strange autofocus problem Nikon D90

Hi all,

Newbie here. I'm writing in to see if anyone can help me figure out this strange issue I'm having with my D90. I originally only had one long zoom and I noticed that the autofocus wasn't working well unless I was zoomed all the way in. It was a pain, but I could get around the issue by zooming in, locking focus, and then zooming out (or of course, manually focussing). I recently picked up a wide zoom (12-24 Tokina) and I found that the autofocus struggled again.

I printed a focus chart and took some shots to test out what was happening. As I suspected, the autofocus worked well so long as I was zoomed in all the way with my 18 to 200 zoom (I know, not a great lens). When zoomed out it was always soft. I switched to my wide zoom and it was always soft, so I know it's not a lens issue, but beyond that I'm at a loss, and hoping to avoid going the costly and timely route of getting my camera fixed by Nikon.

Any help would be appreciated!

Comments

  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 5,351Moderator
    Can we assume that you have tried all the focus modes and focus points with the same results?

    Where are you located?
    Always learning.
  • plondplond Posts: 11Member
    Yes, I've tried multiple focus modes and focus points. I also updated to the latest firmware and reset to the factory defaults (in case I messed something up along the way). I also tested shooting through the live view and through the view finder, getting different results for the two (live view seems to be better, but still not great). Very frustrating!

    I'm located in Montreal, Canada.
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 5,351Moderator
    I'm struggling to think of a good reason for your problem. It's always a good idea to carefully clean the lens contacts, but I'm doubtful it will help. Let's see what others can come up with.
    Always learning.
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 3,552Member
    Have you dropped the camera, or has it taken any hash bumps? The cameras AF sensor could be out of alignment, of course if that is the issue a trip to a repair depot of some kind.
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • PistnbrokePistnbroke Posts: 1,221Member
    edited November 22
    All Cameras come from Nikon soft . Go to the picture controls menu and up the sharp to +9. Use single centre point focus . Check to see if you have a back focus issue ..lay an expanding tape on the floor and put a pencil across it at 16 inches . focus on the pencil from about 10 ft at 200mm down the length standing up and then check on your computer which of the inch markings are in best focus..if its way out say 12 is in focus you found your problem.
    Of course we all ask if you had it from new or just bought it so it could be send it back when you have some evidence.
    Post edited by Pistnbroke on
  • plondplond Posts: 11Member
    Hi spraynpray, PB_PM and Pistnbroke,

    Sorry for the delayed response. It's a busy time of year!

    I've owned the camera for a long time and taken it on a number of adventures. With that said, I don't have any recollection of it getting any unreasonable bumps or bruises. I do my best to baby it, probably similarly to most people who partake in this forum.

    Pistnbroke, I think you're on to something with Nikon just being pre-set soft. I have no idea why they would do such a thing! Though I really do feel like the sharpness has softened over the years.

    Anyhow, I boosted the sharp control to 9 on all the settings and the AF is more accurate now than it was previously. However, I still am noticing that it has trouble focussing with wider angles, and particularly when using the view finder. I have never gotten into using the live-view mode, but the AF is definitely more precise when in that mode. I'm hoping this is some kind of clue that'll help crack the case, since it's better but still frustrating!

    Thanks to anyone who has any other ideas.
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 3,552Member
    Pumping up in camera sharpening won't fix auto focus problems, and can introduce needless artifacting in images; if taken to the extreme. In camera sharpening will deal with sharpness of image that are in focus, but is useless otherwise. If increasing sharpening did not fix the issue (with jpegs, useless for RAW) then it is a hardware issue, either on the side of the lenses or the camera, or possibly both. Since it's mostly affecting the lenses when used at wide angels, it seems clear that the issue is with the camera itself.

    Has the camera been like this since you got it, or did it just start happening more recently? If this is something that has started to happen later in the cameras life, I suspect that there is an issue with the alignment of the AF sensor/sub-mirror.
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • plondplond Posts: 11Member
    That's helpful. I'll look into whether I can find someone/a store that can fix that in town, rather than going through Nikon. I found some videos online, but I feel like I'm a bit out of my league on the alignment fix... unless someone here feels they can walk me through it.

    Also, good to know about the artifacts.

    Thanks!
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 3,552Member
    edited November 29
    Fixing alignment issues like that yourself, on a camera without focus fine tune like the D90, wold be somewhat daunting I'm sure. Not something I'd trust to someone who didn't have a lot of experience doing it. Might be a good idea to take in the lenses with the camera as well, that way it can be setup to work perfectly with your lens/camera combination if needed.
    Post edited by PB_PM on
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • BetelgeuseBetelgeuse Posts: 18Member
    edited November 29
    I wouldn't have the D90 fixed. If you're on a budget, you could get a D3400 and 18-55 VR kit. You'd have twice the megapixels a little more FPS, better ISO, and 1080p video to name a few for 399.00 on sale right now at Nikon, and probably other places.

    When you look at shipping cost to send in your old camera and lens, possible return shipping and the cost of repair and possible parts costs, what are you going to spend?

    200.00, 300.00, more?

    https://nikonusa.com/en/nikon-products/product/dslr-cameras/d3400.html#tab-ProductDetail-ProductTabs-TechSpecs
    Post edited by Betelgeuse on
  • PistnbrokePistnbroke Posts: 1,221Member
    edited November 29
    having taken tens of thousands of wedding pictures in JPEG at sharp +9 I can tell you I never seen an artefact. It just something the RAW protagonists use to justify there use of RAW.
    Upping the sharp will not help the autofocus....you could just buy another D90 secondhand but its old now ,.Go for a 24 MP of any number.

