Manual Focus or Auto Focus Lenses?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by snegron, Sep 9, 2006.

  1. snegron

    snegron Member

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    I have several old manual focus Nikon lenses that I use with my old non autofocus bodies. I love them and love the slight resistance on the focusing rings. I also have several auto focus lenses I use with my newer Nikon bodies (even with d*g**** bodies). I rarely mix autofocus lenses and manual focus bodies, but recently I had some extra time on my hands and decided to experiment. I noticed that several autofocus lenses offered better resistance when focusing while others had way to much play. The overall results were the same, except that the shots with the autofocus lenses on manual cameras were not as sharp as with manual focus lenses. Maybe this was due to the loose play of the focusing rings. This of course led to me wondering what most people use out there, manual focus or auto focus lenses?

    Are newer autofocus lenses "better" because they have more precise computerized manufaturing techniques and better coating?

    Are older manual focus lenses better because they were mostly glass and metal instead of 90 percent plastic (including lens elements)?

    What are your preferences, autofocus or manual focus lenses and why?
     
  2. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    Manual focus lenses are mounted in such a way that they are much less likely to go out of alignment. One of the results of auto-focus was to lighten the weight being moved. My own experince with auto-focus lenses is very limited.

    I recall reading a book by an English author specialising in macro work. He stated that he was on his third 60mm Micro Nikkor lens having worn the first two out. He claimed that his 55mm 2.8 Micro Nikkor was still working fine.

    In my own case I have a Contax manual focus camera. There are no auto-focus lenses that fit it. A well made helical focus mechanism that is not damaged will last a very long time.
     
  3. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    I was not aware that Nikon or any of the major manufactures are using plastic as lens elements??? Could you elaborate a bit, every new lens I have purchased in the last couple of years have had glass elements...I don't shoot Nikon so there is no interchange ability in my system, I shoot the Maxxum system and all of my lenses that I use are metal bodies with glass elements and metal lens mounts.


    Dave
     
  4. pauldc

    pauldc Member

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    I much prefer manual focus.

    I started photography by using an auto focus canon eos 500 with an a zoom but have shifted in the last 2 years to a T90 and an FTb with FD primes. I enjoy the experience of manually focusing more and I find it easier and I love the solid feel of the FD primes. I also feel the results are better but this is partly because I can afford to collect FD primes at the second prices they are offered at and the primes are easily sharper than the auto focus zooms I was using.

    I also find that it is easier to do hyperfocal focusing with manual lenses as they always have the distance markings and aperature guides - something my auto focus lenses lacked.

    I also use a manual focus SQA in medium format and feel that the process of manual focusing helps with the process of composition in my head.
     
  5. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    I have found this to be true with several Nikon AF zoom lenses. The MF lenses, even the MF zooms, all appear sharper.
     
  6. HerrBremerhaven

    HerrBremerhaven Member

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    Hello Dave Parker,

    Many of the major manufacturers have incorporated non-glass elements for the internal elements inside their newer lenses. One reason was to reduce the weight. Another reason was to create asperical elements, which apparently is slightly easier when using a mould instead of grinding into shape. I think it would be an incredibly cheaply made lens if either the front or rear element were not glass, and probably a lens to avoid.

    As for autofocus or manual focus lenses, I find it interesting about autofocus lenses wearing out. It might be those smaller gears inside the lens driving it, or maybe even plastic gear instead of metal. On manual focus lenses, those can also get loose over the years, though many are serviceable, either with re-lubing or by tightening guide parts (some Nikon AIS lenses have this feature).

    My own preference is towards manual focus lenses. There are several of mine that have been cleaned, and two that have been re-lubed, but so far no failures on any of my manual focus lenses. In fact, the only autofocus camera I own is a Polaroid SX-70.

    Ciao!

    Gordon Moat
    A G Studio
    http://www.allgstudio.com
     
  7. Juraj Kovacik

    Juraj Kovacik Subscriber

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    manual only.
     
  8. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    Okay, that makes sense, I was thinking in regards to the exterior elements, I can see composite elements in the inside where the risk of damage is virtually nill.

    I used to use Manual focus up until about 3 years ago, but my eyes have changed enough I have to use AF as the eye doctor and my cameras don't seem to get along with each other..

