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Nikon D800/e vs Left Side Focus Issue

There is a lot of talk lately about the left side focus issue with the Nikon D800/e. I have received many emails asking me if I have that issue and what, if anything, I have done about it.

Let me start by saying, yes, both of my Nikon D800’s (regular and the “e”) have the left side focusing issue. And, currently, I have done absolutely nothing about it. Let me break down my position for you.

What’s the Issue?

First, lets look at the issue, since it first appeared in the wild, the Nikon D800/e was reported to have a left side focusing issues, I may be mistaken, but I believe my mentor Ming Thein, NPS professional, was the first to find, track and report this issue way back before the rest of us even got our hands on a Nikon D800.

Essentially, when using the far left focusing points in the view finder, the image can be out of focus. And fairly significantly so, let me show you my results and how I got them.

How to Test

I originally tested my Nikon D800 when I first received it (the Nikon D800e too) and retested it for this article. It’s a pretty simple test.

Setup

Setup

 

  • Set the camera approximately 5 feet from the wall.
    • Check to make sure you are square with the wall
    • Measure 5 feet from the wall to the camera strap nubs.
  • Setup 3 targets, one for the left side, center and right.
  • Use the View finder and select the far left point (which is on a target, right?)
  • Rotate the Focus Ring all the way to the right or left (so the image is completely out of focus)
  • Then focus and take a picture.
  • Repeat these steps except using Live View (placing the red square in the same spot as the focus point you used)

Compare the two pictures. Be sure to rename them on your computer to identify the points you used

Targets

Targets

Should you use the AF Fine Tune?

 

Fine Tuning is a tricky issue, you might be able to adjust your lens so that the effects of the “out of focus” on the left side is minor but then you are compromising the center and right side. Basically you’d be making everything, just a little out of focus, rather than just the left side being “a lot” out of focus. In the end, this is a personal call, but for me, it’s a no.

Early adopters

From the very second the Nikon D800’s started being shipped, people started to complain, and rightfully so, it’s this sort of feedback that helps shakes the tree for issues just like this. However, having seen several people from the Nikonians D800 forum send theirs in and get it back with the same issue, as well as, Nikon’s continued silence convinced me to hold off on sending mine in.

For one, it was/is pretty clear that Nikon did not know what the issue was, and was working diligently to find/fix it. However, with Nikon typical stoic nature, meaning closed lipped and  non-responsive tended to get people even more fired up.

I am not saying you shouldn’t get fired up, nor that you shouldn’t send in your camera for repairs. Only pointing out that I have not… Yet… Although, it does appear that Nikon has isolated the problem and has a fix for the Nikon D800/e in hand. But I will wait until the kinks have been worked out of the system, say another couple weeks before sending mine in. Until then, I know the center focus points work just fine.

Saving Face

There is a lot of speculation as to why Nikon has not issued an official statements regarding this issue; demands for a recall run rampant, there is no need for that. Recalls are generally reserved for personal safety issues. It’s not going to blow up in your hands. Look at the car industry, they don’t even issue a recall unless it’s going to cost them more money in lawsuits than it would to issue a recall.

I do think they should pay for shipping for repairs but, officially, they have not admitted a problem yet, nor denied it. This is typical for every major manufacturing industry, I expect they will address it, when they best feel they have a handle on it. My guess is that they are trying to narrow down which cameras are affected. What do you expect them to say? Send us back every Nikon D800? Or perhaps, “we have determined that models before this serial number to be affected, please send us ….”.. This is just as half-cocked as most of the responses I have seen so far.

Take Home Message

Relax, I can assure you that Nikon is not in the business of alienating its high end customer base. Give them time to isolate, identify and fix the issue. They’ll issue a statement that will address these concerns, it’s only good business. This, could actually be fortune for us in the photography world, with the rise of third party testing of focusing systems.  Well, either way, I’ll wait a few weeks to send mine in.

Comments

  1. Thanks for your article Wesley. Initially, I had a D800 on order, but cancelled the order once all of the reports began coming out concerning this issue. I finally decided I will buy the D4, but am even holding off on that since some initial D4′s are also showing signs of Left are AF issues. I think the safest bet is to wait until B&H and Adorama have caught up with their stock backlog. I believe then I can rest assured that no new copies will suffer from “early adopter’s” syndrome. Thanks again for your article.

    • I think that is a smart move, if you don’t have one in hand already, waiting until Nikon has confirmed that no new shipments are affected is the way to go.

  2. Hi, thank you for posting on this subjects….

    I recently got my D800 two days back, i sitll did’t test it for the left/right focus but what i i figure out that i have a strange clicking sound in live view mode in A and M mode when i rotate to adjust the aperture the same thing happens when i used a zoom lens, when i in and out i also have the same clicking sound also the aperture one. It also occur in the video option.

    I haven’t had this problem in my D90 in live view. Do you have this issue in you D800. I was checking the Internet and i found someone already posted a video on youtube discribing the same sound when u change the aperture http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hZ7eNDy0U4

    Do you think it’s normal sound or a product defect?….Your support is highly appreciated.

    Thank you & Regards,

  3. Hi again, the same sound appears to be also in live view in S and P mode with Live View exposure preview (Ok) if you move the cam up and down you have the sound of the Aperture ring clicking it’s so annoying there is a video on it on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMZECym51u4

    I don’t know if i should return it back and wait till a new batch is released in the market.

    • It’s only my opinion, but I still think that is normal, let me try to explain. First the part of the D800 that adjusts the aperture is quite loud, as I mentioned before, and I think that is normal for the D800.

      Liveview, attempts to display how the image will actually look to the user on the LCD, including Depth of Field. Therefore, when in S and P modes, the camera tries to adjust the Aperture to give you a proper exposure and actually adjusts the aperture in the lens. In the video you provided, as the camera is moved like that (in S and P modes), it adjusts the aperture for the exposure it sees on the fly. Where as in M and A modes, the aperture is locked unless you manually adjust it.

      In the Viewfinder, the aperture is always set to its widest and snaps to your selected aperture as the picture is captured (or DOF display is used). For example, if you have the camera in A mode, set to F/8, but the lenses widest opening is F/2.8, it uses F/2.8 to show you the “view” in the Viewfinder and calculates what the shutter speed needs to be based on F/8. Once you press the shutter, it snaps to F/8 and takes the image.

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