Guest post: sharpness comparison between 16 Nikon lenses

Here is another great guest post from Fabrizio Belardetti who wrote also the Nikkor 19mm f/2.8 Macro lens review few months ago (see also part 2 of that review). Fabrizio did a sharpness comparison of 16 full frame Nikon lenses at different focal lengths (300mm vs. 70-200mm and tc-17 will come later). Here is a list of the tested lenses:

AFS 300 2.8 VRII
AFS 70-200 2.8 VRI
AFS 70-200 2.8 VRII
AFD 200 4 Micro
AFD 135 2 DC
AFS 105 2.8 Micro
AFS 85 1.4
AFD 85 1.4
PCE 85 2.8
AFD 60 2.8 Micro
AIS 58 1.2 Noct
AFS 35 1.4
AFS 24-70 2.8
AFS 24 1.4
AFS 14-24 2.8
AIS 20 2.8

Because of the large file size, I had to upload the images on flickr (you can select "original size" of each test for better view):

Test conditions: Nikon D3s body, no vignette control, no sharpness, neutral image control, no post production, only 100% crop from original jpg.

You can find all previous guest posts here. If you have an interesting topic you would like to write about on [NR], please contact me.

This entry was posted in Nikon Lenses, [NR] Reviews and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • ren kockwell

    That’s why i got the 85mm 1.4g first (IM FIRST YESS)

    • so you meant sharpness of the one copy the reviewer had… 🙂

      • For all those with difficulties figuring it out: The sharpest Nikkor in production is the 105/2.8 VR. Followed by the 400/2.8 VR, 200/2.0 VR, 600/4.0 VR and 200/4.0 Micro. I wonder why they are all primes …

        • Roman

          That is crap, really. 🙂

        • 55 micro
          105 VR agree
          60 Micro

          would be my ladder based on copies i have

  • Jabs

    Imagine the cost of all these great Nikkor lenses!

  • Carlos R B

    Man, i was curious to see the 16-85mm performance…

    • Isn’t that a DX lens? Seems these are FX only.

      • Yes, those are full frame lenses. The 300mm vs 70-200 and tc-17 will come next week.

        • Craig Houdeshell

          Tap, tap, tap…….I’m waiting……next week can’t get here soon enough……

        • Ronald

          is that between the 300 F2.8 vs 70-200 or the 300 F4.0 vs 70-200?

      • Carlos R B

        My bad…dint pay enough attention…just the fact that the 16-85mm was absent…

  • Just A Thought

    Great addition – thanks for providing this guest post !!!!

  • The invisible man

    I’m the one with the best Nikkor lenses:

    14-24mm AF-s f/2.8
    24-70mm AF-s f/2.8
    105 mm macro VR AF-s f/2.8
    300mm AF-s f/4

    and……..70-300mm VR f/4.5-5.6 (just kidding)

    • Ronan

      14-24, 24-70. 70-200, 200-400, 300.

      I beat you.

      Also got micro and shift lenses.


      • D700guy

        24mm 1.4,
        14-24mm 2.8,
        70-200mm 2.8,
        105mm 2.8,
        300mm 2.8.

        I got rid of the 24-70mm cuz I thought it was soft.

        • D700guy

          Forgot…85mm 1.4

        • The invisible man

          I’ll like the 300mm AF-s f/2.8 VR II but for that I need to :

          – sell 1,000,000 Test Charts
          – get my kids agree to carry it
          – buy to my wife a new purse monthly


        • AlsoD700guy

          I use 14-24 2.8
          24 1.4
          50 1.4
          85 1.4
          70-200 2.8

        • 17-35 2.8 AFS
          50 1.2
          50 1.8
          55 2.8 macro
          5.8cm 1.4
          80-200 2.8 AFS
          135 f2 AIS

          non nikkor lenses (converted to nikon mount):
          fujinon 50 1.6 and 50 1.9
          schnieder xenon 50 f1.9
          konica hexanon 100 2.8
          minolta MC rokkor 135 2.8 and 200 3.5

          • 14-24 2.8,
            50 1.4,
            85 1.4 AFS,
            24-70 2.8,
            105 2.8,
            200 f2 VR2

        • Ronan

          Ah!!! I find my 24-70 soft too…

          • The invisible man

            Yes I tested the 24-70 I bought from B&H, it was SOFT, they exchanged it (great customer service) and the 2nd one is PERFECT.

