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Author Topic: Review of the Nikkor 70-200/F4 by Nick Devlin  (Read 4553 times)
Ray
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« on: January 11, 2013, 09:47:45 PM »
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Thanks for this review, Nick. I've always been put off by the extreme weight of lenses such as the 24-70/2.8 and 70-200/2.8 even though it's clear that these lenses are significantly sharper than other, lighter zooms within a similar range.

The full kilogram of my Nikkor 14-24/2.8 feels noticeably heavier than the 800gms of my Nikkor 24-120/F4, when I'm walking around with camera and lens, so the 846gms of this new 70-200/F4 should feel similar to my 24-120/F4.

The only revervation I have is the unnecessary overlap between 70mm and 120mm, if I carry both the 24-120/F4 and 70-200/F4 zooms. Likewise, if I replace the 24-120 with the 70-200, I've got a significant gap in focal lengths between the 24mm of my 14-24/2.8 and the 70mm of the 70-200 zoom.

Such a gap could be filled with the Nikkor 24-70/2.8, but that's another 900gms. I would then have the equivalent of a 24-200/F2.8-F4 zoom weighing 1.746kgs. This is more weight than I care to carry, especially in addition to the 1Kg Nikkor 14-24/2.8 which I would never leave at home when travelling. I'm also put off by the fact that the Nikkor 24-70/2.8 does not have VR.

One small point about the significance of the larger maximum aperture on the 70-200/F2.8, you write:
Quote
Light is nice (really nice!) but what are we giving up with all those shed grams? Well most obviously the new lens is a stop slower.

This is not quite true. The speed of a lens is dependent on its T/stop. According to DXO tests, the T/stop of the 70-200/2.8 is 3.4, and the T/stop of the 70-200/F4 is 4.4. The difference between F3.4 and F4.4 is more like 2/3rds of a stop, so the new 70-200/F4 is only 2/3rds of a stop slower than 70-200/F2.8.

Another issue indirectly related to the 'speed' of this new lens is its new VR system which Nikon claims can give up to a 5-stop advantage. If the previous version of VR (VRII) could provide up to a 4-stop image-stabilization advantage, then it would be reasonable to presume that the 2/3rds of a stop 'speed' advantage of that F2.8 aperture (comparing T/stops) would be completely nullified by the improved VR system in the new lens when the shutter speed selected is primarily for the purpose of freezing camera movement rather than subject movement.

Hhmm! I think I might have talked myself into buying a copy of this new lens.  Grin

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Rob C
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« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2013, 03:15:18 AM »
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Such a gap could be filled with the Nikkor 24-70/2.8, but that's another 900gms. I would then have the equivalent of a 24-200/F2.8-F4 zoom weighing 1.746kgs. This is more weight than I care to carry, especially in addition to the 1Kg Nikkor 14-24/2.8 which I would never leave at home when travelling. I'm also put off by the fact that the Nikkor 24-70/2.8 does not have VR.



Never mind VR, the one I owned -  briefly - sucked even on the cropped format D200! God knows how it would have fared on my later D700, which I think you also use. I accept that MMV and also that judgement can depend on expectations.

Rob C
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Ray
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« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2013, 06:45:39 AM »
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Never mind VR, the one I owned -  briefly - sucked even on the cropped format D200! God knows how it would have fared on my later D700, which I think you also use. I accept that MMV and also that judgement can depend on expectations.

Rob C

Rob,
You should have returned it immediately. Quality control is never perfect. Maybe the lens was mishandled during shipment.

I always check a new lens as soon as I receive it. If I were to buy this new Nikkor 70-200/F4, the first thing I'd do is compare it with my 24-120/F4 at 70mm to 120mm. If it wasn't noticeably better at these focal lengths (ie, sharper and more detailed from centre to corner), I'd return it for either a full refund or another copy.

By the way, I upgraded some time ago from the D700 to the D800E.  Wink
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JohnBrew
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« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2013, 07:04:37 AM »
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Rob, I had the same combo (70-200 VR & D200). I think it was a toss-up as to what was to blame for sucking - the bad AF or the bad VR.
Good for Nikon finally building what many have asked for. My arm got very tired hand-holding the 2.8 for long periods.
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ndevlin
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« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2013, 08:35:38 AM »
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Glad you enjoyed the review. Personally, I don't consider the 24-120 to be comparable in any way to this lens. Each of the three copies I have tried is kind of awful, pretty much everywhere in the range.  I wouldn't bother to buy one for D800 at all. It's just very convenient. I'd like to give the new 24-85 a try.

