AF using LiveView is a different mechanism than AF in the viewfinder. LV uses the main imaging sensor while the viewfinder has dedicated sensors; I forget whether they are in the mirror box or around the pentaprism but they're not the main imaging sensor and they do use the image as placed on the focusing screen. It is *possible* that something is out of alignment with the focusing screen (or even less likely, with the AF sensor), which would create a situation in which LV is able to AF correctly but the VF is not.
However, I'd do some more testing before you conclude that this is the case. Nikon make literally millions of these cameras and the main mechanism is VERY accurate so it is NOT normal. In particular, test this with a tripod. In this case, it's best to do this outdoors in bright light, although it doesn't need to be full noontime on a cloudless day. Use a strong contrast target that's flat and parallel to the camera's sensor. Manually defocus the image before each shot, then AF and take the shot.
It is reasonable to state that the problem is NOT that the camera is in auto mode, and it's certainly not that the 18-55 lens is "no good." The 18-55 is not built terribly solidly, but if it's not physically broken, it punches WAY above its weight. I have half a dozen of the highly touted lenses and I still am willing to use the 18-55VR - it may not quite match the capability of the $2000 lenses, but it's certainly not embarrassed. Besides, in this case, it's the same lens that's taking the shots focused with LV.
_____ Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member
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