I just got a new lens (Nikon DX 55-300) for my Nikon 3300 camera. I am just a beginner, however when I try to focus and capture something semi- close by (in the same room) it does not allow me to focus or shoot the image. The only way to capture the image is if I flip the manual focus switch on the side. Why is this? Does it have to do with aparture or ISO. Also, I am taking a trip to South Africa and need all the beginner help I can get in order to learn my camera quickly.

  • Wonder if problem solutions ala "consider getting a diopter, a full macro lens, or extension tubes (not if the lens is internal focusing!)" make good or off topic answers here? Technically, they asked "why does it not work", not "how to make it work" ... – rackandboneman Jan 21 '19 at 22:00
  • @rackandboneman I think it's good to mention solutions as long as the "why" is also answered. But there are also other QAs that discuss such solutions that might be worth linking to. – xiota Jan 21 '19 at 22:22

This lens is advertised as having a minimum focus distance of 1.4m. That means it can't focus on subjects closer than that distance — about 4.5 feet. That might be some of your problem.

It is also likely that indoors is darker than you think it is — sunlight is many times more light than the typical interior. The lens may have trouble focusing in low-light conditions.

Many cameras have what's called "focus priority" shutter modes, where the camera won't click the frame until it's decided that the subject is in focus — and if it can't get focus, it won't let you take a picture. This is the default on your Nikon D3300. (Of course, disabling that mode doesn't solve the focus problem, but it does explain why you can get pictures in manual mode.)

  • 2
    Worth adding that Nikon bodies come with default settings that do not release the shutter until the autofocus has locked on. OP was wondering why they had to switch to manual focus to get it to take a photo - it's because in manual focus mode the camera will always take the shot, regardless of whether it thinks the image is in focus or not. There are autofocus options in the camera, however, which will autofocus with a half-click and release the shutter on a full click without waiting for focus confirmation (ie: the photographer has to decide whether the autofocus has done its job or not). – J... Jan 21 '19 at 23:07
  • What are you trying to focus on? Phase detect focus systems (viewfinder focus) needs contrast to focus. They cannot focus on an all white, black or any color plane. Aim at the line between black and white, and there is no problem. – Orbit Jan 22 '19 at 16:02
  • Thank you all for this advice. I have found it is a little better outside than inside, however not the best close up. – Liz Anne Jan 28 '19 at 0:55

What other lenses do you have? What subjects do you plan to photograph? If there is a mismatch between your intended subject matter and lens choice, you should consider getting a more suitable lens. Since you "just got" this lens, you may still be within the return window.

  • As mattdm mentions, the lens is likely unable to focus closely because of its minimum focusing distance. Although you are able to fire the shutter with the lens in manual mode, the images you capture may not be optimal. If there is sufficient light, stopping down the aperture can widen the depth of field and help make closer objects appear more in-focus.

    You may be able to switch the camera to "release priority" mode, where the shutter will fire regardless of whether focus has locked. However, this will likely increase the number of out-of-focus shots you will obtain at all distances.

  • As tetsujin had formerly noted, the lens has a slow F4.5 max aperture. That would make it a good daylight lens with marginal indoor performance (which mattdm also notes). Attempting to adjust the aperture in this case would be unhelpful because the camera likely focuses with the aperture wide open regardless of the setting.

    You can try adding more light, as mattdm comments. This could be in the form of a focus-assist or constant light source. A speedlight without focus assist would not be helpful.

  • A controversial source mentions that the lens' autofocus is slow. The camera may be giving up on attaining focus before the lens is able to complete its focusing routine. Adding a focus assist light may help. Otherwise, there isn't much you can do besides get a different lens or camera body.

  • My other lense is the one it came with the Nikon DX VR 18-55m . I plan to take photos of landscape, people, animals on the safari. Thanks for all your help in this comment. – Liz Anne Jan 28 '19 at 1:20

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