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I have a Nikon FM2 camera with Nikkor 50/1.4D lens. Is there a way to focus on the area that is not center?

This can be easily done with digital camera as Nikon D750, where we can just use focus point and assign the spot in the area we prefer (even not center), e.g. any small red squares in the image below:

Nikon DSLR focus points

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The FM2's default focusing screen is a split prism with a microprism ring around it. This is a mechanical film camera with no electronic focus aids. Am I assuming correctly that is what you have?

One thing to remember is that mechanical film cameras expected you to sometimes focus using just the plain focusing screen and it was designed for that. As as long as you have a reasonably bright lens (and it seems you do) you should be able to get usable focus by just looking at the ground glass if what you want to focus on isn't in the center.

The second option would be to center the view on the item you want to have in focus, use the split prism to focus and then recompose to put the focused object in the right place in your composition. Be careful not to move the camera towards or away from the subject while doing this and remember that depending on the shot even small changes in camera orientation can change the focus.

You could also do a mix of those two options, focusing first with the split prism and then checking your focus in the ground glass once you have recomposed the shot.

When I was shooting with an FM2 I found the split prism distracting, and got a focusing screen that didn't have one. I was still able to get in focus.

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You need to use the focus and recompose method.

This means you focus with the desired subject in the center of the viewfinder.

Then you move the camera to recompose the subject to where you want it in the frame, then press the shutter button.

Because you need to recompose it's very hard to keep the focus. Especially if you are planning on shooting at 1.4.

A tripod could make it better, but even then you still won't be perfect since the angle makes the subject a little bit further away.

Or you need to switch the lens in to manual mode and focus with the focusing ring on the lens.

  • 1
    The Nikon FM2 is a manual focus camera, it has no autofocus capabilities. – timvrhn Jun 11 at 7:22
  • Before adopting this technique, especially with a fast lens used wide open or close to it, I'd suggest trying it with some film you don't care about. There's a reason that people, like me, who use rangefinders (where this is the only technique you can use) with fast lenses tend not to shoot them wide open very often if we want our pictures to be sharp. – tfb Jun 12 at 11:43
  • @tfb although relevant, that is actually the answer to a different question. Why is my focus and recompose pictures out of focus at f/1.4?. But yes I agree – Andreas Jun 12 at 12:25
  • yes, the reason I mentioned it was because I wanted some trace of my answer (which I've deleted as a commenter got so annoying), which suggested the alternative 'look at the ground glass' technique to remain: nothing wrong with your answer. – tfb Jun 12 at 13:54

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