What's the Value of the Autofocus Fine Tune Capability?
I’m planning to upgrade from my D70. I have read tons of reviews on the D90, D300 and D700 (the D3 is more than I’ll need). I’m sure that I’ll enjoy the advancements of any of these three cameras over the D70. As I work toward a decision there is one feature on the D700 that I'm trying to pin a value on … the autofocus fine tune capability. I currently have a two zooms that work fine with my D70. One is a fairly cheap Nikon DX zoom which I know is not ideal for a FX sensor and the other is an old Quantaray 70 – 300mm zoom from my film shooting days. I also have a Nikon 50mm f/1.4. I plan to buy the Sigma 100-300mm f/4 and a Nikon 85mm f/1.4 over the next year or two (or sooner if I find a good price on a used one). I shoot a mix of outdoor and indoor sports and I also do portrait work. I use strobes for the indoor sports and portrait work.
My question is what is the value of the autofocus fine tune? How often is this really needed? Is it only useful for that occasional not-so-good lens copy or is their noticeable improvement for just about every lens? Is it a life-saver? Is it just a very fine tweak that only the most critical observer would notice? If this is something I will value highly, then it might tilt my final decision toward the D700. I need to understand all the value I’m getting before I dish out the extra ~$1400.
Thanks for any advise!
#1. "RE: What's the Value of the Autofocus Fine Tune Capability?" | In response to Reply # 0Danbie Registered since 31st May 2009Wed 10-Jun-09 08:53 PM
Hummmm. 38 viewers and no comments. I suppose that answers my question. This feature is probably only rarely used. I also downloaded the D700 manual and it states that the fine autofocus option should only be used if required.
My conclusion is that this feature is very seldom needed and therefore the value is very low.
#2. "RE: What's the Value of the Autofocus Fine Tune Capability?" | In response to Reply # 1mpappa Nikonian since 12th Jan 2009Wed 10-Jun-09 10:43 PM
I don't use this feature as all my lenses focus properly. As you may know the AF fine tune can be used to correct your lens for back or front-focusing issues. Focusing problems with the lens is usually caused by factory misalignmnet (but can be caused by temperature and humidity variations, autofocus sensor and mirror alignment).
With the D700 you can set and remember corrections for 12 lenses. However, the lens must have an unique ID code that is sent to the camera. If your old Quantaray lens does not have a chip in it, you can't use the AF fine tune feature. Also, fine-tuning of third party lenses may not work even if they have a chip in them because third-party manufacturers have to reverse-engineer their lenses to work with the Nikon mount. If the third-party manufacturer doesn't follow the Nikon spec and uses their own ID number, it might conflict with an existing Nikon number. Also Nikon may not look for ID numbers above a certain value.
Some of the problems associated with AF fine tune are:
1. Close and far focus can be compromised.
2. Only the focus distance you tested the lens at will be maximized.
3. Only one calibration per lens, i.e you can't perform multiple calibrations for the same lens. This means a zoom lens gets only a single calibration for all focal lengths. The exception to this is that you can calibrate for multiple lens and teleconverter combinations.
For those users that have purchased a new lens and find that the lens has focusing problems, they usually return the lens for another copy, or send the lens to the manufacturer for calibration. From what I've read on the Nikonians lens forums, it appears that third-party lenses have more focusing problems than Nikon lenses.
This feature was a minor point for me when I purchased my D700.
Hope this helps.
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#3. "RE: What's the Value of the Autofocus Fine Tune Capability?" | In response to Reply # 0
I think it depends on your situation. For most, you're probably right. However, there are circumstances under which it's quite important. Let's say that the tolerance for auto focus is 20 units, so +/- 20. Perhaps your D70 is -12, and your lenses are +8 and +10, so net you're within 4 or 2 of perfect, with no adjustment needed. Now let's say you get a D700 and it's a +12. Put your 8 and 10 lenses on it and you're at +20 and +22, which are really not so great and out of tolerance. But all three items are, individually, within specification. You will really appreciate the ability to fine tune the AF in such a case.
More often, though, the situation is much closer to spot on, and then AF tune doesn't mean much.
Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member
My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!
#4. "RE: What's the Value of the Autofocus Fine Tune Capability?" | In response to Reply # 0
First, both the D300 and the D700 have the feature (in addition to other high end bodies), so you don't need a D700 to get it. I've found it very helpful with faster, longer prime lenses, and the majority of my lenses in that category benefited from an adjustment. Sometimes it was relatively small (+-5 points) and sometimes it was large (one lens needed an 18 pt adjustment). Slower lenses benefit less from this due to their larger depth of field at maximum aperture. I'm not sure I would bother with those. Some zooms calibrate easily, and some do not. The only way to determine what works best with a specific lens is to test it yourself rigorously. Incidentally, both my older 50mm 1.4 AF-D and my 85mm 1.4 AF-D were lenses that benefited from an adjustment.
I've had no issues with infinity focus. In fact, calibrating the lenses improved focus at infinity rather than worsening it. I've also not found it sensitive to the focused distance. I suppose if I had tested the lens at an exceedingly close distance, it could have thrown things off, but I used reasonable distances. Incidentally, these tests were repeatable. Shooting different targets at different distances yielded the same results, at least within the margin of error.
#5. "RE: What's the Value of the Autofocus Fine Tune Capability?" | In response to Reply # 4Luke_Miller Nikonian since 19th Apr 2006Thu 11-Jun-09 10:43 AM | edited Thu 11-Jun-09 10:50 AM by Luke_Miller
>Incidentally, both my older 50mm 1.4 AF-D and my 85mm 1.4 AF-D
>were lenses that benefited from an adjustment.
Exactly my experience with my D3. I often shoot my f1.4 lenses wide open and I could not achieve sharp focus at f1.4 with either lens on my D3. Both lenses needed a +4 or +5 AF Fine Tune adjustment to achieve proper focus.
These are the only two lenses I own that required adjustment based on results from my real-world shooting. I don't test lenses for focus accuracy unless I see consistent focus problems in my normal shooting.
#7. "RE: What's the Value of the Autofocus Fine Tune Capability?" | In response to Reply # 0
Unlike Rick I cannot get anything other than the odd plus or minus 1 with a range of over 20 Nikon lenses - my experience is similar to Nikon's comment that AF fine tune is not normally needed.
I believe Rick is using the lens align target which consists or regular geometric patterns.
If so Nikon say regular geometric patterns can (as distinct from will) allow a picture to be taken even though the subject is not in focus - see the first paragraph and example 3 in this Nikon guidance
When this happens Nikon's advice is to find a better AF target at the same focus distance or switch to manual focus.
Rick refers to a correction of 18 on one lens. If it is a new lens I think many would reject it if it did need 18 fine tune. If it's old and well worn then fine tune has a place.
Inducing minus 10 on the 70-200 at 200mm is significant by my standards
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Photography is a bit like archery. A technically better camera, lens or arrow may not hit the target as often as it could if the photographer or archer does not practice enough.
#8. "RE: What's the Value of the Autofocus Fine Tune Capability?" | In response to Reply # 7walkerr Nikonian since 05th May 2002Fri 12-Jun-09 11:18 PM | edited Sat 13-Jun-09 01:23 AM by walkerr
This is getting old, but I've used a variety of test targets - you name it. You're wrong regarding my use of the Lens Align for most of my calibration. Most was done using other targets. Strangely enough, the Lens Align produced identical results, but quicker and easier. The lens that required a setting of 18 was used and using the AF fine tune feature saved me hundreds of dollars in shipping and repair costs.