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I really love shooting in Manual mode, but my AF Micro-NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8D Lens, when in Manual mode, doesn't have a 'buttery' feel and it can be difficult to get it to focus precisely. I have a dirt cheap Nikon Series E 50mm f/1.8 AIS which is MF only, and the focusing is unbelievable, truly 'buttery' smooth. Is this difference the standard? Are AF lenses in Manual mode generally a bit 'stiffer'/'clunkier' than dedicated MF lenses? I have purchased brand new AF lenses that have this same 'clunky' feel so it's not an age thing. I have double checked that the lens/camera settings are correct for MF. Would love any feedback!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Most older manual focus lenses get smoother the more they are used. Your 50mm f/1.8 AI-S may have been stiffer when new than it is now. But MF only lenses also usually have longer throws and certainly have no resistance from an AF motor or AF linkage mechanisms. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Sep 13, 2023 at 0:23

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Well yes, you've noticed this for yourself and answered your own question.

But the question as to whether AF lenses are "stiffer/clunkier" is quite a bit more variable because different AF lenses use different AF drive mechanisms. For instance, your 60mm AF-D uses screw drive with the AF motor being in the camera body; whereas some lenses use micro drive, pulse (stepper) drive, or various versions of ultrasonic motors located in the lens. Each is likely to have something of a different feel.

Another significant factor is AF "throw"... in order to make AF faster the focus throw is smaller. I.e. the distance the focus ring has to move is much shorter between 2m and infinity on the 60mm AF than it is on the manual focus 50mm. This means the AF gearing is necessarily coarser for a given focal length lens/focus range.

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