Those were taken with the camera mounted on a tripod, f/1.4, ISO 1000. I did this on my kitchen table, so I had whatever light was in the room.
I systematically went through and adjusted the AF Fine Tune in increments of five units. I took at least five shots at each fine tune value, and selected the best one to show on the web page. Focus mode was AF-A, using only the center focus point.
I also took a series of shots with the subject carefully hand focused via extreme zoom in Live View mode.
Each shot was loaded into ACR. I applied a smidge of sharpening, and then saved them out as PSD files. I then loaded them into Illustrator and saved the JPG's as 100% crops. You are seeing a small slice from the center of the image on these samples.
So what I think I am seeing is that this lens cal ALMOST be adjusted into good focus, but not quite. Even at Fine Tune = -20, its still a little off compared to the carefully hand focused shots. If the AF fine tune went to -30, then maybe we would have it.
So, what to do?
Is this the lens? I've not done a test, but I've never had reason to doubt my D7000 before. My 18-200 produces sharper shots than these, under whatever sloppy conditions I happen to find.
Do I just return the lens and try another one? Do I send the lens/body off to Nikon for adjustment?