Anyone Using AI Lenses And Manual Focus On A Nikon D200?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by justin, May 5, 2008.

  1. justin

    justin Guest

    I find the Nikon AI primes like the 24mm 2.8 to be excellent but am
    having a little trouble with the manual focus. Do you always trust
    the little green dot on the info screen in the viewfinder for focusing
    accuracy ? Unfortunately I do wear glasses so the focusing thing has
    been a little hit or miss for me. Other than getting the Katz Eye
    Focusing Screen does anyone have a fool proof method for manually
    focusing on the D200? I'm looking forward to finding a used 20mm 2.8
    AI for this particular camera. And does anyone have an opinion of the
    20-35mm 2.8 Nikon lens and shooting architecture and landscapes?
    justin, May 5, 2008
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  2. justin

    Paul Furman Guest

    I went with the Katz Eye. Those wide fast lenses are difficult to focus.
    Even with the Katz Eye, it's sometimes easier to just look at what I
    want in focus but often the split prism aid is very useful and when it
    is, it's exactly perfect. The green light is better than nothing but
    often has a pretty broad range that it'll approve as 'in-focus'.

    Paul Furman

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    Paul Furman, May 6, 2008
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  3. justin

    flaming-o Guest

    Disputes about the accuracy of various focusing screens kind of disappeared
    since auto-focus took over and most SLRs, film and digital, adapted to
    screens that visually minimize/disguise focusing errors but make critical
    manual focusing difficult.
    I have concerns that secondary conversions would position the focusing
    screen with enough critical tolerance that it could be relied on for
    absolute accuracy. In the final analysis you may end up with nothing better
    than the almost focus of auto focus and a voided warranty. The reason I
    think this is that I do not think that the way consumer autofocus cameras
    are made that placement of the viewing screen at the time of manufacture is
    as accurate as it was with manual focus film SLRs--it doesn't have to be.
    Fortunately you are considering wide angle lenses so depth of field may
    cover focus errors anyway--just as true in digital as in film capture. I
    wonder if users who have had the Katz screens installed are happy with
    focusing long lenses and with exposure accuracy.
    When I need critical focus with Nikon dSLRs I use a tripod and bracket the
    focus and exposure as necessary. This seems to be the only way to get the
    best image when photographing semi-flat artwork like quilts. Perhaps it is a
    waste of time and depth of field covers all minor focus errors?
    Many years now into Photoshop and inkjet printing it seems to me that
    moderate differences in lens qualities have less of an impact on the
    appearance of sharpness in a final image than the digital processing of that
    image. Excessive chromatic aberration and flare seem the worst sins a lens
    can have in the digital age, the rest not so hard to manipulate. The vision
    of the photographer is more important than the lens anyway.
    flaming-o, May 6, 2008
  4. justin

    tomm42 Guest

    I have a 24 f2 and it is a little hard to focus, alot because of the
    non linearity of the lenses focusing as much as the viewfinder. The
    first 1/4 inch of focusing travel goes infinity to 5 feet, the next
    inch and a half 5 ft - 1ft. I have no problems focusing 50mm and above
    very accurately using the stock screen. I use a 105 micro a lot with a
    D200 and below 1:2 mag, or when I want two images at the same mag, I
    use manual focus entirely. I find it works well. With 35mm I used to
    prefer a flat matte screen anyway, which also was a little dicey with
    WA lenses, again I did a lot of macro/micro. With practice I have
    learned to use the 24mm reasonably effectively, especially since in
    most conditions f2 has awful flare, so I use f2.8 and above. still my
    favorite focal length on an APS sensor.

    tomm42, May 6, 2008
  5. I think you have "hit various nails on the heads"! The old N70 and N90
    Nikons were big let-downs in terms of Nikon's departure from making
    bodies with VERY sharp viewfinders. It was so easy to manually focus
    lenses as short as 16mm or even 8mm with all the "F" series bodies, the
    F100, and the FE/FM/FAs (so long as one's sight was well corrected
    for a viewing distance of about one meter - and with using the B or E
    screens, getting rid of the useless A screen with the focus "aids" which
    just cluttered up the VF central area, a screen similar to the "Katz Eye").
    BTW, my focus eye has developed an uncorrectable irregular central
    softness that made me jump to the F100 (with its [finally!] effective AF)
    when it came out, useful for fast focusing, but when I have more time,
    the relatively high VF magnification of the FE/FM/FA still permits me to
    MF accurately. Added to what you have pointed out, I think beginning
    with late MF Nikons, changes were also made in the VFs to brighten
    them with slow zooms, making them appear less sharp with faster
    lenses. Also BTW, AI Nikkors had more "range" in their focusing
    scales than AIS and AF lenses, useful for "guess focusing", which is
    often more accurate with short FL lenses than trying to use the screens
    of newer bodies or the useless "focus indicator" (it does have too much
    slop to be accurate enough). And, while I'm a "lens quality nut" (see my
    "SUBJECTIVE Lens Evaluations, Mostly Nikkors", at --, I can't disagree with your
    final comments...;-)
    David Ruether, May 6, 2008
  6. justin

