How to tell if your D800/ D800E/ D4 has the ‘left focusing problem’

I’ve been asked this question more times in the last few days than I can remember: ‘does my D800/ D800E/ D4 have the left side focusing problem?’

Here’s how you can tell.

1. Pick the widest, fastest lens you own. A 24/1.4 is ideal.
2. Shoot it wide open, with the camera on a tripod, AF set to AFS single point.
3. Shoot a set of images at extreme left, center and extreme right, defocusing the lens manually between shots. Use viewfinder AF. Pick a subject about 2m away.
4. Without moving the camera, do the same but in live view. (This is so the camera focuses exactly on the sensor).

5a. If there is no difference in sharpness in AF and LV modes between the points across the frame, then you’re fine and don’t have a problem. (But you might of course find the edges worse than the center; that’s normal. LV and AF focused shots at each point should look exactly the same in a correctly calibrated camera.)

5b. If LV is sharper than AF for all frames, then you need to use AF fine tune and try the process again.

5c. If the LV shots look sharper for only some, but not all, of the points, (e.g. right and center points look the same for AF and LV, but your left point is much sharper in LV than AF) – then you have the asymmetric focusing problem and your camera has to go back to Nikon.

You might also find this article useful on how to use AF fine tune.

And with that, I’m off to send my camera in for the fix. Will report back later (or tomorrow, whenever it’s done)…MT

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Comments

  1. kristian hagelin says:

    Hi Ming,
    First of all I would like to give thanks to this interesting thread!! It is just awesome to read all the comments here from professionals. I wonder if you have heard anything about problems with manual ais lenses as well on the Nikon D800? Because 95% of my lens are MF. And also do you know if the problem has been fixed in later batches?

    • The problem is fixed as far as I know. My second D800E from late 2013 was fine. No issues with MF since you MF in the centre anyway.

      • Thanks Ming! On my Nikon D700 I used manual lenses and moved the focus point in the viewfinder up and down and left to right…
        I don’t always manually focus in the center.

        • Manual focus at the edges doesn’t work well because of the way focusing screens are designed…

          • bobbelbobbel says:

            Ok Ming, (a bit off the topic), but what would be your recommendation in my case? Since I mostly use MF leendes should I get a new d700 instead of a d800?
            I have Bern using the d700 a few years now and had fre problems with MF’s and “focus confirm”.
            Thanks against for your correspondance!
            /Kristian

  2. Hi Ming Thein. Wonder if you have any suggestions regarding my “battle” with Nikon Msia, Japan, HK & Singapore regarding my D4 assymetrical AF issue, http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/51651185 … I have been to Japan THREE times and Nikon Malaysia is quiet as heck. A shop in Plaza Angsana has actually informed a photographer in singapore that almost all D4 he sold has gone back to Nikon Msia and many still unresolved. I am become very impatient and will continue to broadcast my message to all Nikon users till Nikon Japan admits their folly and recall or refund the sets!

    • The two D4’s I’ve used both had the same assymetric focus issue as my D800 and D800E. The D800E was fixed in Malaysia, the D800 in Singapore. I have no idea where you live, but in KL/Singapore it’s a known issue and they do have a fix if you send the camera in. It’s not acceptable for a camera of this price, but what can you do?

      • surrephoto says:

        I know a fix or at least partial fix exists for D800… But does the same repair software exist for the D4? I have reason to believe or does not? I have become infamous in Nikon Japan & Singapore photography scene for this problem and been slandered and falsely accused by a Nikon Singapore rep and a shop owner. Nikon Msia has been quiet for 6 mths and Nikon Sgp & Jpn insists the camera is within factory standards. I can almost no longer hold my anger after 11 months and preparing more drastic action. I do not only accept an exchange now but also a compensation from Japan for all the trouble they put to me by selling a obviously defective & flawed product.

        • Should be the same, AF system is identical. There isn’t much I can do about it; I have no special relationships with Nikon in any country beyond NPS. You just have to keep at them.

