Manual lenses with modern body - does it bother you?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by raymondc, Dec 3, 2009.

  1. I have 50 and 85 at 1.8, and thought about getting the 1.4's in manual focus to shoot mostly on digital and seldom on a film AF body and a FM2N.
    What is your views on that? Would I be frustrated with the manual focus lenses? When I travel I like to do natural light handhold photography like walk and about in Hong Kong or Tokyo in the night etc. hence the very fast apertures.
    How are AF lenses on a manual focus body in your experience?
  2. I routinely use manual focus lenses on my D2H, and autofocus lenses on my F3 and FM2N. No problems. The D2H has a bright, crisp focus screen and works well for manual focusing - it's comparable to the E grid screen I use in my F3HP. No need for split image or micro-prism focusing aids. Works well even at night or dimly lit interiors.
    And while the damping of the 35-70/2.8D and 50/1.8D AF Nikkors doesn't quite match the feel of a properly greased helical in a manual focusing lens, they work well enough on my manual focusing bodies. I've had no problem getting accurate focusing for shooting events in dimly lit interiors.
    However, I'm not fond of the mushy feel of AF-S Nikkors for manual focusing. Occasionally I'll assign autofocusing with the D2H to the AF-ON button only, rather than to the shutter release button, so I can manually adjust focus when necessary. It works, in a way, but feels like steering a bicycle with the worn out recirculating ball steering mechanism of an old Mercedes.
  3. I have 17 lens across 4 systems and all are manual focus. Your biggest issue is always going to be accurate focusing fast lenses wide open. Rangefinders just do it better; but with an SLR its all going to be about your focus screen - you are really going to need a split prism screen. I have an 85mm f/1.4 (SLR) and a 90mm /2 (RF) and at close range these lenses have an extremely thin acceptable in-focus range. Personally, I find something in the 20mm to 40mm fast prime range much more functional for walking around HK or Tokyo day or night
    EDIT: looks like Lex and I differ on teh focusing screen needs... :))
  4. I've sometimes been wondering the same thing as the OP. Haven't got any MF lenses yet, but I thought with a lot of (Nikkor/Nikon) MF lenses, one can use the green dot as a focusing aid as well?
  5. I find the wide angle prime manual lenses a little harder to focus, particularly in low light. However, I've yet to find a better 28mm than the Nikkor 28 f/2.8 AI-S lens for close up product work. It's distortion is low, close focuses and is razor sharp. I find the longer focal length manual lenses such as the Nikkor 105 f/2.5 are not hard at all to focus. That's using a D3 with the standard screen. I never use the green dot as I find it not always accurate. The eyecrometer is better.
  6. You know there is a variety of digital bodies and these differ in MF just like film bodies do.
    My D3 is "OK" for MF but slightly inferior to my F5 or F2. for example MF works well with a Zeiss 100mm F2.0 MF but just sufficient with most wides.
    Old "pro" bodies let you easily change screens for different lenses. I often used different screens for different lenses like slow long tele or fast medium tele or very slow macro; split screen e.g. for 50mm or wides.
    This is not as easy now (if you get alternative screens for your body at all) even with current digital pro bodies.
    The green dot can be a help in some conditions but is certainly no substitute for a good screen. Its accuracy varies from camera to camera model.
    And a good screen shows more than just ONE POINT of focus - you get an idea about DOF.
  7. Ray, it really depends. I currently have accompanying me to work today, my d200 + 55/2.8 AIS Micro nikkor. It's a fantastic lens if I have time to focus it using the green dot (and macro work of course), but I absolutey will not use it for critical fast paced action - lost a fair few portraits when I tried to be clever and thought I could MF with it on moving (performing) subjects.
  8. Well, it depends on the subjects you intend to shoot. If you frequently need to shoot subject that move AF will be of greater benefit.
    Quality wise, there is no objection to using the MF lenses, I know I do with some lovely results. Furthermore they are much lighter than their AF equivalents.
  9. For me it depends..
    Sometimes I choose for manual foccussing the (converted 1975) Mf 85 1.8 because I want a thin slice to be sharp of a subject that fills the frame for a large part . This is time consuming most of the time but it proves almost impossible to get such a specific frame on autofocus. This is one of the reasons for holding on to the Mf 85 .
    At other times I like to use the AF 85 1.4 on autofocus for fast picking a subject that does not fill the frame for a large part but that needs the attention of little DOF .
    So both lenses have their own place for me...
  10. on Nikon cameras below the D200, there is no metering available at all with manual (non-CPU) lenses. This is curious since the focus confirmation dot does work. I use a Canon body with my MF lenses 40D, with the AF-S screen and it works pretty well even for wide angle lenses, but in low light those are still hard to focus.
    Curiously, while I can meter manual lenses with the Canon bodies, it does not allow focus confirmation!
