AF tuning or don't bother?

Joined
Jun 6, 2013
Messages
459
Location
Ghent, Belgium
Just wondering; how many of you really test their lenses with their body to check if they are experiencing front- or backfocus? I think my D3 was the first camera I had with the AF tune menu option. I have a 14-24 2.8, 24-70 2.8, 70-200 2.8 and a 200 4 micro and I have never bothered testing them. I got good results. Now I use a D800 to photograph, and didn't have the intention of testing my lenses with it.

Lately, I keep reading more and more messages on the internet about front- and backfocus issues. Is it a hype? Is it really common you have a focus issue with one of your lenses?
 
Joined
Sep 18, 2007
Messages
2,873
Location
London
It's not just hype but there is an element of that for sure. I have never tested or adjusted any of mine either and I pixel peep a lot. I have never looked at an image and thought there was an issue with back or front focusing and I can spend hours on one shot. There is no doubt my photographs would look 'different' if I fine tuned the lenses but I sometimes read of people making huge adjustments and I have to scratch my head a little and think if it was me I would just return the lens. People will doubtless say that they have had to adjust every single lens they own before getting results they find acceptable and I am not saying they are wrong but I think it can be easy for some to become overly obsessive about it. My philosophy is to blame myself rather than the camera and if I take one that doesn't look right I'll take another one and another one. For sure the option is there for a reason but I've just never had cause to use it.
 
Joined
Jan 26, 2005
Messages
15,253
Location
Marysville, WA
Prior to our trip to Kalispell this past month I fine tuned my 80-400 and 400 f2.8 with each TC combination on both my D800 and my D7100. If memory serves me correctly, I believe it was Michael Fullana "Creative Edge" who mentioned how this can help especially with long lenses and TC's. In the past I have used the "by eye" method, this time I used Focus Tune, a Michael Tapes product, which takes out a lot of the guess work. I find that the differences are subtle with just the "naked" lenses, but with the TC's I find it more pronounced. As most of what I shoot is with a TC mounted, this is quite useful for me.

I have heard reports that this holds true for all lenses, but I can't speak for the shorter ones.

The other commercial product I know about is the one from Reikan, which I have heard good things about as well.

One thing I have found is that using a good target and having your camera as parallel to that target as possible makes a big difference. For me this was not the easiest thing to accomplish, in fact it was the most time consuming part of my process.
 
Joined
Jun 9, 2006
Messages
1,860
Location
Rural Virginia
I don't test or AF tune unless I see a consistant focus problem in my shooting.

With my D300/D700/D3 my AF-D 50mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.4 would consistantly front focus and each required a similar AF fine tune correction on all three bodies. All my AF-S lenses focused correctly. Now with my D4 the AF-D 50 & 85 lenses focus fine with no correction.
 
Joined
Apr 21, 2006
Messages
19,918
Location
Nashua, NH
It is more important on longer lenses with less dof.

I have fine tunes my 600 a couple of times but I haven't found it helps me. I have read you fine tune for a particular distance so maybe I don't shoot at that distance often.
 
Joined
Mar 15, 2009
Messages
7,507
Location
Los Angeles, CA
I do on all my lenses and bodies. Some needed 0, some needed as much as +15! This way I can sleep at night knowing that if I have a soft image, it was me and not the equipment. Nikon included this feature for a reason.
 
Joined
Jul 28, 2006
Messages
7,873
Location
Paris, France
I've never bothered and, unless I have absolutely flawless lenses, it never shows on any photos. When they're blurry or not so sharp it's most certainly my fault.

I vote don't bother at all.
 
Joined
Sep 15, 2008
Messages
1,416
Location
Sacramento
I think it will depend on what one shoots. For some types of images it isn't going to matter much, where it can be critical for others. I have tuned my lenses because I have to. I shoot squirrels a lot and I try to fill the frame. I use my 70-200 + 1.4 TC, or my 300 f/2.8 at close range to the subjects.

Below is an example of a squirrel shot from 4 meters (~12 ft), at 280mm, f/6.3. The DOF is 4.7cm or about 1.6 inches. Focus is on the eye. Notice that the center of DOF is exactly on the eye, so from the tip of the nose to the back of the front ear, everything is sharp. The back of the head and rear ear are starting to go soft due to the limited DOF. From analyzing previous shots, I had discovered that my D300 consistently front focused a tiny bit. Not enough that it would affect a portrait shot at the same aperture and distance with an 85mm lens, where the DOF is 1.5 ft, (nearly tens times the DOF). But had I not tuned the camera for this lens combo, I would have had the squirrel's eye and nose in focus, with the front ear going out of focus. I want the whole head in focus and an error of 1 inch matters a lot to me for these shots.
08939-D300-100_900x720.jpg
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Joined
Dec 2, 2011
Messages
19
Location
BT, Ukraine/Norcross GA
It may take a few days to have the lens replaced, or 5 minutes to have it adjusted :) That's a feature Nikon provided for a good reason, I don't see valid reasons to avoid using it.
All the older Nikkors that i've got need no AF fine-tuning, while all Sigma and Tamron lenses I've got almost never hit it right by default.
And - it's not always the lens that needs adjustment. I owned D7000 that needed global adjustment (-7, AFAIK) right out of the box. Two of my friends own D600 bodies, and both had to make global adjustment to AF. Once you do that - it works just fine.
 
Joined
Feb 2, 2005
Messages
1,000
Location
Arizona
Real Name
Chris
I have fine tuned a couple of my lenses: the 60/2.8 D and 100/2 DC - with widely varying results. I tend to focus bracket with both these lenses, but it would be nice to be able totally rely on the autofocus. But there really isn't any way around the need for visual evaluation of the image, is there? Not that I've found anyway.
 
Joined
Mar 27, 2008
Messages
4,818
Location
Chgo/Glenview. my heart, New Mexico
Never had a need that I could see but I don't peep really or look for trouble. That and the fact that the lenses I use most are zooms and I've heard they are more of a trick to tune. Whether that's true or not I don't know.
 
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
3,972
Location
Chicago
it is the first thing I do when I get a new body.

Weird things happen in AF. Some lenses are fine and others require an adjustment. Switch cameras and some the ones that were fine before now require adjustment and the others are fine. I frankly do not understand.

For cameras w.o fine tune, everything seems for fit up much better, not perfect but much better.

Then I get lenses that are + on one camera, - on another. Then put them on another body and it reverses. Do not understand.

In my limited emperical teats, I had one body repaired because it was way out, say +18 and it was not the lens. APS repaired it , I put the lens on and then it required 0 adj. I am beginning to think if they are perfect from the factory, no fine tune is required. The problem seems to be bodys, not lenses.
 
Joined
Jul 17, 2011
Messages
49
Location
Seattle, WA, USA
it is the first thing I do when I get a new body.

Weird things happen in AF. Some lenses are fine and others require an adjustment. Switch cameras and some the ones that were fine before now require adjustment and the others are fine. I frankly do not understand.

Mass production results in products that have manufacturing/error tolerances. These tolerances are additive. Say you have a lens that rates a -5 on the [-10 to +10] scale. If your camera rates a +5 on the same scale, the combination will rate a zero and appear to have perfect harmony. However, that same -5 lens on your coworker's -3 camera gives a combination of -8, which can result in the desire to adjust something.

See these articles:
http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2008/12/this-lens-is-soft-and-other-myths
http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2010/03/this-lens-is-soft-and-other-facts
 

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