          • surrephoto says:

            I doubt it ive only seen screenshots of the D800 AF array adjustment utility online, not for D4. Mr Stijn of Nikon NL can improve & fix the situation but noted its not so easy for the D4. A random guy from france who emailed me after reading my 1st post on dpreview said that his trip to Nikon NL was fruitful. Apparently not enough sales or complains to make nikon want to take the issue seriously for the D4. Who at Nikon Msia did you communicate with in KL? I’ve heard of cases when they did exchange for “bad” D4 in Msia. I am now proposing resolution proposals for Nikon Singapore but i will not forgive Nikon Msia & Nikon Japan as they ignored all of my fair requests for exchanges (& other potential solutions) early last july. They choose to let the issue hang and develop to this unfortunate state of affairs.

  3. Kim Lane says:

    Thank you so much for this. I was able to do this confidently and determine that my refurbished D800 from Adorama does in fact have the problem. Back it goes. Hopefully it won’t go back in the stock, I described the issue to them.

  4. Hi Ming,
    I recently bought D800 from Amazon and tested it for focus issue as you suggested. I am using sturdy tripod and 85mm 1.4G lens.
    I find it weird that left and right focus point images are fine in AF-S and LV mode. The center focus point in Live mode is coming fine but from viewfinder the image is not as sharp as in LV. I tried it multiple times and results are pretty much same.
    Is there anything wrong with my D800? The serial number is 3057xxx.

    Thanks,
    Abhishek

    • It means that your mirror alignment is off. Sadly, it appears that this is the normal state of affairs these days because no manufacturer bothers to align the mirror for manual focus work since everybody uses AF. It’s a simple fix which any camera repair person can do (or a quick trip to Nikon). I’d be more concerned if AF is working properly, and if so, then only worry about this if you’re going to do a lot of manual focus work. Basically: you need to know if you can trust either or both of the VF or AF systems. Both would be ideal, but if AF is fine, it’s generally not a huge deal for most people.

  5. Hi, I’ve just recently found this site and I’m seriously enjoying both imagery and texts in equal amounts.
    I’ve just decided to invest in a D800E and called my local dealer (Stockholm, Sweden) about the left AF issue. He was unaware and hadn’t had any complaints from customers (he represents pretty much the largest professional dealer here).
    Have you heard any recent news from Nikon on this? I’ve tried google about but can’t seem to find any recent info. I guess one should test any new piece thoroughly though? Would a 85 mm f1.8 lens do for your test (the “widest” I got at the moment).
    Again, thanks for a very informative site, and best regards.

    • Thanks for the compliments. No, no news on the AF issue, but then again I haven’t bothered following it as my camera appears to be working fine. These things are only worth paying attention to if they’re a problem, if not then just shoot…

      You won’t see the problem on the 85, it only manifests at about 35 and below and only with fast apertures.

  6. Hello, one question if you do not mind… I have tested my D800 AF following your example by using 50mm, 1.4. All photos ie. those focused through viewfinder and LV are equality sharp for all 3 AF positions… This would confirm my D800 should not have AF issue…. However the very same test with an old 60mm, f2.8 micro lens shows different results ie. only Center is in focus when focusing through viewfinder (Left and Right are out of focus) while photos are all sharp when focusing in LV?! Also, all photos (Left, Center, Right) are sharp on my 10yrs old D200?! Bottom line – Left and Right sensor are out of focus when focusing through viewfinder – all other photos are ok. Would this mean my D800 has “Left/Right” autofocus problem or dorather need to take my old 600mm lens to Nikon service?
    Thank you for your suggestion!
    regards Marko

    • Photos should always be sharp when using LV because it will focus on the sensor plane. Don’t know if it’s a lens problem or camera – probably lens, since the faster 50/1.4 focuses okay. It’s possible that the earlier 60 micro just isn’t that sharp off center on the D800, but it’s fine on the D200 because of the lower pixel density.

      • Thank you! This is what my assumptions are as well. 50 is fine, and the 60 is consistent on both sides – I believe it has to do something with greater resolving power of the D800… which is revealing that the 60 is perhaps not as sharp as it should be. Will follow-up with Nikon.