« Last Edit: January 13, 2013, 08:05:42 AM by ndevlin » Logged

Nick Devlin   @onelittlecamera
Rob C
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« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2013, 10:23:14 AM »
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Rob,
You should have returned it immediately. Quality control is never perfect. Maybe the lens was mishandled during shipment.



Indeed! I bought from my usual wholesaler of thirty years standing, and even then, I had to buy another lens that cost more in order to get rid of it.

I marvel at you guys who have camera stores that let you try before you buy!

Rob C
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Ray
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« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2013, 09:13:16 PM »
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Glad you enjoyed the review. Personally, I don't consider the 24-120 to be comparable in any way to this lens. Each of the three copies I have tried is kind of awful, pretty much everywhere in the range.  I opulent bother to buy one for D800 at all. It's just very convenient. I'd like to give the new 24-85 a try.


Nick,
It's encouraging that you think the 70-200/F4 is much better than 24-120. The focal lengths where theses lenses overlap, ie.70-120mm, are the focal lengths where the 24-120 performs worse, according to the Photozone tests on the D3X.


I notice that Photozone have tested both the 24-120/F4 and the Nikkor 24-85/F3.5-4.5 VR with the Nikon D3X. These lenses seem very comparable, both getting a 2 & 1/2 star rating for optical performance. Of course, the advantage of the 24-85 is its lighter weight, a mere 465gms.

The 24-85 appears to be slightly sharper in the centre at all focal lengths tested, but the 24-120 is sharper at the borders and corners to an even greater extent. However, the borders and corners of an image are generally not as significant as the centre, hence the equal rating, I guess.

Attached image and crops of the standard brick wall (well, stone wall actually) containing lots of texture, were taken with the Nikkor 24-120 at 92mm, not quite its worst-performing focal length, but close to it.

At 100% magnification, representative of a 4ftx6ft print, I'm sure the 70-200 at the same focal length of 92mm would be noticeably sharper, but I wonder if it would be noticeably sharper at 50% magnification, representative of a 2ftx3ft print.

This is something I'll test for, if or when I get the lens.

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FranciscoDisilvestro
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« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2013, 11:08:57 PM »
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One small point about the significance of the larger maximum aperture on the 70-200/F2.8, you write:

"Light is nice (really nice!) but what are we giving up with all those shed grams? Well most obviously the new lens is a stop slower."

This is not quite true. The speed of a lens is dependent on its T/stop. According to DXO tests, the T/stop of the 70-200/2.8 is 3.4, and the T/stop of the 70-200/F4 is 4.4. The difference between F3.4 and F4.4 is more like 2/3rds of a stop, so the new 70-200/F4 is only 2/3rds of a stop slower than 70-200/F2.8.


I agree that the speed of a lens is dependent on its T/stop (related to exposure) but there is an important factor (at least for me) that is depth of field, which is dependent on the f/stop, and it does make a difference between 2.8 and 4, especially for subject isolation.

On the other hand, the new 70-200 f/4 has a maximum reproduction ratio of 0.274x (focus at 1.0 m) compared to the 0.12x of the 70-200 f/2.8 VRII (something that caused a lot of discussions in online forums when it was released). This magnification is even greater than the 0.25x of the 70-200 f/2.8 version I (which by the way was achieved at a greater distance, 1.5 m.). This could be a key decision factor for those who like to shot at close range.

Regards,
Francisco
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Ray
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« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2013, 04:32:02 AM »
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I agree that the speed of a lens is dependent on its T/stop (related to exposure) but there is an important factor (at least for me) that is depth of field, which is dependent on the f/stop, and it does make a difference between 2.8 and 4, especially for subject isolation.

Yes, of course. The wider aperture, whatever the T/stop, will provide the opportunity for a shallower DoF, which can be very effective with certain subjects. Although, I admit I'm not all that keen, personally, on portraits with sharp eyes and a fuzzy nose. Grin
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Ray
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« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2013, 04:08:07 AM »
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Okay! Here's another shot taken recently with the 24-120/F4 on the D800E, at F4, 120mm and 100th sec exposure.

