I have Nikon D5000 which lacks in-body focus motor. I also have imperfect vision. When trying to manual-focus, results are not perfect. I could save a fortune by buying AF rather than AF-S lenses.

My question is whether any DSLR, D5000 or other, can give me indication, in viewfinder, of whether I shall rotate the MF ring clockwise or counterclockwise. Maybe indication is there but I do not know where to look at ?

I think that even though lens lacks the focusing motor, body still has the sharpness detector that tells it which way to rotate the MF ring. So why it does not indicate it on viewfinder ? Does SLR exist that does indicate this as a help to MF ?

  • Since you mention the D5000 "or other" DSLR, I'll point out that higher-end Nikon's can autofocus older AF lenses. In the current line-up, the D7000 and up can do it. Apr 25 '12 at 14:50
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    Pentax has the so called "trap focus" feature for manual lenses - you do the coarse focus first and keep the trigger pushed and move the camera to and from the object and the camera takes photo when it indicates the focus is OK. Works well on my K-x - event with old manual Pentacon lens.
    – Juhele
    Apr 26 '12 at 5:23

Yes, the D5000 has a Rangefinder option. When in manual focus mode, this replaces the exposure meter in your viewfinder with a rangefinder meter. If the markings appear to the left, focus is in front of the subject. If the markings appear to the right, focus is behind the subject.

To focus, you simply turn the focusing ring in the direction indicated by the markings, e.g. to the left (anti-clockwise) if the markings are to the left, and vice versa. When the subject is in focus the meter shows two small ticks either side of the centre, and the standard focusing confirmation dot appears in the bottom left of the viewfinder. All the markings should be reasonably easy to see as they are bright green on black.

To enable the Rangefinder option, press the Menu button, go to the Custom Setting Menu (third option down), then go to option a4 and set it to on.

As this replaces the exposure meter when you switch your lens to manual, I would recommend setting your desired exposure first, then switch to manual and focusing. Note that, because you need to see the exposure meter all the time in M mode, the rangefinder won't show - as Vaishak Suresh points out in the comments, it only works in P,S, and A modes.

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    Rangefinder may not work on M mode. AFAIK, it works the way you have explained only in P,S,A mode. Apr 26 '12 at 15:13
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    You're right, and for obvious reasons. I'll edit to reflect, thanks. Apr 26 '12 at 15:25
  • Do you really find it useful? My camera has it and if it can tell me where the focus is, it would have been able to autofocus. When it can't autofocus, it can't confirm that things are in focus!
    – Zak
    Apr 26 '12 at 17:13
  • Read the question: the OP wants to use non AF-S lenses which won't autofocus. Also I didn't say I found it useful :) Apr 26 '12 at 17:32
  • @Zak The camera cannot focus because the camera body lacks the motor to drive autofocus. Older AF-S lenses also do not have this motor which is present in most new lenses. Hence the camera is able to tell you something is in focus, but cannot actually move the lens to focus it for you. Apr 27 '12 at 6:50

For A,S and mostly P modes, you can use the rangefinder option explained above. This does not work in M mode. In M mode, the exposure meter remains as it is. You will have to rely on the green dot that appears when in focus. I think the it blinks faster when you are nearing focus. That is how it works on my Nikon D 60.


In fact I have tested non-coupled lenses with Canon and Olympus, both provide focus help. However to achieve this, the body needs to know that there is a lens on it. Therefore this feature will only works with a chips added to the lens which will send some dummy information to the body.

For Nikon you will also find such chips and it should allow you to get the focus confirmation see:


You will find the chips on ebay


I'd look at getting a different focusing screen that will aid in manual focusing, such as this one from KatzEye:


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