      • Marko Kovic says:

        attached is the link to sample D800 photos ie. 60mm micro lens, f2.8, AF through Viewfinder, 1st row Center, 2nd row Left and 3rd row Right AF sensor.

        as written… same test photos with 50mm at 1.4 were all sharp. Also, the very same 60mm lens on D200 produces sharp photos too.

        • Not knowing exactly how the test was performed, I can’t comment on the results. If you’re not happy with the focusing performance, I suggest you send it back to Nikon.

  7. Hi Ming, I just had a chat with a Nikon sales rep here about the D800 and its AF issue. Firstly, to my surprise the initial few batches have been sold out and they are waiting for the new stock which he said would be here in like two weeks time. Does this issue have anything to do with some earlier batches and specific serial numbers Or they still sending out faulty units to the market? He indeed didn’t have any idea about this particular problem and said they didn’t receive any such complaint up until now! Maybe nobody here is aware of the issue.

    The guy apparently tried to “inform” me that it has only to do with the in-camera focus settings (reminded me of your internet rumor thing :)). Anyways, instead of dragging the matter any further, I asked him what’s their normal procedure if someone reports such an issue under warranty and he replied that they report the matter to Nikon Japan and get further instructions from them. For normal faults and issues that could be easily shown and reported, this reply might be acceptable but I wonder how this particular issue can be reported to them and how to convince them to believe. I don’t know if they accept the pictures of the test charts and all. But there was something positive as well, I asked him that I wanted to check a few units using my own lenses before taking one home and he said okay you can. Now I don’t know if I can accurately perform this test in their premises or not but I will definitely try and for that I need your help. As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I only have 24-70 and 14-24 both f2.8 as my only wide angle lenses and don’t own a 24 f1.4 which you deemed ideal for this test. Out of these two, which one would be better Or it’s not possible to see the difference with a zoom lens at f2.8? What would you suggest? Any other important points to keep in mind? Center/right/Left AF sensors, AF tuning everything …? It will be very important to get it exactly right the first time there in their office because if after testing I give go-ahead on one unit and take it home, I will not be able to go back reporting the same issue to them if later on I find out that the camera was indeed faulty. At least it would make things more complicated given the fact that there is no such return/replace policy here.

    Sorry for my repeated long comments, but I really don’t have any other options to prevent myself getting into this potential pitfall.

    On another note, congratulations on successfully completing the first photography competition through this site. Thumbs up! I hope I will be able to participate soon :)

    Thanks a bunch.

    Faisal` .

  8. Hello D800 fans, from near Boston, USA
    You might be interested in my experience, since Nikon is obnoxiously quiet and the big NYC camera retailers are pretty tight with information too.

    I ordered a D800 from Adorama on Feb 27, 2012. I was very patient and it finally arrived Friday, 13th of July.
    As soon as I looked through the viewfinder I had trouble focusing the diopter.
    Maybe my eyes are getting worse? But pretty soon it was clear this camera had very serious trouble focusing.
    It worked pretty well on my brand new 28mm f1.8, on smaller f stops though.

    After a day I got frustrated and called Adorama. They’d be sending UPS around with a prepaid label! Good for Adorama.
    So, on July 24, a replacement D800 arrived.
    This one seemed OK. I could focus through the viewfinder. I took it out for a walk around the neighborhood.
    It worked well with the new 28mm, not so well with my big high tech Sigma 50mm 1.4,
    though that lens works great on my D300.
    At night I tried the “left focus point test” with the 28mm, and my new D800 failed badly.
    So today I called Adorama and they are sending UPS again with a shipping label.

    Adorama gives me the choice of getting another D800 fairly soon, or a refund.
    I think I’ll take the refund, and probably buy a D800 in a year, or sooner if Nikon decides to come clean, admit the problems, explain them, and promise the same problems won’t happen again.

    So Adorama deserves kudos for handling the D800 debacle. I hope Nikon reimburses them for the expenses of handling this.
    I am not so happy with Nikon. They should come clean and issue a statement.
    They can’t keep pretending it is user error without alienating their customers.

