I'll try to keep this quick and not very technical. I bought a used D3 on this forum about 1.5 years ago and have been loving it. Only recently, it has started to give me less than reliable focus using my 70-200 VR1 and 300 VR. I tried the lenses with my backup D300 and back to amazing images. I am in great need of the high ISO performance the D3 gives, so I am reluctant to send it off for a month to have Nikon look at it.
1) Wondering...is FoCal calibration software worth a shot? 2) Are there other (obvious or not) camera settings I should be checking in advance that could be affecting the focus?
The previous owner did have some AF Fine Tune settings for his lens that I have turned off.
Any advice on the focus issue would be appreciated. If you need further info, I will try to fill in the blanks.
I have finally gotten around to taking some samples which may show the slight focus problem I am talking about. These were taken with my D300 and D3 using my favorite lenses - 70-200, 80-200, 300VRI, 105VR. All but the 105 shots were taken with a tripod. See if you see the same slight problem.
Fri 19-Oct-12 10:09 AM | edited Fri 19-Oct-12 10:18 AM by SRFast
David, Are you experiencing a focus issue or saying that the D300 image is sharper than the D3 image? There are differnces in the images, but I don't see a focus related difference/issue. Am I missing something? BTW, are these manual focus or AF images?
________________________________________ 45+ years of Nikon ownership and counting Visit my SmugMug gallery
Fri 19-Oct-12 11:07 AM | edited Fri 19-Oct-12 11:08 AM by dwiggins
You may be right - I have just not had this problem before. I don't know how the sharpness could change over time.
Here is shot taken recently, one that I would have expected my D3 and 70-200 to nail with VR turned on. The fact that nearly nothing is in focus might suggest my hands are getting shaky or that VR was turned off. That it is happening so regularly makes me wonder if my focus is off. I didn't become a crappy photographer over night!
I was going to comment earlier until I saw that last photo of the young man which was obviously out of focus.
I noticed the slight focus difference between the D3 and the D300 and was going to suggest that you try a -5 and -8 and then a +5 and +8 adjustment just to see if the Fo-Call software or LensAlign system might be worth trying. But, after seeing that last photo, I just don't know. Somethings wrong. I've seen your work, and that's not you.
I am having a focus problem with my D3 as well. After living in Hawaii for some years, I have some mold growth in my lenses and thought that was the reason for the lack of sharpness. But I see around that D3 owners regularly note a drop off in sharpness over time. I'm about to send my gear in for repair, though the last time I did it cost close to $2000 for camera and several lenses. Outrageous!
That was the Nikon shop in CA. Anybody know of a less expensive shop?
By the way, what is a "D3 re-tune" that I see mentioned in the previous post by SteveK?
Sun 21-Oct-12 08:27 AM | edited Sun 21-Oct-12 08:33 AM by KnightPhoto
I just meant to say that on the assumption that "if things can change over time on a camera" our OP could conduct an AF fine tuning exercise with the camera and some key lenses and see if that corrects the problem. According to Thom Hogan, who does a lot of bumping his cameras around the world, regularly doing so is a way to stay on top of this potential.
Also, that way you get an indication of how far off the camera lens combination is. So if for example +8 corrects it and the issue stays consistent then fine. However, if +20 is not enough to correct the issue, then the camera needs service (or possibly the lens/lenses).
Myself, I tune all my gear when I first acquire it, but I don't often re-do the AF fine tune unless I am seeing something in my images, like the OP has here (which might or might not be more severe than re-tuning can address). Also AF fine tuning can only address a focus problem that is consistent in the first place.
Not sure, is the AF always front-focusing for images coming from the same lens? Also, is there any gunk on your sensor perhaps causing this?
How much difference should I be seeing between a +8 and -8 fine tune? I was playing around and did not really see much of a difference at all on a test pattern printed on paper. I think I will read the article you said Thom published.
My D3 with 12,000 clicks had this issue. I took the camera to Kurt's Camera Repair which is a highly regarded camera repair company here in San Diego. They cleaned the AF sensor and adjusted the pitch and yaw as it was off axis. They charged me $188 on 8/28/2012 and I was only minus the camera for a few days.
Try the following: set up on a tripod and shoot something static - not something that can move like the 'eyes' examples you posted previously. Use live view to autofocus with the aperture set wide open and compare the result to the same shot taken using normal (phase detect) autofocus, again with the aperture set wide open.
Is the point of focus for the two images clearly different? Are the results reproducible? If the answer is yes then I propose that your technique has not suddenly disappeared overnight and that the source of the issue definitely lies with regular (phase detect) autofocus.
I am not sure I have ever tried to focus using live view. (I hope that is what you meant) I will try that this weekend, compare to the normal autofocus, and see if I see a difference. The focus is so minutely and subtly out of focus, that I really have problems pinpointing anything at all as the culprit.
I have a hunch I will be sending thebody on for repair on Monday - this is too technical for this simple mind.
>I am not sure I have ever tried to focus using live view. (I hope that is what you meant)<
>The focus is so minutely and subtly out of focus, that I really have problems pinpointing anything at all as the culprit.<
The purpose of the test is to determine if normal autofocus is the culprit. If it is, then as long as the magnitude of focus error is not too great, it may be addressed with AF fine tuning, saving you the temporary loss of your D3 and permanent loss of cash. If not, well, at least you have ruled out one possible cause of the problem and, in the event that you send your D3 in for repair, you would be able to provide some help by describing the troubleshooting that you have carried out as well as the problem.
>I have a hunch I will be sending the body on for repair on Monday - this is too technical...<
See how you get on with the test first. The reason for shooting the test wide open is to minimise depth of field in order for you to more easily see where the plane of focus lies, and hence if it moves between shots.
There is nothing you can do that cannot easily be undone, and you never know: you may just sort the problem. Let us know how you get on.