Focus and Zoom Ring Locations

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by ben_hutcherson, Jun 28, 2020.

  1. I've noticed something that's really annoying at least to me, although I don't know if others share this.

    I have a selection of current-ish f/2.8 zooms, including a 14-24mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8G, and 70-200 f/2.8 VRI

    I also am unapologetic about using some mid-range zooms like the 24-120mm f/4 VR. Not too long ago, I was looking at the 70-300mm AF-P. Even though the lower end lenses are(of course) slower and often not as good optically, there are times where I value their weight and greater zoom range over lugging a set of f/2.8 zooms.

    Something I've noticed, though, in switching back and forth between the two is that for whatever reason Nikon decides to place the focus and zoom rings differently on these lenses. Specifically, the f/2.8s tend to have the zoom ring closer to you and the focus ring at the end of the barrel, while the less expensive lenses reverse this(and usually use a small, thin focus ring).

    I definitely prefer the closer-to-body zoom ring placement, as I rarely touch the MF ring while I'm constantly on the zoom ring, and the heavy f/2.8 zooms seem to balance nicely with my left hand cupping the zoom ring.

    More practically, though, when switching back and forth between the two lens "classes" there's always an adjustment period where my hand wants to grab the focus ring rather than the zoom ring.

    Is there any particular reason why Nikon chooses this different placement?
    Fiddlefye likes this.
  2. Nikon broke that classification system by putting the zoom ring in front of the focus ring in the latest 70-200mm f/2.8E.
    That's just as well. No right-thinking person would accept your apology on this—you monster. /s
  3. The less used controls begin to atrophy over time. We've been into AF for a over quarter century. The focus ring is only there as a courtesy to older users.
    Robin Smith and Ed_Ingold like this.
  4. Couldn't agree with you less. Manual focus is not going away any time soon, because people use it, a lot.
    Fiddlefye and Sanford like this.
  5. Oops, missed that one-could have sworn I looked at it! At least the one I have are consistent.

    And yes, I know, it's a crime to use even a high end consumer grade lens ever.
  6. I use AF 95% of the time, but when I need manual focus, nothing else really suits.

    For one thing, I'll use it in tricky situations that can throw off the AF.

    The other big one is in macro, where I've found it's often a bad idea past 1/2 lifesize or so, can be extremely difficult at close to 1:1(even if the lens can go there) and of course impossible if you use uncoupled extension tubes or bellows. Plus, even with an f/2.8 macro and coupled tubes, you can end up with enough light fall-off that AF is at least touchy if it works at all.
    Sanford likes this.
  7. Absolutely!
  8. with my af-p 70-300mm, the manual focus ring isnt the greatest thing in the world. Its far easier to just use the auto focus. Can take far to much time and turning to get it focused and the camera body doesnt get happy until the lens focus matches what the onboard distance sensor says the focus should be at.

    ie, i hate the blinking focus indicator light in the view finder.
  9. I have the 70-200/4 with a rear positioned zoom ring.
    I tried a Tamron 70-210/4 with a forward positioned zoom ring. I had thought I would not like it, but to my surprise, I liked it.

    Here are the details and conditions.
    • On the Nikon 70-200/4 and Tamron 70-210/4, the zoom ring is light enough to work with your fingers.
    • On many of the other zooms that I've used, the zoom ring is stiff enough (lots of drag) that I have to grab the zoom ring with my hand and I turn the zoom ring with my hand and arm.
    In the zoom ring forward position, I rest the center of balance of the lens/camera on my left hand, and work the zoom ring with my fingers.
    The zoom ring of the Tamron 70-210/4 is easily worked with my fingers.
    IMHO, if the forward zoom ring was stiff, like my other lenses, it would NOT work. Because my fingers would not be able to turn a stiff zoom ring.

    In the case of the Nikon 70-200/4, with its rear positioned zoom ring, I rest the tripod foot on my palm, and work the zoom ring with my fingers.

    My experience is the stiff turning zoom rings need to have the zoom ring positioned at the balance point of the lens, which would be towards the rear.
    This is because I have to GRAB the lens with my hand, to be able to turn it. That hand is also the support hand. So it has to be at the balance point of the lens/camera, which is to the rear of the lens.