    I spent two whole days acting as Nikon quality control.
    If the focus has such serious problems, who knows what else is wrong among the many hundreds of features explained very briefly in the 450? page manual. I don’t want to try a new feature a year from now and find it fails, or worse, works badly in a subtle way. Like the focus.

    I did buy the $700 28mm, and about $350 in memory cards and accessories as soon as the first defective D800 arrived. These are not exactly useless, but I should have waited.

    Cheers,
    Adrian

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences – sounds like Adorama did a good job, though if you send it in to Nikon there’s a good chance they can fix it. Would be a shame to lose a year of good images because of this…

  9. :D at the internet rumor. B&H returns are 30 days, yes. I will be calling up the Nikon distributors here to find out what they are up to regarding this thing. Customs are always a horror here in this country so shipping in and out a couple of times will be a killer for me. Anyways I will confirm from the local guys first and will get back in a few days regarding my decision. Hopefully, I will never get to face this frustrating issue. Thanks for your time Ming :)

    • No joke – that’s what NPS Singapore told me, not knowing who was on the other end of the phone…

      There is one more option – I’ll find you a unit here, test to make sure it doesn’t have the issue, and ship it over.

      • That would be great if possible. The only thing to figure out in this is to find out a way to deal with the customs here. As I mentioned, customs here is a horror. Just to give an idea, last year I purchased a Gitzo GT-5541LS from B&H and had it shipped via UPS. The thing cost me more than double the original price ($900) of the tripod at the end of the day because of the ridiculous customs. It was of course my bad not asking some friend to take it in their luggage as it’s always better than to leave it to a courier service. My D7000 from Roberts Camera landed safely with a friend’s luggage. Lesson learned ! That’s the only problem in this option. Seems like I will have to find a friend in Malaysia who’s gonna fly back home in a few days/months :)

      • Hi Ming, I am trying to locate someone in Kuala Lumpur who could take the camera to me in Pakistan in a few weeks, if possible. I have a trip to the mountains coming up and i just wanted to use the new machine instead of my D700 which i will finally be selling out. Meanwhile, could you please let me know what region Nikon products you guys get over there in Malaysia? Like Nikon DSLR’s here in Pakistan are from Hong Kong region and have an “HK” sticker over the box. Is it Hong Kong or Malaysia for you guys? I just want to check whether the warranty for the camera would be valid here or not if I get it from Malaysia since Nikon only provides regional warranties on their digital cameras. I know if the camera is alright in the first place, it doesn’t usually need any servicing or warranty claiming for years, but I am just trying to be sure. Plus, what’s the current price of D800E there?

        • It’s from the Hong Kong region, and warranties are local only for bodies, regional for lenses/ flashes.

          D800Es are still all over the place when it comes to stock status. But retail is around RM11,300 I think.

      • One more thing, i will be visiting the Nikon center here soon (it’s not in the same city actually) and will try to convince them to let me try a couple of units before finalizing one. I am not very hopeful but say if I get the chance, which one of these wide angle lenses would be best to perform the test, 24-70 / 14-24 ?(I don’t have 24 f1.4 prime as you recommend). Thanks a bunch for your help !

  10. Ming, you’re right about the attitude of the dealers here in Asia after a purchase. They just don’t care whatever happens to you and the product and you just feel totally ripped off. I am also considering a purchase of the E version from here in Pakistan and I am very confused about how I should be going about it. There will not be a lot of buyers of this camera here in Pakistan and that leads me to believe that the available stock (there are a lot of them available here from Nikon subsidiary in Pakistan and they are Hong Kong version) must be from an early production batch and very likely to have this AF issue. And once it is purchased, it will be a nightmare to get it fixed here because nobody’s gonna believe that in the first place. Any clue if this issue is most common/found in a certain region, Asia vs Americas vs Europe etc.? Ming, your suggestions? Should I wait or buy it now and check it for any issues? But I am not sure what would be the possible way to make the local guys believe that it’s indeed a Nikon problem.

