Manual Focus with the D7000

While I was over in Asia, I had the chance to try out a couple of manual focus lenses.  Prior to getting the D7000, when using the D60 or D90, manual focus lenses weren’t very practical; there was no metering and the single-dot focus indicator didn’t provide a great deal of focusing assistance.

Since the D7000 accepts non-CPU lens data, meters with manual focus lenses, and has a 3-segment focus indicator, it’s  great for a consumer/enthusiast like me who doesn’t have a pro-oriented body (like the D300s, D700, or higher), but would like to use some of the older AI-s lenses on occasion (and I suppose it makes Zeiss and other such lenses a possibility too).  In many ways, I think it pairs better with manual lenses that the pro-grade bodies, since the D7000 is notable smaller and lighter than the pro bodies and thus pairs well with typically compact manual focus primes.  I didn’t get to use any dedicated manual lenses with the D700 in the brief period I had that body, but the ergonomics seemed near-equivalent when using an AF lens in manual mode.  If you’ve got manual lenses, it’s a real argument for the D7000 over the now much less expensive D90.

On one outing, I took the Nikkor 35mm f/2.0 AI along and wound up using it for 90% of the pictures I took that day (although the only other lenses I brought were the 10-24mm and 70-300mm, so I had no other midrange options).  I’m not sure I’d regularly use this lens over the fantastic and inexpensive 35mm f/1.8G AF-S, but I was quite satisfied with the shots that day and surprised that I didn’t miss focus more often (since I’m no pro *and* have almost no experience with manual focusing).  In some shots, with splashing water, I think focusing was easier than with  AF.  I also found the bokeh a little more pleasing than the 35/1.8.  A couple of shots are below:

Olivia by the pool; 35mm f/2.0 AI @ ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/800s
Leo at the playground; 35mm f/2.0 AI @ ISO 100, f/4.0, 1/400s

I also had the chance to try out a Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI briefly,  indoors, and in relatively poor fluorescent light.  I’d never tried an f/1.2 lens before, and my impression was that it performed a bit better wide open than the 50mm f/1.4 AF-D that I have a little more experience with; since I was playing around I pretty much only used the lens wide open.  Depth of field is pretty darned limited at f/1.2, but with a kit zoom I’d have been @ f/5.0 and almost ISO 10,000 for the picture below:


Sugawara San at home; 50mm f/1.2 AI @ ISO 560*, f/1.2, 1/60s

The other observation, which will be fairly obvious to anyone whose used a dedicated manual lens before, is that it’s nothing at all like throwing most AF lenses into manual mode.  The focus ring on these lenses was just fantastic by comparison, with enough travel distance to give even people like me with limited fine motor skills a sufficient level of control.  The 50mm in particular felt great, with just the right level of resistance.  It’s definitely worth a try, pretty fun, and much easier than I though to at least take pictures that were usable!

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