120mm at F4 is this zoom lens at its least sharp. It's sharper at F11 than at F4, at 120mm. A 100th sec exposure is also slightly less than the minimum recommended shutter speed of 1/FL with VR.

If I were to make a 6ftx4ft print of this shot, the 100% crop of the Alpaca's face is approximately what you'd see, looking at the print from the same distance you view your monitor.
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barryfitzgerald
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« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2013, 07:47:50 AM »
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This is just my own view but I have to say I think Canon have the advantage here by offering 4 versions of the 70-200mm lenses IS and non ISO at f4 and f2.8
This new Nikkor leaves the door wide open on the new Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 VC when the price is better.

I'd have to say I'd go for a 70-200mm f2.8 non IS every day of the week, the price premium for in lens stabilisation is too high in my view (and let's be honest a decent monopod works wonders)

Can't see the point of paying 1000 odd for an f4 lens esp if you get no tripod collar with it. Same reason I'd pass on the Canon 70-200mm f4 IS it's only slightly less than the non IS f2.8. A non VR 70-200mm range would appeal more.
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bjanes
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« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2013, 08:06:56 AM »
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It's encouraging that you think the 70-200/F4 is much better than 24-120. The focal lengths where theses lenses overlap, ie.70-120mm, are the focal lengths where the 24-120 performs worse, according to the Photozone tests on the D3X.

I notice that Photozone have tested both the 24-120/F4 and the Nikkor 24-85/F3.5-4.5 VR with the Nikon D3X. These lenses seem very comparable, both getting a 2 & 1/2 star rating for optical performance. Of course, the advantage of the 24-85 is its lighter weight, a mere 465gms.

Ray,

..and half the price. Diglloyd (paid site, but well worth its modest price) evaluated the 24-120/F4 and commented on its mediocre performance and concluded that he did not consider the lens to be of professional grade, although it is priced as one.

Regards,

Bill
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Ray
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« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2013, 07:24:57 PM »
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Ray,

..and half the price. Diglloyd (paid site, but well worth its modest price) evaluated the 24-120/F4 and commented on its mediocre performance and concluded that he did not consider the lens to be of professional grade, although it is priced as one.

Regards,

Bill

Hi Bill,
As we know, the sharpness of zoom lenses can vary a lot at different focal lengths, with a tendency for the lenses to get softer towards the long end of the zoom, especially with the cheaper zooms.

Being aware of this fact, and whether or not it applies to one's own copy of a particular zoom lens, can help one choose the best aperture when lens sharpness is a priority.

Whilst I've been aware that my Nikkor 24-120 is a bit soft at 120mm, and particularly 120mm and F4, I didn't realise it was quite as bad as the Photozone test charts show. The possibility that this lens is actually sharper at 120mm and F11, than it is at 120mm and F4 was a bit of a surprise. It looks as though the lens could be as sharp at F13 as it is at F4.

Nevertheless, it's good to know that this lens is still reasonably sharp at F5.6 and F8, above 50mm, having a slight edge at F5.6. In fact, it seems there is no focal length where this lens is not sharpest at either F4 or F5.6, according to Photozone's tests using the D3X.

In circumstances where edge performance and a greater DoF count for more than a barely-noticeably increase in sharpness in the centre, F8 would be my preferred aperture at 120mm.

But here other trade-offs come into play. If the lens is sharp, whether zoom or prime, but doesn't have IS or VR, that extra sharpness may not be realised much of the time.

The sharpest lenses are usually prime lenses, but again, if the composition doesn't require that exact focal length, and one needs to crop the image in post processing, then the potential advantage of image sharpness, that the prime lens usually has, may not only be lost, but a cheaper zoom may produce sharper results.

The Nikkor 24-85 VR appears to be at least as good, and probably slightly better than the 24-120 within the same range of focal lengths, but I ask myself whether I want to carry that extra weight of at least 1/2 a kilogram for the 24-85 plus the 70-200/F4 (about 1.3kg compared with the 740gms of the 24-120) when the extra reach I get is only 200mm as opposed to 120mm.