    • I’m inclined to say order from the US since your local support is crap; at least a) they do returns and b) are much more likely to have the latest batch. Big retailers like B&H, Adorama and Amazon (please use my referral link for them if you do, D800E here and D800 here) get large batches and sell out quickly because of the volume of their business.

      • Considered that before but in that case I will not be entitled for any warranty service since Nikon only offers local warranty for their digital cameras if I am not wrong. Plus the returns only work within a few days of the purchase and keeping in mind the shipping and logistics involved, it will be a much more expensive deal. Got a few things from B&H and Roberts Camera last year but in those days a friend was flying over to home from the US so it didn’t involve that effort. I think I should wait a lil more until this issue becomes more widely heard off and all the regional/local service centers get the info, at least. Thanks !

        • True, you can always ship it back to the US. I don’t know what your local service agency is like over there, but it sounds as though you may be better off taking chances. Returns are 30 days, if I’m not mistaken? You could always call up the local service center and see if they know anything about the issue – I’d be fairly confident buying locally if they said ‘yes, and we have a fix'; less so if you get told it’s an ‘internet rumor’.

  11. D800 results are all over the board:
    24/1.4G – viewfinder AFS left and center focus points are not sharp, viewfinder AFS right focus point is sharp.
    50/1.4D – viewfinder AFS left is not sharp but viewfinder AFS right and center focus point is sharper than LV.
    85/1.4G – all viewfinder AFS points are sharp.
    All shots taken wide open. Should I send camera in? Thanks.

  12. Kristen says:

    I have a left-focus problem on my camera that I just received last week. I called Nikon today and was told the autofocus issue was just a “rumor”. The customer service rep had me reset the camera and take a new series of pics to send in. I feel the pics show an obvious problem. Now I must wait for “upper management” to get back to me regarding what the next step will be. Frustrating!

    • Which country do you live in? NPS Singapore told me it was a rumor, but Malaysia says it’s a known issue and they’ve already deployed the official fix a few times. Same with other countries like Norway. I suppose it depends on how willing your customer service rep is to help; sadly there’s no consistency amongst these things. And sometimes, the big or expensive brands are by far the worst offenders…I was once accused of ‘user error’ by somebody very senior in a camera company after their product developed some software glitch and wiped an entire card after a job – except the card was so damaged that it would crash any computer that tried to read it. Go figure.

      • Kristen says:

        I’m in the US. Yes, I can still return to Amazon, but I’m afraid I’ll get another one with the same issue. I’m thinking it might be better to just get the one I have fixed. I’m just hoping they don’t give me a hard time.

    • You still have 3 weeks to return it, if you are in the US.

      • At least you guys get customer returns! The attitude in Asia is – ‘You bought it, now it’s your problem. Good luck with the manufacturer!’

      • I have one on order from Amazon. Not shipped yet.

        Ming wrote: “…Apparently only certain batches are affected, and new cameras should be okay…”

        Ming mentioned above new ones will be shipped fixed. If mine has an issue, I will return and reorder.

  13. Good luck. Encouraging to read HW fixes are NOT required and a software tune/test is sufficient. Do you think each camera with this problem will have to be individually tuned ? That will be expensive for consumers and Nikon. Or there will be a downloadable fix available for the masses, as a FW upgrade? Not sure if I am saying something that makes sense.

    Excellent blog btw.

    • Yes, which is why they all have to go back to Nikon instead of being fixed via a straight FW update. Apparently only certain batches are affected, and new cameras should be okay.

  14. Vincent L says:

    Thanks Ming. That sounds like a reasonable solution and much better than having your camera dismantled in a dirty environment. Any ideas what “reference lens” they use ?

    • They have a clean room for that kind of work, actually, and negative pressure hoses everywhere. I believe the reference lens is a 50/1.4 at f2.

      • Vincent L says:

        Wouldn’t the 50mm lens be inappropriate for resolving the left AF issue since it only presents itself on wide angle lenses (around 24mm) ?

