Manual Focusing DSLR's

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by tim_carroll, May 16, 2015.

  1. I've got a bevy on Nikon manual focus lenses that work great on my Nikon film SLR bodies. I have matte focus screens on all my Nikon film SLR bodies so I thought I would have no problem focusing the lenses with my DSLR's. Not the case. Read numerous places that the DK-17M makes it easy to focus manually with a DSLR, so I picked one up.
    Put it on my D700 and it really did help. Then I tried it on my D4, thinking it should work just as well, but no way. Was missing about 50% of my shots. Really weird.
    Anyone else try the Nikon Magnifying Eyepieces (DK-17M or DK-21M) on their DSLR cameras, and if so, what bodies and how well did it work for you?
  2. If I manually focus I use live view.
  3. Tim, did you try to adjust the dioptric correction in the camera (D4)?
  4. Yeah. I did adjust the diopter after installing the DK-17M. Interesting thing, with the DK-17M on the D4 the diopter is definitely at a different setting than when I don't use the DK-17m. On my D700 I didn't have to change the diopter when I installed the DK-17M, it was still spot on.
  5. The little green confirmation
    dot works just fine unless
    you're using f/1.4 lenses.
    Most of them suffer from
    focus shift on stopping down,
    and the only accurate
    focusing method in that case
    is LiveView. Or get to know
    your fast lenses and whether
    their focus shifts back or
    forward as you stop down.

    Most shift backwards BTW.
  6. I use the eyepiece adjustment on all of mine and it works just fine. I only have two AF lenses so nearly all of my work is focused manually. I've been doing that for so long I just prefer to keep doing so. I find I don't miss all that many shots, it's just practice.

    Rick H.
  7. It's not really the size of the viewfinder that is the problem focusing on a dslr, it's the focusing screen. You need a focus screen made for manual focus.
    The matte area on a focus screen is made up of a bunch tiny tiny of pyramids that "bends" (refract) the light. It's the angle of these pyramids that determines how much out of focus the image will look in the viewfinder.
    So a focusing screen made for manual focus will more clearly show what's in focus and what's not. But it will also be darker since a lot of light will be reflected away.
    There are a couple of other factors too that makes manual focus cameras easier to focus.
    • One is that most dslrs have an LCD overlayed on the image to show focus points and that degrades the virtual image you see.
    • Another as that autofocus cameras have a semitransparent mirror so some light goes to the viewfinder and some to the autofocus sensors. So camera designers make the focusing screen brighter to compensate (and less suitable for manual focus).
    • The third one is that back in the day when 35mm SLRs where popular, lenses were mostly primes and they were mostly large aperture primes. Today the kit lens is a small aperture zoom, cheap and light weight, but that also means less light to the viewfinder so the focusing screen needs to be bright (and less suitable for manual focus).
    So the focusing screen is a compromise. Manufacturers know who their primary buyers are and it's not those that wants to do manual focusing. Some manufacturers though, like Canon, understands that some of their users actually know what they are doing so they offer different focusing screens on their more advanced cameras.
    A lot of focusing screen for manual focus also comes with focusing aids like split image and microprisms areas to give users more options to perform even more accurate focus.
    But there is another usage for manual focus screens too and that is to see where the autofocus is actually focusing. Even if you are shooting with a single focus point it happens that the focus locks on to something else nearby that is a little closer or further away. With a manual focus screen it's easier to verify that the focus is where you need it to be before shooting. It's classic to see portraits where the focus is on the background 1 feet behind the subject.
  8. Pete, what a great (and detailed) explanation. Thanks for sharing it with us.
    I think what Rick said is what I'm going to have to do. I spent about two hours (since I originally posted) trying both cameras (D4 & D700) again with the DK-17M eyepiece, and when I go slow and really concentrate, I'm starting to nail the focus more consistently. But boy, pop any of those AIS lenses on my F3HP and BAM!!, nailing focus is easy.
    Thanks again for everyone's input.
  9. Tim, you could also have a look at third party focusing screens. They are not actually manufactured by third parties, they are Nikon and Canon screens modified to fit the D700 and other cameras.
    Here is one company who makes these:
  10. You're right Tim. It's much easier to focus on the F3 than either my F5 or Df.
  11. BeBu, how is focusing on the Df for you. I've heard good and bad from folks. In fact it was a Df owner who sold me on the idea of getting the DK-17M because he said it made his Df so much easier to focus (I thought it might also work on my D700 and D4). I'd be interested in your observations on manually focusing with your Df.
  12. I lost the original DK-17 so I ordered the replacement DK-17 and the DK-17m. The DK-17m is a little bit easier to focus and it does require me to readjust the diopter. I wear glasses and the DK-17m has enough adjustment range to allow me to use without glasses. Doing so allows me to see the entire screen but it's a pain for me to put the glasses back on when I put the camera down.
  13. I have a DK-17M on my D3200, and it helps some. It adds diopter, so the camera's own diopter needs to be reduced some. That's good, in this case, because the cheesy diopter on the D3200 goes only to +.5, so the change in range is welcome for the farsighted. It does, however, decrease the eyepoint considerably, so to get a full frame one has to come right in close.
    It's still not enough to make manual focusing a snap, but it makes it a little more tolerable. The D7100 is considerably better with and without the DK-17M, the matte screen on the F4 better still, the F3HP quite good, and the original F the gold standard.
  14. Hi,
    just found this interesting thread. As some of you I also have some difficulties focusing my manual focus lenses on D200 and D300s I am still using.
    What would you suggest:
    - to buy the DK-21M rectangular magnifying eyepiece or
    - to buy the DK-22 eyepiece adapter (rectangular to round) and the DK-17M ?
    Which of the two would be easier to use? For my macro photos I am using a third party angle finder (like the Nikon DR-6).
    Any suggestion would be helpful.
    Regards, Miha.
    P.S. I am wearing glases (progressive, +1,5 to +4.0).
  15. Comparing the (apparent) focus on a film camera with that of a DSLR isn't an easy task. For a start, film emulsion has a depth that spreads the plane of focus, and secondly the resolution of most films is inferior to that of a 36 Mp DSLR. In fact I don't believe there's a single film scanner on the market that can cleanly pull the equivalent of 36 megapixels from a frame of 35mm film.
    So comparing the ease of focus of an F3HP with that of a D810 is obviously going to favour the film camera, simply because you're - eventually - going to be looking at a less detailed final image from the F3HP. You also can't pixel-peep at film without the image breaking up due to its grain or dye globule structure. Even comparing the direct vision view, it's my experience that my F3HP viewfinder isn't appreciably brighter or easier to focus than my D800 when both are fitted with the same lens and in the same level of lighting. Yes, you can readily get the split-image to mate; given a nice straight line in the subject, but that proves nothing about the focus of the image on film. And I'm certainly not going to spend money on film to compare it to a DSLR - it'd be a totally pointless exercise.
  16. Joe! Like you said since film is lower resolution we can't really compare focusing accuracy by looking at the film but comparing my F3HP and Df I found the F3 is much easier to focus that is I can tell when it's in focus easier than on the Df. With the Df I often have to move the focusing back and forth and not sure when it's really in focus. I am talking about the same lens, same light, same subject and the F3 with a plain ground glass focusing screen and not split image.
  17. Really surprised no one has mentioned KatzEye split microprism screens. Not cheap, but well worth it. I had one installed into my Nikon D300. And it almost made digital photography enjoyable again. Now I can use all my Ai and AiS glass, and have a pretty accurate focusing aid. The green rangefinder light is less than useless.

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