Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I just received a 35mm prime lens for Christmas (Nikkor 35mm f/1.8) and it is painfully slow to take pictures at times. Sometimes the shutter release is almost instantaneous, like with my other (kit and telephoto) lenses, but at other times it can take more than a full second to take the picture. It doesn't seem to be "searching" for focus, and I don't think it's a low light issue (as in, it behaves the same with low light and normal light...though I haven't taken outside shots with it yet). I'm wondering if the slow shutter release is a trade-off for the high aperture, or if I maybe got a defective lens that needs to be returned?

Oh, I have a D3000 (no internal motor for focusing) and it seems to do only slightly better when using an external flash.

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Are you half-pressing to focus and meter, or are you going from nothing and pressing all the way down? If you are half-pressing, is the slow part there, or from half to full? –  mattdm Dec 27 '10 at 22:28
    
What other lenses do you use? –  Reid Dec 28 '10 at 2:40
    
@mattdm ~ Sometimes I half press, sometimes full press. It seems to get caught up on the first part, or if I go from nothing to all the way down. It seems much worse if I go from nothing to all the way down, but that could be because when I do that I'm usually trying to catch a quick shot. Once it's focused, the second half of the press is almost instant I believe (I'm trying to replicate the issue but of course it only does it some of the time!) @Reid ~ I have a Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 (kit lens) and a Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6 –  Sarah Haren Dec 28 '10 at 3:12
    
I've also noticed slow focus with the 35 AF-S, especially in low light. It's almost impossible to take a picture of something moving indoors. The AF assist light helps. –  Evan Krall Dec 28 '10 at 4:22

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

There are four basic things that happen when you push the shutter button:

  1. Metering
  2. Focusing
  3. Aperture stop-down
  4. Shutter activation (and mirror flip, etc.)

You can isolate most of these things to see where the hangup is.

  1. Manual mode will eliminate metering.
  2. Manual focus will eliminate auto-focusing.
  3. Shooting wide open (f/1.8 here) will eliminate aperture stop-down.
  4. A half-press of the shutter button will eliminate both 3 and 4.

Also, @mattdm has an important point w.r.t. a half-press vs. a full press of the shutter button. Typically when you push the shutter half way, things 1 and 2 happen (and can take a little while, maybe up to a 1/2 second or so, which is quite noticeable), and when you then press it all the way down, 3 and 4 happen (almost instantly - under 100 milliseconds on the D3000). (More timing specs on the 3000.) Generally, I do half-press when anticipating the shot and then the full press when it's time. (And my anxiety dreams generally involve a shutter that won't go.)

Finally, I have this lens and it's always performed very quickly on my D90, no slower than my other lenses.

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Thanks! I shoot in manual and have been shooting almost exclusively at f/1.8 since I got the lens, so it's not 1 or 3. So now I just have to figure out if it's the focusing (which would be in the lens) or the shutter (which would be in the camera). We have had the issue with our other lenses, but much less frequently, and we chalked it up to poor lighting or our own misunderstanding of the camera, because we noticed it mostly in the very beginning when we got the camera. If it's the shutter activation, is that something that would be covered by the warranty? –  Sarah Haren Dec 28 '10 at 3:17
    
Pick a single focus zone and try to make it happen when there's plenty of contrast. Remember, the wide zones need a line of vertical contrast and the tall zones are looking for horizontal contrast. The square zone in the middle will find either. –  Scott Carroll Dec 28 '10 at 19:25
    
Based on your description above (that it's never the half-to-full press that's slow), it sounds like it's slow to focus. I wouldn't be surprise if that's just "how it is" on the D3000, particularly in low light. I would suggest you set up a tripod and try to make it happen (fully defocus manually and then switch to auto and try to find a scene that's troublesome). Then once you've ID'd that scene, you could post it and see if folks have advice. It would also be useful to try the same scene with your 18-55 set to 35mm (for an identical framing and distance). –  Reid Dec 29 '10 at 20:17

Slow shutter speed is definitely not a tradeoff of large aperture. The shutter and the aperture (iris) are different mechanisms.

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Oh, I didn't mean large aperture in general. I just wondered if it's typical for lenses that have high aperture in general to be "slower". Maybe I'm not explaining myself right, with terms like slow and fast and such. –  Sarah Haren Dec 27 '10 at 22:15

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