D600 Auto Focus Points - Who Thought That Would Be A Good Idea?

Started Mar 29, 2013 | Discussions
Paul Schatzkin
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D600 Auto Focus Points - Who Thought That Would Be A Good Idea?
Mar 29, 2013

(….which I thought would be a more suitable subject header than "WTF?" -- which is how I really feel about this topic. And I'm sorry if this is a topic that has already been beat to death elsewhere but I did search and did not find much to go on so....)

After waiting more than 10 years (since buying a D100 in the summer of 2003) for Nikon to introduce a full-frame DSLR in a price range that makes sense for me (like the price of the D300s I've been shooting for the past several years), about two weeks ago I picked up a Nikon D600.

I like most of the camera's features and functions just fine, and it's so nice to FINALLY see 24mm rendered as 24mm. Ten years I've been waiting for that!

But I am driven to distraction by the concentration of auto-focus points in the center of a small portion of the frame.  The auto-focus area falls well short of the thirds at either edge of the frame.
What genius designer/engineer/product manager thought that was gonna be a good idea?  I want their heads.

Now, I know, I'm supposed to be able to "focus and recompose."  But I shoot a lot of musicians on stage  They move constantly. I want their faces/eyes in the top third of the frame.    I need to keep the focus where I want it in the frame. Focus/recompose is really not practical in a situation like that.

I just looked through the viewfinder of my D300s and note that the auto-focus points on that camera extend to a point that is well within the "rule of thirds" grid on either side of the frame.  It is easy set the focus in the portion of the frame where I want it and leave it there; auto-focus does the rest.  I can concentrate on the subject and the moments.

Was I foolish to imagine that Nikon would include a similar functionality in a similarly priced camera?
I read somewhere that the AF points are arranged this way to make the AF area more compatible with DX lenses - which, it seems to me, completely defeats the point!  I did not after all these years get a full frame camera so that I could continue shooting with DX lenses!  I have several FX lenses already… I bought the camera because I want the full effect of those lenses (particularly the ultra wide angles).

From a marketing perspective, you'd think somebody would have suggested the exact opposite: instead of making the camera more compatible with lenses that don't take advantage of the full frame, drive customers toward the lenses that do!

In fact, I was getting ready to put several DX lenses on eBay… until I discovered this flaw in the D600 design.  Now I'm thinking instead that the D600 goes back to the store and I continue to wait for somebody at Nikon to get their bloody heads screwed on straight.  D600s, anybody?

I don't guess this can be fixed with firmware, huh?  The LEDs are hardwired into the hardware?

I guess I'm wondering if anybody else feels the way I do about this aspect of an otherwise worthy camera.  Have any readers had the same response… returned the cameras to the store?  Or has somebody come up with a reasonable work around?

I know the D600 is supposed to be an "entry level" full frame camera, but why cripple it with such an ill-defined feature?

I wanna storm the gates… where are the torches and pitchforks!  Off with their heads!

<*sigh*>

Thanks for listening...

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Nikon D100 Nikon D300S Nikon D600
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Paul Schatzkin
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Re: D600 Auto Focus Points - Who Thought That Would Be A Good Idea?
In reply to Paul Schatzkin, Mar 29, 2013

P.S. (since I can only edit the original post 2 times): after talking with my dealer about their returns policy (30 days), it occurs to me that "entry level full frame" is an oxymoron.  Any photographer who understands what "full frame" means is beyond "entry level."

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David Rosser
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Re: D600 Auto Focus Points - Who Thought That Would Be A Good Idea?
In reply to Paul Schatzkin, Mar 29, 2013

It's not unique to D600 all the full frame Nikons are the same.  It's a design constraint of the location of the focus sensor and the secondary mirror.

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paulski66
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Re: D600 Auto Focus Points - Who Thought That Would Be A Good Idea?
In reply to David Rosser, Mar 29, 2013

David Rosser wrote:

It's not unique to D600 all the full frame Nikons are the same.  It's a design constraint of the location of the focus sensor and the secondary mirror.

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Although I think that the problem is more pronounced on the d600.

For the record, I think the d600 is a great camera. This limitation has never really bothered me much, though of course I would appreciate more overall coverage by the AF array.

It sounds like for your type of shooting, this is a deal-breaker. Which is too bad. On the plus side, a refurbed d700 can be had for less than a d600. You'll lose some pixels, it's probably about a wash in terms of low-light shooting, it's a sturdier camera and you'll gain greater coverage from the AF array. And I think you'll gain about 1.5 fps, too, if that's important to you.