          • Me three but I still have mine out of convenience.

      • D300sowner!

        600mm F4 VR

    • pooparty

      arguably, just cuz a lens is super sharp, doesnt make it the best… ill take a 17-35 2.8 over the 24-70 any day.

      • The invisible man

        the 24-70mm is great on a DX body

      • Gregory Peel

        Gonna have to agree there (although I have both) the 17-35 is my go to lens. Best of all, it can take filters. Good call pooparty!

    • jim

      I got a Holga…

  • 85mm f/1.4 AF-S FTW!

  • Banned

    This is a terrible waste of time. Auto-focus is not a reliable technique for this kind of comparisons and if you manual focus you have to be VERY sure to focus on the same object for each sample. This is not easy to achieve. Example: look at the first comparison at 24mm, third row (2.8). Now look at the dirt in the background. For the 14-24 sample the dirt in considerably more in focus than the other 2 samples. Obviously this results in a sample that is a lot less sharp than it should be . It is common knowledge that 14-24 is a LOT sharper than the 24-70 @ 24mm… Yet this sample shown the opposite because of bad focus. This damages the credibility of the entire test, notably the finding than the 70-200 VRII is less sharp than VRI which again is contrary to common knowledge.

    • Poorleno388

      Also, even if you do download the full size images available on flickr, the actual pictures of the markers are too small to be able to make an accurate judgement.

      • Global


        Can someone please list the ORDER of sharpness so regular people who just want to read a post can know……..

        Let the CIS investigators figure out the clues. I’m looking for a summary.

        • Global, I was trying to to figure that as well, but it is not easy. This test is just for a reference when you want to compare certain lenses, hard to make a “top 3” chart.

          • Mark V

            One other thing to remember is that this is a qualitative test versus quantitative test. It’s a subjective answer really because perhaps there may be something that happens due to the lens being sharp that is unacceptable, and rules the lens out of the running such as fringing.

    • Poorleno388

      Also, why would you ban someone for saying that the test is invalid? Instead of encouraging discussion, you’re just being an ass.

      • Banned


        ———This message has been deleted due to inappropriate content————

        PS: he wasn’t really banned 😉

    • Further thinking and author explanation are needed.
      Is the dark three-prong thing really dirt in the background? At 24mm, even wide open, depth of field is good. That gray wall better be far, far away.
      Now, assuming that he have used tripod and lenses at the same focal length… only remaining autofocus glitch is if camera in identical situation with identical field of view somehow focuses differently for different lenses. That test alone (with appropriate setup) would be interesting. If how the lens have focused changed for 14-24mm (and the case is good for it at 2.8 IF dirt is indeed dirt in background) – I’d bring that lens to be calibrated. Tester error was not so much in autofocus but in not considering issues of particular lens used.
      Experimental Physics (and this is it) is not trivial, you must think of all possibilities.
      Finally for “common knowledge”. It may be true. However, keep in mind that when you have a zoom lens at either end of its range, odd things can happen. Common knowledge is many times result of common expectation, not experimental proof (and I’d also expect shorter range, shorter focal length zoom to do better than longer range, longer top-end focal length zoom of similar engineering quality but for such small differences I’d need to see good experimental proof).

      • Global


        Where is the summary!? Why is this made so technical (posted only for those with critical eyes)?

        Just let me know what you found out.

    • My VR1 is sharper in the center of the frame than my VR2, which makes sense since the lens was designed at the beginning of the APS-C era. The VR2 is sharper across the whole frame, and this is what is commonly known.

    • Kerni

      The image of 70-200 VR II looks very very unsharp at each aperture, and the VR I looks much better – the same thing with the AF-S and AF-D! I doubt that each lens is focused exactly on the batteries…

  • Chuck Eckert

    To me it appears as if the 70-200 VRI is MUCH sharper than the newer VRII at all 3 f/stops.

    • Ronan

      Might be, i own the VRI and it’s AMAZING. My ONLY issue is slight vignetting on FX bodies.

