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How do camera body motors compare to in-lens motors for focusing?
Can I save money on lenses by buying a Nikon camera with an in-body autofocus motor?

I would like to purchase a Nikon SLR camera mainly for general photography and specific wildlife photography. In reviews I find information about SLR cameras with in-body autofocus motors and without. At the same time we can use AF lenses with cameras that don't have an in-body motor.

Which are better; cameras with in-body motors or having a motor in the lens.

  • 2
    You will never ever regret having an in-body focus motor once you forget the extra $ you had to pay to get the better camera. You will never regret the better camera. If you can afford the better camera then it is worth having with the AF motor a great bonus. – Russell McMahon Sep 21 '12 at 11:40

You are no longer choosing between in-camera and in-lens motor. You are choosing between a camera that has an in-lens motor only and one that has both! Given the latter a super-set of the other, you cannot go wrong with one that supports both. Plus, those which do support both are higher-end which makes them better cameras anyway.


Both have advantages and disadvantages.

With a camera body, that has internal motor, you can use a lot more lens with autofocus - any AF lens, not only AF-S. And these AF (but not AF-S) lens are (often) much cheaper than lens with built-in motor.
For example, you could check the prices of 50/1.8 AF-D and AF-S. Or 70-300 AF and AF-S (+VR).

Example for body with AF motor is D7000.

The bodies without internal motor can autofocus only with AF-S lens, obviously.

An advantage of AF-S lens over AF (but not AF-S) lens is the speed: AF-S lens can focus faster. And this is really important for wildlife/sport photography.

Another advantage is the availability to use autofocus on bodies without internal AF motor, of course (for example, D5000/D5100/D3000/D3100/etc).

But this is not always true. As far as I know (but never used them), the Nikkor 300/4 AF does not focus slower than the Nikkor 300/2.8 AF-S.


If you are ready to invest more on Autofocus (AF-S) lenses later, go on and buy a body without an AF motor in it as most of the "beginner's" DSLR bodies do not have an AF motor in them.

If you want to buy a decent entry-level camera with AF motor try the Nikon D7000 (since you sound like a Nikon guy). Otherwise you could go with D3100/ D5000 etc which would cost much less. It depends on your choice.

The key thing is that lenses with no AF motor in them cost much less than the ones which do have one. For example, a 50mm AF-D lens would be half the price of 50mm AF-S lens.

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