  11. MF lenses work on my D700 just as they did on my 1970s FM. The only annoyance is remembering to switch custom lens setting each time I change lenses
  12. Most of the lenses I use with my D700 are AIS. It takes time to get the proper focus using my 500mm f4 P with TC but I have a pretty good rate of success. I prefer to use my 180mm f2.8 with AF. From 20mm to 105mm I have few problems using MF and enjoy them. I don't have a film body.
  13. I don't like using old lenses on new cameras. Why buy a camera with blazing fast autofocus and then stick an AFD or AIS lens on it. More important though, Those 30 yr. old lenses just don't have the coatings on rear surfaces and in some circumstances cause problems on digital cameras. I had major problems with CA when I tried them, and some lenses (especially 85mm f1.8) had flare/ghosting so bad for me that it was unsuaable! Just don't see the point in putting antique lenses on a modern camera. The new lenses have modern coatings, ED elements, aspherical elements, AFS, sometimes VR. Just as cameras have changed a little bit (LOL) over the past 30 years, lenses have changed just as much. Lenses are NOT the place to go cheap. In my own experience the difference in image quality between lenses from the last century and modern ones was just too significant to ignore. I want the best.
    Kent in SD
  14. plenty of people use MF lenses on AF bodies by choice. that ought to tell you something right there.
    i happen to be one of them. i don't use them exclusively, and would not make the mistake of thinking i could capture fast-moving subjects with a high percentage of keepers... they lend themselves to a slower, more deliberate pace -- but i don't mean just still life.
    i happen to be very fond of my 35/2 AI on a D700, and have passed on "upgrading" to the AF version because... well, because i like this one...
  15. It wasn't the poor or non-existing AF that I found most troubling. It was more the CA and flare. And on some lenses such as 20mm f2.8 it was the image softness.
    Kent in SD
  16. I use AI and AIS lenses all the time with my D40. Some have better optical quality than my modern zoom. For working quickly an AFS zoom is the best option.
  17. There is nothing wrong with using manual focus lenses on a modern digital body. Zeiss is in fact making lenses just for that purpose. A persons ability to focus on a digital camera however will vary. A mat screen (mat only with no split or bubbles) from a FM3A Nikon will jump into focus with amazing speed and clarity. But a manual focus lens of my D200 with it's low contrast and darker viewfinder is not so easy. So it depends on the viewfinder, camera and the person focusing the camera. Basically if it works for you then it works. I always take the split image focus screen out when I come across a camera that has one. Other people love the split screen.
  18. Kent, many of the AIS lenses are every bit as good as their newer counterparts, and some like the 105mm f2.5 can be better. I'm just not seeing the problems you are seeing.
  19. Just got the Zeiss 100 F2 to use on a D200. Works great, especially at wide open apertures. After reading one of the posts above, I'll try it on a D300. I always have to manually focus on macro images anyway.
  20. Kent, you use too broad a stroke when we talk about manual focus lenses. All of the issues you listed on there for 30+ year old lenses, aside from coatings, I have never had trouble with on a pre-AI 55mm f3.5. If it wasn't for the color rendition and wash out skies a bit quicker than newer lenses, I would say it was a dream lens. Sharp, and a pleasure to use on my D200. I do not own a focusing screen, but I am really close to pulling the trigger on one. I miss split prisms a ton, and manual focus is so much better with them. The green dot helps, but it just isn't the same, or as accurate.
    Now, that said, anymore you use manual lenses because you enjoy them. I, for one, always feel more at home using them. I am also young, at only 26 years old, but I learned on an old Minolta. And honestly, I have not met any 35mm camera that could touch the joy I got from using that Minolta. And the MD mount 50mm has, to date, been one of my all time favorite lenses for black and white. So for me, manual focus in some of my personal work or situations where I can take the needed time, and auto focus for sports/events.
  21. While you are thinking along these lines, don't forget old M42 lenses--some by Pentax, some not. Adapters are available for Nikon, Canon, etc. The same goes for Zeiss Tessar and other quite old lenses, of course. Many are quite good and very inexpensive. Others cost an arm and a leg.
    I actually enjoy playing around with MF lenses on digital cameras, and the results can be stunning. I won't say that I nail the focus as often as I do when using modern AF lenses, however. There are many cases, however, when I actually do better with MF than the AF can do. One could actually build quite an extensive and inexpensive lens collection using older lenses on DSLRs. Check for compatibility, of course, and ask on PN or somewhere before buying, not after.
    There sure is a lot of good glass out there, and it is amazing to see how many people are buying and selling these old lenses. Look for the bargains, but watch out for the bogies, too, especially if you are on fleabay. Be prepared to buy several adapters if you are going to be trying various brands. It is a fairly low-risk venture at this point, given the price of most of the lenses--but I find it to be a lot of fun.
