AF Fine tune - is it necessary?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by lahuasteca, Feb 18, 2014.

  1. Hi everyone,
    I have both a Nikon D80 and a D700 and am considering updating the former with a D7100. I see all kinds of posts on other forums relating to the D7100 and other cameras regarding "auto-focus fine tune." Admittedly I've never used it on my D700 and I don't think I have focus issue problems. Quite simply, what is auto-focus fine tune and how necessary is it to use on the newer Nikon cameras? I really don't want to get involved in shooting wall targets for several hours for each and every lens I have.
    Thanks for your comments.
  2. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Up to the beginning of 2012, I had a D300, D700, and D7000 that have the AF fine tune feature and almost never used it. At least in my case, starting with the 36MP D800E and then the 24MP D7100 in DX format, AF fine tune becomes important. The latter two DSLRs have high pixel density that can reveal a lot of focus issues (in fact, so should the D7000). However, while I have quite a few lenses, only several of them require AF fine tune.
    The process is quite straight forward. First of all you need to determine whether AF is working properly or not. If AF is already accurate, no fine tune is necessary. If not, you set up a tripod and shoot samples with -20, -15, -10, -5, 0, +5, +10, +15, and +20, determine which one provides the best sharpness and then repeat that process with +-1 increments around that initial value. It should take no more than 15 to 30 minutes per lens, only for the ones that are not good enough to begin with. (That is merely my procedure. Others may do it differently.)
    My 28mm/f1.8 AF-S requires some -18 AF fine tune on my D800E. It is excellent with that fine tune. The others are not as extreme.
  3. It can be critical with some body+lens
    combinations on high resolution
    cameras. On the D3 I needed to fine
    tune the 200/2 and 24/1.4. On the D800,
    I need to do it with most fast lenses that I
    have. I think Nikon is likely to address
    the issue on future cameras quite soon.
  4. It sounds straight-forward, at least for primes. I can see where this could get complicated for zooms, particularly anything with a variable aperture. There are very good deals starting to appear on D7100 right now, but if Nikon is likely to address the issue on future cameras, it may be best to wait.
    Thanks Shun and Ilkka for your comments.
  5. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Initially my D7100 worked perfectly well with my 200-400mm/f4 AF-S VR, but somehow after 6 months or so, I suddenly started getting soft images. I ended up having to fine tune that particular combo. Since I mostly use that lens at 400mm, I fine tuned it at 400mm, and it has been great again since.
    Most of the values end up within +- 10. A friend of mine thinks my 28mm/f1.8 is a bit out of spec; he is probably right.
  6. I have a d7000 that I bought about a year after its release but I didn't use it much at first because I was sort of intimidated by it. I finally started taking some photo classes last January and the more I used the camera, which came with the 18-105mm kit lens, the more I realized my photos were not as sharp as I though they would be. I bought a 35/1.8 lens in the summer and when I started to use it, the need for AF fine-tune really was apparent. I was afraid to try tuning it myself but it really is not hard, and the camera (or at least the d7000) remembers the setting you need for the lens currently on the camera. Like the one lens Shun spoke of, my 35mm lens requires an adjustment of -18 or thereabout. But I don't have to do that every time I use that lens. As for the 18-105, I haven't done the fine-tune exercise; I've been using the 35mm.
  7. "Quite simply, what is auto-focus fine tune and how necessary is it to use on the newer Nikon cameras? I really don't want
    to get involved in shooting wall targets for several hours for each and every lens I have."

    Think of the camera and lens as a system. This is a method for optimizing the autofocus performance of individual lenses
    with individual camera bodies.

    Actually optimizing specific lens and camera focusing performance this has been an issue with every single lens reflex
    (SLR) camera and lens since the camera type was invented, decades before the invention of autofocus or digital imaging.
    But prior to having AF micro-adjustment capabilities built into the camera body it required a skilled technician and well
    equipped camera repair center, so most people just accepted what they were getting or "cherry picked" one lens over
    another, although some high end pros would their equipment fine tuned.

    Must you do it? That depends on your standards. Can it make a difference? Yes. Sometimes it's a good way to determine
    if a lens you bought is a bad dog.

    Why don't they get every lens and camera perfect at the factory? Because they'd need to test every lens with every
    camera body they make and nothing would ever leave the factory.

