How to Get the Most From Nikon’s Auto AF Fine Tune

Camera bodies and lenses are factory calibrated by default, but sometimes they require further adjustments to achieve better results when focusing. With the Nikon's AF fine tune feature on supported models, you can manually make precise adjustments to fix any focusing problems.

In this 12 minute video, photographer Steve Perry explains the auto-focus calibration techniques in depth, particularly on Nikon bodies such as Nikon D5, Nikon D500, and Nikon D7500, which have the latest Nikon AF system. This technique may also apply for the new Nikon D850, as it will most likely have the same AF system. Unfortunately, this technique is not applicable to older Nikon camera bodies, including Nikon D810.

AF fine tune is not a mandatory process for everyone, however, if you are experiencing front or back focusing issues, then you should calibrate your AF. By the way, need for calibration doesn't mean that you have a faulty camera body or a lens, it’s just a tweak that you should apply once for specific camera – lens combinations. If you want to learn more about back or front focusing, don't forget to read David Strauss' post about focusing issues.

You can either use pro-calibration tools, such as LensAlign, to fine-tune your system, but you can also achieve successful results with this step-by-step guide, that includes all camera settings and AF target use. You can also download the target image from this link, to give it a try with your own setup.

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11 Comments

Thanks for putting these resources in one place!

Michael Kuszla's picture

The auto Fine Tune helps a lot. But on my D500, it's quite hard to work on Zoom lenses fine tuning. My old 17-55mm f2.8 suffer of a small back focus at 17mm and front focus at 50mm. It's nearly impossible to correct this as you have to do a Balance between the results.
So this is really perfect for prime lenses, and the ressults are awesome!

But for zooms, the best way is to send your zoom lenses to re-calibrate. As I did.

Fritz Asuro's picture

From what I have read from other users, you just have to adjust manually and get the "middle" line for both.

Michael Kuszla's picture

Yes. That's the problem. You have to check all your focals and apertures, and get the "middle" to find a balance.
It works really well on my prime lenses, not on zoom.
Canon allows users to fine-tune all the focals of a zoom.
Best, Sigma, with their dock, allows to work at every focals, and every aperture.

I'm not a geek, looking for the "so sharp man!" image, but if the 17-55mm F2.8 was a beautiful lens on my D300s (and it still!!), but on my D500, I had several front and bakc-focus issue and I had to send it to Nikon to re-calibrate. Now? It works really fine!

This is not the case of my tokina 55-150mm f2.8, now unusable. I've set my fine-tuning on the 150mm to keep a long lens, but I use it as a prime lens now.

One more time, fine-tuning works really really really good with prime lenses. Especially the oldest ones (such as my 28mm f2.8) who need to fit on modern DSLr.

Fritz Asuro's picture

I'm guessing that the Auto AF Fine tune is more of a "first aid" approach and then if things can't be sorted out by the user, you go to Nikon.
Not really a terrible approah. Especially if you have to send your camera for a very minor tweak.

Michael Kuszla's picture

Yes, this is more than a simple "first Aid" for prime lenses. But for old zoom lenses, that's not a nice solution.

If I managed well my 28, 35, 50 and 85mm on the D500, I can imagine that can be more difficult to have accurate settings on DSLR such as D810 or D850. Remember that you have to find a balance between all the apertures on each focal, and the old lenses can be outdated with this kind of sensor.

And for the 17-55mm f2.8, there is a known issue regarding back-focus on the D500. This is an old guy. Imagine. 2003!! Sensors has evolved a lot.
For me, it was the companion on all my past travels. So I would keep it. The solution was to re-calibrate the lens with the body, directly by Nikon.
And it performs reaaaaaaally good. A results that you can't have by Auto AF Fine Tune.

Honnestly?! It performs really well on Prime lenses, and new lenses. It performs well on old lenses and modern zoom lenses. But if you have an old zoom lens... Sending it to Nikon is the best thing to do. It only cost time... (for me 5 days because I don't have a Nikon center close to my office)

Some bodies, like my Canon 80D, have a "wide" AFMA value and a "tele" AFMA value for each lens. It assumes a linear progression through the range, but that's more accurate than assuming it to be constant.

I used FoCal to recalibrate all my working lenses a few weeks ago. Didn't take long, and really took no effort on my part, and the improvement is significant.

Michael Kuszla's picture

Focal works well effectively, but sending my lens to Nikon is free with a top service on my lens. It requires just a bunch of patience.

I use a piece of software called FoCal by Reikan which automates the whole process and takes all the hassle out of it. Works perfectly and I've found it well worth the cost.

FoCal can't fully automate the process on Nikon bodies, and instead relies upon the user to make adjustments between test runs. It's a bit tedious, but has done an excellent job on a handful of lenses for me. More information is available at this link:
https://www.reikanfocal.com/supported-cameras.html

well I did all that and just get unable to at current settings. I used your settings and then tried all nothing?