      • Roger

        that and the complete lack of corner sharpness on the long end – that’s why we now have the better 70-200 II

  • you’re a rich man dear Mr. NR Admin 🙂

  • Nathan Shane

    Anytime I’m wanting to check out lens reviews and sharpness test results, I go to two different websites: and/or

  • kevin

    It also leaves out the sharpest lens Nikon produces which is the 200mm F2. Sorry the 85mm doesn’t compare to the 200mm F2.

    • If you are comparing Imatest numbers for resolution, the 85 G does compare better than others. You need to broaden your base of knowledge and see how that metric shows (from at least Photozone) the 85 is ridiculous in terms of resolution…almost as good as the elite 200 f/2.

      But who cares? You don’t buy an 85 f/1.4 for the same reason you’d get a 200 f/2 VR! Otherwise Nikon couldn’t sell enough of the 200’s to justify keeping in the arsenal due to the overwhelming demand for a cheaper equivalent.

      • Lou

        There is that slight cost difference between the 200/2 and 85/1.4
        $5900 versus $1700. I think that might be a more inhibiting factor to selling a slew of 200s 😛

    • Gregory Peel

      The 200 f/2 is a pretty specialized lens. Heavy, maybe someone could hand hold and shoot, but not for long. This doesn’t mean your not right, but the 85 1.4 is sweet and versitile.

      • Lou

        I carry my 200/2 around on hikes w/o a tripod. It’s not that bad since I’m not constantly holding it up. Just bringing it up when I need to shoot with it.

  • Mine 70-200 VR2 is much sharper than my previous VR1 and my buddys VR1.

    Also my 85 f/1.4G is much better than my buddys 85 f/1.4D.

    Tested a few times, the results were always the same.

  • Dweeb

    Why the greying in the bottom right sample? (24-70 @ 70)

  • Is it just me or does the 70-200 VRI seem sharper than the VRII?

    • It’s just you 🙂

    • @Alexander Bohn “Is it just me or does the 70-200 VRI seem sharper than the VRII?”

      In this test, yes. In the real world, taking results from a majority of copies, the answer seems to be exactly the opposite. My opinion of the 70-200 VRI is that it’s a pile of rubbish, and one of the worst 80-200 range lenses that Nikon ever produced in the 2.8 flavor. Of course, long after getting rid of my own steaming copy, I’ve met one fellow who owns a VRI that seems pretty good when it comes to sharpness. But overall, the bokeh, the vignetting, and the CA was garbage on that lens, and the VRII was the proper answer to all of its flaws, as well as a noticeable improvement on even earlier versions as well.

      As Banned stated earlier in the thread, this test seemed to lose a lot of credibility when I saw those results. Common knowledge indicates at least a few of these test results are not indicative of common real-world findings.

      This is what I’ve concluded after not a few years of seeing a large number of lens tests be published:

      Lens tests are a hard thing to pull off with any sort of authority, conclusiveness, or accuracy.

      My advice? Test each and every copy of each and every lens you buy, before you buy if possible. Someone else mentioned exchanging a brand new (and soft) 24-70 from B&H for a quite pleasing replacement. B&H is great in these types of circumstances, and I highly recommend them over Amazon for this very reason. Their customer service is second to none, and not threatening 50%!!! restocking fees (ahem, Amazon) offers a lot of peace of mind when buying high-dollar ticket items.

      Flame away, proud VRI owners. 🙂

  • Michele C.

    Could you please give the raw files uploading them on megaupload o mediafire?

  • pooparty

    no 17-35?!

  • What a waste of time…

  • cr

    how about taking sharp pix first, then compare…

  • VTX

    I think you did something wrong with the focus on the 70-200 II. It should be way sharper than that.

    • Apooo


  • Apooo

    There are certainly focusing inconsistencies at play here, but I don’t believe that all lenses are created equally anyway.

    When I purchase my brand new 24-70mm f/2.8, it never really became my favorite for some strange reason… I needed it to fill in a range and that was it. It never really blew my pants off like I was expecting for the amount that I paid.

