The advantage of an in-built focus motor?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by hector, Jun 7, 2012.

  1. hector macrumors regular

    Sep 18, 2006
    Cheltenham, UK
    I'm tempted to upgrade my faithful D40 which has served me well for the last 4 years. I like the fact that it's light, and I mainly use the f1.8 35mm lens, but also the 18-55mm it came with.

    I'm stuck between the D5100, D3200 and D90 - I guess my question is if I went down the D90 route, what lenses would I be able to take advantage of?

    There are thousands of old Nikon lenses on eBay, but in your opinion what are the ones that I would want to actually buy? Is there a guide to great old lenses somewhere?

    Or would I be just as happy with my 35mm and 18-55?

  2. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    It depends on what you shoot. I have the following AF-D lenses:

    300/4, 80-200/2.8, 20-35/2.8, 35-70/2.8, 60/2.8.

    I use all of them from time to time, and the IQ is "good enough" that spending thousands on replacements hasn't been necessary. None of them is more than $800 or so used, and I'd bet that only the AF-S 60mm is under $1000 new.

  3. pna macrumors 6502

    May 27, 2005
    If you're generally happy with the 18-55 and the 35/1.8, then I'm hard pressed to think of a ton of AF-D lenses that you'd want to add that don't have an AF-S counterpart that's not a ton more. Certainly you'd probably want to add the 50mm/1.8, which is about $120, but there's the updated 50mm/1.8 af-s version that's about $220 as well. I'm still waiting/looking for a solid wide angle prime (new or old) for DX, but I don't really see great options for that size of sensor. Thom Hogan has railed about this for a long time.

    For my part, I've picked up a number of AF-D lenses over time that I do like and shoot with. In addition to the AF-s 35 mm/1.8, I've got the 50mm/1.8 AF-D, 85 mm/1.8 AF-D, and 180 mm/2.8 AF-D. My goal was to put together a series of smallish primes that I could carry instead of either settling for smaller-aperture zooms, or having to drop a lot of cash for a fast (and heavy) zoom or two to cover similar ranges.

    What I've found is that, for what I shoot, I really could get away with just the 35, 50, and 180. I love the 85, but on a DX sensor find that it's actually sort of a strange focal length that doesn't usually work as well with the kinds of situations I'm shooting in as well as the 50. The 85 is too long for close quarters, but not long enough to have any real reach. I'm keeping it around for when I do more studio portraiture, but for now it doesn't find its way onto my camera much. The 180 mm has great IQ, despite being 25+years old, but I also find that it doesn't end up on my camera a lot, as it's pretty rare that I shoot things that require that much of a zoom, and when I do, I often want more flexibility in framing than a lens fixed at that focal length can provide. As such, I often don't have it with me when I'm just walking around, because it's certainly the heaviest and bulkiest of the primes I have.

    I bought pretty much all of these lenses used, btw, and have saved a lot of money doing so. I feel much more comfortable trying out lenses when I feel that I could sell them again without taking too much of a loss.

    So take from my experience what you will. If you're generally happy with what you're shooting now, and the range that you have covered, some sort of a 50mm is probably the prime you'd be looking to add, and there are varieties of that that work with cameras that do and cameras that don't have the focus motor. I think there are other compelling reasons to move to one of the higher-end bodies, but you do pay a weight penalty for doing so, and it sounds like you like moving light. I think you'd be pretty happy either way you go.

    And I'll be interested to see what other people have to say here, as I'm hoping that I'm missing some totally sweet wide prime that I just haven't read about...
  4. rpmor macrumors member

    Apr 25, 2012
    have the 50 1.8. 80-200 2.8. 85mm 1.4. all d lenses....advantage? saved me ALOT of money getting those over their newer counter parts. but the cameras that do come with the built in autofocus comes with more features and advantages that those without do not have.
  5. windowpain macrumors 6502a

    Apr 19, 2008

    I was in your position too a year or so ago. After having my D40 for a few years I upgraded to the fantastic D90 (I didn't go for the the D90 is awesome enough, certainly the limiting factor in getting good shots is me not the camera.)

    Anyway, I do like the D90 and I have been picking up a lot of older manual glass for peanuts, some really nice lenses such as the 105/2.5, the 100/2.8E, and the 200/4. (I also have the 35/1,8 afs, and I would say all of these are 'better' than the 35, not that it isn't a very nice lens, but just shows how much I rate the others, the 105 in particular is incredible.)

    I have gotten used to metering manually, and it has taught me a lot about the camera and how to use it.

    I had been neglecting my D40 a bit, and I missed the light weight of it, so I was thinking about getting a Katzeye, as you know the focusing screen is a little small, and because I wear glasses it is not always easy to see the little green dot. Long story short, I found a cheaper split screen focusing screen on amazon, and even considering shipping to Japan it wasn't very much.

    It has totally changed my feelings toward the two cameras (D40/D90) and I now prefer using the D40!
    I would highly recommend you spend 20 bucks or so on one before you put down 600 or so on a new body.
    True the newer bodies are 'better' but the D40 is a very capable camera. You have a lightweight body, fast flash sync,good battery life, pretty good low light sensitivity, and the ability to mount almost anything.

    Take a look on and check out the reviews for the older manual primes. You lose auto focus of course, but with a focusing screen and a good lens you won't miss it as much as you think.

    (As for auto focus lenses, I would look into a used 80-200/2.8(D), built like a tank, but is optically phenomenal - from about 400 bucks used (here in Japan).
    The 50/1.8 is also great, and you can buy it new for about $100, the 85/1.8 is also well regarded and not so expensive.

    I also got the manual focus 28/3.5 and 50/1.8E for about 30-40 dollars each..both pretty good.)

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