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There is a "set rangefinder on" kind of option in D3100.

Are there any special cases when I "should" set the rangefinder on?

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Why the downvote? I am not a mind reader. – TheIndependentAquarius Mar 14 '12 at 4:40
Sadly, Nikon choose a poor name for this feature. @Ward's answer is correct though. The range finder is for helping to focus manually. Actually, it is tedious to turn on and off, so I left it on all the time and did not see any ill side-effects. – Itai Mar 14 '12 at 4:43
There you go, I voted you back up :) I do not see why anyone would vote this down other than the 'rangefinder' tag is probably not appropriate here. – Itai Mar 14 '12 at 4:43
I know it is called rangefinder. Unfortunately, the one on the Nikon D3100 is NOT a rangefinder and those answers do not apply at all to your questions. A rangefinder as in the question you point out is an entirely different type of viewfinder. The confusion is Nikon's fault, not your own. – Itai Mar 14 '12 at 4:51
The feature does help in finding the correct focusing range, hence it is a rangefinder. It just does it using other methods than the classic rangefinder cameras, hence the confusion. – Imre Mar 14 '12 at 6:58
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I don't have a D3100, but everything I can find says that the electronic rangefinder is a manual focus aid. When the camera is in manual focus mode and you turn on the rangefinder, the exposure meter will indicate which way to turn the lens to focus. So you could turn it on when you want some help focusing manually.

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Alright, I'll try it. Sounds cool. – TheIndependentAquarius Mar 14 '12 at 4:39
Is this a feature of Nikon cameras only? Does Canon have something like this? – kazanaki Jan 27 at 13:02

I am speaking out of my experience with a D60. Range Finder is helpful only in case of manual focusing. For modes A and S (and possible P), the rangefinder will indicate not just if the subject is in focus or not, but also which way you need to turn the focus ring. In M mode however, you have to solely rely on the focus dot.

share|improve this answer
Thanks Suresh, I'll see how it works in D3100. – TheIndependentAquarius Mar 14 '12 at 11:35

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