  22. I am very bothered by a Zeiss 100mm f/2. I think it's faulty. it doesn't AF...
  23. I've recently got into digital with a D3x and I've been using my first gen AF lenses from the early 90s along with some MF lenses like my 500/4 P. So far I've been very disappointed by all use of MF lenses. I've been experimenting with AF even in areas most consider MF to be sacrosanct, such as 1:1 macro work (or close to it) using my 105 micro AF, and my results have been unequivocal. When I use AF, the results are stunning, when I use MF it's just garbage. My theory so far is that, among other things, the high resolution of this sensor is simply less forgiving even than my velvia slides used to be. However, I also theorize when I look back on my 90s slides that I was never hitting the tack sharpness back then either.

    Bottom line for me so far - accurate focus is something like 80% to 90% or more of the task of bringing out the best in my sensor, leaving all the other factors (chromatic and other optical issues, inherent lack of sharpness in the optical formula) a distant second place, maybe 5% to 15% of the equation. YMMV, but all this is leading me to purchase a variety of modern lenses. As others here have said, I've got a high powered AF module and I need to take advantage of that. At first I resisted this notion, but I'm rapidly becoming a believer.
  24. The focusing screens on modern digital SLRs are not optimized for manual focus. I have a collection of MF AI or AI converted, and use them from time to time on digital bodies. However, focusing can be difficult to pin down, and the tiny, little green dot is no substitute for actually seeing that something will be tack sharp. The most frequent lens used is my 105mm F4 for close ups and for flowers. Focusing is not always that easy even though wide open.
    I am an old film shooter, with early Pentaxes and an OM-2n in my kit. The split prizm and diamond pattern in the center of the screen were wonderful. Focus was almost never off. Recently I put a roll of B&W film through an original F body with a classic split prism screen for some portrait shots. Man, what a pleasure. I put that prism exactly on the iris and pupil of the model's eye. The images produced were as tack sharp as anything I have ever seen.
    The only thing stopping me from getting a Katz Eye screen is the fear that there is some price to pay in autofocus accuracy or metering with my AFS zooms.
    If I had anything to say about Nikon's current focusing screens would be that a way be found to engineer in a split screen without impairing autofocusing and metering.
  25. A split microprism would definitely be the way to go for manual focus lenses. I often use a Tamron 90mm macro MF lens on my D700 and use the focus indicator in the viewfinder since I am still using the original focus screen. I have never had any problems with this, in fact, I am quite impressed with this lens and camera combination.
  26. All I use on my D700 are AIS Nikkors. However I do not trust the focus confirmation, as it is wrong more times than it is right. I got an aftermarket microprism screen designed just for the D700 and it works perfectly, which is why I know the focus confirmation is not all that good. It was about $70 and the best investment I have made in the digital arena besides the battery pack for it. I am on track to get almost 3000 images with a single charge of both the batteries. Not surprising though, since I do not use any juice for auto exposure or autofocus.
  27. I'm coming from and old full manual system, and I've taken an EOS 50D + EF 85 1.8. I use my old lenses to expand possibilities. I have focus light confirmation, it doesn't work very well, but it is still acceptable, and is quite fast to focus is this way. I can achieve the best results with live view (but it needs some time) but my preferred way to go is setting hyperfocal or using the dof scale provided on the lens barrel. I like it better when used 1 stop lower than suggested, and this is a very quick way to setup a shot.
    I miss dof scale provided on the lens barrel (or at least an electronics version that show on the display/wiewfinder the sharp distances reange) of new lenses (EF 85 1.8).
    I miss dichroic mirror on viewfinder on my new camera.
    The best quality comes from my old 50 1.8, great lens, still usable, but autofucus is very fast, you can't beat it!
  28. More than half of my lenses are MF (from film days). I also manually focus my AF lenses. All with a D200 body. I have no diffuclty with focusing; the diopter correction on the camera did wonders for me. The MF primes are inexpensive, sturdy, and have great picture quality.
    However, my preferences are an outcome of what I shoot. If you are into action photography then you would naturally prefer AF.
  29. Get the Katz split screen for some of the Nikons. D700 for mine. The camera needed a slight calibration and they talked me through it on the phone. Excellent product and excellent personal service; the owner gave me her cellphone number and helped me calibrate it on a Saturday. They truly love what they do and so you get a great product and great service.
  30. After spending much time on Bjorn's site it appears that the D700 sensor can work very well with the older manual focus lenses and have reduced CA over the sensor of a D200 and other sensors. Seems like all is not in the lens. Some of the older AF lenses do in fact focus as fast as or faster than a new AF-S lens. I think it is very important not to generalize about the use of a lens with the D700 type sensors until a user has tested them out for their needs.
  31. I have to second Scott Murphy's emphasis on the need to get the proper focusing screen(s) for whatever camera you might be using. I prefer one with the diagonal split image, but others can be effective as well, depending on the equipment and conditions..

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