A young photographer asked me today to recommend a camera, saying she had exhausted the capability of her point-and-shoot camera. A friend or two told her to buy a Canon. I agreed that if a Canon fits her style and meets her needs, Canon cameras are great. I added that since I am primarily a Nikon shooter, I know a little more about their offerings, and jotted down a couple of suggestions, including the Nikon D5300 and the camera is replaced, the D5200. Both have great image quality, high-definition video, are lightweight, and offer an articulating monitor.
“Don’t you have to have a motor for the lens to focus?” the photographer asked, and I tried to explain it as succinctly as I could.
- All of Nikon’s digital SLR cameras will take almost every Nikkor lens ever made, dating all the way back to the 1950s (noting that the very old ones needed to be updated so the aperture ring is “AI” so it won’t damage the lens mount on the camera.
- Nikon currently make a large selection of AF-S lens, which stands for AutoFocus Silentwave. These lenses have a focus motor built into them, so the camera does not need a motor (and even if it has a motor, the camera automatically uses the one in the lens.)
- Nikon still makes a few AF lenses, which will autofocus, but only if there is an autofocus motor in the camera.
- Nikon actually still lists a handful of manual focus lenses in their catalog, though I doubt they are widely available. There are also a very large number of manual focus lenses for sale on sites like Ebay. They work fine on all of Nikon’s digital SLRs as well, but the photographer has to set everything by hand, including aperture, shutter speed, and, of course, focus.
The cameras I recommended, the D5300 and D5200, don’t have focus motors in them, so AF-S lenses will autofocus with them, but AF lenses will not. That said, AF lenses work fine with these cameras, but the photographer needs to focus the lens by hand.
As an aside, Canon lenses made before 1987 can’t be used at all with new Canon cameras. That was the year Canon changed lens mounts entirely, from the F-mount to the EOS-mount. It upset a lot of photographers at the time, but it allowed Canon to leap ahead of Nikon in autofocus technology, a gap Nikon couldn’t close until they introduced AF-S lenses.
Finally, I would urge anyone getting into digital SLR photography to learn to manually focus. There are times when you can’t convince a camera’s autofocus system to focus where you want, and there may be times when you use non-autofocus cameras. It’s a valuable skill.