Body autofocus motors: Canon always has them, but Nikon lacks them. Why?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by cleanup, Feb 2, 2011.

  1. cleanup, Feb 2, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2011

    cleanup macrumors 68030

    cleanup

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    #1
    I'm not looking to start a huge argument or even discussion about Canon VERSUS Nikon. I'm just posting about an observation I've made. I'm not a photographer by any means; I just mess around and take photos.

    I've noticed, when I do research on or shop around for new equipment, that I am often deterred from purchasing a lens because it is not an AF-S lens, and lacks a built-in autofocus motor. As a result, it won't autofocus on my D40. It won't autofocus on my friend's D60, or a D3000, or D3100, or D5000 either. These models arguably span the entire entry-level range of Nikon's bodies. None of them will autofocus with AF-D lenses or lenses by other manufacturers that lack SWM/HSM/whatever. I can't even purchase the cheap 50mm f1.8. AF-S lenses with similar purposes (ie. the 50mm f1.4) are usually prohibitively expensive for myself.

    In order to get an in-body autofocus motor, I've got to purchase, if we're considering only in-production models, at least a D90, which will run me from $600 used to $900 new. Meanwhile, on the Canon side, I could walk into Best Buy tomorrow and get an XSI kit (for about $500), and it will autofocus with Canon's equally-cheap 50mm f1.8. I'm fairly sure (but correct me if I'm wrong) that all of Canon's entry-level bodies (from the old 300D/Digital Rebel all the way to the T2i) have built-in autofocus motors and are compatible with the majority of Canon's EF lenses. Meanwhile I've got to purchase a midrange-level body before I can tap into the majority of the lens market out there. In order to make it as affordable as a Canon body, I've got to purchase an older, discontinued model, like the D70 or D80.

    Maybe it's my own particular situation that is frustrating, but I find it awfully annoying that Nikon refuses to put in autofocus motors into its entry-level models. I was sorely disappointed when the D3100 and D5000 came out.

    Am I wrong here? Am I just nitpicking, or do I have a reason to be annoyed? Why does it seem to me that Nikon provides fewer features at a higher price point? Even the T2i, which is a newer camera and features-wise arguably just as or more capable than the D90, is a sound $100-150 less, new.
     
  2. dcains macrumors regular

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    #2
    Not a single Canon body, EOS or otherwise, has ever had an AF "motor" built-in. They're all in the lenses, whether Canon or third-party. Nice try, though. Further, the vast majority of Nikon's current lenses also contain AF motors.
     
  3. cleanup thread starter macrumors 68030

    cleanup

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    #3
    So the issue is with Nikon's lenses, then? How is Canon able to put motors in all of their lenses but offer them at the same/comparable price points as the Nikon equivalents which lack them?

    I'm asking an honest question. I'm sorry that I was wrong. No need to be sarcastic. :)
     
  4. pdxflint macrumors 68020

    pdxflint

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    #4
    A few years ago all Nikon entry-level dSLRs did in fact have built-in motors (D50, D70) and were great cameras. I'm not sure why Nikon removed it from subsequent entry models like the D40/D60/D3000/5000 etc. but it probably had to do with cutting costs, and figuring most entry level buyers moving up from point and shoot cameras would likely stick to the kit zoom lenses or newer zoom lenses. Personally, I think if they were going to do this, they should have at least produced a few models of lenses (50f/1.8, 85f/1.8) as newer AF-S versions.
     
  5. TWLreal macrumors 6502

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    #5
    It's a simple business decision.

    Canon cut off support for their previous mount and went forward with a modern mount starting from 1987 and have enjoyed a completely electronic mount with no mechanical parts. It was a gamble and hurt both ways but that's 24 years of advancement for you.

    Nikon kept its support for its mount since the beginning and is now paying the price for keeping up said support and having to slowly migrate their lenses to an all-electronic mount in other to have compatibility across the entire line for their bodies without a focusing motor.

    As to why many of their low-end bodies have no focusing motor, it's quite possibly a cost cutting measure as Nikon believes people buying those bodies will probably not buy AF lenses so they won't really be missing anything. This only hurts more enthusiastic amateurs.
     
  6. cleanup thread starter macrumors 68030

    cleanup

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    #6
    Thanks for the helpful post, TWLreal.

    So you're saying that non AF-S lenses are slowly being phased out?
     