    Could they make the tolerances and testing protocols tighter? Sure they can - but selling prices would be a lot higher.
  8. Often wondered this myself, used to have a D90 which had no AF adjustment and was fine with everything except my Nikon 12-24mm, which didn't impress much and probably needed a wee bit of fine tuning which couldn't be done.
    Now have a D800 with various lenses and most seem fine, haven't yet sat down and played with the AF fine tune function which I probably should do some time, only one that is definitely out is my Sigma 150mm macro new version, works great up close for macro and near images but just can't get a sharp picture out of it at infinity no matter what I do as it is impossible even in Live View to manually focus it because of the line skipping issue, yet an older Sigma 105mm macro lens is pin sharp from near to far and is one of my favorite lenses. Also have the Nikon 28mm f1.8g and it seems sharp with no adjustment but I will have a try at this fine tuning at some point just to see if it could do any better.
    You might be lucky with most of your lenses but even tiny differences in the thickness of the lens mount from lens to lens could be enough to throw a lens out of spec if your camera also is out of tolerance slightly as it is the combination of any individual lens and camera body that may or may not work nicely together.
  9. From what I have found, if you want maximum sharpness at close ranges at open apertures, many lenses work better with a little AF tweak. So, now that I use the feature, I would not want to give it up.
    If I bought a new lens that needed a significant adjustment, I would send it back, though.
  10. If not, you set up a tripod and shoot samples with -20, -15, -10, -5, 0, +5, +10, +15, and +20, determine which one provides the best sharpness and then repeat that process with +-1 increments around that initial value.​
    I've never used auto-focus fine tune...what exactly do the values "-20, -15..." represent? What is the unit of measure?
  11. My D7100 needed AF fine tuning with each lens. The problem is that the fine tuning was different for close up vs infinity. That was unacceptable! I also found that I couldn't focus manual lenses: what looked sharp in the viewfinder was soft in the picture. I sent the camera back and indeed, the infinity focus was off overall, and a part needed to be replaced. Nikon did some overall adjustments, and I don't need to use AF fine tuning at all with any of my lenses, and now I can focus my manual lenses just fine. My particular case was probably extreme, but things like this can happen with a new camera.
  12. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    David Thomas, which camera body/bodies do you have?
    You can take a look at this Nikon Europe article:
    Additionally, I should point out that I would use live view to manually adjust focus to the best you can and capture one image. That image should be your reference. If AF is working perfectly, it should be able to match the focus accuracy of your reference image.
  13. Hi there:
    I tried to fine-tune a recently acquired used AF 180mm/2.8 (non-D) lens on my D700, with no improvement: image remains sharp all the way(!)
    I formely fine-tuned a 70-200/2.8 (first gen.) on the very same camera with success, leading to a 5-point correction.
    Could it be that fine tuning isn't possible with a non-D lens? Or, is my D700 faulty?
  14. I think Nikon is likely to address the issue on future cameras quite soon.​
    Can Nikon really address this issue? How? Can they automate the fine-tuning process? I am very curious as I do not want to get one of these high MP cameras only have to spend a lot of time to check each one of my lens, especially the zoom.
  15. Robert, AF Fine Tune should work with any Nikon AF lens, no matter what the vintage. You might want to clean the contacts on your 180mm. It’s possible the lens’ CPU isn’t being read correctly by the camera. The process is partly dependent on proper lens-cameral electronic communication.
  16. All this makes me long for the days when auto focus was done with your hand and eye !
  17. Years ago when the digital cameras were not as sensitive as today AF fine-tune wasn't as necessary because you couldn't see the imperfections. Now, we have wonderful new cameras that are so good and highly sensitive that every imperfection in the lens and focus shows up. Thus the reason to make fine-tune adjustments. Like a fine musical instrument needs to be set up, such a professional guitar, a professional quality digital camera needs to be set up as well. AF fine-tune is one of these set-ups among other adjustments. You can do it yourself if you prefer. I personally take my new cameras along with lenses to an authorized Nikon service center and they set up my camera along with all my lenses. I get fantastic results.
    Any time you hear or read a review about a camera or lens not performing up to par it may be that the photographer never took the time or effort to have his gear professionally set-up by a Nikon authorize service center. Of course, that may not have been the only reason. It could have been user error on the part of the photographer.
    Just my 2 cents.
  18. Hey Paul, I just purchased a D7100 myself and did a side by side shoot against my E-620. The E-620 blew the D7100 every time and having paid $1500 CAD for the D7100 and about $1000 for the E-620 I was almost ready to return my purchase to B&H Photo, I mean really - $500 more dollars to print higher resolution inferior photos?
    Then I discovered this tutorial and micro adjusted the D7100. Oddly both kit lenses needed adjustments. The 55mm lens needed an adjustment of +6 and the 70mm lens needed +5. Redid the tests and the D7100 won all but one round.
    I do the tests free hand because when I go hunting its from a car and Eagles, Osprey, Moose and other wild animals don't wait for me to set up a tripod.
    So - Yes definitely do the micro adjustment test and calibration if necessary. If you need help as the right up is lacking, let me know.
    Cheers from the great white north, eh!
  19. I found some problems with the new D500 AF. I tried test several Nikon lenses using both this method,
    and the on-board method,
    Consistently, only the 16-85mm AF-S needs no adjustment. Some older ones, 50mm/f1.8, 35mm/f2D, 80-200/f2.8D, all need to adjust to about "-10".
    These lenses all focus dead-on on the good old D300.
    However, shooting soccer using the same 80-200 on D500 produced a lot more keepers than on the D300.
    So, no questions about the power and speed of the D500 AF. But it's accuracy shooting static object is problematic.
    Did I get a bad sample???

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