I must stop putting the subject smack bang in the middle of the frame and taking symmetrical photos.
Anyway. I managed to get hold of another (used, naturally) copy of the lens I had to return last week. This one does as it should, and produces pics with then same visual qualities. Note; that's not the same as Image Quality, which is something gearheads take to mean 'sharpness'. Apart from it being small and light I really like the way the out of focus regions decay. Some cheapo lenses give harsh, almost jagged, out of focus areas. This one doesn't. It gives good bokeh.
Damn. That post's in the middle of the frame...
How out of focus areas appear is important. Not for the popular reason of using shallow depth of field for its own sake - which is a mannerism - but so that background detail can be 'read' even though it is out of focus. If it all goes to mush you lose context and are left with a subject floating around in space. Degraded detail maintains the context. Without knowing where something is, how it relates to its surroundings there's no 'story' to the picture.
While most camera nerds test lenses for sharpness with charts pinned to walls and their cameras set up precisely parallel to them on rock-solid tripods, I go out and take hand-held pictures of signs. Signs are good because the lettering and images have sharp edges, and they are sometimes printed on surfaces with fine textures. These two, when pixel-peeped, are as sharp as I need.
I quite like them as pictures too. Which is actually why I shot them. They just happened to provide a test of the lens's sharpness. Somehow I managed to make them unsymmetrical too.
Either I've been dead lucky, I'm not fussy, or a lot of internet-photographers are deluded, but I've yet to buy a Nikon lens which has needed to be adjusted to my camera bodies. I've fiddled with the fine tuning feature a couple of times and seen no difference. Maybe if my camera was always locked down on a tripod with the aperture wide open I'd see the need, but as I either shoot hand-held or with the lens stopped down when the camera is (rarely) on a tripod I either have enough depth of focus to hide imperfections, or they are likely to be messed up by my shaky hands anyway. In fact any focussing issues I have I always blame on poor technique rather than faulty or misaligned gear. More people ought to admit to their inadequacies in this department I reckon.
Looked at 100% on the computer this shot is sharp where it needs to be sharp - on the hook. No fine tuning, hand held, available light, and a lens which has a flake of crap inside it. It's the second frame. The first was well soft thanks to my dodgy technique. Nice bokeh, too...
Odd folk, carp anglers.