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Thread: Manually focusing Nikon digital bodies

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    Subscriber Member Jorgen Udvang's Avatar
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    Manually focusing Nikon digital bodies

    Most of my F-mount lenses are AF, but I have a couple of MF lenses that I like, but don't use often enough. Why? Because my in-focus hit rate with standard Nikon focusing screens is sub-par. With the possibility of going over the top with something like a Zeiss Otus on a D800, exact focusing obviously becomes very critical.

    So I look at what my alternatives are. The F6 first; 7 different screens from Nikon alone and countless from alternative suppliers. Then the D700, which has an interchangeable focusing screen. From Nikon: Zero. From others, some. The D800, which I consider upgrading the D700 to. From Nikon Zero again, and even fewer from alternative suppliers. Then there are countless warnings all over the net about people having to play around with shims to make the focus correct and that changing the focusing screen on a D800 isn't really advisable.

    I know. There are two triangles and a dot at the lower left corner of my viewfinder telling me when I hit focus. But that is not where I look when I take photos, Nikon. I look at the subject, and there's only space for one eye looking through that viewfinder.

    It seems to me as if Nikon believes that one should not use manual focus lenses with their cameras, in spite of the fact that they list what? 7 different AIS lenses as current on their website, at least on the European one, and they discontinued the FM3A several years ago.

    I need some advice here. Has anybody installed a third party focusing screen on a D700, a D800 or a D3X, one of those with split screen and possibly also microprism. Did it work as advertised?

    Or should I simply give up digital all together and buy another F6 plus a great scanner and a Jobo Processor

    Edit: Or buy a Canon 6D. Canon still makes screens for manual focusing, and they can be used on the 6D
    Last edited by Jorgen Udvang; 11th October 2013 at 10:56.

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    Senior Member Swissblad's Avatar
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    Re: Manually focusing Nikon digital bodies

    I agree, this is an issue, especially when using MF lenses like the PC-E 24mm, 45mm and 85mm.

    There are some screens for the D700 - I've not tested them - see discussion below - alas there are none for the D800 etc.

    It seems the F5/F6 was the last camera with superb interchangeable screens.....pity

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Manually focusing Nikon digital bodies

    I have been focusing on LF GG's for so long, that using the existing D800 screen is zero issue for me with any of my MF Nikkors. Most of the time I nail it, but if I want criticality I just use the confirmation dot -- I find it to be excellent in my D800's. I do have the diopter optimally set for my vision.
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    Subscriber Member Jorgen Udvang's Avatar
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    Re: Manually focusing Nikon digital bodies

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack View Post
    I have been focusing on LF GG's for so long, that using the existing D800 screen is zero issue for me with any of my MF Nikkors. Most of the time I nail it, but if I want criticality I just use the confirmation dot -- I find it to be excellent in my D800's. I do have the diopter optimally set for my vision.
    Maybe it's my brain or my eyesight, but I have problems nailing it with the D700, even with the 28mm f/2.0 sometimes. But I must admit I find it inconvenient to use the green dot. It disturbs my workflow or something.
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    Re: Manually focusing Nikon digital bodies

    When digital viewfinders finally take over, there will be opportunities for interface designers to create all kinds of innovative focussing aids.

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    Subscriber Member Jorgen Udvang's Avatar
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    Re: Manually focusing Nikon digital bodies

    Quote Originally Posted by paulraphael View Post
    When digital viewfinders finally take over, there will be opportunities for interface designers to create all kinds of innovative focussing aids.
    That's fine, but I mostly use Nikon cameras when I feel a need for an optical viewfinder. I use m4/3 for most of my work. Since Nikon still makes cameras with optical viewfinders, I find it strange that they don't utilize the advantages of those finders to their maximum.

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    Re: Manually focusing Nikon digital bodies

    Quote Originally Posted by Jorgen Udvang View Post
    That's fine, but I mostly use Nikon cameras when I feel a need for an optical viewfinder. I use m4/3 for most of my work. Since Nikon still makes cameras with optical viewfinders, I find it strange that they don't utilize the advantages of those finders to their maximum.
    They could make everyone happy if they just offered interchangeable ones like they used to. I don't know if there are technical reasons that make this difficult now, of if there's just much less demand.

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    Subscriber Member Jorgen Udvang's Avatar
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    Re: Manually focusing Nikon digital bodies

    Quote Originally Posted by paulraphael View Post
    They could make everyone happy if they just offered interchangeable ones like they used to. I don't know if there are technical reasons that make this difficult now, of if there's just much less demand.
    To me, it seems like an obvious thing, particularly when the F6, still a current model, has that option. But then the F6 is a particular camera, more advanced in some areas (Like the fact that it recognises what AIS lenses I'm using without me having to enter and select it in some menu , and even more important: having the aperture ring work as aperture rings have worked since "the beginning of time"), but much easier to use in others.

    So yes, it would be interesting to know why Nikon's digital SLR bodies have these limitations, but even more interesting to hear from somebody who has actually changed the focusing screen to a third party variety.

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    Senior Member JohnBrew's Avatar
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    Re: Manually focusing Nikon digital bodies

    The first thing I did after I received my D800 was to run a comparison with LV versus the confirmation dot. I found no discrepancy between the two. I only have one AF lens and most of the time I have it set on manual.

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    Subscriber Member Jorgen Udvang's Avatar
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    Re: Manually focusing Nikon digital bodies

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnBrew View Post
    The first thing I did after I received my D800 was to run a comparison with LV versus the confirmation dot. I found no discrepancy between the two. I only have one AF lens and most of the time I have it set on manual.
    Seems like I have to start practicing looking at green dots when I take photos. Modern times

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    Re: Manually focusing Nikon digital bodies

    Virtually all my lenses are old manual focus lenses, and I have never slowed down my work in hitting the dot. But it could be a lot of LF work made me enured to any other tribulation. I don't really use the viewfinder to compose so much as I use it to line my edges up and find my focal point, which I do without a lot of thought. I think LF GG work makes the transition pretty easy. But like with a rangefinder, one's brain just has to adapt to the machine. Joe

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    Re: Manually focusing Nikon digital bodies

    I completely agree with Jorgen, I still long for the VF of my F5 and its ability to not only change screens but complete viewfinders.

    The green dot does interfere with my flow too, I have to take my eye of my subject which I don't like to do.

    If the D800/D700 only had one upgrade, the viewfinder like the ones in the F5/F6. That would make it the perfect no thinking but feeling and doing camera for me.
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    Re: Manually focusing Nikon digital bodies

    Quote Originally Posted by Dustbak View Post
    I completely agree with Jorgen, I still long for the VF of my F5 and its ability to not only change screens but complete viewfinders.

    The green dot does interfere with my flow too, I have to take my eye of my subject which I don't like to do.

    If the D800/D700 only had one upgrade, the viewfinder like the ones in the F5/F6. That would make it the perfect no thinking but feeling and doing camera for me.
    ... Ah, changing viewfinders all together! The main feature of "pro"cameras of yesteryears. Remember Nikons F to F6? Or Canon F-1? And now, on D800 we have that dinky "pop up " poor excuse of flash! Put a "pro" Nikon lens with proper hood, and the flash becomes useless... Silly.

    When I think of it, a D800 with F6 type of pentaprism/screens would be a really ideal camera...

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