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If I try to focus by the shutter button the image doesn't change, even in live view (and I'm not be able to shot a picture). But if I hold the "AE-L/AF-L" button and click the shutter button I'm able to take a picture (but without focusing my subject).

Things to highlight:

  • When my camera fell down it was inside a soft camera case, inside a backpack.
  • The day my camera fell I didn't use it so I don't know if this problem came out after the accident or not.
  • If I put my ear close to the lens I can hear the motor that is working.
  • The focus selector "L" is not selected (but when it fell it could have been selected).
  • Both camera and lens are set to "A" or "AF".
  • I removed the battery for some hours and then I have done a factory reset.
  • I don't have other lens to test it right now.
  • Never updated the firmware.
  • Contacts are clean and everything looks good.
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    Is the question 'could the problem be something besides my dropping the camera"? – mattdm Jul 7 '18 at 15:10
  • Yes. I would like to know what is the main problem. For instance, some gears inside the lens that don't work properly or if it's a software issue. I would like to do some tests to try to figure out what I have to do with this lens. Thanks for your reply. – Mlabuit Jul 7 '18 at 15:32
  • To do a full factory reset with most Nikon cameras, one has to do a reset of the custom functions in addition to the two-button reset, which does not affect the custom settings. Did you reset the custom function menu as well? But in this case, it's most likely the lens or camera is physically damaged from the impact of being dropped. – Michael C Jul 7 '18 at 17:36
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I know you don't want to hear this, but the odds are super, super strong that the problem is something physical caused when you dropped the camera. Even with padding, there's still force, and it's possible for the camera to land badly.

The factory reset you performed rules out most common possible configuration problems, and you've gone through other sensible diagnostic steps.

So, the next thing to do is send the camera and lens in for repair. This will probably cost a couple of hundred dollars — but, hey, still cheaper than a new D7100.

I suggest sending both camera and lens, because it's very possible both were damaged — maybe in ways other than the autofocus. I guess the exception would be if this is the cheap kit lens and you were planning to upgrade anyway. In that case — I guess this is now an even better time to pull the trigger on that.

  • So do you think that the main problem is the camera? I thought it was the lens. So when I wrote about the "motor that works" I was referring to a different sound, not the classic autofocus sound that you can hear if you record a video. It's more like a processing sound that you can hear just if you put the ear on the lens. – Mlabuit Jul 7 '18 at 16:56
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    @Mlabuit The only sure way to determine if the issue is with the camera or the lens is to try one or both of them with different camera or lens. – Michael C Jul 7 '18 at 17:25
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If the camera is communicating with the lens (i.e. if the camera isn't showing an error and refusing to take pictures and/or shooting massively blown out images at narrower apertures), then there are really only two possible parts that can realistically be bad:

  • The focusing motor/gears in the lens.
  • The focusing sensor in the camera.

If your camera has a live view mode, you can use this to determine definitively which one is at fault, because live view mode does not use the focusing sensor.

Otherwise, your only option is to try a different lens, and statistically, that's probably what is broken, so that's not a bad idea in general. In particular, if your lens is not internal-focusing (i.e. if the end of the lens moves when in autofocus mode), you almost certainly broke the focusing motor on impact. Given that most higher-quality lenses are internal-focusing (for precisely this reason), this is, as other folks have suggested already, a good opportunity to upgrade your lens.

Note: If you have a really old Nikon lens that requires the in-body focusing motor, the problem could also be the in-body focusing motor. In that case, the live view test could be somewhat inconclusive. Either way, consider upgrading to a newer lens. :-)

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