    A number of months later I noticed the 24-70 didn’t stay in focus throughout the zoom range (parfocal) and decided to take it in to Nikon. Now, I don’t know if this is how the lens came or the problem developed over the months, but when I got it back…. POW!!! There was an appreciable difference in sharpness.

    Now, I don’t know how being parfocal and focus are related in the context of this repair, but Nikon added an “adjustment washer T=0.05” and corrected the issues.

    Although it’s still not as sharp as some of my other lenses, it’s certainly acceptable for my use. I don’t magnify pass 100% image size to view my images anyway. 😉

    This all makes me wonder about what Nikon views as “acceptable focus”.

    • Next week i will redo 70-200 VRI and VRII test, and will try a second 24-70.
      Before each shot I focused twice. Of course results depends on each sample, and I am human.
      So please appreciate this work so far, and be patient one week..

      • Fabrizio—

        No doubt lens tests are one of the most subjective, difficult, and time consuming of all tests in the photo world. After seeing a number of tests that seem to contradict common real-world knowledge, it seems it’s more the fault of the test, not so much the tester.

        Maybe a better way to say it is this: proper testing procedures seem to be so different from other types of tests that it makes lens tests an almost guaranteed fail.

        No doubt resources are limited: time, money, and patience in this elaborate of a test. Your aims are huge in scope, and this just adds another number of layers of complexity to an already complex issue. Here are two things I would make a priority if I were to perform these tests, if they’re even possible/applicable (and if you’re not already employing these methods):

        1) Testing focus might be benefited by making micrometer adjustment from out-of-focus on the short end to out-of-focus on the long end, then picking the sharpest shot. This way you have a much better way of ruling out manual or electronic focus variances

        2)Multiple copies of the same lens would really help get an averaging of the lens line, not just a single copy that could be inordinately soft or sharp for that model.

        Either way, I don’t envy your efforts to undertake this type of test. You will always have variables, that most people will notice, and many will complain about (me included).

  • Q

    I didnt see anything else than tumbnails so whats the point??

    • Dweeb

      Go to Flickr and download the large jpgs.

  • grumps

    It’s funny that some of you say that the 24-70mm f2.8G isn’t sharp. I have to say it’s the opposite for me and love it!

    • Overexposed

      I guess relative sharpness would have to depend on what you’re comparing it to. Yes the 24-70mm f/2.8G is sharper than shooting through a coke bottle if that’s the only lens you have.

    • Khufu

      I agree, my 24-70 is very sharp.

      • Khufu

        I own a 70-200 VRII and 14-24 to compare it to, no coke bottle though. LOL

        It’s not 70-200 sharp, but it is definitely sharp.

        • Overexposed

          That’s fair! 🙂 lol

  • The invisible man

    DX… boooh!

  • Rodrigo Ortiz

    Fabrizio undoubtedly has a lot of free time in his hands. The tests are nice, but it ends up being a bit pointless.

    • agree! hahaha. This kind of comparison it’s kind of silly! I wouldn’t mind about sharpness if I had any of this lens!

      • Well, I do mind cause I am a pro and want to know how my lenses will perform..

      • Roger

        Yes, you would. If you buy an expensive lens, you’ll want to know that it performs to your expectations.

        Try thanking Fabrizio instead of complaining.

  • Tony

    What about get more Pentel then align them from center to the edge. It’s easier to compare center and edge sharpness that way.

    Anyway, thanks a lot for doing this Mr. Belardetti. This is great!

  • Good and interesting 😀
    Can’t wait for next week to come!

  • Phil

    Didn’t realise how soft the 70-200mm VR II was. Hope it was just a bad copy cos I just bought mine this week 🙁 lol

    The focus breathing in the VR II definitely becomes more apparent when compared alongside the VR I.

    And what happened to the 24-70mm @ 70mm, f/8 comparison? Something happened and it lost all contrast.

    Anyway, very interesting comparison 🙂 Looking forward to the next round!

    • I thought the 70-200mm VRI had better results compared to the VRII. Specially in the 85mm chart. I was suprised but don’t worry it’s a amazing lens!

      But I glad I got the 85mm 1.4 AFD like the results wide open, thats how I like to use but a bit soft at f4 and f8.