    Dave
     
  9. Lopaka

    Lopaka Member

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    I can't speak for other makes, since I use Canon...
    The current EOS lenses that are 'L' series are high quality glass lenses. Those that are not 'L' are much less pricey and are plastic. Easy to tell when you pick one up - huge difference in weight.

    I use auto focus on my Canon because I find it hard as I get older to see the small viewfinder on 35mm to focus.

    Bob
     
  10. snegron

    snegron Member

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    A couple of things I forgot to add in my original post were the issues of true compatibility and lens mount strength. My newer autofocus Nikon lenses have several contacts near the lensmount that enable communication between camera and lens. My fear (although Nikon claims there should be no problem) is that while mounting my autofocus lenses on an older Nikon body like an F2 or F3, the contacts may become damaged in some way.

    Also, this may be just my imagination, but the metal bayonet style mounts on the older Nikon manual focus lenses and cameras seem to be harder than the ones found on newer autofocus lenses and cameras. Again, I may be just imagining this. I base this on my observations of my lenses and their lensmounts, the scratches they show as well. Are the newer autofocus lenses (including the mounts) not as tough as the older lenses?
     
  11. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I prefer manual focus and find that manual focus lenses are generally better designed for focusing manually.
     
  12. Uncle Bill

    Uncle Bill Subscriber

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    Like a stick shift in my car, I prefer to do the focusing not the cameras.

    Bill
     
  13. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    One For the Birds?

    I, as of yet, do not own any auto focus lenses or camera bodies, however, I am considering getting a long lens auto focus and body to photograph birds. Is there an opinion on a good bird lens...auto or manual? Longer that 300 mm on a 35 mm set up?
     
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  15. sterioma

    sterioma Member

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    I routinely mount MF lenses on my Nikon F100, especially the 105/2.5. I seldom do the other way around.

    I started my photography journey with a manual focus body (Nikon FG-20) and lenses; when my daughter was about to be born, I decided I needed an autofocus camera, so I bought a used F100 and a 50/1.8 AF lens.

    I dream of buying one day a 85/1.8 AF lens: I have missed many shots with my MF 105/2.5 due to (my) slow focusing (try chasing a 1.5 yr old baby girl :wink:).
     
  16. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    Dave it really depends on your pocket book, I use a 600mm f/4 for my main birding lense, and it is big, it is heavy and it was expensive, I started out with 300mm f/4 and then a 300mm f/2.8 with a 2X convertor, and have been far more please with the 600mm for quality and sharpness, most of the major companies make a good long lens, do you know what brand your think for your AF? But again, to do quality birding requires expensive glass..

    Dave
     
  17. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Afternoon,

    I use manual focus only. I figure that if I get to the point of being unable to turn a focusing ring or knob, it'll be time to hang it up and head for the rocking chair. In a few particular situations (shooting with auto flash in extremely dim conditions or using remotely operated cameras, for example) auto-focus certainly could be extremely helpful. Otherwise, it just adds to cost, increases dependence on batteries, and is something else to need repair. Besides how many autofocus lenses are available for my 4 x 5??

    Konical
     
  18. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    Boy I am glad I am not ready for the Rocking Chair!!! geeze, eyes go bad often times before desire and skill do, and especially the body, I will happyly shoot my AF gear and deliver the products my customers want! I do however use MF when I am shooting commercial macro work...

    Dave
     
  19. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Dave (Wooten--too many Dave's around here), most bird photography starts at 400mm. A good combo is something like a 400/4.5 for flight shots and a 600/4 on the tripod, but the latest autofocus lenses with image stabilization and such are really expensive, and if it's a 600, it's also much heavier than an older manual focus 600/4 or 4.5. In my opinion, it's more important to have the long lens and a good tripod and head than to have autofocus or image stabilization, and for static shots, manual focus is better anyway, because DOF is short, and you don't want the camera hunting to focus on the right area.

    I use the Canon FD 400/4.5 SSC and 600/4.5 but the equivalent Nikon manual focus lenses should be fine as well, if you're shooting Nikon.
     