        • It presents itself on fast lens at about 50mm and below, especially pronounced if your lens is fast AND wide. The 50mm shows it a bit – so I suppose it depends on how precise the measurement is. I’m not 100% sure they’re only using the 50mm – that’s what they normally use for general focus calibration – I would imagine they’d use a well-calibrated 24mm also, knowing the specifics of the problem.

  15. Vincent L says:

    Ming, if possible, can you please try to find out what exactly what the service center is doing to fix the AF point issue ? Any details about the “official fix” would be very interesting information to your readers. You seem to have a good relationship with your service center techs and they are giving good info. Here in the US they seem to be much less open about what they reveal.

    BTW, regarding your recommendations on how to test for the left AF issue can you also comment on how much deviation between LV and PDAF one should expect. From what I understand a certain amount of deviation is normal.

    • I was told that they run they hook the camera up to a computer, run a check involving a laser and reference lens, and basically each point is adjusted via a program of some sort. This is like a permanent fine tune offset applied to each point individually, and stored in the camera’s memory. I was told there are actually no hardware fixes required, the camera doesn’t even have to be dismantled. It’s possible to have zero deviation between LV and PDAF – my D700 is like that for all points, and my D800E is like that for most of the center points except the outermost rows.

  16. 5c..,

  17. Hi Ming,Thein Thanks for all good information.
    Can you help me I will buy a d800 from august 2012 with lens 24-70 /2,8 is it possible to test the focus with that lens.Mayby the problem is solved on this batch.
    Regards
    Stefan

  18. Follow the instructions in the post. There’s obviously no way I can do it since we’re in different physical locations and I’m not a camera testing service.

  19. BunteKuh says:

    Hello from GERMANY – happy to found you and this article. My Nikon D4 was three times in service and the problem still is not solved. First, they even tried to tell me, my AF-problems were caused by dust in the camera… Nikon Germany does not know the problem or does not want to know.

  20. That’s ridiculous. The problem is well documented and acknowledged by their own international service centres and NPS units – you can refer them to just about anything on the Internet…

  21. BunteKuh says:

    Sure, this is ridiculous, but when the problems first came up, I could not find anything on the internet (I bought the camera on 4th April, 2012) except for enthusiastic reports on how great this camera is. So I could not tell if this was a mass problem… and I did not want to believe myself that such a camera could have such issues. (I used the Nikon D80 as first camera, the D700 as second and never had any serious issues …)
    But really: THANKS A LOT: I will keep you posted, what happens this wednesday :)

Trackbacks

  1. […] D800/D4 left AF issues, E-P5/M1 shutter shock, Leica M240 QC – lugs falling off (!) […]

  2. […] been nearly two years since the D800E was released. In the meantime we’ve dealt with left focusing issues, comparisons with much more expensive cameras (here, and here), the fact that most of the Nikon […]

  3. […] from someone who actually had this problem. For the left AF issue, there is a description here: How to tell if your D800/ D800E/ D4 has the ‘left focusing problem’ which describes how to determine whether you have it or not. I'm not sure whether this issue is […]

  4. [...] intended to post a full review of the Nikon D800E, but somehow that got lost in a flurry of work, left-side AF problems, and repeatedly having to answer the question of ‘which camera should I buy?’ – [...]

  5. [...] porque la D800 ha dado problemas con el sistema de enfoque (desde que Ming Thein identificara un problema con la parte izquierda del mismo) la D800 tendría ventaja. Sus 51 puntos de enfoque cubren una parte mucho mayor del [...]

  6. [...] the D700 and D800 – and the cause of much consternation amongst D800 owners for the notorious ‘left side AF’ issue. I’m pleased to report that after extensive testing and specifically looking for the problem, [...]

  7. [...] if my D800 is suffering from this issue.  I’ve saved several articles on this to Pocket (here’s one from Ming Thein) and will probably have the time to test it out this week.  In the meantime, I [...]

  8. [...] problem solved. If you do have the left side AF issue, then send it in and insist they look at it – because there exists a fix, and it works. [...]

  9. [...] issues). Some further investigation is in order, I think. The lens is somewhat prone to the left-side AF issue of the D800/D800E, though only for the extreme most points (the column of three) – all of the other points [...]

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