  7. TWLreal macrumors 6502

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    #7
    There's no reason for Nikon to release an AF lens in this day and age. Unless it's a PC-E lens which isn't autofocus in the first place.

    http://www.dpreview.com/news/related.asp?keyword=nikon

    They are all AF-S. I don't care enough to copy more.
     
  8. carlgo macrumors 68000

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    #8
    I use a couple of old totally mechanical lenses on my D40, a big old zoom and the legendary 2.8 55mm Micro. The sunny 16 rule is pretty darn accurate and focus is easy.

    For me this is quicker than going into menus with the A and S modes.
     
  9. luminosity macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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    #9
    The flip side of Nikon keeping the F mount is that you can use AI/AIS lenses normally on many Nikon DSLRs, including the D200/300/700, and now the D7000. You don't need an adapter.
     
  10. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

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    #10
    The last non-AFS lens release that I can recall is the 10.5mm DX fisheye, which was release in 2004. Everything in the past seven years has been AF-S. Nikon will never release a new lens that is not AF-S in the future (unless it's a MF specialty like the PC-E lenses). AF-S and similar technologies are simply superior to the old screw-driven method and there is no reason for Nikon to regress.

    Aside from a few exceptions (only 2 I can think of are the 80-400 VR and 10.5mm fisheye), I think all of Nikon's old AF-D lineup now has a more modern AFS counterpart to supplant it. It may not be the most popular choice but it is a great way to get folks to buy new vs. old used lenses. However, Nikon seems to have made effort to provide entry-level shooters with some good and reasonably priced AF-S alternatives (for example the 35mm f1.8DX).

    Probably the reason they don't include the in-body focus motor on the lower end stuff is that the vast majority of purchasers of these bodies never buy a lens beyond the kit, or will likely only buy new AF-S stuff. Generally speaking, people who already own an extensive collection of pre-AFS lenses are likely relatively serious photographers, and would be buying a higher end body anyways. They must have removed the AF motor as a cost cutting measure.

    Ruahrc
     
  11. luminosity macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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    #11
    There's one advantage of having a lens without a focus motor: There's no focus motor to break or fail.
     
  12. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #12
    They already have been phased out, since at least 5 years, all newly released lenses are AF-S lenses. The issue is only really noticeable if you want to tap into the used market. That being said, I'd prefer if Nikon included focus motors on all bodies, but at least for consumers who only buy kit lenses or new lenses, it's a non-issue.
     
  13. dimme macrumors 65816

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    #13
    So of my favorite & sharpest lens are old manual focus Ai-s lens. They work great on my D50 & D90. And with a hand held meter or instant histogram Polaroid. My exposers are perfect. It great for landscapes, sort of makes you slow down are think about what you are doing.
     
  14. gnd macrumors 6502a

    gnd

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    #14
    I use old manual focus lenses all the time and I see no reason for any hand held meters or polaroids or anything like that. You can have a pretty good idea about what the exposure should be, just take a photo and look at the histogram. Then correct with the next shot if needed, doesn't cost anything :)
     
  15. rusty2192 macrumors 6502a

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    #15
    You guys have piqued my curiosity. I shoot Canon, so I am unfamiliar with Nikons. Does the light meter not work with the manual focus lenses on the newer lower end bodies? I have a few old manual lenses I mount to my Canon via an adapter. The light meter still works perfectly this way since it's inside the body. Does Nikon put their meters in the lens? Or is it just something to do with metering/focusing before/after stopping down the aperture?
     
  16. TWLreal macrumors 6502

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    #16
    See:
    See:
    See:
    If you're going to question why I am rehashing your post with my post I would have to question why you rehashed my post with your post in the first place.

    But whatever floats your boat.
    Then that's one more thing to break or fail for the bodies that do have a focus motor. If you want to play that argument, which is null in the first place so why go there?

    That is a rhetorical question by the way.
    Nikon in all their wisdom decided that the D40, D40X, D60, D3000, D3100, D5000, D50, D70, D70S, D80, D90 and D100 will not meter with AI lenses mounted. See http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/compatibility-lens.htm for a compatibility chart. You will need a D200 and up in order to gain full compatibility.

    Your Canon body will meter anything you can mount on it.
     
  17. luminosity macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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    #17
    I haven't heard of the focus motor in a Nikon body failing. I'm sure it's happened, but it certainly doesn't happen much.
     
