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  1. #1
    snegron's Avatar
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    Manual Focus or Auto Focus Lenses?

    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. #2

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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.
    Claire (Ms Anne Thrope is in the darkroom)

  3. #3
    Dave Parker's Avatar
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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. #4

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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. #5
    resummerfield's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by snegron
    .....the shots with the autofocus lenses on manual cameras were not as sharp as with manual focus lenses.....
    I have found this to be true with several Nikon AF zoom lenses. The MF lenses, even the MF zooms, all appear sharper.
    —Eric

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Parker
    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

    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. #7
    Juraj Kovacik's Avatar
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    manual only.

  8. #8
    Dave Parker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HerrBremerhaven
    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.
    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. #9
    Lopaka's Avatar
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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
    "I always take a camera, That way I never have to say 'Gee, look at that - I wish I had a camera'" -Joe Clark, H.B.S.S.

  10. #10
    snegron's Avatar
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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?

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