    newsmb Guest

    Manual-focus lenses are definitely a challenge on the D200/D300. There
    is no microprism or split-image rangefinder. You really need to rely
    on the ground glass focus screen that is there and look for areas of
    detail within the frame. The "green dot" electronic rangefinder is
    kind of useful but it takes a lot of practice I find.

    I would avoid the aftermarket solutions.

    If you wear glasses and your vision can't be corrected with the
    eypiece adjustment, I would suggest that maybe you should think abour
    investing in some AF lenses.
    newsmb, May 6, 2008
  7. justin

    Paul Furman Guest

    Yes the aids can make a mess of things at times but also can be real
    helpful for some situations. Didn't they make a more opaque matte screen
    at one time? Something like that would make the viewfinder darker but
    give a better look at the actual DOF.

    Paul Furman

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    Paul Furman, May 6, 2008
  8. I don't know if the above is true for digital capture, but I disagree for
    film (and older lenses).

    Last year, on a high risk trip, I brought my 200/4 instead of the 180/2.8 I
    normally use (that was a good decision, because I did destroy two lenses and
    one motordrive).

    Well, good for keeping my 180/2.8, not for the (technical) quality of the
    images. The results of the 200/4 reminded me of how happy I was when I got
    the 180/2.8. I also decided that I had to have the 80-200/2.8, because
    now I knew that I would not use the 80-200/4.5 if I needed a zoom.

    Maybe modern lenses are all much closer in terms of performance than older
    lenses. But there is something in the 200/4 and the 80-200/4.5 that I really
    don't like. And it's not excessive chromatic aberration or flare.
    Philip Homburg, May 6, 2008
  9. I have eye problems that can't be corrected with diopter compensation.
    I find I absolutely have to rely on autofocus for 85mm and longer*.
    With WA I can still use the manual focus classics that I would really
    hate to give up (20, 24, 28, 35).

    I used to shoot lots of street portraits with a 24 on which I would use
    DOF to my advantage (and I didn't even know I was using "hyperfocal"
    distance) so that I could look over the top of the camera and talk to
    the person while I was shooting. They were much more relaxed and
    natural than when I had the camera glued to my face. That reflex is
    still there and I often frame without even looking in the viewfinder.

    Shooting with the tele lenses is something else again, and I let the AF
    do its thing on the 180 200 and several zooms.

    For portraits I keep experimenting. I've always tended to do a form of
    bracket focusing, and I find most subjects don't mind a string of
    shots, a short break, another string, etc. Once in awhile I would do
    some exposure bracketing with film, but I prefer to keep good notes on
    a given light set-up, then do either automatic focus bracketing or
    manual, wher I would focus on (for example) the eye, then lean a little
    into the subject or a little back while triggering several shots. I'm
    holding the focus lock (if AF) or keeping my fingers off the focus ring
    (of manual lens) and this works better for me than accomplishing the
    same thing by holding my body still and twiddling the focus ring.

    A too-long explanation of a fairly simple tactic.

    For the DX format, btw, a 50mm 1.8 is soooo perfect for portraits, that
    I don't miss the 105 focal length that used to be my favorite. I still
    plan to get either an 85/1.4 or a 105 DC, but I really have those in
    mind for shooting Kodachrome, and not so much for the D200.

