Evening

by w.hrybok

submit your photo


Hall of Fame
View past winners from this year

Please participate in Meta
and help us grow.

Take the 2-minute tour ×
Photography Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional, enthusiast and amateur photographers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I am looking into getting a Nikon soon (either a D3100 or a D5100). One of the reasons that I am upgrading from a point and shoot is because I want to have more control over the camera's functions. In particular, I want to be able to manually focus. As I shop for lenses, are there any lenses that don't allow for manual focus? Is there anything else I should look out for on this front?

share|improve this question
1  
Neat, manual focus was one of my main reasons for getting a DSLR, too :) For the full experience, you might look into getting an old manual focus lens: while the image quality won't be as good as new lenses, the focus ring can be much more fun to use. They can be found relatively cheaply, too (keh.com is a good starting point to see what's available and for price comparisons). –  drewbenn Feb 27 '12 at 22:28
    
Many old MF lenses will have better image quality than some of the chepo kit lenses. I had MF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 that produced amazing color. I’ve sold it about two years ago. Kicking my self now, I want it back. lol –  Alen Feb 27 '12 at 23:19
    
The GREAT thing about old MF lenses is that you get a high quality lens for a very low price. As mentioned below, some lenses to MF better than others ... old MF-only lenses do it very well. The only disadvantage I know of is that they don't have autofocus. –  Stainsor May 14 '12 at 15:44

5 Answers 5

up vote 11 down vote accepted

If there are, I've never seen one.

They do not offer the same comfort for focusing. On cheap lenses, I noticed you have to turn the front element to focus which does not give much grip and also rotated the front element which is not good if you have a polarize filter.

Better lenses have a nice texture focus ring to let you easily change focus. There is also something called the throw distance which is how much you have to turn to focus. If it takes more distance to change focus than you can focus more precisely. This is often how macro lenses work.

The other nice thing is to have quick-shift focus (maybe called something not the same for different brands). This allows you to focus manually without switching to manual focus mode! You just turn the ring and it works. I find we can search for lenses with that feature for Nikon for example.

share|improve this answer
1  
It is called "FTM" or Full-Time Manual focus on Canon. –  drewbenn Feb 27 '12 at 22:19
    
Prime lenses will, of course, have the better focus ring grips. –  Skaperen May 15 '12 at 5:15

I am aware of three Canon EF lenses that are autofocus-only--they are the only such lenses that can directly fit a DSLR (without adapters):

I do not know of any AF-only lenses from any other system, except, perhaps, the obscure autofocus Olympus OM-system lenses (which did allow focus by wire controlled by the camera body, if the body supported AF; they were unusable on manual OM bodies).

In short, there are no Nikon lenses that are AF-only. However, some lenses lend themselves better to manual focus, while other lenses have thin focus rings, short focus ring travel, and no distance scales--these are usually inexpensive lenses that are optimized for autofocus with manual focus provided as a fallback rather than a usual mode of operation.

share|improve this answer

I don't think any lens prevents you from doing so, but without a special focusing screen, this is very difficult to do accurately and fast in a DSLR. See Can manual focus be faster than autofocus? and When is manual focus better than autofocus? The more likely case is that when purchasing Nikon bodies and lenses, you have to be worried about getting Autofocus.

share|improve this answer
1  
Another thing to consider is that maximum aperture of the lens has direct impact on how well you can manually focus, or better yet how well you can see while you’re trying to focus. Lens with the maximum aperture opening of f/1.4 will allow you to see more than the lens with the max aperture of f/2.8. Since the lens stays wide open while you’re focusing, and until you press the shutter. –  Alen Feb 27 '12 at 21:28
    
@Alen yes, the faster lenses will have a brighter image in the viewfinder, but you won't be able to judge DoF accurately through the viewfinder for lenses faster than about f/2.8. –  drewbenn Feb 27 '12 at 22:22
    
@drewbenn yes this is true, unless you get a focusing screen to help you out. I was just using those numbers as an example, didn't want to go into DoF too much and confuse the OP. –  Alen Feb 27 '12 at 22:31
    
Actually, if you use the DoF preview, you'll quickly find that the opposite is true with most current cameras. Set the camera to aperture priority with (say) a 50/1.8 lens set to f/2.8, then activate the DoF preview -- and through the viewfinder you'll see no change at all in most cases. –  Jerry Coffin Feb 28 '12 at 6:26
  • All the lenses should be able to manually focus.
  • Some old Nikon lenses are just manual focus.
  • Newer ones have a switch on the lens M/AF.
  • MF/AF can also be controlled by the camera. By setting the AF mode to manual.

Now I’m not sure if the models you mentioned offer camera override, but visiting Nikon website and checking out the specifications should answer that question.

Hope that helps,
-Alen

share|improve this answer

All (nearly all?) lenses designed for modern DSLRs have a switch that can turn off auto-focus and enable manual focus.

However, some lenses work better with manual focus than others. I don't know what the Nikon term for it is, but Canon shooters talk about full manual over-ride, where you can just twist the focus ring and the lens will stay at that position. This can be down with the auto-focus still on. On other lenses, the auto-focus mechanism will try to correct your manual focus -- this gets to be a pain.

Most DSLRs do not expect you to use manual focus, and so they have focus screens in their pentaprisms that don't help you. This is in stark contrast to the way focus screens were back in the film days. You need a microprism, or split screen or other screen to help you see when things snap into focus.

Make sure that the body you buy allows for easy changing of the focus screen, and add in the cost of a good manual-focus screen to your budget.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.