Using AF lens on D3000 - how difficult is it?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by HAL-00, Mar 24, 2010.

  1. HAL-00 macrumors newbie

    Jul 2, 2008
    I'm new to photography. I mostly shoot family (my kids), a lot of it indoors, also outdoors. I have a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens and a 35mm f/1.8 Nikon prime, also a SB-400 flash.

    Unless I need flash I use just the prime most of the time. I prefer the extra light and frankly composition with 35mm is more straightforward... zooming confuses me (I'm a newbie, after all). I don't really long for the 17mm or the 50mm ends of the Tamron most of the time, although I will probably take it outside in the summer. I do feel like I would want to get closer to people and that 50mm seems inadequate (especially for close-ups) for this, so I would want something beyond 50mm.

    Lately I've been really wanting a 85mm f/1.8 Nikon lens (or a similar lens). It's cheap and fast and (I think) would give me the extra range I want. The catch of course is that I have a D3000 and the lens is AF-only. If not for the AF, I would've probably bought the thing already. But now I have doubts and questions:

    - how difficult and how reliable is using manual focusing with AF lens on the D40...D5000 bodies? How much practice does it take?
    - more specifically, on D3000?
    - would it be possible to AF manually fast enough to get shots of people in action, like children playing?
    - any specific tips how to do manual focusing right?
    - is it worth the effort or should I be looking for some other lens? (I'm not interested in buying a new camera though)

    I've tried the manual AF with the 35mm prime and so far it's a bit hit or miss but not bad either, with quite a few sharp shots as a result. I do have to take my time to get the focus right.

    Any advice is appreciated.

    Also perhaps I'm a bit too fixated on fast lens and slower Nikon zooms would do the trick? Then I would have VR and AF-S, the works. I do think the lighting conditions where I live are quite poor (the latitude is equivalent to Juneau, Alaska) so there's quite a lot of time when good daylight conditions are just not available.
  2. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Mar 17, 2008
    The depth of field on the 85 will be less than the DoF on your 30 (assuming equal subject distance) which will make manual focus harder. If you are going down this road, I would investigate a replacement focus screen (if the D40 can take one).

    I find manual focus on an old Minolta is ridiculously easy and have a hell of a time with it on my 20D mostly due to the different focussing screen. The new cameras are designed for auto focus and ditched everything that made manual focus easier in the quest for brighter viewfinders.
  3. SLC Flyfishing Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

    Nov 19, 2007
    Portland, OR
    I'm not sure if the D3000 has this feature, but my old Pentax K10D had focus lock notification even when manually focusing. That is to say that I had the little green box that would flash and produce an audible beep when I had acheived focus with a manual focus lens. The only real difference was that I was focusing the lens instead of the camera, but the rest of the experience was identical whether in manual or auto focus.

    However, I still didn't really like it; it was cumbersome to use. Especially when I had Autofocus lenses readily available.

    But if you can set up the D3000 to notify you when you've arrived at sharp focus, then it won't have to be slow and you might end up liking it. If the D3000 doesn't dave a feature to notify you of proper focus, then I'm afraid that the small pentamirror viewfinder that the D3000 has will be difficult to manually focus through; and I'd hesitate giving my reccomendation to buy a non AF-S lens. With the Pentax I had a 100% coverage pentaprism viewfinder and it was still difficult to determine if I was in sharp focus using only my eyes. That focus confirmation was the only thing that made it somewhat practical.

  4. Westside guy macrumors 603

    Westside guy

    Oct 15, 2003
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    This will take practice and patience, plus the quality of the viewfinder will affect how well you achieve this long-term. But there are plenty of us who, in the old days, shot everything with fully manual lenses because that's all we had. On my old Pentax K1000 the only "automated" feature was a light meter.

    BTW you kids get off my lawn.
  5. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    I own a 85mm f/1.8 lens. I also have the 50mm f/1.4

    On a "crop body " DSLR the 50mm is a failrly long lens and I have to remember to actually back away for people shots. I need to be roughly maybe 8 to 5 feet back. With the 85mm people shots are not practical in a normal house unless you just want head shotrs from across the room. Out doors it does fine.

    I bought both lenses for use with a film camera long before I bought my first digital. With that body manual focus was easy because the body had a very good quality view finder with split prism and other optical focus aids.

    The new low-end DSLRs have not so good view finders and they lack any kind of optical focus aid. You have to depend on the "idiot light" as you can't see well enough. the little green light works OK for static subjects and tripod shots

    Buy a used D50. The cost is $300 but you might be able to sell the current camera. The D50 has a built in focus motor. It will pay back that $300 fast becasue it allows you to use more lenses that you couldn't otherwise use.
  6. SLC Flyfishing Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

    Nov 19, 2007
    Portland, OR

    I came up in the early autofocus days, but I learned on a fully manual Nikon F2 that my father owned. I loved that camera (still do actually). I still have a soft spot for using the aperture ring too.