  • nwcubsman

    I am wondering why the 70-200mm VRII at 200mm is such a different crop or focal length than the other two lenses at 200mm??? Not apples to apples comparison. I thought in this test, the 24-70 stood up pretty well in each focal length. The primes seemed to still have the advantage overall to the zooms.

    • Brock Kentwell

      It’s called lens “breathing.” Thom Hogan’s review of the 70-200mm vr2 has a nice summary and table to explain this.

  • Global

    Can someone please write a summary of the order of sharpness (most sharp to least sharp). I am not able to accurately interpret the results.

    Looking for help (and admitting it)….

    • Chris Lilley

      The order is as follows:

      critically in focus > mostly in focus > missed the focus

      there are also differences between lenses, but the ordering above is more important.

  • +1 I picked out the 85mm results too in query because I just don’t believe the 70-200 is that far behind. Given the macro properties of the 105mm I would expect it to be the best performer at that focal length however – it’s regarded as one of the very best lenses Nikon make by pretty much everyone so it should out-shine everything at that focal length.

    • I mostly agree, but don’t forget the other side of the story. Remember this:
      – Primes are generally (but not always) sharper than a zoom at the same focal length
      – Macro lenses are optimized for closeups, and sharpness does depend on the focus setting. Yes, it’s one of the sharpest Nikkors, but are you sure that applies to all focus distances?


      • Martijn

        i agree, macro is at it’s sharpest in the 1:1 production ratio, where normal lenses are at their best at the infinity level. so it depends where your focus lies.

        and i don’t care about these results. my images go to websites and i print them to a maximum of 80x60cm. i’ve never really seen a lot of difference between them, only in the largest sized images. sharpness is important yes, but it’s not what makes or breaks the image

  • Dominik

    I haven’t seen enough from the 85 1.4G to justify upgrading.

    My 70-200 VR1 is razor sharp where I want it to be and is easily my favorite portrait lens with beautiful bokeh and AF that rarely misses. I have 20×30″ portraits taken with it and a D700 that are incredibly sharp to the point where most would assume I used a D3x or MF, which also makes me wonder why so many people are begging for more pixels. My advice would be to try and get the most out of the gear you have before clamoring for the latest technology.

    Solid technique + pro glass + careful processing = excellent results.

  • notaphotographer

    Lol. This kind of lense sharp comparison or review makes KenRockwell site a better source. And I even find myself does not agree with his test results plenty of time.

    • Having only one of those lenses that were tested and seeing in forums’n’sites what others do with all the gear, I have to agree with you that even Ken Rockwell is a more realible source. Maybe Fabrizio got such awful amount of bad copies of lenses.

      Neverthless, I get absolutely equal results with my 105 VR on D5000, if someone interested.

  • S.K. of Chicago

    Some of these shots that these crops are taken from appear to be out of focus (e.g. 85mm comparison – all new lenses are less sharp than older models) or you just can’t tell sharpness at all (e.g. 24mm comparisons – subjects are too far away in the crop to make any meaningful inferences). Piss-poor testing methodology, in my never-to-be-humble opinion.

  • lox

    So the old 70-200 outperforms the new one? Interesting…

  • Wheres the AF-S 50 f/1.4 in this test? Thats a sharp lens…

  • Some obvious focus issues here.

    Other than that: the magnification difference between the 70-200VR lenses made me grin wildly. (I have the “VRI”)

  • FM-2 fan

    I appreciate the effort to test, but the results are not clearly summarised. The key missing here is: which combination of lens and camera match. In analog times this used to be not relevant. Now it has become relevant …

    Practically: the sharpness of lens is defined by which exact measure? … visual impression might be misleading in some of the images shown.

  • MO

    One sharp lens is missing from this list 70-180 micro

  • Raytrace

    I’ll say until the day I die that my 70-200VRII is significantly better than the VR1 I had. People, it’s a revised formula, a newer design, and it’s GOING to be better. No manufacturer in their right mind would revise a product that is arguably THE most essential lens for pros and advanced amateurs and make it WORSE than the predecessor. Yes it has the focus breathing issue but so what – it focuses closer and that will save more shots in the long run.

    If you absolutely HAVE to have a specific magnification from a lens, well you can choose another lens or a TC or something. If a lens isn’t sharp however, there’s NOTHING you can do to fix it.