    *(exception to the AF rule) I'm doing macro work with a 6X magnifier
    finder. I never have had much luck with AF for extreme close-ups. I'm
    fiddling around with my bellows set-up, as I can't decide between a
    reversed 28 and several longer primes mounted "frontwards". If I had a
    105 bellows lens like the one I owned about 30 years ago, it would
    probably blow them all away.
    Tully Albrecht, May 7, 2008
  10. There was a D screen, made for the "F" series (but not the F100) that was
    an integrated ground *glass* on the bottom + glass condenser lens on the
    top (without the additional Fresnel for brightening the edges/corners) that
    was very sharp all over - though it was rather hard to use in dim light with
    slow lenses and with wide angles toward the edges (and it had a central
    "hot spot" with almost all lenses). Sometime during the run of the F3 a
    *slightly* brighter set of A, B, and E screens was introduced, which I
    liked. I could never use Nikon's microprisms (unlike Pentax's), and I
    disliked the central split (too awkward to use, and inaccurate inless the
    split subject was centered and at the right angle - way too slow!) so any
    screen with the "focus aids" got taken out and replaced with one with a
    matte center (with good eyesight, corrected for 1 meter, I found this the
    fastest and most accurate to use). Nikon made two sets of four screens
    for the "F" series bodies to match particular ranges of lens FLs (gee, how
    handy...;-), one with all microprisms, the other mostly clear (talk about
    slow or impossible focusing! ;-). But, for those of us who grew up with
    the equivalent of the D screen, there was nothing better for judging focus
    and DOF, though the B or E screens in the screens Fs, F100 and the
    FE/FM/FAs came close enough (as did those screens in the N8008...).
    David Ruether, May 7, 2008
  11. There are various versions for these, with performance increases
    for each (two for the 200, three for the slower zoom, I think) - but
    even so, the 180mm f2.8 AF is one of the best Nikkors of a
    generally excellent group, as are the 80-200mm f2.8s, so comparing
    these with an early 200mm f4 (which was variable, ranging from
    poor to decent - and the later compact version in a good sample
    was much better) or an early version of the 80-200mm f4.5 (the first
    "good" zoom by anyone, and quite good toward its short end, but
    less so toward its long end - and the later versions were better), but
    even the f4 version was never as good as any of the 80-200mm
    f2.8 versions. So, I'm not surprised by your findings. Try the later
    version of the 200mm f4 in a good sample (though it is not quite
    the equal of the AF 180mm...) and the E-series 70-150mm f3.5.
    These are close, and compact/light/cheap compared with the
    other lenses - and I dare anyone to see the difference on projected
    or printed film images, except that the early Nikkors were corrected
    to look sharp and contrasty at wide stops (with overcorrected
    spherical abberation, rather than the currently fashionable
    undercorrected, for "good bokeh" - which I think is silly...;-) and
    had few, straight-sided diaphragm blades (which also contributed
    to a hard, sharp-edged, "busy" OOF image). Images that point up
    these design differences will, of course, look different - and you
    may have preferences...;-)
    David Ruether, May 7, 2008
  12. The serial number of my 200/4 is 784833, which Roland Vink just calls 'Ai',
    and the serial number of my 80-200/4.5 is 228961, which he calls 'N'. Odd,
    I don't think it was Ai'd.
    That may have soemthing to do with it. Maybe I just don't like the way those
    lenses render the background.

    Another pair is the 300/4.5 ED-IF compared to the 300/2.8 ED-IF. I like the
    300/4.5, but I really enjoy the 300/2.8.
    Philip Homburg, May 7, 2008
  13. justin

    Paul Furman Guest

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    I think my Katz Eye does not have the fresnel surface. It's hard to
    compare before/after unless you had 2 cameras side by side. I don't mind
    the junk in the middle but I can see how some might, it's really
    cluttered with the split prism, ring of microprisms, AF sensor spots,
    grid, etc. I even got the extra etched crop lines for 8x10 aspect ratio.

    I think I wouldn't mind dimmer if it represented the focus more truly
    but that doesn't seem to be an option. Hmm, maybe I shouldn't have got
    the optional brightening treatment... this discussion suggests that
    diminishes the ability to see the focus clearly:

    Paul Furman

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    Paul Furman, May 8, 2008
  14. I don't have a D200 but I have my D40 set up as an exclusively
    manual-focus camera. I prefer the 45mm f/2.8P lens, which allows use
    of all the exposure modes. (It's a CPU lens.) The Katz Eye screen is
    almost indispensible for this use.

    The secret to getting sharp focus, I found, is to use Aperture
    Priority (or Manual mode) to set a smaller aperture and thereby
    maximize depth of field. The fully-automatic exposure mode seems to
    want to default to the largest available aperture, which gives a
    shallower depth of field and makes the manual focusing very critical.
    An f/4 or f/5.6 setting is much more forgiving as regards focus.
    Alexander Arnakis, May 8, 2008
  15. justin

    Bruce Guest

    The AF Nikkor 20-35mm f/2.8D is a fine lens ... but only if you get a
    good sample. The aspherical element was hand polished and there was a
    significant variation between samples.

    If you find a good one, it will be one of your best lenses. If you
    find a bad one, the chromatic aberration (CA) will be strong, even on
    film. Even the best samples show slight CA on digital, especially
    when used wide open.
    Bruce, May 10, 2008
  16. justin

    justin Guest

    Thanks to all for the great advice. I went through a period of lens
    frenzy, when I felt I really needed to buy a new lens, but I think I'm
    going to stick with the 24mm 2.8 AI for a while. It's really a good
    lens with probably less distortion than the 20mm 2.8 AI. Thanks
    justin, May 12, 2008
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