    It made me really wish for a katzeye focusing screen for my K10D, I liked manual focus with a split view focusing screen, not so much without.

  7. smiddlehurst macrumors 65816

    Jun 5, 2007
    I recently upgraded to a D90 from a D40 and my favorite lens on that camera was a 50mm 1.8 manual focus that only works in manual mode. No auto-focus, no automatic setting of shutter or aperture, not even any manual metering. Because you can set the aperture directly on the lens it makes it fairly quick and easy to adjust on a D40 (or any Nikon below the D90 which only have one thumb wheel) and I've actually learnt a lot more about photography by using that lens.

    That being said for taking action shots I really wouldn't recommend it. I've got some decent wildlife pics of birds coming overhead but there I could whack the focus to infinity, track a target and just fire off shots in burst mode and hope for the best. If you're trying to capture a moment (especially a moment you actually care about) then I'd have to say no. The chances of getting just the right exposure and focus on a one-time only shot aren't in your favour until you really know what you're doing and even then there's a certain element of luck involved.

    On the other hand, if you've got £40 to spare you can grab one of those 50mm off e-bay quite easily and I'd really recommend it. Provided you're careful about what you buy you'll get a great, lightweight lens that's really sharp and will let you learn a hell of a lot about your camera in the process. But if you're after a low light prime lens I'd personally go for the 35mm AF-S Nikon. It'll autofocus on your camera, give you a really nice focal length on the D3000, gets pretty damn good reviews and isn't too expensive. One thing I was finding using my D40 / 50mm combo was indoors I occasionally struggled to get far enough back to frame a shot properly. The 35mm would probably help in that regard and if you want to fill the frame you can always get closer.
  8. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    Even though you may get the "focus lock indicator" green dot in the viewfinder, when shot fully wide open at f1.8 the DoF is pretty narrow and even if the focus lock indicator is showing that you have focus, critical focus still may not yet be achieved. I have heard a lot of reports of users with wide fast lenses preferring the use of a manual focusing screen even when they had the focus lock indicator.

    The viewfinder on the D3000 isn't going to help much either, as it is rather small and dark. One thing that might help is the Nikon 1.2X viewfinder magnifier which will enlarge the view a bit but even on better DX bodies like the D300, people still are preferring the viewfinder magnifier or a split prism focusing screen.

    Basically, if you practiced for sure you would get used to/better at it. But even when you're proficient, it is possible that you will have a lot of misses because of the viewfinder/narrow DoF. Also if you're shooting manual focus and chasing moving children with a wide open lens, it will be very difficult to keep up I think, with any gear.
  9. RHVC59 macrumors 6502


    May 10, 2008
    Eugene, Oregon
    It is certainly more of a challenge shooting with manual lens. I have been playing with some of my wife's older lenses, and a couple of telephoto lenses I got from a retired photographer friend. The main challenge I have had is getting the exposure correct. The lenses do not communicate with the body, so I do not get lens data, or aperture date in the file. Shutter speed and ISO are in the file since that is controlled by the body. All exposure decisions must be made by the photographer, so I really need to attend to what I am doing.

    That being said. I have been able to get some nice eagle and moon shots shots...

    It is a little more work and I do miss some shots, but it is also a lot of fun:)

    Attached Files:

  10. HAL-00 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 2, 2008
    Thank you for the comments!

    In classic newbie-style I finally succumbed to re-reading the camera's manual and found that deep down in the camera menus I can enable the electronic rangefinder. This is basically a scale which shows if and how much the lens is back or front focused. And when you're in focus. The only catch: it doesn't work in Manual mode.

    This aid helps a lot - otherwise you just get a small dot lighting up when focus is achieved. When the DOF is shallow it's easy to miss that dot.

    Armed with the electronic viewfinder I shot more test shots yesterday night with my 35mm prime(using my kitchen utensils as models). I found I was getting much more consistent results now, although not every time. At wide open even a shallow DOF wasn't an insurmountable obstacle, although focusing is pretty finicky then. At some point it was easier to tilt my body a little than to adjust the focus ring in order to achieve perfect focus.

    So right now I'm still unconvinced that I shouldn't buy the 85mm AF lens.

    As for the other suggestions, I really like using the D3000 and don't want to upgrade now and I don't feel I have a need for the 50mm prime since I already have a 35mm prime and a f/2.8 zoom that goes to 50mm.

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