    I suppose the the very best VRI ever made pitted against the worst VRII copy might tilt in the favor of the VRI, but that would be the exception, not the rule. And perhaps my ex-copy of the VRI was one of the worst samples made.

    • “better” is subjective. ; )

      I won’t argue that the II isn’t sharper (it more certainly IS higher resolution).

      However, as the test above shows, close up it lacks a little magnification (notice how the I image is a little bigger?). That can add up to a drop in resolution if you have to enlarge/crop to get the same framing. With a D3x, it’s an obvious choice to go with the II. With the D700/D3/D3s…not so obvious. Same goes for DX shooters.

  • broxibear

    Wow, a lot of people getting their knickers in a twist over lens sharpness ?
    Somebody mentioned Ken Rockwell, like him or not he does post some interesting articles sometimes…the one on lens sharpness may help a few of the posters here get a different perspective on the issue.

  • Jim

    There is something strange in the comparison of the 70 – 200s at 200 (and the 200 micro). The magnification seems different (or crop) comparing the VRI with the VRII. The VRII matches the 200 micro. So is the VRI not really reaching 200 or was it not set there?

    • Dominik

      This is a known issue with the 70-200 VR2.

      At close range the VR2 is more like a 135mm so for portraits or any other work where you’re close to the subject, I think the VR1 is a better choice because you can fill the frame with more of your subject.

      Where the VR2 comes into its own is greater flare resistance and contrast thanks to the Nano coating, sharper corners with less vignetting, and an extra stop of VR. All of these features make it a better lens for shooting landscapes.

  • Khufu

    Meh I remember a comparison between the Canon 70-200 2.8 IS II and the Nikon 70-200 2.8 VRII that made the nikon seem much better in the corners.

    But since I’ve actually owned both. I can safely say they’re pretty much the same.

    As for people whining anout the 24-70. I guess you had bad luck (vocal minority) because the nikon 24-70 is much sharper than the Canon version and Canon guys always go on about how good theirs is.

    Thing is, the 24-70 is a little softer than the 70-200. But saying it’s soft because of that is just stupid.

  • Peter

    I too would say worrying about sharpness with lenses is pointless. My old 18-135 -kit zoom had enough shapness, if I got it focused where I wanted it to, photos were what I wanted.

    This brings up the real issue which is getting accurate and/or fast focus. And then even this is in my opinion more about what body you have than what lens. I had a D80, which was fine, now I have a D7k which is slightly better, but still not up to what I expected/wanted/assumed.

    As for non sports/quick -shooting, I would need some body with which I could use the viewfinder to focus when wide open, perhaps D3/D700 with modified bits? Currently I can do this with liveview, when sun doesnt ruin visibility…

    • D700guy

      I had that lens too. Sometimes, I feel sorry that I let it go.

  • I am surprised that there is not a comparison @ 50mm, one of the most common focal lengths. I hope that this is added in a future update. Thanks again for posting the images on Flickr! Cheers.

  • KGP

    We sure do complain and nitpick about everything don’t we? Well, here’s mine:
    First I have to give respect to the person that thought up the tests, obtained the lenses, set it up, took the shots, put them together into nice large grids and then uploaded them. The amount of time and effort, and possibly money that went into it makes them deserving of a “thanks” at the very least. Not to mention that this ‘test’ was probably not ill-intended and meant as a qualitative view of some pretty awesome lenses. If nothing else, I think it’s a great excuse to play with all that beautiful glass. So kudos to you for putting yourself through this exercise.