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sandy b
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You of course, are correct
In reply to Paul Schatzkin, Mar 29, 2013

And this deffciency, (if thats what it is), has been pointed out in every review, and discussed in numerous posts. To save costs, nikon apparantly used the D7000 AF module, while beefing up the algorithyms apparently. I find the AF quick, responsive and accurate. But if you need the outer thirds, this is not your camera. Be aware NO FF has an AF spread the size of a crop camera, its a physical limitation.

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Kelly M Jones
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Re: D600 Auto Focus Points - Who Thought That Would Be A Good Idea?
In reply to Paul Schatzkin, Mar 29, 2013

Paul Schatzkin wrote:

(….which I thought would be a more suitable subject header than "WTF?" -- which is how I really feel about this topic. And I'm sorry if this is a topic that has already been beat to death elsewhere but I did search and did not find much to go on so....)

The spread of the AF points on full frame SLRs is smaller than DX. Here's a comparison that is pretty close to realistic. You'll notice that the D800 spread is a bit larger than the D600, but quite a bit smaller than the excellent D300. I've used the D600 and D800 and I find that although the D800 AF point area is not a lot bigger, in practice, it seems much better than the D600's.

http://i47.tinypic.com/2dhdvk5.png

-Kelly

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Intence
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Re: D600 Auto Focus Points - Who Thought That Would Be A Good Idea?
In reply to Kelly M Jones, Mar 29, 2013

It is a downside of the D600.  Remember that in a pinch you can MF, or can use LiveView.

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michaeladawson
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Re: D600 Auto Focus Points - Who Thought That Would Be A Good Idea?
In reply to David Rosser, Mar 29, 2013

David Rosser wrote:

It's not unique to D600 all the full frame Nikons are the same.  It's a design constraint of the location of the focus sensor and the secondary mirror.

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Not only full frame Nikon's, but full frame Canon camera's as well.  And yes, this topic has been beaten to death.  If the OP wants full frame AF coverage then FX is not for him (with any brand).

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Mike Dawson

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artphoto
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Re: D600 Auto Focus Points - Who Thought That Would Be A Good Idea?
In reply to Paul Schatzkin, Mar 29, 2013

Better get used to it or stay DX.Yes it had been discussed to death since the introduction of FF cameras by Nikon some 5-6 years ago.You will never have a FF DSLR with the focus point covering as large as a crop sensor period.You will have to adapt your way of shooting or forget about FF,that's the way it is.Canon DSLR are no better btw...

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artphoto

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TOF guy
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Spread of AF points is about the same on DX / FX
In reply to Kelly M Jones, Mar 29, 2013

Kelly wrote:

The spread of the AF points on full frame SLRs is smaller than DX. Here's a comparison that is pretty close to realistic. You'll notice that the D800 spread is a bit larger than the D600, but quite a bit smaller than the excellent D300. I've used the D600 and D800 and I find that although the D800 AF point area is not a lot bigger, in practice, it seems much better than the D600's.

This is a misleading graphic because it compares the spread relative to the size of the viewfinder.

You would see the same spread for D700/D3/D800/D4 compared to D300 if you crop the FF viewfinder layout to match the DX mode.

Granted the D600 has a smaller spread. Not by very much.

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TOF guy
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Annoying but nothing can be done about it
In reply to Paul Schatzkin, Mar 29, 2013

The AF sensors just cannot be too close to the edges of the image circle. It's an optical limitation.

Granted there is also an economy of parts on the D600 which results in a little less coverage than on a D800. But even the D800 layout would probably still not fit your requirements.

Solutions: frame differently (i.e. same compositino but wider view, planning for DX crop later in post), use LV, buy a DX camera, etc.

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ScottRH
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Re: Annoying but nothing can be done about it
In reply to TOF guy, Mar 29, 2013

The D600 seems like a rush-job to market. Its follow-on (D600s ?) is what is going to be interesting.

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Kelly M Jones
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Re: Spread of AF points is about the same on DX / FX
In reply to TOF guy, Mar 29, 2013

TOF guy wrote:

Kelly wrote:

The spread of the AF points on full frame SLRs is smaller than DX. Here's a comparison that is pretty close to realistic. You'll notice that the D800 spread is a bit larger than the D600, but quite a bit smaller than the excellent D300. I've used the D600 and D800 and I find that although the D800 AF point area is not a lot bigger, in practice, it seems much better than the D600's.

This is a misleading graphic because it compares the spread relative to the size of the viewfinder.

You would see the same spread for D700/D3/D800/D4 compared to D300 if you crop the FF viewfinder layout to match the DX mode.

Granted the D600 has a smaller spread. Not by very much.

