I am a beginner at the moment and I am planning to buy Nikon D5100 + Nikon Nikkor AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6G, also with the kit lens (18-55mm VR lens). My question is both the camera and this particular lens does not have Autofocus motor, so how will this affect my photos or videos? Is manually focusing complicated ?

I am buying this because there is a very good deal with this combination in a local store and it is very cheap.

  • Thank you everyone for the answers ! So I guess over practice it will be quite easy !! – Divox May 1 '13 at 13:37
  • One thing you'll notice about motor-driven lenses is that the focus mechanism will have a relatively short throw and be fairly loose, which are both done in the interest of making AF work quickly without the motor consuming a lot of battery. This may make attaining and maintaining focus manually a bit trickier because it's harder to make fine adjustments. It's still doable with practice. – Blrfl May 1 '13 at 14:07
  • you mean manual focus will consume higher battery charge ? @Bkrfl – Divox May 1 '13 at 14:59
  • The lighweight/loose nature of the focus mechanism means the motor doesn't have to expend as much energy to move it, which saves battery. You provide the energy to focus manually, so there's no battery consumption at all for focusing. – Blrfl May 1 '13 at 15:40
  • @Blrfl thank you !! Since I am new I mean to ask questions !! Thank you for the effort :) – Divox May 1 '13 at 19:16

Manual focus is quite straight forward. You turn the focus ring on the lens manually until the subject is in focus.

You will see as you look through the viewfinder of the D5100 that a green dot appears in the lower left corner (see page 19 of the user manual) when the subject is in focus. You can move your active AF point around to suit your needs but then when rotating the focus ring keep an eye on that dot. As soon as it lights up, you have focus!

EDIT: Note that you must have the shutter button half-pressed in order for this to work ;-)

  • SO I guess over practice everything is going to be easy right ? – Divox May 1 '13 at 13:36
  • @DRK - as long as you have decent vision, yes. Many experienced photographers actually prefer manual focus to automatic. Automatic has come a long way, but there are still a lot of situations that it doesn't handle as reliably as focusing manually and there are still some situations where autofocus simply doesn't work at all (like really low light). – AJ Henderson May 1 '13 at 13:40
  • @AJ Henderson- we should have a creative vision of course for the decent photographs.That is quite interesting. Thanks for the info !! :) – Divox May 1 '13 at 13:49
  • @DRK - I actually just meant you can see things in focus. If you have 20/300 vision, you might have a problem manually focusing. – AJ Henderson May 1 '13 at 14:43
  • @AJHenderson huh now I understand !! maybe you are right ! once I start photographing I guess I will know the difference ! THank you for the effort :) – Divox May 1 '13 at 19:17

Manual focusing isn't "complicated" so to speak, you simply turn a ring until the image is in focus. It does, however, take some practice to get good at doing quickly. You simply want to rotate the focus ring until the image is the sharpest you can get it.

  • Do you need a tripod to manually focus in 300mm ? Just curious to know. because you know our hands will be kinda shaky at that point. – Divox May 4 '13 at 15:29
  • @DRK - to focus, no, your eye can track just fine when the camera is shaking. The problem is catching the image in focus. You'll need optical image stabilization, a very fast shutter speed or a tripod to capture an image at 300mm without camera shake causing issues with the sharpness. (Note that focus is only one factor in sharpness. Camera movement and optic quality also impact sharpness even in an ideally focused shot.) – AJ Henderson May 4 '13 at 16:38

Manual focusing is easy. There is only one ring to turn. The difficultly is to do so with accuracy and sufficiently fast. With that lens in particular, the dim aperture makes it somewhat harder but the added depth-of-field may compensate a little.

If you enable the Range Finder option on your D5100, the camera will tell you when the subject is in focus (at the center-point IIRC). When it is not, it will tell you which direction to turn the ring. With practice, you can get quite efficient at it.

  • I think the D5100 does not have that range finder feature?! Not according to the manual I looked up for my answer anyway... ? My friend has had a D90 and D700 though -- both of which have this and it is immensely useful! (I wish Canon did it!) – Mike May 1 '13 at 13:33
  • 1
    It does. Custom Settings -> A3 -> Rangefinder. – Itai May 1 '13 at 13:35
  • @Itai I stand corrected :) – Mike May 1 '13 at 14:06
  • Which model Canon has that located at C.FN A3? – Michael C May 1 '13 at 15:04
  • @MichaelClark - None. This is a Nikon exclusive :) Then again, all Canon AF lenses focus on all Canon AF bodies. – Itai May 1 '13 at 15:07

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