I'm beginning to think that the Tamron 70-300 VC, with D3200 body attached, will provide a more useful increase in performance. The combined weight will be no more than the combined weight of the 24-85 and 70-200/F4, and the cost will be significantly less.

A 70-300 on the cropped-format D3200 becomes effectively a 105-450mm zoom, which merges quite well with the 24-120 on the FF D800E, with a small overlap. I can carry two cameras and avoid the need to change lenses, except when I need the ultra-wide-angle 14-24.

Now one might speculate that the 36mp full frame D800E will be sharper and more detailed around 105-120mm, using the 24-120/F4 on the D800E, than a 24mp D3200 image from the Tamron used between 70mm and 80mm.

I doubt that this would be the case, considering that the Tamron lens has its best performance around 70mm, and the 24-120 its worst performance around 100mm. Also, the cropped format, when used with a full-frame lens, produces significantly better edge performance.

Right at the moment, this is the option that appeals to me the most.

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Ray
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« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2013, 07:38:10 PM »
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Can't see the point of paying 1000 odd for an f4 lens esp if you get no tripod collar with it. Same reason I'd pass on the Canon 70-200mm f4 IS it's only slightly less than the non IS f2.8. A non VR 70-200mm range would appeal more.

Barry,

Some of us find that carrying a tripod around, or even a monopd, is inconvenient and a hassle, and perhaps also draws unwanted attention to oneself. In my view, the invention of image stabilisation was a great leap forward in lens and camera design.
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LesPalenik
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« Reply #14 on: January 28, 2013, 08:19:02 AM »
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Quote
The Nikkor 24-85 VR appears to be at least as good, and probably slightly better than the 24-120 within the same range of focal lengths
Ray,
I have never used 24-120 lens, but recently I tried out the kit 24-85 VR lens on a D600. I was not impressed. The lens is OK in the centre, but quite soft towards the edges.
I wonder if it is just my copy. I was experiencing similar problems with Nikkor 70-300mm VR, and last summer, finally, I got it serviced by Nikon. They wouldn't tell me what they did with it, but the lens is much sharper now.

Les
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bjanes
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« Reply #15 on: January 28, 2013, 10:23:46 AM »
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Hi Bill,

But here other trade-offs come into play. If the lens is sharp, whether zoom or prime, but doesn't have IS or VR, that extra sharpness may not be realised much of the time.

The sharpest lenses are usually prime lenses, but again, if the composition doesn't require that exact focal length, and one needs to crop the image in post processing, then the potential advantage of image sharpness, that the prime lens usually has, may not only be lost, but a cheaper zoom may produce sharper results.


I doubt that this would be the case, considering that the Tamron lens has its best performance around 70mm, and the 24-120 its worst performance around 100mm. Also, the cropped format, when used with a full-frame lens, produces significantly better edge performance.

Right at the moment, this is the option that appeals to me the most.

Ray,

Thanks for your detailed reply. Your points are well taken. The 24-120 does offer a lot of appeal for a walk around lens, and I have been considering getting one for my D800e. If one is traveling without a tripod and shooting more casually and not using mirror lockup and live view focusing, one can't obtain maximal sharpness with the D800e and perhaps the 24-120 would be capable of getting most of the image detail that is obtainable under those conditions.

I just can't spring for that much money for a mediocre lens, and for the time being, I am using my old 28-105 Nikkor zoom for walk around use and have gotten some good shots with it, and am saving my money for high resolution primes. Perhaps one of the third party makers will come up with a better walk around lens. One could also consider the Sony Nex 7. That camera is compact, but it is dwarfed by its normal zoom. The Sony RX100 is very compact and gives reasonable quality. It is reminiscent of my old Rollei 35, which was a very nice camera. However, I took very few shots with it and it is now sitting unused in a drawer.

As you say, there are always tradeoffs, and one must decide what is best for one's shooting style.

Regards,

Bill
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Ray
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« Reply #16 on: January 28, 2013, 07:46:10 PM »
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Ray,
I have never used 24-120 lens, but recently I tried out the kit 24-85 VR lens on a D600. I was not impressed. The lens is OK in the centre, but quite soft towards the edges.
I wonder if it is just my copy. I was experiencing similar problems with Nikkor 70-300mm VR, and last summer, finally, I got it serviced by Nikon. They wouldn't tell me what they did with it, but the lens is much sharper now.