  18. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

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    #18
    Seriously? Of course you left out the other half of my post where I expanded upon what you had said earlier, or provided details you did not care to include. So thanks for that. :rolleyes:

    Heaven forbid something gets repeated on the internet!

    If you want an apology- fine. I'm sorry I glossed over your first posting a little too quickly, and inadvertently ended up reiterating parts of it in my reply. Happy now?

    Ruahrc
     
  19. pdxflint macrumors 68020

    pdxflint

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    #19
    Yes, indeed. Gotta make sure someone gets credit for their post (even though what they say has also been said before...) :cool:
     
  20. flosseR macrumors 6502a

    flosseR

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    #20
    False, depends on the Canon body.. or have you tried to mount an EFs lens on a 5d mark 2? no, well you can't... while the DX nikon lenses WILL mount and work on any full frame nikon.
    Now, also has to be said that anything you can mount on a nikon body is basically almost any nikon lens ever made, while canons mount you cannot (as stated before). Metering and "full compatibility" on the entry level Nikons might have something to do with the fact that they are not even targeted at manual lenses. Ever tried to focus an AI 55mm f1.2 with a D40? the viewfinder on those entry levels suck plain and simple and you can or need a split prism focus screen which costs an arm and a leg in comparison to the body.

    Good or bad choice, the mount and the AF-s discussion can go on forever. it's been this way for years. let's leave it at that.
    And as someone stated before, all new lenses are AF-s anyway (with the 50mm and 85mm f1.8 being some exceptions.
     
  21. TWLreal macrumors 6502

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    #21
    Have you considered reading what I said?

    See:
    It's not false at all because an EF-S lens cannot be mounted on a EOS 5D Mark II in the first place.

    My statement that every lens you can mount on a Canon body will meter with it is absolutely true. It's a simple fact.
    Sure, if you want to, with the caveat that AI lenses will not meter on the D40, D40X, D60, D3000, D3100, D5000, D50, D70, D70S, D80, D90 and D100.

    Now if you want to bring that up, we can also say that almost every Nikon lens ever made will also mount on any Canon EF body, with a working meter.
    See:
    And also:
    This doesn't change the fact that people interested in entry level Nikon bodies cannot make full use of less expensive AF lenses.

    It may be justified for Nikon to have made that decision but I don't think anyone in their right mind would think it's a good thing for the consumer.
    No one in this thread mentioned anything about manual focusing lenses on APS-C bodies with pentamirrors. This statement is almost completely irrelevant to the question at hand.
    Stop the presses.
     
  22. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

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    #22
    Actually, one could argue that since 99% (or some very high percentage) of consumers won't ever use the in-body focus motor, why should they be forced to pay a higher price for that feature (as in Nikon includes the motor but raises the price of all entry-level bodies accordingly) so that 1% of entry-level body users can use old AF lenses? In a way, it's actually good for most consumers that they don't include the in-body motor.
     
  23. TWLreal macrumors 6502

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    #23
    That is perfectly sound reasoning in a perfect world.

    However, Canon, Sony, Pentax, Olympus have all shown that they can build entry level camera bodies that are fully compatible with their entire lens lineup without the so-called "higher price for that feature" as you want to call it.

    The lower price of the entry level Nikons, if they are actually less expensive which I believe they are not, is generally not a worthwhile non-tradeoff.

    Of course, you are free to show me that Nikon's entry level body are generally substantially less expensive than other companies' entry level bodies if you wish as I am not going to bother looking up the prices for this argument.

    And if they really are less expensive, my argument still stands that it's not quite worth the non-tradeoff to the user and that no one should be rooting for Nikon in this decision.
     
  24. luminosity macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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    #24
    Just get a used D50 and you're set to go. No one is bound by law to get a new camera. Or a used whatever. Costs go down when you buy used.
     
  25. TWLreal macrumors 6502

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    #25
    This also makes a lot of sense in the perfect world.

    But the number of used D50s available in the world are in a set and limited supply.

    Let's go for it anyway to humor you. Do you not see that there's a little something off when you have to suggest a used camera from 2005, not that there's anything wrong with that as my camera is also from 2005, to buyers on a budget because Nikon decided that their entry level bodies should not have a focusing motor?

    My point is that this decision only hurts the consumer. This should not be seen as an act of goodwill from Nikon.

    I don't know why anyone would try to argue in Nikon's favor in this matter.
     

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