    What did you find testing the back focus ??
    Post edited by Pistnbroke on
  • plondplond Posts: 11Member
    Hi folks,

    I found a small shop in town known for affordable and quick repairs (I'll let you know more once I get a quote). The temptation to replace is there, but if I did, I'd be sceptical of the 3000 series, and possibly even the 5000 series just because of the reduced pixel size. I think the added noise would drive me crazy. And considering that the best price I've seen on the (older) 7200 is $1000CAD or nearly 50% more for the 7500, I'd really prefer to put my $ elsewhere at the moment.

    Thanks for the opinions on the sharpness. I'll do some tests and form my own.
  • BVSBVS Posts: 273Member
    plond said:

    The temptation to replace is there, but if I did, I'd be sceptical of the 3000 series, and possibly even the 5000 series just because of the reduced pixel size. I think the added noise would drive me crazy. And considering that the best price I've seen on the (older) 7200 is $1000CAD or nearly 50% more for the 7500, I'd really prefer to put my $ elsewhere at the moment.

    I think you'll find that the newer cameras will probably beat the D90 in the noise department even with the increase in resolution/reduced pixel size. Sensor technology and processing has improved since then. DPReview doesn't have a D90 in it's studio comparison, but you can clearly see the improved noise performance between the D7500 and the D7000, and the D7000 is newer than the D90:

    https://dpreview.com/reviews/image-comparison?attr18=lowlight&attr13_0=nikon_d7000&attr13_1=nikon_d7500&attr13_2=nikon_d7200&attr13_3=nikon_d7100&attr15_0=raw&attr15_1=raw&attr15_2=raw&attr15_3=raw&attr16_0=3200&attr16_1=3200&attr16_2=3200&attr16_3=3200&normalization=full&widget=1&x=-0.03166788232070709&y=0.03109420099336601

    D7100, 85 1.8G, 50 1.8G, 35 1.8G DX, Tokina 12-28 F4, 18-140, 55-200 VR DX
  • PistnbrokePistnbroke Posts: 1,221Member
    Don't even consider a D7000 ..total rubbish compared to a D7100 or even a D3200.
    If its 24 mp without the AA filter you will be good to go
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 5,351Moderator
    edited November 30
    I had the D3000, D5000, D90, D7000 and D7100 and am choosing between the D500 and D7500 right now. I can tell you that you should not have any reservations between the D90 and newer D3400. Betelgeuse is on the money with his recommendation, but if I were you, I would get a black friday or whatever deal on a D7100. You WILL be blown away.
    Post edited by spraynpray on
    Always learning.
  • plondplond Posts: 11Member
    I brought in my camera to a local repair shop. Estimate is $45 and that gets absorbed by the repairs if I accept to follow through.

    I'm prob a little late to be getting a black friday deal, but I appreciate the tips. Once I found out if the repairs cost warrant me getting a new camera, I can do the research and keep my eyes open for a boxing day sale. And then bring my new or old toy with me when I head off on vacation mid Jan! :smiley:

    Btw, the camera repair shop doubts it's the alignment of the sensor since some images are coming in clear. I'll be back on here to let you know what the issue turns out to be.

    Thanks again all.
  • NSXTypeRNSXTypeR Posts: 1,796Member
    Sometimes like others have said, it's a good idea to let go and bite the bullet... or treat it as an excuse to buy a new camera.

    However, I'm glad you might be able to fix your camera and keep shooting with it. One less camera in the landfill.

    That being said, it's still a consumer camera and there's no guarantee other parts won't start breaking.

    I had this issue when my D40 broke in 2013. I had it since 2008 and had about 17,000 shots or so on it and it had just come back from Nikon servicing for a sensor cleaning. I was pretty pissed off, but I was happy to have an excuse to buy a D7000 at the time.
    Nikon D7000/ Nikon D40/ Nikon FM2/ 18-135 AF-S/ 35mm 1.8 AF-S/ 105mm Macro AF-S/ 50mm 1.2 AI-S
  • plondplond Posts: 11Member
    I guess I miss the days of my old 35s that almost never seemed to break down. Too much plastic and planned obsolescence these days :/
  • plondplond Posts: 11Member
    Correction, they never broke down.
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 3,552Member
    I wouldn't go that far to say the old stuff never broke, it was just a lot easier to fix. You could easily take apart an 1980's film SLR and put it back together in less than an hour.

    The shutter on our Nikon FE failed (when it was 20 years old mind you), yeah it got used a bit over the years. Nikon replaced the shutter, and it still works, although I haven't used it since going digital. It's sitting on a shelf with my F90 collecting dust.
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • plondplond Posts: 11Member
    I wasn't trying to imply that old stuff never broke. I was fortunate, and my old stuff never broke! It's in the same boat as yours, collecting dust in the basement. But at least some of the (Minolta) lenses might get a second life, since I'm toying with the idea of a future purchase of a Sony mirrorless with an adapter.
  • plondplond Posts: 11Member
    I'm feeling a little embarrassed. According to the repair shop, my D90 is fine (auto focus with a nominal % error). The large zoom lens is not working properly, and I was zooming in a bit too much on the images with the wide angle Tamron. Oh well. I'm pretty content to have had the local repair shop figure this out for $49, including the cleaning of the sensor, and getting my camera back in time for the holidays.

    Thanks for all your input guys. I'll hold off on getting a new toy for a while longer :)
  • PistnbrokePistnbroke Posts: 1,221Member
    Unlike so many you have come back and told us the conclusion of your problems .
    Glad it cost you so little and we hope to hear more of your Vintage exploits (joke)
  • Ton14Ton14 Posts: 156Member
    I second that @Pistnbroke
    User Ton changed to Ton14, Google sign in did not work anymore
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