Df as a Street camera and a question about MF on a D lens...

Started Aug 16, 2014 | Discussions thread
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Ray Sachs
Ray Sachs Forum Pro • Posts: 10,580
Df as a Street camera and a question about MF on a D lens...


Took the Df and my little Coolpix A into Philly for a few hours of shooting yesterday, which invariably means a lot of street shooting. I ended up using the Df the vast majority of the time. There are times and places where the small size and absolute silence of the Coolpix A makes for better street shooting than a DSLR, but in most street situations with a reasonable amount of ambient noise, the operational advantages of the Df make it at least as good a choice for me.

A key advantage is the way you can pretty nearly instantly switch between auto and manual focus. I shoot both from the viewfinder and from the hip (belly actually, like one might shoot a twin lens reflex, but without the glass viewfinder) and I use af usually for shooting from eye level and zone focus (which relies on manual focus) when shooting from below eye level and essentially framing on instinct. Setting up the camera to AF with the AF-ON button basically makes switching between auto and manual focus a matter of simply turning the focus ring from where-ever it's focussed to whatever your target distance is for zone focus - I usually use a starting point of 2 meters or about six feet.

On the 28mm f1.8 G lens, I just keep the lens set to "M/A" and I can turn the focus ring with no resistance. But I really like shooting with the 24mm f2.8 "D" lens as well, for it's smaller profile and wider FOV. On that lens, if I don't switch from AF to MF on the camera, I can still turn the focus ring, but I meet resistance, one supposes from the AF motor in the camera (since the lens doesn't have one). It's not much resistance and I never have to turn the ring far, generally coming from infinity to 2 meters, which is a very short movement (if I was focussed on something close, I'll quickly focus out to infinity using the AF-ON button before moving the MF ring). It's not at all difficult to do, but it is of some concern.

The question is whether I'm risking damage by turnng the focus ring without switching the camera body from AF to MF each time? And, if so, to what? If I'm going to burn up the AF motor in the body, I obviously don't want that to happen. If I may eventually mess up the AF gears in the lens, this I can live with since these lenses are quite inexpensive used and if I have to replace the lens even every few years using it this way, I can handle that.

So, can anyone tell me if I'm risking damage by turning the MF ring on a D lens with the camera still set to AF? If so, to the camera or the lens (or both)? And if the lens rather than the camera, how of this type of use is it likely to take to actually hurt it? I've done this a few times already to no ill effect, but that probably doesn't mean a lot if the wear is cumulative.

This question aside, I love using the Df as a street camera. I shot for quite a while with the Fuji X-Pro 1 on the street and the Df with a small prime lens isn't really that much larger than the Fuji. And up to a point, I think the size of a camera is over-emphasized when it comes to shooting discreetly - the discretion comes from the shooter more than the camera anyway...

Here are a few shots from yesterday, for anyone who's read this far. Some using AF, many using MF...

We judge photographers by the photographs we see. We judge cameras by the photographs we miss - Haim Zamir

Nikon Df
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