    As for why the zoom ring is stiff.
    My suspicion is due to four factors:
    • Extending zooms. That is a lot of weight and mass to be shoving out/in. And there is friction in sliding the extending optics out/in.
    • A short throw of the zoom ring, to go from min to max. The average seems to be about 90 degrees, but the Sigma 17-50/2.8 is only about 60 degrees.
      • The shorter the throw the stiffer the zoom ring.
    • The steep zoom cam.
      • The shorter the throw of the zoom ring, the steeper the cam angle has to be.
      • With extending lenses. The longer the zoom ratio, the more the lens extends, and the more the cam has to push in/out, 1 inch vs. 7 inches.
    • Too much dampening grease or the grease is too stiff.
    As you can see the first three factors are inter-related. Changing any one of them will change the effort required to turn the zoom ring.
  10. Front or rear doesn't bother me all that much, aperture rings (on lenses that have them) like to swap places too.

    Pump/slide zooms drive me nuts though.
  11. Location of the zoom and focus rings probably depend on the location of the moving group(s) used to accomplish those functions. The location does not seem to correlate with whether the front elements are fixed or extensible, high end or consumer grade.
    Dieter Schaefer likes this.
  12. I like them for manual focus zooms, don't like them for autofocus zooms.
    To me, the push/pull zoom is really best as a 1 ring zoom/focus ring. So I can zoom AND focus with my left hand without moving my hand from ring to ring. The best example is the Nikon 80-200/4.5, and I loved my old 43-86.
    But on an AF zoom, there is no focusing function, so why? To me a push/pull AF zoom is a legacy of a 1-ring push/pull manual focus zoom design which was converted to AF. Then again, I've only used the Nikon 75-300, I do not have first hand experience with any others.
  13. I'm one of the 90 percent or so that hasn't used or needed manual focus (or aperture control for that matter) in this century so I'm glad they are moving the focus ring to the far front of the lens where it is out of the way.
  14. That's unfortunately somewhat in the nature of AF-P lenses in my experience, without using that specific one.

    On AF-S lenses, when you turn the ring it moves the focus of the lens directly(at least until you hit the focus limiters, where the focus ring can keep spinning but the lens won't move anymore-if you're slow with this you can "feel" the limiters in the rotation of the ring).
  15. I like push-pull on MF lenses also since they don't require you to relocate your hand to perform to separate but frequently used functions.

    I also like how it was implemented on the the old one-ring 80-200 AF-D, where it's big and handy if you want to use the lens in MF mode but otherwise doesn't move when in AF.
  16. Another point I was prepared to make a few weeks ago was that lenses that don't change overall length when zooming seem to use the rear placement, but the 24-70 f/2.8G proves that wrong as the front group does move externally when zooming. It's not as dramatic as on something like the 24-120, and also the lens is shortest at 50mm, but still does move.
  17. I like twist zoom better, because push-pull moves your hand away from the camera, and the focus ring moves away too, wheras twist zoon leaves your hand wherever it is.
    Push pull also makes the camera itself move, especially on a monopod, which i find inconvenient.
  18. On the Nikon 200-500mm 5.6...

    It's a very long way for one hand from the front zoom ring to the back MF ring as the balance point, being quite far forward, the only way to reach and move the MF ring is pinky power! Luckily it's very light to turn....:)

    The zoom ring is pretty heavy, it needs to move a lot of mass, and has a huge focus 'throw' from min to max.

    (NB. You can use it as a push-pull, but I don't think you're meant to...;))

    If you need to get as close as possible to a butterfly, for example, you still NEED to turn the focus ring manually, a common trait in long lenses.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2020
  19. A note on the AFP-70-300: on the FX version with A/M and M/A choice it makes a big difference if you are used to using manual adjustment. Make sure you're on M/A if you do. In A/M the focus ring doesn't respond to small adjustments, and it's hard to figure out when and if anything starts happening. I'd skip A/M unless you're having trouble with accidentally hitting the ring when you don't intend to.
  20. Wait! They have auto focus now???!

    I thought AF stood for Always Fuzzy.

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