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Thierry - posted as regular forum member

I don't see it as misleading because the spread relative to the viewfinder is what is important. Of course the D700/D3/D800/D4 are the same as the D300's if you crop the viewfinder view.

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chlamchowder
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Try a Sony a99, and then look back...
In reply to Paul Schatzkin, Mar 29, 2013

I just looked through the viewfinder of my D300s and note that the auto-focus points on that camera extend to a point that is well within the "rule of thirds" grid on either side of the frame.  It is easy set the focus in the portion of the frame where I want it and leave it there; auto-focus does the rest.  I can concentrate on the subject and the moments.

Like others have said, that's a problem with all full frame DSLRs today, although the D700/800 and 5D III are a bit better. It'd be great if they could solve that problem by providing D300 like AF point coverage over the full frame (without having to crop, because that defeats the purpose of using a full frame camera).

But for a better idea of where the D600 stands against its competitors, take a look at the a99. Its AF points cover a smaller area than the D600's AF points, and the a99 doesn't even have a dense AF point layout. On top of that, you have an additional 102 non-selectable points to tease you...

Or, look at the Canon 6D, or 5D II. AF coverage is similar to the D600, but with fewer points (so large gaps between points). The D600 competes well with its peers, and isn't too far behind the D700/800/5D III.

EDIT: Not that I'm defending the D600's tight AF point coverage. It's a pretty bad drawback, and I'm sure everyone going from a DX camera to a FF camera gets a nasty shock at how poor AF coverage is...but the lack of a full frame camera that covers the frame with AF points like the D300, along with sub-par competition is probably why Nikon wasn't driven to improve in that area with the D600.

It's an area that definitely needs improvement, and whoever gets there first will get sales.

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sandy b
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Doesn't seem like that to me
In reply to ScottRH, Mar 29, 2013

Wonderful camera, I prefer it to my D700 and would not trade it for a d800.

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Paul Schatzkin
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Re: D600 Auto Focus Points - Who Thought That Would Be A Good Idea?
In reply to artphoto, Mar 29, 2013

Well, obviously, I'm late to the FF/AF debate... so surprised it's an unresolved issue after a seemingly long time.

I do appreciate the time all have taken to beat the dead horse one more time for my benefit.

If that's the way it is with FF, then I'll have to adapt...

Cuz I really want 24mm to = 24mm...

Thanks,

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Paul Schatzkin
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Re: Annoying but nothing can be done about it
In reply to TOF guy, Mar 29, 2013

Well, I was thinking the value of a D300s + a couple of DX lenses on eBay = more and better FX glass... but I think I'll be hanging on to the D300s for a while. It's a work horse...

Thanks,

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Paul Schatzkin
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Re: Doesn't seem like that to me
In reply to sandy b, Mar 29, 2013

Once I get used to this particular er.... limitation... I think I'll feel the same way.  Really don't want either a D700 now or a D800 ever... that's why I finally pounced on this one... <*sigh*>

Thanks,

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BJN
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This is the way full frame 35mm has always been.
In reply to Paul Schatzkin, Mar 29, 2013

DX metering spot distribution is basically the FX pattern with the edges cropped. I don't know what constraints have made Nikon concentrate AF sensors into the area they use, but it has been that way for decades. The area gets more points and more cross-type points but it doesn't get larger. I'm pretty sure that's not because Nikon engineers think that AF points don't belong outside a central area and that it's related to physical constraints and/or poor performance of perimeter AF points.

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BJ Nicholls
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Kerry Pierce
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Re: D600 Auto Focus Points - Who Thought That Would Be A Good Idea?
In reply to Paul Schatzkin, Mar 29, 2013

Paul Schatzkin wrote:

Well, obviously, I'm late to the FF/AF debate... so surprised it's an unresolved issue after a seemingly long time.

I do appreciate the time all have taken to beat the dead horse one more time for my benefit.

If that's the way it is with FF, then I'll have to adapt...

What's wrong with using a camera that actually fits your apparent needs, ie a modern DX camera?  I've been using the d300 and d700 as a pair, since the d700 was introduced, precisely because they have complementing strengths and weaknesses.

Cuz I really want 24mm to = 24mm...

Sorry, but I don't understand this.  I used 35mm and MF cameras from about 1970 to 1985. There's nothing magic about any specific focal length that I was able to discern. I used the lens that gave me the framing that I wanted, on the camera that I was using.  I certainly didn't use the same focal length lenses on MF that I used on a 35mm SLR.  It's no different today, AFAICT. If you use both FX and MF digital 24mm doesn't = 24mm there either.

The bottom line is that you need to decide what is more important to you, focus points that are useful or not having a lens difference factor.

good luck

Kerry

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