  20. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    The L lenses contain fluorite elements. The non-L lenses don't. The EF 50/1.4 is not an L lens but all the elements are glass. Since it has no fluorite elements (and many lenses do not need them), it isn't an L lens.

    Nikon uses ED glass. It serves the same purpose. It isn't as prone to temperature changes which is why Canon L lenses are often white (especially big telephotos and zooms) and Nikon's are generally black. Optically it is about a wash, although fluorite lenses are softer than ED glass so you can't use them as the outer element.
     
  21. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    As you can probably guess from my sig line, I use both AF and MF stuff. Most of my lenses are autofocus because I want the ability to autofocus - and I find that the higher-end AF lenses have a really nice manual focus feel. (My AF 80-200/2.8 ED is a great example.) I have a few good manual lenses because I tend to shoot manual gear when I want to travel light, so I have primarily prime lenses and not zooms in the manual department. A few manual lenses like the 105/2.5 do not exist as AF lenses, so I focus them willingly and happily.

    As to which is better, the one you have with you when you need it is the best lens of all. How you focus it is largely irrelevant.
     
  22. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Are there any good Nikkor AF lenses that do well on Nikon manual cameras? Any good recommendation for the zoom lenses for traveling (preferably something compact and light-weight)?

    I've been thinking about getting a used 24-120mm F3.5-5.6 Nikkor D lens for convenience, but I've never read any good reviews on it.
     
  23. Bromo33333

    Bromo33333 Member

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    I think it depends upon the lens, actually. From what I hear some manual focus lenses are dogs, and from my experience some are wonderful. The newer AF lenses seem to me to be repackaged optics of the MF, especially primes (my experience is primarily with Nikon with 35mm). I would think that since most modern volume lenses tend to be zoom-style autofocus, that not a whole lot of work is being done on MF primes except in niche markets?

    I think we have the capability to make soem optics with truly amazing resolving power, but I don't know if we will experience that in any sort of consumer way.

    My experience was with a 50/1.8 AIS Nikkor and a 50/2 AF-D Nikon lens on a FM2n. I didn't notice much difference except in the look-and-feel department. I recently got a Nikon series E 28/2.8 Manual focus lens - and the feel is much more like the autofocus AF-D, though I have yet to see if it is more or less sharp (*JUST* got the lens this week and am only 1/3 through a roll of film). From the viewfinder, it looks optically not too shabby, but I will have to see how the film turns out.

    I prefer MF when I have time to compose a shot, I much prefer autofocus everything when I want to "snap" the shots out, but given 5 of my 7 cameras are fully manual I think I am speaking from a preferred MF vantage....
     
  24. Bromo33333

    Bromo33333 Member

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    Try Nikkor 28-70mm AFD?

    I used a 50/2 AF-D that seems to have done a great job compared to my Nikkor 50/1.8 AIS on a FM2n. Neither are supposed to be "amazingly great" lenses, but they seem about equivalent in all important ways.

    I don't know about zooms personally but I hear good things about the Nikkor 28-70mm (f/3.5-4.5D). Since it a "D" series you can have manual control over aperture as well as focus and so on, and it is supposed to be really light (appx. 12oz) and small (<3" long).

    There are a couple of manual focus zooms, that I have been looking at, though I have no idea if they are any good...?
     
  25. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    Autofocus zooms I've had or have now, with comments...


    AF-S 17-35/2.8D ED - good manual feel
    AF 20-35/2.8D - good manual feel, not quite as good as the 17-35 but still good
    AF-S 24-85/3.5-4.5G - no aperture ring so you can't use it on manual bodies. Decent manual focus feel on AF bodies though.
    AF 35-80/4-5.6D (first version, metal mount) - shockingly good quality for the money. Reasonable but unspectacular manual feel.
    AF 35-135/3.5-4.5 - short focus throw and the ring is on the end of the lens so not the most convenient to use manually
    AF 75-300/4.5-5.6 - same as 35-135
    AF 80-200/2.8 ED (first AF version) - exceptional manual feel; very nice damping

    I use them all manually at least occasionally (I sold the 35-135 but have the rest). They are at the very least good enough in manual mode, but the professional lenses are clearly better.
     
  26. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    Don't do it. I own that lens, and the 28-200, and both are soft.