower of Babel
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Sheesh David, that looks more like slow shutter...sort of, I don't think anything is actually in focus properly, what ISO, f/stop, shutter speed was it exactly?
Greg


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 Post subject: Re: Nikon D3X - errr..mm
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 11:53 am 
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The background is crisp, though the slow shutter does make the subject worse - 1/50th. I can only compare general experiences, and I can post worse frames than this for focus, better for shutter match to subject movement. I shoot plenty of people pix with the A900 around 1/25-1/60th, more likely to be at 105mm or 75mm than at 120mm as I don't have a 120mm lens setting to pick normally. First, in ANY light the A900 nails focus - guaranteed. Secondly, in the Nikon pix with VR enabled I am seeing many examples of a double or jumped image. That is not typical of my own camera shake even when I forget to enable SSS; I am a very stable shooter to start with, and recently I did a whole set with SSS turned off but didn't lose any pix.

This slight double imaging reminds me of something I found with the Tamron 28-300mm VC lens on Canon. If you grab the camera and try to shoot fast, the lens can be moving into stabilised mode during the shot. The 24-120mm certainly 'wanders' a lot when composing images.

The issue isn't really whether the Nikon+24-120mm images could have been corrected with a different technical approach, it's whether I could reasonably expect to have secured usable images, or a certain percentage of usable images. I think that with the A900 I would have done far better.

David


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 Post subject: Re: Nikon D3X - errr..mm
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 12:21 pm 
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I'm curious how Nikon will react to this and how fast.
And it would be good to people visiting other sites such as DPR linked this thread.

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 Post subject: Re: Nikon D3X - errr..mm
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 12:40 pm 
Tower of Babel
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1/50sec? that's not very slow at all really, not when you divide a second up into fifty parts and think how small and increment that is, that doesn't leave much room for the amount of movement that's "apparent" there...it looks like you might be onto something there with the VR going a bit haywire perhaps...like second guessing itself and overcorrecting....as the shutter goes off, but like you say David the background is in better shape by far than the subjects, so how can the VR loose it on the subjects and not the background (as much), maybe it's a combination of AF and VR after all.
Greg


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 Post subject: Re: Nikon D3X - errr..mm
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 2:31 pm 
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Well, I'm having even less luck this morning. I have been trying to rig up a macro shot using one set of bellows, one lens, and just changing the camera body between A900 and D3X - the closest I can get to comparing the sensors. First problem, the Nikon's huge built-in grip and prism shape mean the macro bellows can not be mounted normally on my tripod. I may find a way round this, but they get in the way - I may have a small ball and socket head firm enough to do the job somewhere.

Even bigger problem - on the A900, perfect macro image regardless of the lens used on the bellows. On the Nikon, huge central reflected flare patch regardless of the lens used. I had the same with the D2X and D3. Something inside the Nikon body design - or maybe connected with the sensor AA filter? - is consistently throwing up a focused reflection which gets smaller and brighter (more clearly defined) as the lens is stopped down.

Examples:

Attachment:
macro-75mm-A900-web.jpg
macro-75mm-A900-web.jpg [ 174.53 KiB | Viewed 1622 times ]


A900 with 75mm Apo Rodagon D on bellows at f8

Attachment:
macro-75mm-D3X-web.jpg
macro-75mm-D3X-web.jpg [ 102.62 KiB | Viewed 1597 times ]


D3X same combo.

The Nikon mount for my bellows is a top quality black anodised product - the A900 is connected using a bright alloy M42 mount and a bright alloy adaptor. So it's not produced by a part of the bellows. The Nikon creates reflections like this (almost invisible wide open, very focused when stopped down) from my 75mm Rodagon, 80mm Componon-S and 50mm El-Nikkor alike - they vary in size and brightness with the repro ratio and aperture. But I can use any of these lenses on the A900 and get an absolutely clean image. I can not take ANY image on the D3X which is usable. Also, the D3X lacks a mirror lock-up timer. The only option is a pre-release mirror up action, which then requires you to touch the camera again unless you have a remote release. Therefore, all Nikon macro tripod shots must be taken using normal self-timer with no mirror lock up - but my A900 shots use the 2s mirror up function.

I am trying very hard to like the Nikon, but concluding that what blew me away with the D3 was simply the exceptional image/high ISO. So far if I had paid £5,500 for a D3X I would be more than a little unhappy.

