D800 AF: It's TWO separate issues, one solved and one not

Started Aug 1, 2012 | Discussions thread
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em_dee_aitch Veteran Member • Posts: 3,675
D800 AF: It's TWO separate issues, one solved and one not

I now have two post-repaired D800 bodies. The first one was repaired approximately one day prior to when "Repair SC 201117" started appearing on repair invoices, and the second one has that code on its invoice. Regardless of whatever change that was, the result is the same: Both cameras started out life with the "left AF issue" in which the left point was just way out compared to center and right. After repair, they both have the more vexing problem left over, in which any of the outer points (left or right) require a significantly more negative AF Fine Tune setting to attain their proper focus. What distinguishes the two issues is that in the "left" issue the left point is usually so far out of initial calibration that the AF Fine Tune setting cannot bring it back into focus; whereas in the second issue you can attain correct focus at any AF point, though you need a different AF Fine Tune setting for each point (which is not user definable). Secondarily, the "repair" can actually worsen the right side performance, as the remaining issue is more balanced across both sides.

Nikon has blamed the initial "left" issue on bad calibration data in the assembly process. On the other hand, they have given no official explanation for why they have not bothered to equip this camera with software that can support the D800's extremely good hardware capabilities. It is extremely easy to show that any of the outer AF points on my D800 bodies can achieve extremely consistent and accurate focus with any reasonable type of target (Leonard approved or otherwise). Unfortunately, the outer AF points achieve this amazingly accurate focus only at a very different AF Fine Tune setting than does the center AF point. Thus this is clearly a software issue, in that they have not bothered to add enough depth into their camera firmware or calibration routines to compensate for this. I find that performance is absolutely worst with the 14-24 and 24-70 2.8G zooms, though the 70-200 has also been affected in actual usage, not just test charts. The 50/1.4G prime seems to have somewhat "flatter" results--perhaps no coincidence given that several Nikon employees (including one with whom I spoke last week) have acknowledged using the 50/1.4 during the calibration routine.

Is anyone else here noticing this besides me? Most of the chatter here has been about the "left" thing, and very little has been about the second issue I'm describing.

My contention is that Nikon owes us a software solution in this generation of camera body, not in some future body that is years away. This is really ridiculous. The camera has been de-featured relative to its advertised marketing claims in that you basically cannot use a large swath of your left/right focusing points.

It also remains unknown exactly how much calibration "depth" Nikon possesses at their service centers. It has been suggested that they can and do tune the AF points individually (a setting that is obviously not user accessible at present), but it is not known whether they can then correlate that with individual lenses. If they can, that would be great. On my second body's service ticket I actually noted that my "reference lens" was the 24-70, but of course they disregard that and tune with the 50/1.4G anyway. I am going to explore whether by special request to the office of David Dentry one might actually get their camera calibrated to match the 24-70. I am pretty sure that a body calibrated to the 24-70 would function OK with the 14-24, because their pattern of bad behavior is approximately the same. In the grand scheme of things, the 50/1.4G is not a hugely important lens to any kind of "event photography" professional, at least not so much as the 2.8G zooms are, so I find this emphasis on the 50/1.4G for calibration more than ironic.

My personal plan is to keep hammering on service ad infinitum, because this is far from resolved.

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David Hill
San Francisco & San Jose, CA | Austin, TX
Wedding Photographer and Apparent Gearhead

Nikon D800
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