Caffeine Priority: Easily achieve accurate autofocus with the Nikon D5’s automatic AF fine-tune feature


posted Thursday, April 28, 2016 at 7:17 AM EDT

Wake up with IR! Here's today's cup of Caffeine Prioirity...

Unsurprisingly, Nikon's new flagship D5 DSLR has a wealth of new features. One that might have flown under the radar during the announcement event in January is the new Automatic AF fine-tune feature.

Seasoned DSLR users have probably experienced issues with front or backfocus on one of their lenses at one time or another and were forced to head into the AF fine-tune (or equivalent menu option on your camera of choice) option to deal with it manually. If you haven't had to do this, consider yourself lucky because it can be a tedious process.

With the new Nikon D5 (and Nikon D500), you can throw out your autofocus test charts because they're a thing of the past. This is the first feature I tested out on the Nikon D5 when it arrived this morning and I'm pleased to report that it works very well.

I do wish that you could see the AF fine-tune result on this screen, but you instead have to go into the camera's setup menu to see the result.

The automatic AF fine-tune feature is simple to use. You'll want to use a tripod and shoot a stationary subject for optimal results. Once you're set up, put the camera into Live View and focus on your subject. With your subject in focus (manually focused, if needed), simultaneously press the AF selection and movie record buttons for a few seconds. A message will appear on the display with the automatically-selected AF fine-tune value. Press 'OK' to save this value.

With the Nikon 24mm f/1.8G AF-S lens, the Nikon D5 determined that +18 was the appropriate amount of fine-tuning.

By default, AF fine-tune is set to 'Off,' so you need to go into the D5's menu, go to the Camera Setup menu, and turn AF fine-tune on. From here you can see what the camera determined the appropriate AF fine-tune value to be (from -20 to +20).

You'll want to try the feature out a few times, perhaps at different focus ranges, just to see how the results can vary. With my Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E lens, I did get some different results so I dialed in an average and got sharp results.

This feature may easily get lost in the shuffle, after all there are many new features on the Nikon D5, but it's a really important and convenient one that I hope finds its way onto all new Nikon DSLR cameras going forward.

You can see the real-world results of the automatic AF fine-tuning for the Nikon 24mm f/1.8G below. 

BEFORE: 100% center crop of the Nikon 24mm f/1.8 lens with AF fine-tune turned off. (RAW image processed with Adobe Camera RAW default settings)
AFTER: 100% center crop with the automatic AF fine-tune result. (RAW image processed with Adobe Camera RAW default settings) 

Stay tuned for much more to come in our Nikon D5 review!

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Caffeine Priority is a new series of short photo-tidbits to ease you into your day, and give us a chance to share a bit more of what life’s like here at IR. We're more like a group of friends testing and talking about cameras and lenses than the buttoned-down, big-corporation world that some of our photo-friends at other companies work in; hopefully these little snippets will share some of that. So... grab another coffee and join in the conversation with us down below!