However, I notice a comment in the handbook - using the 28-85mm AF f3.5-4.5 they say that when focus is confirmed at maximum focal length, the image seen on the focusing screen may not be sharp, and the user should switch to manual focus. This looks very like what I am getting with the 24-120mm at 120mm. Some situations it will simply not focus - no amount of reasserting focus, changing focus mode etc will persuade it to lock focus. This is the situation which alerted me:

Attachment:
D3X_icerink-120mm.jpg
D3X_icerink-120mm.jpg [ 175.45 KiB | Viewed 1526 times ]


1/100th at f5.6, -1 set on exposure at ISO 800 - didn't want to use 1600, prepared here to put up with dark raw original at 800. I was obliged to focus this shot manually.

David


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 Post subject: Re: Nikon D3X - errr..mm
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 3:10 pm 
Tower of Babel
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The only thing I can remember seeing that was sort of similar to that flare business was when I was fooling around with various combinations of +1 +2 +3 filters plus extension tubes and a couple of fixed lenses and zooms years ago, there was one combo that was really terrible, a zoom that had a macro function button on the collar plus the filters...talk about field curvature and distortion flare etc...that's what that reminds me of..something not optically compatible happening.....but what??
Greg


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 Post subject: Re: Nikon D3X - errr..mm
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 3:30 pm 
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Well, I've told Nikon about the problems and arranged for a 105mm VR macro to arrive, along with the new 50mm f1.4 which they were waiting to send me. It is just very frustrating, because I want to use the camera, I have no VR lenses except the 24-120mm, and at this time of year in Scotland IS/VR/SSS is absolutely vital. There is a chicken corpse beautifully eaten by our fox outside the house - we thought he would wait a couple of days and come back to the 'larder'. I'm planning to take a shot just now despite the very low level of afternoon daylight. Got a nice 45mm TS Micro Nikkor, but no way of ensuring a sharp shot short of rigging up a tripod. The A900 (and all the DSLRs since the KM7D, and even before than, the KM A2) has spoiled me - sharp pictures all the time with or without tripods, work fast, never worry!

David


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 Post subject: Re: Nikon D3X - errr..mm
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 3:39 pm 
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couple of questions:
1. can't you borrow a decent lens from your son -if I recall, he's a Nikon user.
2. I heard that lens quality on the 105 Micro got degraded because the VR (moving/floating elements fault) can you make a quick test against the Minolta 100 2.8 Macro (or probably your son has the 105 Micro non-VR)

Some times you have to leave the camera resting for a while, in order to bring back peace to her ghost (...) wait a couple of days before you continue testing it.

Regards

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 Post subject: Re: Nikon D3X - errr..mm
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 4:05 pm 
Tower of Babel
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Sorry to say it David, but the smart money would be on the fox I think (unless he is half tame)...would be a great shot though, what with the winter coat and all....or is it the chicken buffet that is the subject? :D
Greg
ps. pity you couldn't flood the area with the 60 CT4...although that wouldn't be easy either....


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 Post subject: Re: Nikon D3X - errr..mm
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 4:50 pm 
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The fox I could have got the first time I saw him, but no camera, and it would have needed a long lens. And pictures of urban foxes are two a penny, some people tame them and feed them, even encourage them to make a den in the garden and raise litters of cubs. But a gory picture of a chicken eaten by a fox is not so common, and far more commercially viable. Apart from that it made a rather good subject for tilt-shift lens use :-)

I have, of course, also done tilt-shift examples this afternoon in the studio using one of my instruments (a Canarian timple, neat small ukulele-thing styled like a 16th c vihuela) with frets to show the sharpness in depth. And, yet again, I found myself thanking Sony for their care in designing the interface. Nikon: eyepiece blind closed had to be opened between shots to allow adjustments via the viewfinder, no other easy way to change settings. The top LCD display was facing in a direction which gave me a headache bending round to try to see it, in shadow from the studio lights, too small - etc. Sony: eyepiece blind stayed closed. Big display on the rear and simple dedicated funtion buttons allowed instant alteration of settings with totally clear visibility. Took about half the time to shoot the Sony set compared to the Nikon. And PASM dial! Nikon make the D3X with a seriously inconvenient button-push plus wheel rotation, while looking through the finder or peering at the LCD, to change modes. Give me a dial any time.

David


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 Post subject: Re: Nikon D3X - errr..mm
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 5:29 pm 
Tower of Babel
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Okey dokey, just the chicken, I was thinking maybe the chicken with fox in attendance as well...that would be a shot worth having as well.

Greg


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