Les

Hi Les,
I get the impression that many problems with lenses are basically due to inadequate quality control. Comparing the Photozone test results for the 24-85 and 24-120, both lenses tested with the D3X, I see that the 24-85 is slightly worse than the 24-120 at the borders, but is sometimes slightly better in the centre.

Allowing for QC variation which can always give the impression that one particular model of lens is better or worse than another model, when in fact they are both about the same on average, I'd say that the performance of the 24-85 is as 'close as matters' to the performance of the 24-120, at focal lengths they have in common.

Refer attached image of the Photozone comparison.

Cheers!
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Ray
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« Reply #17 on: January 28, 2013, 10:20:01 PM »
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I just can't spring for that much money for a mediocre lens, and for the time being, I am using my old 28-105 Nikkor zoom for walk around use and have gotten some good shots with it, and am saving my money for high resolution primes. Perhaps one of the third party makers will come up with a better walk around lens.

I appreciate the problem, Bill. When I bought the Nikkor 24-120, my only Nikon camera was the FX D700 which I'd bought to use with the 14-24/F2.8. I wasn't interested in using the 24-120 with the D700, and I don't believe I ever even tried it. I bought the 24-120 as a kit lens with the D7000, and it stayed on that camera all the time.

I carried two cameras with lens attached, that gave me a focal length range of 14-180mm (in FX format terms), with a slight gap between 24mm and 36mm. That arrangement worked very well for me, not needing to ever change lenses, and not missing a shot due to the delay and hassle of changing lenses.

Now that I've replaced those two cameras with one, the D800E, I sense a problem with choice of lenses. What I'd really like is for the 14-24 to remain on the D800E most of the time, and replace the D7000 with an upgraded, less 'entry-level' version of the D3200 with autoexposure bracketing and 14 bit processing etc.

The 50% increase in pixel count, from 16mp to 24mp, will inevitably have the effect of upgrading the 24-120 lens. By how much is not clear, but I get the impression that an average quality zoom on a 24mp camera would be at least as sharp as a first rate prime, of same focal length, on a 16mp camera of the same format.

The results at Photozone tend to give a very clear impression of the significance on image sharpness resulting from an increase in sensor pixel density.

Unfortunately, there's a bit of confusion here, because Photozone make statements to the effect that one shouldn't compare different systems because the different strengths of AA filter, and the different processing with older RAW converters will impact upon the results.

It is reasonable to suppose that such warnings are directed at people who may compare different lenses on different camera bodies. For example, Lens A may in fact be better than Lens B. But the test results of Lens B on a 15mp camera body will undoubtedly be better than the results of Lens A (the better lens) on an 8mp camera, therefore Photozone are warning viewers not to assume that Lens B is better than Lens A.

To what extent such differences in perceived sharpness are due to the differing strengths of the AA filter is of no concern to the viewer of the final image and is also something the photographer has no control over. The fact remains that all lenses that Photozone have tested on cameras of different resolution, show significantly higher resolution on the camera with the higher pixel count.

This is best demonstrated if one compares results in the Canon APS-C section (8mp versus 15mp), and the Pentax K section (10mp versus 16mp).

However, I do have a concern about the role of recent converters in producing sharper images. It would be reasonable to suppose that all those 8mp 350D result would be at least slightly better if the RAW images were reconverted using the same converter that was used for the 15mp 50D results. The gap might be narrowed, but by how much is the question. Can you answer that question, Bill?

I've often wondered why Nikon introduced an entry-level camera with the highest resolution of all its models. The 24mp of the D3200 when extrapolated to a full frame sensor is 54mp.

Could it be that for economic reasons Nikon do not want discerning individulas to upgrade all their lenses simply by buying a new camera body? They'd prefer them to buy expensive primes instead?

Why haven't Nikon upgraded their very ancient 80-400 VR zoom, which is defintely worse than the Canon 100-400? Is it perhaps because such an upgrade would impact upon the sales of their heavier and more expensive telephoto primes, including the 200-400/F4?

Call me cynical if you like.  Grin


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