    I apologize, this next part is like vomit on a comment…
    Now, as had been mentioned, the co-variates beyond aperture and focal length aren’t well accounted for, at least quantitatively. For example, each lens has a different ‘sweet spot’ in its focusing range. Think about that focal guide built into every one of those lenses. The 35,1.4g has a huge step between 0.5m and 1.0m but a tiny step between 1m and ‘infinity’, while the 24-70 has a bit different range. This means that finding a focus target 5 feet away with each of those lenses is going to be inaccurate in one versus the other, in either auto or manual focus. Moreover, my 35,1.4g and a friend’s 35,1.4g are different on our respective d700’s. So that brings up another variate, the issue of backfocus/frontfocus. Another part of the focus realm is the relative position to the hyperfocal point. Since the purpose of this post/’test’ was to show the relative focal accuracy of different lenses at similar focal lengths, this is important. Furthermore, the hyperfocal point is described as a single point at which everything is “in focus” (over a certain range dependent on the lens). It physically can’t be a single point or it would be impossible to find however it is a very very small range. So as you stop each lens down and you focus at an object closer to the tiny ‘infinity’ step, you approach hyperfocal and therefore affect your lenses ability to resolve a single point. Again, that is what this exercise is testing. Even if this last part is insignificant it still exists, so feel free to rip this comment apart community.

    For the quantitative analysis: if this test were done on say, 200 different copies of each lens, the focal distance ‘sweet zone’ defined for each copy of each lens, the zoom lenses tested to find their focal length ‘sweet zone’ and then their focal distance ‘sweet zones’… etc. (assuming that the ‘sweet zone’ is existent), all of that data compiled and statistically analyzed, laid out in a well written article introducing the purpose of the study, the materials listed by serial numbers and methods explained, and the findings discussed… ie a scientific publication, and then the entire thing reproducible and repeatable. That is one article I wouldn’t mind reading. But I don’t think anyone is going to spend a year of their life or more, for free, facing a huge out-of-pocket loss just to possibly find out that you can’t really compare these lenses.
    Thanks for reading, sorry for the rant. Feel free to rip into it!

    • Dweeb

      Yeah, these are interesting but I get more out of one of Krockwell’s corner enlargements as I do far more trees at infinity than tea cups. In other words I’m looking for smear esp in WAs.

  • Nathan

    Wow, those tests were pretty amazing. I find it interesting that the older lenses were sharper than the newer, such as the older 85mm f/1.4 and the 70-200 vr1.

    Thank you for doing the test and sharing the results.

    • I think that some of these results, at least the 70-200, were exhibiting issues from testing and/or flawed copies. Most all of the results I’ve seen of the 70-200 VRII show a MUCH improved sharpness from wide open up to even F/8 over the VRI. This test seems to be more an anomaly than the rule with these particular lenses.

  • ben

    I dont know about 70-200/VRI/VRII, but 80-200mm is razor sharp

  • I am sorry, but this test is ridiculous. The best lens information I know of is that of Bjørn Rørslett at this site:


    Thom Hogan at this site:

    …and in my opinion the best discussion of lens qualities I know is at at this URL.

    It is mostly customary for the experts to tell us what they find rather than to expect us to see these differences. As for mixing macro, wide-angle, and telephoto lenses on the same subject. Silly.

    And I won’t even comment on the way the test was set up other than to shake my head. The sharpest lenses in Nikon mount are not even made by Nikon, lenses like the Coastal Optics 60mm APO macro and the Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO macro, the Leica 100mm Elmarit APO macro , and even non-APO lenses like the Zeiss 100mm Makro-Planar, etc. I have those lenses and almost all of the lenses in this test. In my experience the quest for sharpness finally turns into subtleties of color, distortion, impurities, which is why APO (apochromatic) lenses are key.

  • M Jesper

    Hmm, is it me or is this a really bad and boring subject to test just one kind of rendering, being ‘sharpness’. Why not test bokeh, contrast, color and all that at the same time? All he had to do was pick a more complex subject next to the pencil, and something in the background. Could have put his effort to better use if he had actually thought about what’s really important about lens performance. Such a shame to have all these lenses to test in a row and then make it completely useless.

  • Mock Kenwell

    Yes, it’s not a perfect test, but if you look at Fabrizio’s portfolio, you’ll find he’s a very capable photographer and knows how to put lots of these lenses to good use. Thank you for doing it, Fabrizio. Perhaps we can hear from you more of what you intended to accomplish with these tests. Seeing as you’re not just a sharpness nerd (although to do this you must have some of that nerdiness in you!), it would be interesting to hear more about your real world impressions of these lenses. The net is flooded with sharpness charts and brick walls where lenses are concerned, and that’s not a bad place to start. But I think the real value left to be provided is those lens characteristics which are a bit harder to quantify.

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