I was wondering why nobody has come up with an adapter to autofocus lenses like 50 mm f1.8 on lower-end Nikons like the D60. I believe that the lens and the body lack a motor to autofocus. Why can't an adapter be mounted in between the lens and the body that has motor to drive the lens based on the camera's signals? I understand that this may bring down the quality or may be expensive, but it can help so many people use cheap lenses easily.

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    \$\begingroup\$ but it can help so many people use cheap lenses easily. And adaptor with a motor on it and the correct flange distance will make it just as expensive. \$\endgroup\$
    – BBking
    Commented Nov 13, 2012 at 3:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think it would be cheaper to upgrade the body from a D60 then to buy this device. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Nov 13, 2012 at 4:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ IF you were prepared to modify the camera body (or rater, have it modified) this could probably be done. You could mount a drive unit eg under camera and you need to access the body at the point where the mechanical drive "should be". For this to work there needs to be a cavity where the drive unit is inserted. Drive head could be very small but need s a "slot from under lens to outside lens. If you did this in millions it might be cheap enough BUT if they'd wanted the camera maker could have done it already. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 13, 2012 at 9:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you added an extension ring WITH a lens element in it to restore infinity focus then it would be easy to do. Drive motor and battery and all could live in a slim ring. As a bonus add a switchable teleconverter function :-). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 13, 2012 at 9:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Arguably, for the cameras with an HDMI output (or wifi/bluetooth), you could add it on the outside, without modifying the camera or the lenses (something like this gudsen.com/moza-ifocus-wireless-lens-control-systems) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 10, 2019 at 15:12

3 Answers 3


In short, because there is no room to do that, without prohibitive cost in additional optical elements.

The lens and body are designed to provide the correct distance between the optical elements and the sensor. On a Nikon, that distance is on the order of 45mm (from memory, it can be looked up somewhere or measured on cameras with a reference mark on the body).

Inserting anything between the lens and the flange will increase that distance, and the lens will no longer be able to focus all the way to infinity.

While this can be a desirable effect for some situations (google for extension rings and follow links to learn about macro photography techniques), it makes using the lens for general shooting nearly impossible.

Note that in order to reach the screw drive head even if the motor were mounted entirely outside of the lens body, you'd still need to have several mm of working room. The practical extension ring I keep in my bag for use behind my 50mm f/1.8D is 12mm, and at that thickness the furthest focus available is at under 6 inches. 12mm isn't a whole lot of room for mechanics....

In principle, you can fix the problem of thickness with relay optics that compensate for the extra flange thickness. But each new piece of glass you put in the light path causes loss, potentially causes flare, decreases image quality, and costs money both to design and manufacture.

Check out the price on 1.7x and 2x teleconverters, which are optical systems similar to what you'd need to use, but which are solely used to extend the effective focal length of longer lenses. They not only are expensive, but the 2x converter will also steal more than a full stop of light, making autofocus harder to execute at all.


The Nikon TC-16A did just that. You could mount a fully manual lens, and it would basically convert it to AF, but as RBerteig says at a considerable cost and loss of a full stop. For that reason it was meant to work with f/2.8 or faster lenses. You would also lose some focus range. And being a teleconverter, you obviously have a 1.6x focal length increase. But other than that, just what you were looking for :)


Update: There is now, kind of. The company Techart sells an (expensive) adapter that can use M-mount (Leitz rangefinder compatible) lenses, and lenses converted or adapted to M-mount, on Sony E-mount cameras. Also, they make a few other such adapters for medium format cameras.

Obviously, such an adapter will only work correctly with a unit-focusing lens (which usually implies a prime lens) up to a certain focal length (or with manual coarse pre-focus).

  • \$\begingroup\$ This adapter focuses by pushing and pulling the lens away from the sensor. It sometimes allows to go past the minimum focusing distance of a lens and starts acting as a tube extension. \$\endgroup\$
    – jihems
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 8:47

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