D800E AF test in "realistic" outdoor conditions

Started Jul 23, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Julian Vrieslander
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D800E AF test in "realistic" outdoor conditions
Jul 23, 2012

This gallery shows the results from careful testing of the phase detection AF sensors of a D800E in an outdoor setting, conditions roughly similar to what might be encountered for landscape and architectural photography. Results from the phase dectection (viewfinder) AF sensors were compared to results from contrast detection (Live View) AF at the same positions within the frame.

http://julianv.zenfolio.com/p675789350

When I tested the camera indoors, using a proper (Leonard-approved!) focus target, it produced AF errors following the pattern that is often reported: good results with the center sensor, noticeably worse results on the leftmost sensor, and intermediate quality on the rightmost sensor. The magnitudes of the AF errors were considerably less than what I saw in the D800 that I bought previously and returned to the dealer, but still enough to arouse concern. So I decided to do some more testing, to see if the AF errors were visible when shooting at longer distances.

Results from the outdoor tests followed the same pattern: center = good, left = bad, right = less bad. The performance of the left side AF sensors were bad enough to discourage me from using them for critical work.

Nitpickers might object to the fact that the camera was tilted down slightly, with optical axis not perfectly perpendicular to the wall of the target building. I thought it was more important to ensure that the AF sensors were spanning regions of high-contrast, non-periodic detail (the window sills). I doubt that the camera tilt was enough to put areas of the 100% crops out of the DOF range.

I should also mention that I made some additional test shots, using targets at greater distances, and saw the same effects.

I sent the camera to Nikon for service, hoping that their techs now have the training and tools to finally deal with this issue. Other than the errors in the outer AF sensors (which I would normally be using frequently), the D800E has been giving me fabulously good shots.

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